The Fullerton City Council unanimously approved the applicant recommended by a review panel to begin engagement with the city about providing programming and renovations to the Hunt Branch Library. A joint proposal by Heritage Future and ArtsOC received the support of all five members of the council, but not before at least two other applicants complained about what they perceived as an opaque selection process. Several speakers representing Access California, who scored third of eight applicants, asked the council to continue the decision to a future meeting. Council member Jesus Silva countered with a concern that the $ 2.5 million state grant secured by Assemlbywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (his wife) for restoration and upgrades to the facility might not be available for an indefinite period, and urged a timely decision by the council.
Council member Ahmad Zahra suggested that the motion to approve Heritage Future/ArtsOC should include a backup selection of runners up, but that effort was ultimately sidelined. Zahra eventually joined the other four members in voting in favor of the winning application without such a provision.
The city will now, according to the agenda report for the June 2 meeting, “begin work with the selected provider to finalize both physical improvements needed at the site in order to utilize a $2.5 million State appropriation secured by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva and create a partnership agreement outlining the terms of operations and services for the future of providing the priorities as outlined by the Hunt Branch Library Ad Hoc Committee. The agreement will be brought back to the City Council for approval.”
Plans for renovations of the building and grounds merit close scrutiny. We will be following the process to see what the applicant and city have in mind, and work, where necessary, to ensure that any physical work on the building is appropriately conceived and executed.
The council’s approval of a partner to present new programming the facility marks a milestone in the efforts to Save the Hunt, once viewed as a relic whose best use to the city would be to sell it off for a short term financial gain. Instead, the building and site have been removed from the city’s list of surplus properties and have received some measure of historical recognition and protection, a public committee has recommended that the facility remain in public hands for the purpose of arts and literary programming, a partner selected to do just that, and $ 2.5 million secured to address the Hunt’s infrastructural needs. The story continues to unfold, but without the support of community members like yourself, none of these goals could have been achieved.