The high price of sitting pretty in the Peninsula Center library.

CHAIR CARE: Palos Verdes Peninsula residents may be used to opulence, but when it comes to their libraries, many patrons say it's time to be frugal.

Their concern: chairs, couches and tables. Namely, $1.3 million in furniture that already has been ordered for the Peninsula Center library, which is being renovated.

Save Our Libraries, a community group formed last year that has been critical of district spending, said many of the library's furnishings could be bought much cheaper.

For example, leather chairs, some of which cost $1,895 each, can be replaced by ones with cloth upholstery at half the cost or less, said Jerry Slagter, who owns two contract furnishing businesses.

A trash can will cost $348.

"The names of the manufacturers (supplying furniture) are what you would connect to a Fortune 500 company," Slagter said. "We can get furniture that is equally pleasing and durable."

Tonight, the library district's board will consider trustee Harold Jesse's proposal to cancel furniture orders and put the sofas and study tables back out to bid. The move could save at least $430,000, he said in a report to the rest of the trustees. How much it would cost to cancel orders is being reviewed.

But library director Linda Elliott said an interior designer hired by the library to select the furniture actually made a proposal $50,000 below budget. And while some furnishings may be posh, their cost was made up with more utilitarian chairs and tables elsewhere.

When the furniture was first ordered, the board agreed that if the designer "wanted to make a dramatic statement with a couple pieces of furniture, it could be evened out in other areas," she said.

Moreover, the entire library renovation "is neither the most expensive or the least expensive" when compared to other projects statewide, and even falls in the "mid-range" in furnishings.

As for the trash cans, she acknowledged that the cost may seem high for someone who has purchased a home wastebasket.

"When you recognize that these are large trash receptacles, built for use by the 1,500 people who come in every day, designed to last for 20 or more years, the price is more understandable," she said. The containers will be placed next to high-trash volume areas, such as photocopiers, and several will be used for recycling.

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FLORAL MEMORIAL: Night after night, Angelenos watched the same scene on television: a microphone-toting reporter standing beside a colorful flower shrine outside a Ralphs supermarket in San Pedro.

The shrine was an impromptu creation of neighbors and friends mourning the killings of two 19-year-old Marymount College students who were shot March 25 in the Ralphs parking lot.

Launched with a few bouquets, the memorial swiftly grew into a large mass of Easter lilies, chrysanthemums, azaleas, hyacinths and daffodils. Some tucked cards amid the flowers. Others lighted candles. Long white sheets of paper were laid on the pavement to be inscribed with messages to the slain students and their families.

Last Friday, two weeks after Takuma Ito and Go Matsuura were shot, the parking-lot shrine was dismantled--but the flowers live on.

The San Pedro Garden Club, which had been watering the flowers, helped organize a final tribute to the slain students. Most of the potted flowers were then donated to Willenberg Special Education Center, a school for disabled students in San Pedro.

The estimated 70 plants bound for Willenberg filled a school bus and a station wagon, said the center's principal, Gayle Sadofsky. They will be planted at the school as part of its vocational program to train students in gardening.

More potted flowers were planted in a traffic island outside Ralphs. The cards and inscribed sheets of paper were taken to Marymount College, where they will be packed and shipped to the slain students' families in Japan.

Garden club president Hildegard Cox said she hopes Ito's and Matsuura's parents will return to San Pedro to see the plants that will have taken root at the Willenberg center.

"Life ends," she said, "but the flowers will grow."

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A FAREWELL TO ARMS: This has been a grim week indeed at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro, where the beloved Octavia the Octopus was found dead early Monday morning after draining her own tank.

Aquarium officials said the mighty mollusk pulled the plug on her watery habitat by yanking a plastic pipe out of a tank drain.

And while the demise of the giant Pacific octopus has sparked the wrath of animal-rights groups, experts at other aquariums said they sympathize with Cabrillo officials' plight, explaining that octopuses are by nature manipulative creatures that frequently get into mischief.

"They creep and glide like the dickens," said Robert Anderson, manager of exhibits and life sciences at the Seattle Aquarium. The so-called stand pipe that Octavia unplugged poses a problem for any octopus owner, said Anderson, who added that the Seattle aquarium has taken "extraordinary care" to secure its pipes and avoid similar problems.

In the early days of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, an especially athletic octopus is said to have climbed completely out of its tank. Now the octopus tanks in Monterey are partially covered to prevent the creatures from crawling out.

Octavia was the first giant Pacific octopus ever displayed at the city-owned Cabrillo aquarium. The 58-pound creature arrived there in January after being caught by a fisherman. Schoolchildren flocked to stare at her eight sucker-lined tentacles and the gift shop stocked up on T-shirts decorated with a bright orange octopus.

Animal-rights groups are calling for an investigation of Octavia's death, including a necropsy by an independent veterinarian.

"This is inexcusable," said Lisa Lange, international campaigns manager for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "Octavia died from suffocation because the water drained from her tank. . . . That's a horrible way to die."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"There hasn't been a good wave there since the 1960s."

--Lifeguard and surfer Wally Millican, 51, on the deterioration of the waves in Hermosa Beach, at the surfing spot he remembers as one of the best when he skipped classes at Mira Costa High School to ride his nine-foot balsa-wood surfboard.

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