Public Attend Hunt Tour and Presentation About William Pereira by Preservationist Alan Hess

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Alan Hess leads members of the public around the Hunt Branch Library. Photo by Damion Lloyd.

Over a hundred people turned out Monday night, Sept. 24 to hear renowned architect and historian Alan Hess lead tours through Fullerton’s Hunt Branch Library before his evening presentation about the building and its architect next door at Pacific Drive Elementary School. The free program was organized by SaveTheHunt, a community group dedicated to keeping the currently closed library in public hands. The library is normally closed to visitors because the building and grounds are leased to neighboring Grace Ministries International (GMI), but access was arranged through the Fullerton Public Library. The large number of attendees necessitated two successive tours led by Mr. Hess, who spoke about the structure’s integration of indoor and outdoor spaces and other mid-century modernist design strategies employed by the library’s architect William Pereira.

Mr. Hess is a co-founder of Preserve OC a non-profit dedicated to preserving Orange County’s architectural and cultural heritage. He is the author of more than twenty architecture books, the latest entitled The Ranch House, copies of which he later signed for the public.

The program continued next door in Pacific Drive’s Multipurpose Room, where SaveTheHunt organizer Jane Reifer welcomed the audience to the presentation. Following brief remarks about the history of the Hunt Branch, Fullerton Public Library Director Judy Booth spoke about the Library Ad Hoc Committee, of which she is an ex-officio member, charged with formulating a recommendation for the facility’s ultimate use to Fullerton’s City Council. (The Ad Hoc meets next at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center on October 10 at 5:30 p.m.).

Alan Hess Hunt Program
Alan Hess shows images of details of the Hunt Branch Library, Headquarters building next door, and a bench on the campus.

The presentation by Alan Hess traced the varied career of William Pereira from architecture school days in Illinois to Hollywood, where he became an art director who won an Oscar for Best Special Effects in the early 1940’s. Eventually returning to architecture, Pereira formed a partnership with classmate Charles Luckman. Mr. Hess noted that the team’s landmark 1953 CBS Television City in Los Angeles was the first studio designed specifically for television production, and, thanks to good planning, is still operation today. The prolific team also designed the original Disneyland Hotel and the iconic “Theme Building” in the center of Los Angeles International Airport.

Later, Pereira’s own firm designed San Francisco’s Transamerica Tower and the original buildings of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Mr. Hess emphasized that good planning and individual architectural character were the keys to Pereira’s success in designing not only buildings, but entire campuses, like the University of California, Irvine, and the master plan for the City of Irvine itself. He cautioned that, although Pereira’s 1973 wing of the L.A. Times complex just received Landmark status, many of William Pereira’s buildings have been lost, and that the LACMA buildings are threatened by that museum’s new master plan.  Mr. Hess stressed the importance of protecting buildings like the former Hunt headquarters building, now own outright by GMI, and its companion Hunt Branch Library both as important local structures and internationally significant buildings to serve future generations.

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Members of the public gather for the tour. Photo by Damion Lloyd.

Public Pressure Keeps Fullerton City Council From Supplanting Library Board

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Audience members stand to show opposition to members of the Fullerton City Council appoint themselves as Trustees to the Fullerton Library Board

A strong show of support for maintaining the Library Board of Trustees as appointees of Fullerton City Councilmembers kept the Council from passing an agenda item that would have seen them begin to supplant the Trustees on the Board as early as December. The agenda item, one of several in series ostensibly intended to streamline and update city commissions and committees, drew widespread public opposition. Dozens of attendees to the City Council’s meeting last Tuesday evening stood when Mayor Doug Chaffee asked who in the audience was against the change, while not a single member of the audience stood when the Mayor asked who supported it.

Following a presentation by the City Clerk Mayor Chaffee attempted to assuage audience concerns about eliminating appointed Trustees, assuring the crowd that no one on the City Council intended to supplant the Board, even though the agenda item’s appearance  was engendered by Councilmember Jennifer Fitzgerald’s May 1 City Council comments, wherein she directly suggested exactly what the city staff report recommended on Tuesday night–that the City Council appoint its own membership to serve as Trustees to the city’s Library Board and create a less powerful Advisory Board, to which each Councilmember would appoint a representative. Since the founding to the library a century ago, members of the City Council have appointed members of the public, not themselves, to serve as Trustees.

