Quake-Damaged Libraries to Be Closed : 9 of 10 Dates Set; 5 Others Already Shut

Times Staff Writers

The Italian Renaissance-style structure on Workman Street a few miles east of downtown is an architectural gem, honored as one of Los Angeles’ most distinguished buildings when it was constructed in 1916.

Since then, the two-story, yellow brick-stucco building has become an integral part of the Lincoln Heights community as a Los Angeles Public Library branch housing about 39,000 books and a public meeting room.

But on Thursday, it was on the Board of Library Commissioners agenda as one of 10 inner-city libraries to be closed because of structural damage sustained in the October, 1987, Whittier earthquake. All were given closing dates Thursday except the Lincoln Heights branch.

Five other inner-city branches, also damaged in the quake, already have been shut down. Four of these five have been moved to temporary, storefront quarters.


The city, lacking sufficient funds to make the old buildings safe, has decided to close them until enough money is found to bolster them. The federal government and the city have together earmarked a total of $16 million toward the 10 libraries, but the city must come up with another $7 million.

Last November, the Los Angeles City Council asked voters to approve a bond measure that would have provided remodeling funds for the branch libraries and the fire-ravaged Central Library downtown. But it was narrowly defeated after it was opposed by Councilman Nate Holden, who vigorously objected to including the Central Library.

City voters will again be asked--on April 11--to approve a bond measure, but this time the Central Library is not included. Holden, who is running for mayor, said he supports this measure, which calls for $53 million to repair or expand these and other old libraries and to build three new ones in the San Fernando Valley.

Lincoln Heights got no closing date Thursday only because Department of Building and Safety officials have not yet submitted one to the library board, a library spokesman said. However, it is one of the branches facing serious financial problems--requiring $1.3 million for reconstruction with, so far, only $250,000 in hand.

The branch’s librarian, Jose Taylor, said in an interview that he is optimistic that city officials will somehow find a way to save the historic building.

“I feel they will come up with money one way or another,” said Taylor, 58, who has been the branch’s chief librarian for a decade.

If the bond issue is again rejected--it needs a “yes” vote of at least two-thirds of the ballots cast--Taylor said he was confident lawmakers “would try again” to raise the cash. Simply closing down the branch was unthinkable, he said.

Holden wondered why the library board did not wait to proceed with the closing preparations until voters can decide on the bond measure.


Fontayne Holmes, assistant director of the library branches, said the bond measure would come too late to avoid closing the libraries for at least a while.

“This is not a ploy,” Holmes said. “We would be dealing with this even if there was no bond issue. But passage of the bond will help us deal with this problem in a speedier manner.”

The following Los Angeles branch libraries have been targeted by the Board of Library Commissioners as seismically unsafe, and face closure:

Angeles Mesa, 2700 W. 52nd St. Closure date: July 1.


Felipe de Neve, 2820 W. 6th St., Aug. 1.

John Muir, 1005 W. 64th St., June 1.

Lincoln Heights, 2530 Workman St., No date set.

Memorial, 4625 W. Olympic Blvd., July 1.


Vermont Square, 1201 W. 48th St., Aug. 1.

Cahuenga, 4591 Santa Monica Blvd., April 1.

John C. Fremont, 6121 Melrose Ave., July 1.

Venice, 610 California Ave., Dec. 30.


Washington Irving, 1803 S. Arlington Ave., July 15, 1991.

The following libraries already are closed; there are storefront substitutes:

Wilshire, 316 N. Western Ave.

Junipero Serra, 4301 Figueroa St.


Pio Pico, 2631 Olympic Blvd.

Robert Lewis Stevenson, 3500 Whittier Blvd.

The Malabar branch, 2200 E. 1st St., is closed and a temporary facility has not yet been found.