Costa Mesa library project clears early hurdle

The Costa Mesa City Council unanimously approved a design contract Tuesday night that will help convert the Neighborhood Community Center into a large central library.

The $125,125 contract with Culver City-based Johnson Favaro, which has been lauded for its successful public library projects, will include outreach efforts to stakeholders, conceptual designs and cost estimates.

If achieved, the 24,000-square-foot center would be larger than Costa Mesa’s three county-run libraries combined.

The adjacent Donald Dungan branch would be repurposed into a meeting area to make up for some of the lost community space.

Councilwoman Katrina Foley supported the plans, contending that the circular-shaped Donald Dungan building would be a unique meeting area and reception space.

“It’s really kind of Costa Mesa, that architectural style. It’s beautiful,” she said. “There is plenty of room to accommodate a much more vibrant downtown, a much more vibrant community center.”

Library boosters were supportive.

Kyle Woosley, Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce president, said, “We feel every great city deserves a great library.”

Costa Mesa Library Foundation President Mary Ellen Goddard, a Daily Pilot contributor, said libraries are gathering centers of the informational age.

“I fear that if we do not take action now, yet another generation of Costa Mesans will go without adequate library space,” Goddard said, adding that residents have waited 15 years for a new library.

Others were supportive of a larger library but skeptical of losing the community center, built in 1981.

Al Melone, a former council candidate, argued that the Lions Park location would be an air-conditioned hangout for the homeless.

“The community center has been one of the few things in Costa Mesa that is not a problem,” Melone said, urging the council to “leave it alone.”

“I think it would be a terrible sin to lose the community center,” added longtime resident Art Perry.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, who first suggested the library conversion idea, disagreed that Lions Park, which is located on Park Avenue off 19th Street, is an inappropriate location.

“When people say a library shouldn’t be there, a library is there,” he said. “It’s 50 feet away.”

A brand-new library would be prohibitively expensive, Righeimer said, and the conversion plans would help Costa Mesa better utilize what it already has.

“I think it’s a big move forward in the city,” he said.