Mayor Chaffee advocated passing other staff recommended changes to the Fullerton Municipal Code regarding the library, but met with direct opposition to even this course of action because the changes to the language were nowhere reproduced in the staff report attached to the City Council agenda. Many audience members were strongly circumspect about making any changes without know what they were and how they would affect the operation and governance of the library and its properties. The City Council, including Mayor Chaffee who is in tight race for the 4th District O.C. Board of Supervisors in November, ultimately backed down from passing anything.

Many community members were very suspicious about the motives behind the measure, ostensibly intended to bring the city’s code into compliance with the amended state code the governs libraries in California. Lacking any stated or printed reason for a revision that called for Council Members to serve as Trustees, some thought it might be an avenue for allowing the city to more easily absorb revenue generated by sale of library property–like the Hunt Branch. Both Doug Chaffee and Jennifer Fitzgerald have voiced support for selling the facility, currently closed to the pubic and leased to neighboring Grace Ministries International.

Special Tour and Presentation About Hunt Branch Library September 24 (Updated with Parking Map)

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UPDATED WITH PARKING MAP! (See below)

William Pereira’s Hunt Branch Library: Fullerton’s Hidden Mid Century Gem

Rare Opportunity to tour Fullerton’s Hunt Branch Library, September 24, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m., 201 S. Basque Ave, Fullerton, CA

Presentation by Alan Hess, September 24, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., Pacific Drive Elementary School, 1501 W. Valencia Dr., Fullerton, CA

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Parking for the Sept. 24 tour and presentation.

Renowned architect, historian, and author Alan Hess will discuss William Pereira’s contributions to architecture and planning in the 20th Century and the significance of Fullerton’s Pereira-designed Hunt Branch Library building on Monday, September 24, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at Pacific Drive Elementary School, near the library itself. The presentation will be preceded by a special tour of the Hunt Branch Library from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. The program is presented by Save the Hunt, a community group dedicated to keeping the now closed Hunt Branch Library in the public realm. The tour and program are free of charge. Free parking is available at Pacific Drive School.

Though beloved by generations of Fullerton residents, the Hunt Branch Library is unknown to many outside of the city, who are often surprised to find such a well preserved modernist “hidden gem” near quiet suburban neighborhoods. This tour offers a rare opportunity to experience the spacious interior of the Hunt Library, with its largely untouched mid century details and open air alcoves.

The Library was a gift to the City of Fullerton from the Norton Simon Foundation in 1962. The ten thousand square foot building closely mirrors the style of the former Hunt Food & Industries headquarters, a four story structure located adjacent to it, also designed by Pereira as part of an award-winning unified campus. Both buildings are particularly significant because they represent some of the architect’s final high modernist designs, but incorporate some elements of his later brutalist style.

For many years Norton Simon showcased paintings from his world famous art collection, now housed in his eponymous Pasadena museum, inside the library and installed sculptures by Giacometti and Rodin on its grounds. Mr. Simon had originally intended to build an art museum on the Hunt campus in Fullerton.

For five decades, since its September 1962 dedication, the Hunt Branch served as one of only two branches of the Fullerton Public Library, until being closed for lack of adequate operating funds in 2013 and eventually leased to neighboring Grace Ministries International. This arrangement was said to be temporary while GMI renovated their adjacent headquarters, the former Hunt Food & Industries headquarters. However, the lease has continued through 2018.

Architect and historian Alan Hess has written numerous books and monographs on Modern architecture and urbanism in the mid-twentieth century, including works about the Googie style, the Ranch House, and about architects John Lautner, Oscar Niemeyer, and Frank Lloyd Wright, and has researched the history of Irvine, California, a city master planned by architect William Pereira. Mr. Hess earned a Master’s degree from the UCLA Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning. He is active in the preservation of post-World War II architecture.

Save the Hunt is 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. The group is exploring viable options for its use to benefit the community rather than allowing this irreplaceable public asset to be sold to a private concern.

A pdf of the flyer above can be found here: Sept. 24 Event Flyer

Library Ad Hoc Committee to Meet at Muckenthaler Center on September 4

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The Library Ad Hoc Committee will meet at another one of Fullerton’s architectural treasures, the Muckenthaler Cultural Center, on Sept. 4 at 5:30 p.m.

