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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Public Meeting Raises Many Questions About City Pushing Teardown of City Hall and Main Library

Consensus at Packed Meeting on City RFQ for New Civic Center and Main Library: Taxpayers are angry they have been left out of process. Civic Center area is embarrassment to taxpayers – not because of design but because it is filthy and unsafe. Many asked who decided on possible size of a new Main Library and where is the new earthquake assessment?

Long Beach, CA, June 30, 2013 – A standing room only crowd at El Dorado Library Community Room this weekend made their opinions very clear about the City management’s call for firms to propose tearing down and rebuilding the City Hall and Main Library.

“The attendees were astonished and angry to find out that the City had not involved residents about what should be done with City Hall and the Main Library and that it was soliciting firms to do what had not yet even been approved or discussed publicly,” remarked Fifth District Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske who called the meeting after several residents had asked when the public would be involved. 

“They were especially upset that the Request for Qualifications did not contain solicitation of firms to repurpose, rehab or retrofit the current buildings or that an updated seismic assessment hasn’t been made to justify a rebuild.”

A Request for Qualifications was released with the title: “A Public Private Partnership for a New Civic Center” and asks for firms who have experience in financing, designing, building and operating major construction projects to respond by July 26. The RFQ document mentions the possibility of moving the Main Library from its current location and downsizing it from 136,000 square feet to 50,000. The announced schedule for a completed project does not include public comment in any form.

Schipske noted that many asked in this meeting who decided that the Main Library should be relocated or downsized to 1/3 of its current size. “This was a particular sore point since many in the room are members of local organizations that raise funds to assist the public libraries and learned that neither library staff nor the public were consulted before the RFQ was sent.”

Some participants questioned how the City could propose to build a new complex when it doesn’t even take care of the one it has – allowing Civic Center to “become dirty and unsafe.”  “Many participants expressed concern that there has been a purposeful neglect of the Civic Center to bolster the argument to tear it down,” said Schipske.

 “The tiles and sidewalks are filthy, the paint is chipped on all of the railings, all of the plants and grass are dead around complex. The flags are faded. Lincoln Park is a homeless encampment with belongings strewn all over. Visitors to the area are accosted by aggressive panhandlers. The area is an embarrassment and there is no reason why this has been allowed to deteriorate.” 

Schipske finds it ironic that the City voted to expand the downtown property based improvement district (PBID) assessment on homeowners but fails to keep up its own properties which directly impact the downtown area.

Participants at the Saturday “visioning meeting” had a number of other suggestions for improving the Civic Center and Main Library such as using some of space for an outdoor cafĂ© and providing at least one hour of free parking for library visits. “They also pledged to continue pushing for public input on this important issue.”

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