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‘It’s the heart of our city:’ Residents try to stop demolition of library in Laguna Niguel

Laguna Niguel Library protest
Julie Davey and her husband Bob, on right, with supporters in front of the Laguna Niguel Library. They put up “Save Our Library” signs to to bring attention to the fact that there are plans to demolish and replace it with the new Laguna Niguel Town Center.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Some Laguna Niguel residents are trying to save the city’s only library from being demolished as part of a proposed redevelopment project.

The upcoming Laguna Niguel Town Center is in its preliminary development stages, with plans for retail, restaurants, office space, apartments and outdoor community areas.

The new center, planned for Alicia and Crown Valley parkways, would also include a new library, though residents are skeptical that it will match the current facility in size and available programming.

The city and county contend it will be “state-of-the-art.”

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“This library is a passionate thing for many people,” said Julie Davey, a Laguna Niguel resident. “It’s the heart of our city.”

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Julie Davey walks down the aisles of the children’s corner of the Laguna Niguel Library. She leads a group of Laguna Niguel residents who are protesting the upcoming demolition of their city’s library.
(Don Leach)

She and her husband Bob Davey are spearheading the battle to preserve the current library, which has been there for over 30 years.

Bob Davey began circulating “Save Our Library” fliers a few weeks ago.

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Since then, the Daveys and others have been attending city meetings and spreading the word around the city.

The library sits on 25 acres of county-owned land along with a courthouse that hasn’t been used since 2008. The county and city have been looking to redevelop the area for years to make it an important piece of the downtown area.

The county Board of Supervisors voted in June to lease the property to developer Laguna Niguel Town Center Properties.

The project is at the beginning of the environmental review phase. The deadline ended Thursday for gathering comments from the public on the environmental impact report.

“I can see the county sitting there looking at this 25 acres that is not producing income, and I’m sure that they would very much like to get some income out of that,” Bob Davey said. “I sympathize with that. But don’t tear down the library.”

Residents are also confused by the move because the library received a $6-million renovation in 2012. About 4,000 square feet were added, along with a more modern architectural look.

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Julie Davey (left) speaks to Pete Magoski and Joann Curtin, fellow supporters of their “Save Our Library” campaign, in front of Laguna Niguel Library.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“We love this library, and we don’t want to lose it,” resident Joann Curtin said. “Maybe they will have a little library, but I don’t think it will be anything like it is.”

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Laguna Niguel community development director Jonathan Orduna pointed to a fact sheet on the city’s website that seeks to answer the inquiries of concerned residents.

“The design and programming for a new Laguna Niguel Library are currently under consideration by the County of Orange,” the page reads. “The County’s goal for development of a new library is to accommodate the current and anticipated future library-related needs of the community through provision of a state-of-the-art library facility.”

Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett, whose district includes Laguna Niguel, has been a vocal proponent of the project.

“The County, City of Laguna Niguel and the Laguna Niguel Town Center Partners have already discussed with and agreed to include the Friends of the Library group through the whole process and planning of the project, including the discussions on design,” Bartlett’s spokeswoman Megan Dutra said through email.

Laguna Niguel Library
The main room in the Laguna Niguel Library houses a painted elephant.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Orduna said the county is working on a needs assessment for the potential new library with a group of different community stakeholders, including the Friends of the Library. That group will report its conclusions to the community at a public workshop in the spring, around the time of the first public meeting with the Planning Commission.

“At that point we will have a better sense of the size of the new library and the location of the site,” Orduna said.

Public hearings could be held in the beginning of summer if there are no setbacks during the environmental review.

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