The third of four planned meetings of Fullerton’s Library Ad Hoc Committee will be held on Tuesday, September 4, 5:30 p.m. at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center, 1201 W. Malvern Ave. Interested members of the public are invited to attend. Parking is free.

The Library Ad Hoc Committee voted at their last meeting to invite members of the public to submit ideas about possible funded uses for the Hunt Library by the September 4 meeting.

The full agenda can be found at these links:

https://docs.cityoffullerton.com/WebLink/1/edoc/687632/09-04-2018%20Complete%20agenda%20packet.pdf

09-04-2018 Complete agenda packet

The agenda alone, without notes from the previous meeting, can viewed below…

09-04-2018 Complete agenda packet

 

Library Ad Hoc Meeting, August 6

August 6 Agenda Library Ad Hoc

The Library Ad-Hoc Committee will hold its second meeting on Monday, August 6 at the Conference Center Room of the Main Library, located at 353 W. Commonwealth Ave. The Agenda can be viewed at this link: Agenda-12.

At the committee’s request, the meeting will begin with a short presentation by a member of SaveTheHunt.com about our Hunt 101 presentation last month.

The Regular Business Agenda includes the following items:

  1. Selection of a Chair and Vice-Chair, held over from the previous meeting.
  2. Prioritizing Council Direction Regarding the Purpose of the Library Ad Hoc Committee, evidently still not clearly understood by the Ad Hoc.
  3. Cost to Operate the Hunt Library as a Library, provided to the council numerous times, when they have continually declined to fund it.
  4. Requirements and Estimated Costs to Bring theHunt Library up to Current Standards for Publicly Accessible Buildings, a critical number to have when considering any use for the facility.
  5. Proposed Publicly Beneficial Uses of the Building and Grounds, the two important words here are “publicly” and “grounds.”
  6. Proposed Funding Sources for Improvement of the Building and Grounds, we’ll see what sources the members have identified.

 

Library Ad-Hoc Committee Meets to Consider Hunt Library Future

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The new Library Ad-hoc Committee held its first meeting on July 11 at the Hunt Branch Library. The committee is charged with presenting options to the City Council for the ultimate disposition of the Hunt facility, now closed to the public, and leased out to neighboring Grace Ministries International (GMI), for the sum of $ 1,500.00 per month. Library Director Judy Booth, who serves as an ex-officio member of the Ad-Hoc, led dozens of members of the public on a tour of the historic William Pereira building before announcing that the meeting would have to be moved outside to accommodate the overflow crowd. Chairs, tables, microphones, and speakers were transported to the mid-century modern building’s spacious front porch where the meeting proceeded for hours through the warm summer evening.

The Library Ad-Hoc Committees mission is to ‘determine “what funding might be available to fund the (Hunt Branch Library) property as a Library or other opportunities for use of the property,” according to the meeting’s agenda. The five members of the Ad-Hoc directly appointed by City Council were first charged with the selection of a Chair and Vice Chair before selecting four additional members from a pool of nearly twenty applicants. During a public comment period at the beginning of the meeting, however, applicant and former Fullerton City Council Member Jan Flory suggested reversing these two agenda items so that the additional four members of the Ad-Hoc could be seated before the Chair and Vice Chair elections. After other public comments, all five members of the Ad-Hoc (Peter Beard, Fern Richardson, Michael Williams, Egleth Nunnci, and Barbara Kilponen) voted to adopt Ms. Flory’s suggestion to reverse the order of the committee appointments and officer elections, taking up the former first.

Applicants were invited to introduce themselves to the committee members and respond to questions about their qualifications. In addition to Jan Flory, applicants included Rafael Avila, Scott Bryan (who withdrew his application on the spot), James Cho, Arnel Dino, homeless activist Curtis Gamble, former City Council Member and current NOCCD Board Member Molly McClanahan, Judith Milan, Kristie Prince, former Ladera Vista Principal Randa Schmalfeld, and nearby resident James Wolvert. Several applicants were not present for the meeting.

