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 Fullerton City Council has approved four direct appointments to the Hunt Branch Library Ad-Hoc Committee created to study and make recommendations about the future of the city-owned facility. The council members were scheduled to each make an appointment to the ad-hoc during their June 5 meeting. Council member Bruce Whitaker chose to delay his appointment until he had confirmation that his first choice would be willing to serve in the position. The four members were appointed are:
Egleth Nunnci (appointed by Jesus Silva)
Fern Richardson (appointed by Greg Sebourn)
Pete Beard (appointed by Doug Chaffee)
Michael Williams (appointed by Jennifer Fitzgerald)
Once convened, members of the ad-hoc will review applications for four additional seats to the committee. Applications can be found at this link:
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.
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-hoccommittee, 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, thecity 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.
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.
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.”
The agenda for the special meeting of Fullerton’s Library Board of Trustees at the Hunt Branch Library on Saturday, May 5, 10:00 a.m. at 201 S Basque Ave, Fullerton, CA 92833 has been released, and reproduced above. It can be reached online at this link:
and it suggests that the Library Board is exploring every option except selling the Hunt Branch building, beginning with establishing the intent of the original gift itself by examining the grant deed, appended to the agenda (the first page is reproduced below).
Next, the board will discuss renegotiating the month-to-month lease on the closed Hunt library currently held by neighboring Grace Ministries International, suggesting that the board is either contemplating a recommendation to end the lease, or, at least, raise the lease rate beyond the pitiful amount the church is currently paying for it each month.
Most importantly, the third item makes it clear that the board is serious about re-opening the Hunt as a library by discussing a formal request to the city to finally provide adequate funds to do so.
A discussion about community partnerships follows, but it is the fifth item that reveals the disposition of the board–seeking legal representation, presumably to prevent the sale of the site.
1. Define the intent of the gift of Hunt Library. – Library Director Judy Booth Recommendation: Discuss
2. Renegotiate the lease of Hunt Library to Grace Ministries International. – Library Director Judy Booth Recommendation: Discuss
3. Formally request the City Council to appropriate funds to operate the Hunt Library as a branch library. – Library Director Judy Booth
4. Consider possibility of partnering with community organizations at Hunt Library – Library Director Judy Booth
5. Library Board of Trustees and outside legal representation – Library Director Judy Booth Recommendation: Discuss
6. Schedule further meetings about Hunt Library at Hunt Library – Library Director Judy Booth Recommendation: Discuss
The full pdf of the gift deed can be found at this link:
If the board is willing to stand up to city council members who want to sell of the property for a quick buck, the public should be there to support them. Please plan to attend this meeting at the Hunt Branch Library, 201 S Basque Ave, Fullerton, CA 92833. Board members will be available to answer public questions and tour the site.
Fullerton’s Library Board of Trustees will hold a special tour and meeting on Saturday, May 5, 10:00 a.m. to allow members of the public to inspect the closed Hunt Branch Library and discuss possible uses for the facility with the trustees. The Hunt Branch Library is located at 201 S Basque Ave, Fullerton, CA 92833.
This tour represents a rare opportunity to inspect the inside of the library, which is currently leased to a neighboring church for only $ 1,300.00 per month. The building, designed by world famous modernist architect William Pereira, served as a branch of the Fullerton Public Library for half a century before being steadily defunded and eventually closed.
The Hunt Branch Library building is a significant mid-century modernist structure owned by the City of Fullerton. We believe it is in imminent danger of being sold, and have organized a group of private citizens to ensure that the building remains in the hands of the people of Fullerton, and used to benefit the community.
The William Pereira designed Hunt Branch Library was a gift to the City of Fullerton from the Norton Simon Foundation in 1962. For decades it served as only one of two branches of the Fullerton Public Library, until being closed in 2013 and eventually leased to neighboring Grace Ministries International (GMI) for $ 1,500.00 per month. This arrangement was said to be temporary while GMI renovated their adjacent headquarters, the former Hunt Food & Industries headquarters, also designed by Pereira. However, the lease has continued through 2018. When the lease was approved, the public was promised that the city would support efforts to obtain historic preservation status for the structure, but such protection has not yet occurred.
Instead, at least one member of the Fullerton City Council, current Mayor Doug Chaffee, has repeatedly said that he favors selling the library, and there is reason to believe that at least one other council member supports the idea. It would only take three members of the council to approve a sale. We adamantly oppose the inclusion of the Hunt building on a list of city properties to be considered for sale, and urge it’s immediate removal from this list.
We believe that the Hunt Library building can be used in any number of ways to directly benefit the community for many years to come. This precious gift to our city should not be thrown away for a one time windfall. We invite you to join us by following this blog and contacting us to become involved in this effort to preserve an architectural gem and an irreplaceable community asset.