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Plans for Pico Library Move Along, Location Criticized  

By Jonathan Friedman
Lookout Staff

February 25, 2010 -- Both criticism and praise were given to the City Council for its unanimous decision Tuesday to move forward with plans to construct a public library at Virginia Avenue Park. The 7,500-square-foot facility will be the first public library in the neighborhood, meeting a demand from the 1983 Pico Neighborhood Community Plan.

Speaking on behalf of the Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA) Board, Catherine Eldridge told the council the library should be built at the planned Buffer Zone between residences and the future Exposition Light Rail maintenance facility next to the Exposition Boulevard/Stewart Street intersection.

“The Buffer Zone offers much more opportunity, and has a direct connection with Stewart Park and the adjacent neighborhood,” said Eldridge, who listed off a number of other amenities that could be placed at the location, including a community gardens and conference room, dog park and youth-run snack shop.

City Council member Richard Bloom said he was “befuddled” by the request because the PNA leadership has complained that the maintenance facility will further contribute to what it says is an existing toxic threat in the area. This is one of the reasons for the creation of the Buffer Zone.

Bloom noted this is not the first time PNA leaders have spoken against details of the library project.

“I’m confused at the mixed messages that are coming from some members of the Pico Neighborhood, who from my perspective have repeatedly taken positions that if we were to abide by them would effectively kill the project,” Bloom said.

Council member Kevin McKeown was also frustrated because he and other City leaders had only earlier that day received a letter from the PNA Board about the Buffer Zone location. He said that did not give him enough time to consider it.

McKeown also noted that the City is on a tight schedule to move the project along or it could risk losing the $12.8 million dedicated to the project from the City’s Redevelopment Agency fund.

“To miss this chance when we have the redevelopment money available to finally provide the Pico Neighborhood with its desired library I think would be a huge mistake,” McKeown said.

Eldridge gasped at McKeown’s comments, and stormed out of the council chambers in frustration.

Meanwhile, School Board member and Pico Neighborhood activist Oscar de la Torre praised the council’s decision. He wrote in an e-mail to the Lookout News that a library located at Virginia Avenue Park will be “a blessing for our youth and families.”

“A library in the Pico Neighborhood will be a key resource in our effort to expand educational and cultural opportunities for our City’s future,” de la Torre wrote.


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