Ad-Hoc member Fern Richardson questioned applicant Jan Flory about her own role in failing to fund the Hunt as a Library and approving the lease to Grace Ministries during her tenure on the City Council. Jan Flory blamed the decision to “terminate library services” for the Hunt Branch on the economic downturn and the need for funds for the then-newly renovated Main Branch. She characterized the low monthly rental rate of $ 1,500.00 charged to Grace Ministries per month lease that she herself voted to approve as “shameful,” but explained that she supported it at the time because it was only supposed to last eighteen months, and that a plan was supposed to have been formulated for the Hunt’s future.

Each Ad-Hoc member rated a full list of applicants, with Library Director Booth serving as the de facto facilitator and elections committee. One audience member suggested that any applicant not present should not be considered for the position, but another noted that the date of the committee’s first meeting had not been advertised enough in advance for prospective members to alter prior commitments. The committee members agreed to consider all applicants, present or not. Ultimately, the four additional members selected by the committee were Jan Flory, Molly McClanahan, who was not present at the meeting, Kristie Prince, and Randa Schmalfeld.

Selection of a Chair and Vice-Chair ended in a deadlocked vote with four members supporting Peter Beard and four supporting Randa Schmalfeld. The eight present members agreed to proceed with the meeting with Peter Beard acting as Chair for the night, but postpone the decision on a permanent Chair and Vice-Chair until the next meeting, when a ninth member would be expected to break the tie.

The committee then addressed the scope of work it would perform, with respect to its City Council mandate, requesting materials and information for consideration at least three days in advance of their next meeting. Specifically, the committee directed the library staff to provide a spreadsheet and analysis of the projected costs to operate the Hunt once again as a library, including the estimated costs to update the facility to meet current requirements for publicly accessible buildings. Additionally, Committee Member Schmalfeld requested a detailed map of the property to help define which parts of it actually constitute the grounds of the Hunt with respect to the adjacent dog park surrounding tracts. Jan Flory went so far as to request all materials collected by SavetheHunt.com, a community group dedicated to keeping the facility in the public realm. The Ad-Hoc also committed to exploring other “beneficial uses of the building and grounds,” as well as possible funding sources for such uses.

The Library Ad-Hoc Committee will next meet at 5:30 p.m., Monday, August 6 at the Conference Center Room of the Main Library, located at 353 W. Commonwealth Ave.

Hunt 101 Program Draws Over Seventy Attendees

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Architectural historian Alan Hess speaks during Hunt 101 on June 25.

Save the Hunt presented a public forum Monday night, June 25 entitled Hunt Library 101: Past, Present, and Future intended to educate the public about the history and importance of the facility and its place in the community. Over seventy people attended the forum, held at the Orangethorpe United Methodist Church.

Six different speakers each gave short presentations about different aspects of the library’s history, architectural and historic value, and the context of library services in the Southwest region of the city. Architect and architectural historian Alan Hess stressed the importance of preserving structures like the Hunt because of its architectural significance. Mr. Hess is a founding board member of Preserve OC, a group founded in 2016 to “promote conservation of our county’s architectural and cultural heritage.” (This week Mr. Hess was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to California’s State Historical Resources Commission.)

Event emcee Jane Reifer introduced each speaker, beginning with this reporter, who familiarized the audience with the history of the Hunt Branch Library’s origins, half century of operation, and eventual closure and lease. Ray Kawese, Investment Chairperson of the Fullerton Public Library Foundation clarified for the audience the role his group plays in providing additional support for the Fullerton Public Library, and the relationship between the Foundation, The Library Board of Trustees, who are appointed by the city council, and the Friends of the Fullerton Public Library, who operate the library’s used book store and organize periodic weekend book sales.

Former Mayor and current North Orange County Community College District Trustee Molly McClanahan presented a short abstract of a study by Dr. Ray Young, Emeritus Professor of CSUF’s Geography Department. The statistics covering education and income in Dr. Young’s study highlighted the need for cultural and literary services in the southwest region of the city.

Fullerton Heritage President Ernie Kelsey explained the criteria for properties to become eligible for landmark status, two of which are to be at least fifty years old and be architecturally significant. He characterized the William Pereira designed Hunt building as an excellent example of the modernist international style that retains its architectural integrity, noting that the architect’s later works soon gave way to a more brutalist style. Applications written by Fullerton Heritage for both local and national landmark status also note that two important landscape architects worked on the project, conceived by Pereira as a 26 acre Hunt Wesson Center campus for Norton Simon.

