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Valley Libraries Branching Out in Building Boom

TIMES STAFF WRITER

By spring, DeAnna Ashton’s favorite library will close for a year, forcing her to go elsewhere to quench her thirst for murder mysteries.

The West Valley Regional Branch Library, which she visits every two weeks, will be renovated and improved, with more computers, wheelchair-accessible restrooms and a large community room for special programs that now must be held in the middle of the children’s section.

“It’s a bummer because it’s so easy for me,” said Ashton, a home health-care nurse who stops by the library in Reseda while visiting nearby patients. “But they need to redo it so it will be more inviting.”

The West Valley Regional Branch upgrade is one of 14 planned San Fernando Valley library construction projects that, along with seven newer branches, will give the area 21 modernized facilities. All construction is due to be completed by late 2003, officials said.

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“It’s transformational, and I’m not being glib here,” said City Librarian Susan Kent, who oversees the city’s 68 libraries and four bookmobiles. “Because of the support of voters, we have the opportunity to rebuild libraries and create new libraries in places that haven’t had any before. I know of no other library system in the U.S. that’s doing this kind of infrastructure work. It’s pretty astounding.”

Twelve of the 14 Valley projects are being funded by Proposition DD, a $178.3-million library bond measure that voters approved in 1998 to refurbish or rebuild 32 libraries citywide. Funding for a new branch library in Lake View Terrace is coming from grants and a landfill trust fund, and a rebuilt Studio City branch is being funded by savings from a $53.4-million library bond passed in 1989.

Studio City Branch to Open in February

The new Studio City branch is due to open in February, and work is well underway on many others. The 1960s-era Pacoima Branch Library, for one, has been torn down to make way for a new facility on the same site, and groundbreaking for the new Lake View Terrace branch at Hansen Dam is scheduled for December.

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In addition, construction on the West Valley Regional Branch and seven others--Woodland Hills, North Hollywood Regional, Valley Plaza, Sun Valley, Sherman Oaks, Sylmar and Encino-Tarzana--is expected to begin next year. And groundbreaking is planned for three others--Northridge, Chatsworth and Canoga Park--in 2002.

The size of many libraries will increase, in many cases doubling, while others will get additional parking or community meeting rooms. The city also has allocated $1 million for new books for four of the first branches to open in late 2001 or early 2002--Pacoima, Baldwin Hills, Jefferson and Pio Pico Koreatown--and library officials said they will request more money to fill shelves of other expanded libraries as they get closer to completion.

Although new or improved libraries are the good news, the downside is that many branches will be closed for at least a year during construction, forcing patrons to go elsewhere for books.

Trailers will be installed at some Valley locations--Pacoima’s 500-square-foot temporary facility, for example, will open around mid-October. Other neighborhoods may be serviced by a bookmobile, library officials said. In rare cases, a temporary library may be run from a room in a recreation center.

Officials said leasing storefront space is unlikely because of the high cost, not to mention the difficulty in securing a one-year lease.

“By the time we do the tenant improvements, it could cost up to $500,000 and take four to five months. We don’t want to make an investment in a temporary facility when we’d rather spend our money on branch libraries,” Kent said. “It doesn’t seem like a good use of taxpayers’ money.”

The West Valley Regional Branch is due to close in March or April in anticipation of construction expected to start in May. The project is scheduled to take 15 months, with reopening planned for August 2002, officials said.

Frequent patron Tucker Smallwood said the closure of the regional library will be an annoyance.

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“Those of us who use the library will be disadvantaged and inconvenienced,” Smallwood said. “I can’t imagine why they are doing these all at the same time.”

Fontayne Holmes, library facilities director who is overseeing the projects, said if construction were staggered so closure dates didn’t coincide, it would take 12 years instead of six to finish all projects citywide. Escalating construction costs and inflation would also become a problem.

“We see an urgency to provide the public with what they voted for and what the library system needs,” Holmes said. “It’s a major inconvenience, and we don’t like closing libraries for 14 or 15 months. But if you look at the long-term benefits, it more than balances the scales.”

Public Input Has Been Sought

Keith Watts, president of the Friends of the Chatsworth Library, said he hoped a trailer would be set up while that library is rebuilt, something library officials said is unlikely.

Watts is concerned about how the Friends group will have its used-book sales and collect donations when the library is closed in 2002 and 2003. In the past, the group has raised money to pay for such things as carpeting and a water fountain at the Chatsworth Branch Library.

“We’re still working it out. We have to continue our book sales, but it’s going to be a real problem moving all the books [to another location],” he said. “It will absolutely be worth it, no doubt about it. I’m looking forward to it, but I wish it was over.”

Although library officials haven’t been able to deal with every concern, they have made a concerted effort to get the public’s input regarding design, size and placement of the rebuilt facilities. A minimum of three public meetings, and as many as five, are held for each project during the planning stage.

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At one such meeting, neighbors of the Encino-Tarzana Branch Library said they didn’t want an alley behind the library vacated to make more room for the new building. They also were concerned about traffic in the area. As a result, the alley will remain open and a right-turn pocket onto Ventura Boulevard will be created.

And when patrons of the Sylmar Branch Library said they didn’t want any compact-size parking spaces at their new library because most locals drive vans or trucks, library officials complied.

“We’re trying to balance all these different concerns and needs and make as many people happy as possible,” said Peter V. Persic, spokesman for the Los Angeles Public Library system.

