Mailbag: Save the C.M. Neighborhood Community Center

We urge the City Council to slow down the apparent rush to convert the great Neighborhood Community Center (NCC) into a library. Further, we urge the city not to spend any large up-front money, nor expend any expensive city staff time, before fully informed decisions on this conversion can be made.

This center-to-library proposal – suggested by the mayor in February — seems to be not yet fully examined. Has it been open to Costa Mesa residents' full discussions and review? Has it been in Daily Pilot or L.A. Times before last Saturday ("Library project gains traction," April 29)?

Just a quick review of related common knowledge: The NCC has been a city jewel — almost constantly in daily and weekend use for more than 30 years — with its great size holding some 600 in an auditorium-style seating configuration and 400 in a banquet-style seating arrangement, with a fine stage, audio system, great kitchen and beautiful exterior setting.

There is no place like it in our city or even neighboring cities, except for Garden Grove. The conversion of the adjacent Dungan Library could not continue to be an indoor C.M. center for community activities.

What a loss!

Last Saturday's article reports that the NCC has regular use by 45 groups. We have been to lots of public activities there over the years: Pre-election candidate discussions (e.g., April 28's Feet to the Fire Forum), O.C. Human Relations Award Celebrations, regional environmental meetings, Costa Mesa and Estancia high schools' special events, such as awards ceremonies, etc.

On a personal note, we had our 50th wedding anniversary Mass and party and our oldest daughter's wedding party there (each had meals for more than 150 people).

The Fair Drive land just west of City Hall and the police department on spare land (temporarily a park) recently was again suggested for the Main Library and then quickly abandoned "because we have no funds."

Here is one potential method of funding: Use the funds now apparently available to be the teaser to kick off a new Central Library project and retain the Donald Dungan Library.

Then open the "gates" to a massive fundraiser with the leadership of one or more of our city's philanthropists. The right person could be proud of his/her name engraved on the new library entrance. Further, he/she might encourage two or three of their friends to proudly permit their name on main sections of that new library.

And regarding the limited parking concern (for the 2.5-plus acres), we note Newport Beach's Central library has a welcoming, lovely multilevel structure, which permits a smaller building footprint. But Costa Mesa likely would include a parking structure.

We are sure that others have already suggested this new library approach. However, the newly expanding economy, an appeal to retain the great Neighborhood Community Center and the leadership of local philanthropists/donors might enable this longtime Central Library to exist.

Frank and Jean Forbath

Costa Mesa

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