Fullerton Heritage began working on local landmark and federal registry status in 2013, just a year after the Hunt’s fiftieth birthday. Both applications have now been submitted, but it is unclear whether or the Hunt application will be heard as part of the October National Register agendas. Applications are only considered four times each year. The process generally takes four to six months to complete.

Fullerton Library Board Trustee Ryan Cantor spoke next, saying that for the “first time we’ve had some real momentum and some real energy in trying to bring a wonderful gift to the city to life” following a “period of inactivity.”

He recalled that an earlier Ad-Hoc Committee in 2012 was formed to evaluate the portfolio of library properties and came up with recommendations for funding in light of city and library budget constraints. In 2014 library trustees formulated three criteria for re-opening the Hunt:

  1. The library would have to be safe,
  2. The library should have a purpose separate and distinct from the Main Branch
  3. The library should be funded in a way commensurate with its purpose—estimated to be $ 1.3 million annually.

To this list he added a second set of three requirements for the Hunt as a center for the public:

  1. It should be free of charge
  2. It should be open to the public
  3. It should celebrate literacy, not only as a repository of books.

“Someone in this room knows someone who has the resources to make Hunt work,” he concluded.

Members of the audience filled out cards with ideas about potential future uses of the Hunt building and grounds. They included:

  1. Using it as an art and architecture museum or gallery,
  2. an interactive library with international communication
  3. a mini arboretum on the grounds
  4. a center for disadvantage students
  5. an art museum or library for the arts specifically for children or for local artists
  6. a homeless shelter
  7. an outpost for CSUF’s Croy Reading Center
  8. a community park with festivals
  9. and a site for interactive projects and exhibitions, with partners like the Museum of Teaching and Learning.

Another public informational program about the Hunt Library’s architectural importance is expected in September.

Learn About the Hunt Library’s Past, Present, and Possible Future on June 25

Save the Hunt invites you to Hunt 101, a free presentation about the past, present, and future of the Hunt Branch Library.

Monday, June 25, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Orangethorpe United Methodist Church – Chapel Hall, 2531 W. Orangethorpe Ave., Fullerton, CA 92833 (Near the northwest corner of Gilbert and Orangethorpe).

Featured speakers will provide a history of the facility, its architectural significance, and place in the community for over fifty years.

This event is organized by concerned community members, and is not affiliated with either the City of Fullerton or the Fullerton Public Library.

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Fullerton City Council Approves Formation of Ad-Hoc Committee to Study Future of Hunt Branch Library

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On May 15 the Fullerton City Council voted to form Library Ad-Hoc Committee to consider recommendations to explore future uses of the Hunt Branch Library. The library is currently closed, and leased out to neighboring Grace Ministries on a month-to-month basis. Although the Library Board of Trustees seems generally to favor retaining the Hunt as a city facility, opinions on that board differ about what can, and should, be done with it. The City Council is more sharply divided, with two members, Bruce Whitaker and Jesus Silva, voicing support for keeping it in city hands, while Mayor Doug Chaffee has openly advocated selling it. His position is evidently shared by Council member Jennifer Fitzgerald, who was quoted in a May 24 OC Register story as speculating that a sale of the property could help fund library services on the east side of the city. Mayor Pro Tem Greg Sebourn remains uncommitted on the matter. Although some of his comments in the recent meeting could be taken as encouraging by anyone advocating for the Hunt to remain a city asset, he has not ruled out a sale.

Formation of the ad-hoc committee was ultimately approved on a 4-0 vote during the May 15 meeting (Jennifer Fitzgerald absent), but only after extensive discussion by the council. The city staff report proposed a committee of seven that would include two members of the city council, but just one library trustee, in addition to one member each from the Fullerton Parks and Recreation Commission, Fullerton Heritage, and the Fullerton Planning Commission, and the Fullerton Public Library Foundation*. Council member Jesus Silva, who had suggested establishing the committee at an earlier meeting of the City Council, objected to populating the ad-hoc with “a lot of ‘inside players,’” and suggested expanding it to “include some members of the surrounding community” because they would ultimately be most affected by whatever plans were eventually made for the property. Mr. Silva also said he wanted to include representatives from “cultural and educational organizations to see if we can really generate some ideas,” referring to the possible use of the Hunt as a center for cultural and education programming.

