The City of Fullerton is preparing to officially lease the temporarily closed Hunt Branch Library to Grace Ministries International (GMI) for a sum of $ 1,500 per month, beginning September 1 of this year. The Hunt library is over 10,000 square feet in size, according to Fullerton Heritage. It was designed by William Pereira, who also designed the elegant modern office building now owned by GMI, located directly to the west of the library. GMI intends to lease the library space while its offices are renovated.

The terms of the lease require GMI to reserve about 2,000 square feet (“about one-fourth,” according to the staff report) for storage of library books and other materials.

GMI would lease the facility for 18 months, with an option to extend that length of time by 6 months, subject to City Council approval. Using the city’s estimate of “about one fourth” as a reference point, GMI would lease the other three fourths, approximately 6,000 square feet of building space, for 25 cents per square foot. While it is true that the Hunt is located in a somewhat remote location, a quarter per square foot (plus utilities) seems like a pretty generous rate for GMI. This entire arrangement would only benefit the city $ 27,000 for the initial term of the lease. Money in the bank, to be sure, and it all counts in this economy, but is this really the best we can get for an historic mid-century building designed by a world famous architect?

An acquaintance suggested that he and his fellow homeless friends should instead be allowed to collectively contribute $ 1,500 per month to rent the Hunt as a shelter. While this unlikley plan might run into opposition from neighbors, it does relate to one other detail of the proposed lease.

The city would be required to “provide fencing around the access points to the railroad area….” Readers will recall that a large gap in the fence between the railroad property and the library allowed easy access to the Hunt Branch to anyone walking along the tracks on the north side. This access almost certainly contributed to the growth of the large homeless encampment that existed there for months, right up to the point when the city decided that they would all be thrown out for the benefit of the new lessee. Once again, one must ask what prevented the city from patching the fence last Spring when the Hunt Branch was abruptly closed because it was said to have become too dangerous a place for library staff and patrons.

In addition to the lease arrangements, the agenda item also proposes the formation of a committee to assist with a plan to improve the site in the future. More on that proposal soon…