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City Council Report


City Council Meeting: February 22, 2011

Agenda Item: 8-A

To:               Mayor and City Council

From:           Martin Pastucha, Director of Public Works

                    Greg Mullen, City Librarian


Subject:        Concept Design for the Pico Branch Library Project


Recommended Action

Staff recommends that the City Council:

1)    Review and provide input on the proposed design concepts for the Pico Branch Library Project.

2)    Approve the recommended design direction.

3)    Direct staff to move forward with schematic design.


Executive Summary

In May 2009, Council approved and allocated $12.8M in Redevelopment Agency (RDA) Funds for a new branch library at Virginia Avenue Park. Following the selection of design consultant Koning Eizenberg Architects in February 2010, the City held multiple workshops and meetings to engage the community in envisioning important elements of the new Pico Branch Library.


The proposed concept design is the result of the input and feedback received from community workshops and meetings. The proposed design consists of a single-story 8,300 square foot building, adjacent to the existing Thelma Terry Building. The proposed site plan has been configured to maintain the existing number of Farmers Market stalls, and to minimize the impact on the existing park green space.  Additional parking will not be required as existing surface parking meets the requirement of both Virginia Avenue Park and the new branch library visitors.  Offsite overflow parking on Farmers Market and special events days is being considered. The proposed library programs include adult, teen, and children’s collections, study rooms, story areas, and a community meeting room.



The Pico Neighborhood Community Plan (February 15, 1983) speaks of the desire for a branch library and suggests consideration of combining existing private sector commercial activities with public uses to include a library and a post office.  Branch library service has been available at a number of locations in the Pico/Sunset Park area of the City since 1931, including the existing Fairview Branch Library at 2101 Ocean Park Boulevard that opened for service in 1956.  As Virginia Avenue Park was being planned, the inclusion of a library was discussed by the community.  Between 2001 and 2005, the City focused on improvements to its branch libraries and the construction of the new Main Library.


In 2008, the idea of a library in the Pico neighborhood gained support as the community considered the reconstruction of the Edison Language Academy.  City staff met with Santa Monica/Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) officials to discuss a shared-use opportunity at the Edison Language Academy to construct a library that would be open to the public after school hours.  As talks proceeded with SMMUSD, it became apparent that there were barriers to developing a joint use project and discussions moved towards identifying alternative sites.


The Pico community continued to express the desire for a neighborhood library. The advantages of using a site within Virginia Avenue Park became apparent due to expediency and a synergy of uses and programs. Staff worked with community stakeholders, the Virginia Avenue Park Advisory Board, the Recreation and Parks Commission, and the Library Board to explore library service priorities at the Virginia Avenue Park location.


On May 12, 2009, Council allocated $12.8 million in Redevelopment Agency funds for the construction of a branch library at the Virginia Avenue Park location.  Following Council’s action, staff prepared and published a Request for Proposals for design services of the new Pico Branch Library in Virginia Avenue Park.  On February 23, 2010, the design contract was awarded to Koning Eizenberg Architects.  The firm was selected based on their familiarity with the Pico neighborhood, their broad experience in working with the community, and the quality of their built projects which includes Virginia Avenue Park.




Community Engagement Program

The project team has developed a comprehensive community engagement program to encourage community participation and input on the location, programming, and design of this new branch library.  To date, the project team has organized over 70 public outreach efforts, meetings and presentations, ranging in size from personal one-on-one meetings to four large public workshops held at the Thelma Terry Building in Virginia Avenue Park.


Ongoing Communications – A project website ( was launched in spring 2010 to provide the community with information about the project, including upcoming community workshops and online surveys.  To further encourage participation in the planning and design process, bilingual materials and surveys were published on the project website, with hard copies made available to the community through the Park Center, Camp Santa Monica, Afro-American Outreach Committee, and at all libraries.  Staff continues to inform the public about the project at community and city-wide events, including the Unity Resource Festival, Cinco de Mayo, and Juneteenth celebrations. Surveys and notices were also hand delivered to the Edison Language Academy, St. Anne’s and Cavalry Baptist Churches, and Grant School.


