Forces join to revamp library landscape

Barbara Diamond

In a city where officials can't agree on how to count parking spaces

and civility is fast disappearing from public discourse, one project

seems to have sparked a spirit of cooperation.

Landscaping at the Laguna Beach Library will be overhauled, by the

combined efforts of the city, the county, the Friends of the Laguna

Beach Library, the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce and community

volunteer Steve Kawaratani.

"Working together, we can make this look really nice," said

landscape designer and Design Review Board chairman Kawaratani, "I

will do a site analysis and design a new plant palette, integrated

with the recent renovation of Forest Avenue, which I also designed.

"The city will supply some of the materials and labor, and the

Friends of the Library and the chamber will raise funds."

Kawaratani, who is working on the project pro bono, picked up

landscape plans that dated back to 1971 from the library on Tuesday.

"The landscaping was probably installed in conjunction with the

remodel that was completed in 1973," Kawaratani said. "It needs

freshening and the irrigation system needs to be repaired."

Friends of the Library President Martha Lydick was outraged to see

standing water in the grooves of an unused bicycle rack when she,

Kawaratani, Friends of the Library Board member Diane Connell and the

city's Parks and Building Manger Vic Hillstead first reviewed the


"We've heard nothing but don't let water sit around in pots and

breed mosquitoes because of West Nile virus, and here it was at the

library, which is used by children and the elderly, the most

vulnerable to the virus," Lydick said.

The board of the Friends has long been concerned about the

landscaping at the library and the used-book store, which raises

funds for the library.

"It's a disgrace," Lydick said.

Several months ago, the board declined to fund the purchase of a

few plants proposed by library officials.

"It was a waste of money because a major renovation was needed, a

bigger project than the Friends could undertake on its own in

addition to our main mission of buying books for the library," Lydick


The project as a joint effort, however, is feasible.

"Our board will meet next month to discuss ways to raise funds for

the landscaping project," Lydick said.

Kawaratani said the Chamber of Commerce is also expected to help

fund the project.

The chamber, next door to the bookstore, gave the county the land

for the library in exchange for free rent in perpetuity.

"One of the first things the chamber board wanted after I was on

board was to have the offices remodeled," chamber Executive Director

Verlaine Crawford said. "I found out we had to have the county's

permission. So I contacted the county's facilities project manager

Tommy Cochrane and presented him with a list of what I wanted to do."

Cochrane's $25,000 estimate was beyond Crawford's budget.

"But at the same time, I said to Tommy, 'Look at these gardens,'"

Crawford said. "We brought in Mariana Hof [Laguna's head librarian]

and she basically said, 'Do what you want.'"

Next Crawford had lunch with City Manager Ken Frank, after which

she took him to the library and showed him the overgrown hedges, the

giant aloe vera, the white fly, the spiders and the damaged

irrigation system.

"Meanwhile, the Eagle Scouts called and said they were doing a

community service project, but they didn't think there were any in

Laguna Beach -- I said, 'come on over boys,'" Crawford said.

Frank contacted Lydick. She called Kawaratani, and the cooperative

circle was completed, an example of what can be accomplished by

working together.

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