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Santa Monica Pico Library Breaks Ground

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By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

August 16, 2012 -- Santa Monica officials Wednesday afternoon finally broke ground on a public library in the city's poorest neighborhood 30 years after it was first proposed.

The groundbreaking in Virginia Avenue Park took place the day after the Council adopted a staff contingency plan for dealing with the loss of Redevelopment (RDA) money that, in a worst case scenario, could halt all RDA-funded projects, including the Pico Branch Library.

A miniature representation of the future library (photos by Jason Islas)

“This is one of the most important priorities in this City,” Mayor Richard Bloom told a crowd gathered in front of the Thelma Terry building Wednesday. “This library should be complete by fall 2013.”

The library was part of a plan drafted in 1983 that called for improvements to the Pico Neighborhood.

“This is a project that has resonated inside this community for decades,” Bloom told The Lookout.

Speaking to the crowd Wednesday, Greg Mullen, director of library services, said that at a time when so many cities around the country have to be cutting back, Santa Monica is fortunate to be able to move ahead with the project.

“More resources allow us to provide more services that are community centered,” he told The Lookout. “It’s designed to respond to local needs and wishes.”

Bloom addresses the crowd at Virginia Avenue Park

“This community asset will bring neighbors together,” Irma Carranza, a member of the Pico Neighborhood Association and a long-time advocate of building a library in the neighborhood, told the crowd Wednesday.

The $10.8 million library will consist of two buildings. The main building, a 7,872 square-foot facility will house thousands of books, DVDs and multimedia materials and will be directly to the south of the Thelma Terry building.

Directly across the fire lane, there will be an 818 square-foot community room, connected to the main building by a breezeway.

Even amidst celebration, there remained the question of the loss of RDA money.

The night before the groundbreaking, the City Council met to discuss which projects to prioritize and which to postpone after the State’s Department of Finance expanded its discretion over what former RDA funds it could seize by passing AB 1484 in June.

The Council adopted the staff recommendation to postpone projects like the $47 million Civic Auditorium renovation and the $56 million Civic Center Joint Use Plan and divert the funds to projects like the Pico Branch Library.

City officials get ready to break ground

Even so, the staff report warned that in the worst case scenario, construction on the library may have to be postponed, which spurred council members to reaffirm their commitment to this project.

“There was unanimous support that (the Pico Branch Library) should go forward,” said Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis, who was among the officials at the groundbreaking. “We enjoy diverse sources of funding that allow us, when we hit bumps in the road like RDA, to continue.”

“I’m confident we’re not going to be in the worst case scenario,” she said.

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