VIRGINIA AVENUE PARK — Despite objections from the Pico Neighborhood Association, the City Council is moving ahead with plans to construct a nearly $13 million library here.
The council on Tuesday voted to award the $882,000 contract to design the facility to Koning Eizenberg Architecture.
The decision came the same day the PNA sent council members a letter urging them to select an alternate site for the library, arguing a better location would be next to the planned Expo Light Rail maintenance facility to be built on Exposition Boulevard at Stewart Street.
A proposed “buffer zone” next to the rail facility is a preferable site, the PNA board argued in the letter, both because it would preserve the open space at Virginia Avenue Park that would be lost to the library and because proximity to the planned Bergamot Station rail stop could benefit the project.
Council members, though, indicated the buffer zone was not a viable site for the library before unanimously voting to approve moving ahead.
Councilwoman Gleam Davis said there were several problems with the PNA’s pitch. The buffer zone, which is intended to separate residents from a noisy industrial yard, is hardly an ideal spot for the library, she said, and probably wouldn’t serve the purpose of protecting nearby residents from the rail yard’s negative impacts.
There’s also the question of timing.
“The buffer zone isn’t even a done deal yet,” Davis said. “We don’t have control of that land [and] we’re not likely to have control of that land for a long time.”
That’s a significant problem, she said, because City Hall has a tight deadline to sell bonds to fund the library’s construction. In order to sell the bonds, plans for the library need to progress, she said.
Maria Loya, a past co-chair of the PNA, said she backed the buffer zone proposal but in any case is pleased a library is being planned in her neighborhood.
“We feel like we want to be able to preserve what we have at Virginia Avenue Park and not have it be disturbed,” she said, but added: “We’re happy because ultimately this has been a victory for our community and this is something our neighborhood has been advocating for many years.”
Hank Koning, a principal in the architecture firm that will design the library and chairman of the Planning Commission, called the library an exciting project for the Pico Neighborhood.
“We’re going to do our best to make sure we maintain as much park space as possible,” he said. “Having designed the park … we don’t want to undo that.”