Council member Bruce Whitaker agreed, saying that it was “time to step back and take a wider view as to what the beneficial use of this city-owned property might be over time. And that would be the effort of the ad-hoc committee—to bring people who are creative and who might help forge partnerships that would allow us to renew that facility in a part of town where we need that, where we don’t have much in the way of city facilities.”

Mr. Silva suggested reducing the number of city councilors on the ad-hoc to one, and adding a member of the elementary school district board, another library trustee, and members of the public. Mayor Chaffee objected to including any library trustees at all, stating “I hear way too much bias when I listen to that group.”

Mayor Pro Tem Greg Sebourn called the ad-hoc an opportunity for “getting the community engaged.” He supported including a mix of public members, and didn’t see the need to include a member of the city council. His motion to get the committee started by having each member of the council simply appoint a person of his or her choice was the plan eventually adopted at the meeting. These five initial appointments are expected to be announced at the June 3 meeting of the city council. Library Director Judy Booth will be included as an ex-officio member.

Once convened, the new ad-hoc will appoint four additional members. A link is present on the city’s website for applications for the committee, but does not yet lead to an actual application. Interested parties are encouraged to call or email the City Clerk’s office to find out how to apply at (714) 738-6350 or CityClerksOffice@cityoffullerton.com.

Though not technically required to do so, the new ad-hoc will proceed in accordance with the Brown Act, announcing meetings in advance, and open them to the public, and keep minutes. Rather than the sixty days recommended by city staff, the committee will continue for at least ninety days. During this time City Manager Ken Domer will contact “educational and cultural arts organizations interested in utilizing the property” in advance of an anticipated City Council Study Session later this year.

Some of the many members of the public who spoke to the issue that night didn’t see the need for the formation of an ad-hoc committee at all. Elizabeth Gibbs recalled that another such committee had already existed five years ago, whose recommendations had been adopted by the Fullerton Library Board of Trustees. Others agreed that the trustees themselves were the appropriate body to explore options for the Hunt, but Mayor Chaffee characterized the Hunt as “a building owned by the city without any purpose or restriction on it,”

Area resident Maria Hernandez recalled visiting the Hunt Branch Library frequently with her children, and told the council that if they “converted Hunt Branch library into a cultural center, (they) would be creating jobs, family activities, and come to the rescue of a historic site…” 

Library Trustee Ryan Cantor, who was himself a member of original 2012 ad-hoc  committee, took issue with the agenda item’s reference to the Hunt as a “former library,” as did current Fullerton Library Board of Trustees President Sean Paden. “It’s not the former library, it is the library. It’s closed, but it’s still our library,” said Mr. Paden.  In response, the  city council agreed not to refer to the Hunt Branch in those terms from that point forward. Trustee Cantor recommended issuing Requests for Proposals from interested community groups who might be able to provide funding and/or programming for the Hunt, something also discussed during Library Board meetings.

Nine days later the Library Board itself considered several items regarding the Hunt during their regular May meeting. Rather than meeting in the small boardroom in the west part of the building, the May 24 meeting was held in the Main Library’s Osbourn Auditorium to accommodate the unusual presence of nearly forty public observers. The Trustees adopted a document intended to “Define the Intent of the Gift of the Hunt Library.” 

As requested in their previous Special Meeting of May 5, a representative from the office of the City Attorney was present in the person of Deputy City Attorney Kim Barlow for consultation about legal actions the trustees might choose to take over any proposed sale of the Hunt. Ms. Barlow promised to respond to questions in a confidential email to the trustees.

*The Fullerton Public Library Foundation is a non-profit that raises supplemental funds for specific library projects, and is distinct from the Fullerton Public Library Board of Trustees, and the Friends of the Fullerton Public Library who organize period book sales and operate the library’s book store.

 

Fullerton Community Attends Special Trustee Meeting to Support Saving the Hunt Branch Library

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A member of the public addresses Fullerton’s Library Board of Trustees during a special meeting held in the Hunt Library on May 5, 2018.

