We are a group of Fullerton citizens concerned that the historic Hunt Branch Library building is in imminent danger of being sold by the City of Fullerton. We are exploring viable options for its use to benefit the community rather than allowing this public asset to be sold to a private concern. We invite your ideas and participation. For general information about the Hunt, visit the page "About the Hunt Branch Library" on this site.
The City of Fullerton has released a Request for Proposals intended to solicit interest in “programming and operations” at the historic Hunt Branch Library. Submission are due no later than 5:00 p.m., Thursday, January 23rd, 2020. Deliver submissions to the City Clerk, City of Fullerton, 303 W. Commonwealth Avenue, Fullerton, California, 92832.
According to the cover of the RFP, the city is looking for a partner to provide “cultural and/or entrepreneurial type services and programming”
“Qualified partnership teams must have significant experience and demonstrated ability to develop successful and high quality literacy, educational, cultural and/or entrepreneurial programs. Qualified teams will have experience collaborating with various organizations and managing educational programs and services. The selected partner(s) will be responsible for programming and operations at the Hunt Library building.
The City has secured $2.5 million in funding to assist in the renovation of the interior library building and is prepared to work with the selected partner(s) to create a welcoming and efficient space for literacy, cultural and event programming.”
The timetable described in the RFP is as follows:
“Phase I (February) – Focuses on proposer(s) qualifications, experience, and other factors; and Phase II (March – April) – Respondent(s) who meet qualifications will be invited for interviews.
Phase III (May) – Finalize recommendation to the City Council.”
At 5:30 p.m., May 7, the Fullerton City Council will hold a Study Session about the Hunt Library in the council chambers located at 303 W. Commonwealth Ave. The purpose of the session is to discuss “identifying and prioritizing future potential uses of the Hunt Branch Library as recommended by the Library Ad Hoc Committee.”
The page includes a copy of the Library Ad Hoc Committee’s report to the Fullerton City Council, as well as a letter from the Library Board of Trustees, who wrote that “We endorse the goals presented by the Library Ad Hoc Committee, and we agree with their first priorities emphasizing a broad spectrum of literacy programs. This priority would include Art, Culture, Museum Uses, Events, Activities and Classes which would benefit the larger Fullerton community.”
On February 1 of this year the council directed city staff to schedule the study session in order to develop a Request for Proposals (RFP) to be issued by the city. Non-profits or other outside agencies could respond to the RFP with proposals to operate on the site, providing programming in accordance with list of prioritized uses identified by the Library Ad Hoc Committee (literary, arts and culture, events, classes, etc.).
The staff report for May 7 recommends developing an RFP to solicit partner organizations to not only provide compatible programming in accordance with those suggested by the Ad Hoc Committee, but also one that would obtain “grants and other funding for capital and other improvements to the building and grounds to modernize its technology ability, make it accessibility compliant, and to repair and / or replace necessary plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems,” suggesting that the city is not prepared to make these investments.
The agenda report anticipates considering responses to an issued RFP sometime before the end of this year.
The study session represents a valuable opportunity for supporters to attend and voice their support for keeping the Hunt Library in the public realm.
The California Historical Resources Commission has approved the California Register landmark nomination for the 1962 Hunt Center and Library. The landmark nomination was one of four nominated properties on the consent calendar of the Commission’s February 1 meeting agenda. The report accompanying the nomination noted that the “district retains a high degree of historic integrity.”
The Hunt Center includes the Hunt office building, the designed landscape, a platform with metal canopy, six modernist benches, and six hexagonal planters. The Hunt Office Building was characterized as exhibiting “all the striking elements of the international style,” including its “rectilinear form and steel structure, glass panels, and repeated modular panels.” The Hunt Office Building and its surrounding grounds are owned by Grace Ministries International, who added a large unrelated structure to the property after purchasing it was Hunt Wesson, Inc. Grace Ministries currently leases the Hunt Library from its owner, the City of Fullerton.
The Hunt Library, conceived as a companion to the Hunt Office Building in style, was described as embodying all the features of a small branch library of the period, designed in the international style, one seldom otherwise used in Fullerton. The nomination also cited the importance of the Hunt Library having been designed by word famous architect William Pereira and commissioned by Norton Simon, a self-made industrialist and art collector.
On November 20 the Fullerton City Council officially added the Hunt Branch Library located at 201 S. Basque Ave., to the list of the city’s Local Landmarks. The designation is meant both to recognize significant structures in the city and to prevent them from being inappropriately remodeled or destroyed. The addition to the list was unanimously recommended by the six members of Fullerton’s Planning Commission present for their October 24 meeting.
According to the staff report given by the Community Development Department’s Joan Wolff, “This designation is given to a building, structure or natural or manmade feature having a historic character or historic, cultural, architectural or aesthetic value with respect to the heritage of Fullerton, which merits preservation, restoration and/or protection.”
The report cited three of the ten criteria under which buildings can be designated Local Landmarks, including its significant style and outstanding design, as well as the importance and influence of its architect William Pereira. The presentation included images of the library dating to 1963, just a year after it opened, along contemporary views, noting that the building looked very much the same as it did over half a century ago. Ms. Wolff described the Hunt’s style as International, although its roofline incorporates elements of the more Brutalist style employed by Pereira in his later works, some of which, like San Francisco’s Transamerica building and UC San Diego’s Geisel Library were also shown in the presentation.
