The paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.
That’s what I thought when I read the headline that the City Council had approved plans for a new library to be built at my local park, Virginia Avenue Park. My immediate reaction was that the council, as usual, has never met a bond idea they didn’t like.
Let me begin by saying, I love libraries. I’m a book guy. As a kid, when my parents were fighting, which was often, I would escape to the library with my brother. In college I loved being in the library on my campus, and the one across the street at the Naval Academy (perhaps for more than just the books, but nonetheless).
I have a library card, and use it regularly. I pay my fines, partly because they help fund what I see as a very important part of any society. Free access to information is crucial.
My house is on 21st Street, which borders Virginia Avenue Park and I’m in it, usually twice a day, walking the dog. I know the maintenance men by name. I stop to chat with the police. I’ve made friends with people who are there as much as I am.
The park is a shining example of a community coming together. There are the men who play basketball in pick-up games, and kids who play soccer. I’ve seen a man keep a crowd in awe with his homemade radio controlled plane. Every Saturday the Farmers’ Market brings people out to participate in the community.
Having a police sub-station, youth programs and after-school programs on the grounds has contributed to a much richer, and vibrant park. In summer, the kids play in the water feature and squeal with laughter.
The greens keepers have installed several new trees and the park is taking on a delightful forest-like feel, while at the same time keeping the playing fields open for soccer, and other sports.
Adding a library to the park would definitely increase the surrounding property values, make it even easier to access the books that I read and provide yet another layer of benefits to the park. The more people who use the park regularly, the safer environment it becomes.
Which is why my first reaction of “Oh good Lord, no” was so shocking to me. I had visions of the library being a behemoth that destroyed the playing fields, or took over the north section lawn.
This past Sunday, when I was walking the dog through the park, there was a community resource fair which was showcasing all the various social services that are available in our fair burg. Happily Susan Annett of the library was there and I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about the proposed project. I’ve known Susan for years, since my days in the Rotary.
I was curious about the branch on Ocean Park Boulevard, which is only three blocks away from Virginia Avenue Park. I asked if it was going to be closed, thinking that perhaps the library administration had a reason for wanting to perhaps move the branch. Nope, not being closed, she said. It was shut down for a brief period for termite work, but it’s staying. Which is great news, as I think that it is a great little library.
But that makes me wonder why the need then for a new branch? After all, it is only a 10-minute walk from Virginia Avenue to the Ocean Park branch. Susan told me that the community had been asking for a branch, and that this was a great location, given the campus feel of the park already. I had to agree that the park has a campus feel with the teen center, the Thelma Terry building and that community room that is rarely used, plus the water feature.
I asked how big the library would be, and Susan said it would be a small branch, just like Ocean Park — 7,500 square feet or so. The architects are the same ones who designed the park, so they have not only a working knowledge of what the community uses the park for, but also have a vested interest in maintaining the usability and feel of the park overall.
The location that is being considered for the library, according to Susan, was south of the Thelma Terry building. Given the projected size, that would basically mean the garden space to the edge of where the tables and benches are now for the Farmers’ Market would all become a mini-library.
If that is the size and location, as much I’m not totally convinced that we need another library, and in spite of my long held opposition to bond offerings, I’ll support it. I don’t feel that it will be that intrusive, and will add to the overall purpose of the park.
And it’s not a parking lot, but you can read “Paradise Lost” there.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.