About 45 members of the public attended a special meeting of the Fullerton Library Board of Trustees held on the morning of Saturday, May 5 at the now closed Hunt Branch Library located at 201 S. Basque Ave. The meeting was called, in part, to address concerns about the possibility of the city council selling the property, which is currently leased to neighboring church Grace Ministries International. In addition to library staff from the Main Branch, observers of the meeting included Councilmember Bruce Whitaker, who, along with Councilmember Jesus Silva, has advocated for keeping the Hunt building as a public facility.

Before the meeting, Library Director Judy Booth led visitors on a rare tour of the mid-century modernist building’s spacious interior, meeting rooms, and charming atrium spaces, which all appeared to be in good condition. The William Pereira designed structure was donated to Fullerton by Hunt Foods Chairman and art collector Norton Simon in 1962. Norton Simon once had his offices in the adjacent Pereira office building now owned outright by Grace Ministries. The campus, including the library, was home to sculptures by Rodin and Giacometti, but were eventually moved to the Pasadena museum that now bears the collector’s name.

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Community members enjoy a rare opportunity to tour the Hunt Branch Library, now leased to a church, and normally closed to the public.

Most of the Hunt Branch’s books were moved to the Main Library when Grace Ministries moved into the space three years ago. White plastic chains were strung across shelves now filled with books owned by the church. Other stacks still holding parts of the library’s collection were shrink-wrapped to prevent access to the books.

The meeting was called to order at 10:35 a.m. with all five trustees present: Chair Sean Paden, and members Ellen Ballard, Ryan Cantor, Joshua Dale, and Carl Byers.

Following public comments on items unrelated to the agenda, Library Director Judy Booth reported that at it’s most recent meeting on May 1 the Fullerton City Council decided in closed session to schedule a study session about the Hunt Branch, that the Hunt Branch would also be on the agenda of the council’s May 15 meeting, and that Councilmember Jennifer Fitzgerald stated that she favored the Fullerton City Council appointing themselves as members of the Fullerton Library Board of Trustees and establishing a new library advisory council.

Before proceeding to Regular Business, Chair Sean Paden asked his fellow trustees to consider all six items on the agenda, listed below, concurrently in order to allow members of the public to address their comments to all of the items at once.

Thirteen people, including two former members of the Library Board of Trustees, spoke during the public comments period. All favored keeping the building in the public realm, though suggestions about its ultimate use varied among speakers.

Several speakers recalled attending the library on a regular basis, either as young students themselves or as adults with children of their own. Lauralyn Escher of the nonprofit All the Arts for All the Kids recalled seeing Norton Simon’s August Rodin sculptures installed at the Hunt.

One speaker noted that most of the parents in the immediate area served by the Hunt Branch could not afford to pay for summer camps in other facilities, and that adding programming from cultural non-profits at the Hunt site would benefit lower income children.

Elizabeth Gibbs spoke of the building as an heirloom that should be cared for instead of sold. Others advocated working with the Los Angeles Conservancy and seeking funding related to the building’s significance as a mid-century modern building, now over fifty years old and eligible for various historic designations.

Several speakers thought that the park surrounding the Hunt could be incorporated into programming as well.

Vince Buck, a former library board member, stated that the library was shut down not because of nearby homeless people, but because the city council had cut the budget to the library, and the former library director made the choice to use all funds for the main branch. He suggested partnering with the Getty, among other institutions, as well as Cal State Fullerton. He noted that a representative of Senator Josh Newman had appeared at the last meeting of the trustees, suggesting that the office might be able to find money for the Hunt.

5th District City Council candidate Ahmad Zahra challenged the library trustees to provide a solid argument to keep the facility open (which he favors) in order to counter an anticipated argument that not enough money was available to operate the library.

Two speakers wanted the Hunt to become a shelter for the homeless people, suggesting that the Hunt could be leased out and paid for with housing vouchers.

The trustees responded to public comments and questions before proceeding to the six agenda items. Trustee Ellen Ballard stated that the public comments reflected the view of the library board and expressed support for involving other non-profits in the Hunt’s operation. Carl Byers cited the public’s participation at the meeting as a reason for maintaining the library board as a separate entity from the city council. Ryan Cantor stated that the Hunt would need a separate identity distinct from the Main Branch and adequate funding to re-open. An appropriate use of the building would require that the facility be open free of charge and indiscriminately to the public, and have a literary focus. If the facility were to be sold, however, the funds should go directly to the Fullerton Public Library, and not the city’s General Fund.

