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City Council Report


City Council Meeting: September 27, 2011

Agenda Item:  8-B  

To:               Mayor and City Council

From:           Martin Pastucha, Director of Public Works

                    Greg Mullen, City Librarian

Subject:        Design Development Plans for Pico Branch Library


Recommended Action

Staff recommends that the City Council:

1.     Approve design development plans for the Pico Branch Library Project.

2.     Direct staff to move forward with construction documents.


Executive Summary

In May 2009, Council approved Pico Branch Library as one of the Redevelopment Agency’s priority projects, and in May 2011, Council allocated $10.8 million of Redevelopment Agency funds for the Pico Branch Library Project.


The proposed design development review is the result of further development of the concept and schematic design phases. The proposed design consists of a single-story 8,690 square foot building, directly adjacent to the existing Thelma Terry Building. The proposed site plan has been configured to maintain the existing number of Farmers’ Market stalls and vendors, and to minimize the impact on the existing park green space.  The proposed library programs include adult, teen, and children’s collections, study rooms, seating and story areas, and a community meeting room.                             



On May 12, 2009, Council approved construction of a branch library at the Virginia Avenue Park location as one of the Redevelopment Agency’s priority projects.  Following Council’s action, staff solicited firms to provide design services for the new Pico Branch Library in Virginia Avenue Park.  On February 23, 2010, Council awarded a design contract 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.  On February 22, 2011, Council reviewed the proposed design concepts for the Pico Branch Library Project and directed staff to move forward with schematic design.  On May 24, 2011, Council approved allocation of $10.8 million of Redevelopment Agency funds for the Pico Branch Library Project.  The proposed design development review is the result of further development of the concept and schematic design phases which were completed by Koning Eizenberg Architects in June 2011. 



Basis of Design

The Pico Branch Library is to be located within Virginia Avenue Park, which is bounded by Virginia Avenue to the north, Pico Boulevard to the south, 21st Street to the west and Cloverfield Boulevard to the east. The new 8,690 square foot 1-story structure would attach to the south elevation of the existing Thelma Terry building, separated by a fire wall. This site strategy maintains visibility into the park and causes minimal disruption to the current operation of the Saturday Farmers Market, with no loss of stalls.  During the week, in the absence of Farmers Market, the library would help activate an area that is currently underutilized. The footprint is broken up into two masses that are connected by a roof structure and separated by an existing fire lane access road. The main entrance to the library would be located on the south elevation, facing Pico Boulevard.  New monument signage and additional planting along Pico Boulevard reinforces the library’s visibility from the south.  Activation and engagement with the site is a key principle of the library design strategy. Building on the folded roofs already found at the park center and patio buildings, the library design incorporates a dynamic roof structure.  A large roof overhang to the east, towards the grassy side of the park, provides shaded areas for both library and park visitors. A strong visual connection between interior and exterior is achieved by incorporating clear glazing at all elevations, allowing views through the length of the building and out to the park.  Reinforcing the library’s role as part of the Virginia Avenue Park campus, the detached community room can function independently to accommodate park and community programs. The landscape design is intended to integrate with the park by utilizing landscape design elements from the existing park such as plant selections and bolder configurations with integrated seating.  Site improvements include new concrete paving, raised planters and seat walls. Several new trees would be planted for additional shading at new patios. New concrete amphitheater seating projects from the south elevation of the community room and would accommodate small performances and general seating at the park.  A minimum LEED Silver Certification would be achieved for the building. For this rating, the building would need to be energy efficient and exterior glazing would require sun shading.  The south elevation would be shaded by a tensile fabric canopy that would also serve as shading for relocated Farmers’ Market seating.


Community Engagement Program

The project team 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 meetings and informational presentations, ranging in size from personal one-on-one meetings to public workshops attended by over 30 participants 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 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 WorkshopsCommunity workshops were held at the Thelma Terry Building on September 11, October 9, November 6, December 4, 2010, and April 5, 2011 to involve the community in the planning process and 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. 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.  The April meeting presented schematic design to the community. 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.  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 met 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.


Parking – Parking was a major concern for the community. As with locating the building site, preserving the maximum amount of green space and play area was a priority. By code, a stand-alone facility of this size would require 30 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. Planning staff would present a parking variance to council for review and approval in October 2011. 

Next Steps

Following Council’s review of the design development plans, Koning Eizenberg Architects would begin to develop the construction documents. The next steps are:

·       Planning staff to present entitlements to Council (October 11, 2011).

·       Presentation to Architecture Review Board (October 17, 2011).

·       Completion of construction documents and permitting (May 2012).

·       Bidding and contract negotiations (summer 2012).

·       Return to Council for contract award (summer 2012).  

·       Groundbreaking of Pico Branch Library (summer 2012).

·       Pico Branch Library completion (early 2014).


Financial Impacts & Budget Actions

There is no budget/financial impact associated with this action.     


Prepared by:  Tom Afschar, Architect




Forwarded to Council:







Martin Pastucha

Director of Public Works


Rod Gould

City Manager












Greg Mullen

City Librarian





Attachment A:  Koning Eizenberg Design Development Plans