Redondo Beach to Vacate Its Historic Library


Quaint it may be, but Redondo Beach's historic Main Library is far from earthquake-proof.

The problem, pointed up in two seismic studies this spring, has prompted a recommendation to the City Council that the 60-year-old Veterans Park building be vacated within six months.

"If there's a big earthquake in this area I wouldn't want to be in that building," said City Engineer Ken Montgomery. "It's the last place I'd want to be."

The council has yet to act, but city officials are already scouring Redondo Beach for temporary space for the 96,000 books. Among other places, the Miller's Outpost store on North Pacific Coast Highway and the May Co. basement in the South Bay Galeria are being considered.

Council members acknowledged that they have no choice. "We've got to get the people out of that building," council member Kay Horrel said. ". . . We have to come up with something."

The city has long considered building a larger main library to accommodate more books. The three-story Veterans Park library, built to serve a population of 10,000, is just 12,700 square feet--not nearly big enough for a city of more than 65,000 people, officials say.

Now, concern about the earthquake hazard has forced the issue. Underlying the worries are the two seismic studies, prompted by a 1986 state law requiring surveys and remedial work on unreinforced masonry buildings. There are 22 such buildings in Redondo Beach, among them the Elks Club and the Masonic Temple. Only one, the brick and stucco Main Library, is city-owned.

Two seismic consultants have told the city that the library needs structural reinforcement. A report summarizing their findings says the building would be in danger of collapsing in a moderate earthquake of the type that is expected to occur in the next 10 years.

"That building has stood there in an unreinforced state for 50 years, but it is good common sense to move as quickly as possible," said City Manager Tim Casey.

Redondo plans to spend $1 million to reinforce the 1930s-era Main Library, which commands a sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

The work will take at least nine months, officials say, but it is unclear whether the city will move the books back after the reinforcement is complete.

The council has yet to discuss the recommendation for renovation or to decide where to relocate.

City staff members have recommended against moving the library back into the Veterans Park structure. They say the temporary library site should be used for three to five years, until a new main library can be built. The old building could be used as a branch library, a city museum or a senior citizens' reading center.

The proposal is bound to draw fire from Redondo Beach residents who are nervous about losing the Veterans Park building.

Gloria Snyder, president of Redondo Beach's Friends of the Library, remembers when she helped circulate a petition in 1985 calling for construction of a new library. "We almost had an armed posse after us," she said.

City officials site several arguments against keeping the library in Veterans Park.

For one, the remodeled building would have to meet current standards, such as aisles wide enough to accommodate wheelchair patrons. And the reinforcement would thicken the walls. These changes would leave even less space for books than the building has now. Community leaders studying the library issue agree that space is most important.

The present building is so small, "the collection has been frozen in size for 30 years or so," said Ed Anderson, chairman of the city's Library Commission. "To add a book, you have to remove one."

The more immediate question, however, is where the library operation should go for the short term. One option is placing a prefabricated structure near City Hall, but for now, the staff favors leasing space in another building.

First on the list is the 17,160-square-foot Miller's Outpost. The building is large enough, easy to get to, and would ensure continued library service for south Redondo Beach. (A branch library serves north Redondo.)

According to city officials, Miller's Outpost so far has said only that it may close its Pacific Coast Highway store and lease the property, and if the company decides to lease, it is uncertain what the price would be.

The May Co. basement has 20,000 square feet of floor space available for $7,000 a month, but the mall location would mean concentrating library services in north Redondo Beach, and many city officials feel it would be unpopular with bookworms.

"I think people we attract to the library are going to it for its peaceful atmosphere," Mayor Brad Parton said. "Having to go to the Galleria to get to the library, you're going to have to battle the crowds. It's just a whole different atmosphere."

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