1. Define the intent of the gift of Hunt Library

Copies of the original grant deed to the property were include in the agenda, and passed around the room. It was reported that the so-called Reverter Clause, which stipulated that the property’s ownership would be returned to the Norton Simon Foundation if the Hunt was ever to cease its function as a library, was no longer in effect.

2. Renegotiate the lease of Hunt Library to Grace Ministries International

Saying that “we were supposed to have had this conversation three years ago,” Ryan Cantor moved that the trustees recommend increasing the month-to-month lease for the Hunt to $ 5,000.00 per month from the current rate of $ 1,500.00, based on his own “rough capital assessment” of the site. Trustee Cantor emphasized that the $ 5,000.00 figure was just a starting point, and was not meant as a long term solution. The trustees discussed whether or not rent could be structured in such a way that payments would directly benefit the library instead of into the city’s General Fund.

Chair Paden suggested staying with the current lease rate, but adding a significant maintenance fee, acknowledging that such fees are normally less than the actual rent, but could represent a higher figure than the rent in this case. Trustee Byers predicted that GMI would opt to vacate the building rather than pay such a dramatically increased rent. Mr. Paden’s motion failed to secure a second, and failed.

Addressing the question about what repairs might be needed for the building, Director Booth said that the heating and air conditioning system would need to be replaced. Trustee Ryan said that no study had been made to determine what facility’s needs would be over the next ten years.

Trustee Cantor formally motioned that the lease rate be raised to a market rate of $ 5,000.00 because GMI was not acting to fulfill the mission of the library with its occupancy. In making this qualification, he announced that he would support leasing the Hunt for a symbolic one dollar per year to an agency that would operate it in a way that supported its mission. Some trustees were concerned that recommending such a dramatic increase in rent would only antagonize the city council. Ultimately, the motion failed on a 3 – 2 vote.

3. Formally request the City Council to appropriate funds to operate the Hunt Library as a branch library

Sean Paden suggested tabling this item pending more information about the actual cost to operate the Hunt as a library. Ryan Cantor maintained that the figure of $ 1.3 million per year estimated in 2012 a report was still valid for an operating budget that would fund the library being open for two shifts a day over a five day week.

Trustee Ellen Ballard didn’t think the Hunt could operate viably as a branch library in the way it had in the past because it was too small to hold a significant collection of books.

Ryan Cantor motioned that $ 75,000.00 be allocated from the budget to develop a long range plan for the Hunt for fiscal year 2018/2019. This motion passed on a 3 – 2 vote.

4. Consider possibility of partnering with community organizations at Hunt Library

Mr. Cantor led the discussion with a list of possible partners who might provide programming at the Hunt. His list included the Fullerton Arboretum, The Muckenthaler Cultural Center, Fulleton School District (All the Arts for All the Kids), La Habra Children’s Museum and others. Other trustees and members fo the public suggested additional names, which were added to the list. The trustees agreed to divide the names among themselves and contact prospective non-profits to gauge their interest in responding to a potential Request for Proposals that might eventually be issued by the library.

5. Library Board of Trustees and outside legal representation

Director Judy Booth reported that, at the direction of the trustees, she had asked Fullerton’s City Attorney, Dick Jones, about the process for the trustees to hire separate legal representation. Mr. Jones was reported to have referred her to Fullerton Municipal Code, Section 2.16.40 (“The City Attorney shall be attorney for the Library Board. When required he shall attend their meetings, and shall perform such other services for the Board as may be necessary,” suggesting that the city council would not recognize any difference between legal representation of the library and of the city itself. Trustee Cantor motioned that the trustees request the presence of the city attorney for their regularly scheduled meeting in June “to discuss possible pending litigation.” The motion passed on a 3 to 2 vote.

6. Schedule further meetings about Hunt Library at Hunt Library

Further actions were deferred to the next meeting of the trustees on May 24 at the Main Branch. At meeting’s end, Ryan Cantor commented about the actions and attitudes of the trustees by stating that “we’re working hard on this, and we’re not giving up.”

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The Hunt Branch Library’s rear entrance and grounds.