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Officials Say Bond Measure Crucial for Valley Libraries

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles library officials warned Thursday that the San Fernando Valley may be shut out of competition for new library facilities until the next century if voters do not approve a construction bond measure next month.

Unless Proposition 1 is approved by voters April 11, it may take as long as 35 years for the city to save enough money to build four new Valley libraries and to enlarge two others, the Board of Library Commissioners meeting in Sherman Oaks was told.

Because most areas of the Valley are deemed too wealthy to quality for federal funds that could pay for new facilities, city money must be used, library officials said.

The six Valley projects would use about $21.3 million of the $53.4 million that would be raised through the sale of Proposition 1 bonds, officials said.

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Narrow Defeat

Next month’s election was called after voters narrowly defeated Proposition L on November’s ballot. That measure would have authorized $90 million in bonds for libraries, including expansion and restoration of the city’s historic, fire-damaged Central Library.

Bond issues require approval of two-thirds of the voters. November’s Proposition L received only a 62.4% yes vote.

Valley voters were blamed for its defeat.

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The library measure was generally approved by about 70% of voters citywide. But in the northern, western and central portions of the Valley--areas represented by council members Hal Bernson, Joy Picus and Ernani Bernardi--it barely captured 50% of the vote.

The problem was compounded by the fact that those districts had about a 70% voter turnout, contrasted with about a 50% turnout in the remainder of the city, said Craig Steele, a Proposition 1 campaign consultant.

Ironically, most of the planned Valley library projects are in the districts of Picus, Bernardi and Bernson--areas where the busiest branches in the city now operate, according to library system spokesman Robert Reagan.

New Facilities

The new and updated facilities would include a new $8-million regional library in Sepulveda, a $3.2-million remodeled branch library in Panorama City, a new $2.7-million branch library in Woodland Hills, a new $2.1-million branch library in Granada Hills and a $2.9-million branch expansion in Van Nuys. A new $2.3-million building to replace Sunland-Tujunga’s branch is also planned. The Central Library would not benefit from the newest bond measure.

“Invariably, some people are thinking, ‘Are these needs legitimate or is this empire-building?’ ” said City Librarian Wyman H. Jones. He assured commissioners meeting before an audience of 85 at the Sherman Oaks branch library that the construction projects are badly needed.

“If we want to see these built in this century, the bond issue is necessary,” added Fontayne Holmes, the library system’s assistant director for branches. “With the passage of Proposition 1, work will begin immediately on all new buildings.”

Harriet Newton, the North Hollywood branch librarian, told the audience that the Valley has always depended on voters for most of its libraries.

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All but two of the 17 libraries in the Valley were built with money from the 1957 bond issue, Newton said.


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