The City of Fullerton owns the Hunt Branch Library and surrounding grounds, although the building is currently leased out to Grace Ministries International (GMI), who, in 2000 purchased the adjacent property that once served as the headquarters of Hunt Wesson/ConAgra. The library’s architecture echoes that of the GMI-owned four story office building, also designed by William Pereira. Together, the two structures and the surrounding park were conceived as a unified campus by Mr. Pereira and his client, Norton Simon, although GMI has since added other large buildings to it. Norton Simon commissioned the Hunt Branch as gift to the city in 1962, but the Fullerton City Council has not to allocated the necessary funds to operate it as a library branch since 2013.
No members of the council had any questions for Ms. Wolff. Public comments began with Bob Linnell, representing Fullerton Heritage, who had submitted the lengthy, well-researched application to the city. Mr. Linnell thanked the staff for the presentation and noted that Fullerton Heritage has also submitted an application to California’s State Historical Resources Commission “requesting that the Hunt Library and the former Hunt Administration Building and the surrounding campus be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.” The application is expected to be heard by the state panel in February next year, and the state’s recommendation passed to the federal government in early summer for a final decision. Noting that a Landmark status adopted by the city was important to the National Register decision, he nonetheless observed that it would be Fullerton’s Local Landmark designation itself that would “better protect the building from any future threat of demolition or mistreatment or some compromise of the building’s architecture.”
Jane Reifer expressed the community group Save The Hunt’s support for listing the property as a Landmark, and thanked Fullerton Heritage for their years-long effort to that end. Fullerton Heritage’s application to the National Register includes all of the original Hunt Library and Office Building campus, but City Council changes to the Local Landmark process made within the last two years now make it more difficult to list privately held properties without the cooperation of owners, so only the city-owned Hunt Library was included in the local application.
Councilmember Greg Sebourn called it “an honor” to move the item. Mayor Chaffee, who has in the recent past supported selling the building, called the Hunt an “architectural gem” before voting along with the other four members of the council to unanimously designate it as Fullerton’s most recent addition to its list of Local Landmarks.
On the Fullerton City Council agenda, Tuesday, November 20 is the proposed designation of the Hunt Branch Library as a Fullerton Local Landmark. As noted in the staff report:
“The Planning Commission reviewed the application at a noticed public hearing held on October 24, 2018. Following a presentation from staff, remarks by Fullerton Heritage as the project applicant and public comments, the six members of the Planning Commission present (Pendergraft absent) unanimously recommended approval for designation of the property as a Local Historical Landmark.”
Readers are encouraged the attend the meeting, to be held at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, to urge the council to follow the Planning Commission’s recommendation to designate the property as a Local Landmark.
The Hunt Branch Library is on the agenda of the Planning Commission, who also act as Fullerton’s Landmarks Commission Wednesday evening, October 24 at City Hall. The meeting will take place in the City Council chambers, 303 West Commonwealth Avenue, beginning at 7:00 p.m. It is the third item on the Commission’s agenda.
Local preservationist group Fullerton Heritage, have written an extraordinarily complete application found at this link on this website:
For reference, the Fullerton Municipal Code is cited in the staff report for the item. It reads, in part:
“15.48.060. Criteria for designation.
A. In considering a request for a “Historical Landmark” designation, the following criteria shall be used in determining eligibility:
1. Character, interest or value as part of the heritage of the city.
2. Location as a site of a historic event.
3. Identification with a person or persons or groups who significantly contributed to the culture and development of the city.
4. Exemplification of a particular architectural style or way of life important to the city.
5. Exemplification of the best remaining architectural types in an area.
6. Identification as the work of a person or persons whose work has influenced the heritage of the city, the state of California or the United States.
7. Embodiment of elements of outstanding attention to architectural design, detail, materials, or craftsmanship.
8. Relationship to other landmarks, where the preservation of one has a bearing on the preservation of another.
9. A unique location or singular physical characteristic representing an established and familiar visual feature of a neighborhood.
10. Integrity as a natural environment that strongly contributes to the well being of the people of the city.
B. In considering a request for a “Landmark District” designation, support of the designation should be demonstrated by a substantial majority of the property owners within the boundary of the proposed district.
(Ord. 2982, 2001).“
The Hunt Branch Library, designed by a world famous architect who had a profound impact on the development of California in the last century, commissioned by an industrialist/philanthropist whose business was a significant employer in our city for over half a century, is a strong candidate for Landmark status. Please be sure to attend the meeting to support protection for this irreplaceable and unique structure Wednesday night.
The Library Ad-Hoc Committee will have its fourth and last meeting on Wednesday, October 10, , 1201 W. Malvern Ave. (park in the main lot at the top of the hill). The Committee is expected to draft a recommendation to the City Council regarding the possible uses for the Hunt Library. The agenda for the meeting can be found at this link: October 10 Library Ad Hoc Agenda
The Landmarks Commission hearing for the Hunt Library, that we originally expected for the same evening, has been postponed, so you can attend the Ad-Hoc at the Muckenthaler instead. We will alert you when the Landmark hearing is eventually scheduled.