Community Workshops – During 2010, community workshops were held at the Thelma Terry Building on September 11th, October 9th, November 6th, and December 4th to involve the community in the planning and design process to ensure that their concerns and expectations were consistently understood and considered.  The initial workshop in September focused on the trends in branch libraries.  At the end of the workshop, participants were asked to complete a survey on the possibilities for this new branch library, including design, services, and programs. The survey was also available online for those who were unable to attend the workshop, and handed out at schools, the Park Center and at the libraries. The City received 466 completed surveys in English and Spanish. The results of the survey were discussed at the October workshop, including preferences for the building location in Virginia Avenue Park. The November and December workshops focused on the conceptual building form and programs desired by the community.  A final public workshop is scheduled for spring of 2011 to present the schematic design of the facility.  Prior to every public workshop, notices were posted online and published in the Santa Monica Daily Press, The Lookout (Surf Santa Monica), and Santa Monica Mirror.  Notices announcing each workshop were sent to those who had indicated an interest and had provided email addresses.  Furthermore, at the request of the community, workshop notices were also hand delivered to businesses and residents of the Pico neighborhood.


Community Groups Meetings – The project team continues to meet with local community groups and organizations, including the Pico Improvement Organization, the Pico Neighborhood Association, and the Friends of Sunset Park to present project updates and seek feedback from the groups.  Special workshops were also held with the Youth Dialogue Cooperative, Semillas College Students, and Pico Youth Family Center Students to elicit input from younger members of the community.


Boards and Commissions Presentations – Presentations were made to the Library and Virginia Avenue Park Boards and the Recreation and Parks Commission at critical milestones during the planning and programming phases of the project.  Project updates were also provided by the City Librarian at the monthly Library Board meetings.


Proposed Concept Design

Opinions voiced by the community resulted in an extensive list of preferences for library programs and the physical form of the facility. The proposed concept design package represents a blending of these ideas.


Building Location – Location of the facility within the park was primary issue discussed.  Limiting the impact to park green space and to the Farmers Market was also of paramount importance. During the fall 2010 workshops, it was determined that a location within the Farmers Market area was preferred over all other sites within the park (see Attachment A).  Given that direction, Koning Eizenberg Architects presented three options within that “zone.” The community shared a clear preference for the option adjacent to the Thelma Terry Building.  Factors in the decision include the ability to reconfigure the Farmers Market to maintain its current size and to limit the library’s intrusion into existing park space.  A site plan of the proposed location is included in Attachment A.


Building Massing – The preference for a single story or mezzanine layout engendered considerable discussion. The impact of increasing the building mass in response to the additional story, stairs and elevators created an obstruction to visibility within the park in addition to creating operational difficulties. The building floor area is generally allocated to the collections, popular materials, children’s area, public computers, reading areas, group study rooms, and customer and support services.  A detached community room is provided, and will allow access outside of library hours. An area summary and floor plan is included in Attachment A.


Concept Design – The concept design is based on a one-story building which presents a dramatic presence on Pico Boulevard (see Attachment A). Its major entry point is from the Farmers Market Plaza. To preserve park space to the east, the community meeting room is located in a separate building across the fire access drive. A sculptural roof form connects the two facilities and creates a high breezeway. Expanses of exterior glass on the south and east walls visually connect the Farmers Market forecourt and the children’s play areas, further emphasizing the connection between park and library.


Parking – Parking was a major concern for the community.  By code, a stand-alone facility of this size would require 34 parking spaces. A parking occupancy study conducted in November 2010 concluded that both park and library parking demand could be accommodated by utilizing the existing surface parking lots. The exception would be during Farmers Market hours and special events. Staff will be negotiating with local business owners to provide offsite parking during hours of peak demand, which typically occurs every Saturday between 10:00am and 2:00pm for the Farmers Market.



Next Steps

Following Council’s approval of the recommended design direction, Koning Eizenberg Architects will further develop the concept plans. The next steps are to:

·       Present the proposed concept design to the Library and Virginia Avenue Park Boards and the Recreation and Parks Commission.  (March 2011)

·       Submit an application for a Development Review Permit.  (April 2011).

·       Present schematic design to the community at a public workshop.  (spring 2011)

·       Submit the design development package to the Architecture Review Board. (summer 2011)

·       Return to Council for design development review.  (fall 2011)


Financial Impacts & Budget Actions

There is no budget/financial impact associated with this action. The Pico Branch Library Project budget is $12.8 million and is funded by the Redevelopment Agency.  Annual operating costs are currently estimated at $922,359.


Prepared by:          Michael Collins, Architect




Forwarded to Council:







Martin Pastucha

Director of Public Works


Rod Gould

City Manager












Greg Mullen

City Librarian





Attachment A – Koning Eizenberg Conceptual Plans