4 Projects in Northeast Valley

Los Angeles Councilman Alex Padilla said keeping track of the progress of the four library projects in his northeast Valley district--in Pacoima, Sun Valley, Sylmar and Lake View Terrace--is a “labor of love.”

Growing up two blocks from the Pacoima library, he said, he went there twice a week in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. Oftentimes, he would be told to go to another branch to get the item he needed for a school report. That shouldn’t be the case, he said, once the new library--twice the size of the original--opens in November 2001.

“The good news is, it will be rebuilt with as many books and magazines as other libraries,” Padilla said. “It’s about bringing resources to a community.”

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

A 21st Century Look for Valley Libraries

Fourteen libraries in the San Fernando Valley will either renovate, add or replace existing structures through late 2003.

Canoga Park

20939 Sherman Way

Estimated cost: $3,116,600, not including property costs

Description: New 12,500 square-foot building with parking to replace existing 6,469-square-foot

library built in 1959 at 7260 Owensmouth Ave.

Status: Three of four properties needed to build library in escrow. Fourth property in negotiation.

Groundbreaking: July 2002

Estimated opening: October 2003

Chatsworth

21052 Devonshire St.

Estimated cost: $3,134,053

Description: Adjacent mini-mall property acquired for new 12,500-square-foot building with parking to replace existing 5,463-square-foot librar.y built in 1963.

Status: Preliminary design in progress; community meeting

7 p.m. Monday.

Groundbreaking: May 2002

Estimated opening: August 2003

Encino-Tarzana

18231 Ventura Blvd.

Estimated cost: $2,875,000

Description: New 12,000-square-foot building with parking to replace existing 5,404-square--foot library built in 1961.

Status: Schematic design in progress; community meeting

7 p.m. Wednesday

Groundbreaking: October 2001

Estimated opening: January 2003

Lake View Terrace

12002 Osborne St.

Estimated cost: $2,889,000

Description: New 10,500-square-foot library with parking; first library in Lake View Terrace.

Status: Land purchased, design completed, project out to bid.

Groundbreaking: December 2000

Estimated opening: March 2002

North Hollywood Regional

5211 Tujunga Ave.

Estimated cost: $662,418

Description: Add 2,553-square-foot multipurpose room to existing 12,597-square-foot branch originally built in 1929. Increase parking by acquiring adjacent city park land.

Status: Plans nearly complete; going out to bid late December.

Groundbreaking: May 2001

Estimated opening: August 2002

Northridge

9051 Darby Ave.

Estimated cost: $3,095,935

Description: New 12,500-square-foot building and parking to replace existing 6,240-square-foot library built in 1962.

Status: Preliminary design in progress; community meeting

7 p.m. Oct. 18.

Groundbreaking: February 2002

Estimated opening: May 2003

Pacoima

13605 Van Nuys Blvd.

Estimated cost: $2,665,500

Description: New 10,500-square-foot building and parking to replace existing 5,511-square-foot library built in 1961.

Status: Construction began in late August; temporary facility at nearby Ritchie Valens Park to open

mid-October.

Groundbreaking: August 2000

Opening: November 2001

Sherman Oaks

14245 Moorpark St.

Estimated cost: $2,651,000

Description: New 12,500-square-foot library and parking to replace existing 6,398-square-foot library built in 1962.

Status: Preliminary design finished, work on final plans underway; community meeting 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Groundbreaking: September 2001

Estimated opening:

December 2002

Studio City

12511 Moorpark St.

Estimated cost: $3,100,000

Description: New 10,500-square-foot library with parking to

replace 5,230-square-foot library built in 1963.

Status: Construction nearly complete.

Groundbreaking: June 1999

Estimated opening: February 2001

Sun Valley

7935 Vineland Ave.

Estimated cost: $2,873,900

Description: New 12,500-square-foot building with parking to replace 5,230-square-foot library built in 1962.

Status: Plans nearly complete; going out to bid late December.

Groundbreaking: May 2001

Opening: August 2002

Sylmar

13059 Glenoaks Blvd.

Estimated cost: $2,876,000

Description: New 12,500-square-foot building with parking to replace 5,511-square-foot library built in 1951.

Status: Two of three properties purchased, with third in escrow. Preliminary design in progress; community meeting 7 p.m.

Oct. 11.

Groundbreaking: October 2001

Estimated opening: January 2003

Valley Plaza

12311 Vanowen St.

Estimated cost: $2,330,500

Description: New 10,500-square-foot building with parking to replace 5,450-square-foot library built in 1962.

Status: Plans nearly complete; going out to bid late December.

Groundbreaking: May 2001

Estimated opening: August 2002

West Valley Regional

19036 Vanowen St.

Estimated cost: $2,942,500

Description: Renovate and add 2,004-square-foot community room to existing 12,496-square-foot library built in 1960.

Status: Plans nearly complete; going out to bid late December.

Groundbreaking: May 2001

Estimated opening: August 2002

Woodland Hills

22200 Ventura Blvd.

Estimated cost: $3,131,200

Description: New 12,500-square-foot building with parking to replace 6,272-square-foot library built in 1962.

Status: Plans nearly complete; going out to bid late October.

Groundbreaking: April 2001

Estimated opening: June 2002

Source: Los Angeles Public Library

Researched by STEPHANIE STASSEL


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