HuntBranch1

The Hunt Branch Library is back on the agenda of the Fullerton Public Library’s Board of Trustees meeting later today. Readers will recall that the Hunt, one of only two branches in the Fullerton Public Library system, was abruptly closed in 2013 after claims that the area was unsafe for library staff because of the burgeoning homeless population who had taken up residence near the railroad tracks behind the facility. The Hunt’s hours had been severely curtailed in prior months following cuts to FPL’s operating budget, resulting in a drop in patron attendance.

The Library Board of Trustees will meet in Fullerton Main Library, Library Board Room, 353 W. Commonwealth Avenue, Fullerton, CA 92832, at 5:00 p.m., Thursday, February 25. A link to their agenda can be found here:

http://fullertonlibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/FEBRUARY-25-Agenda.pdf

A supplementary agenda letter 16 02 25 Hunt Property Agenda Letter (2) (2) relates that the Hunt Branch was ultimately leased to neighboring Grace Ministries International (GMI) in October, 2013. GMI is using the facility, which once served the needs of neighborhood children, as an overflow space while its own offices undergo renovation, or at least that is how it was presented to the Fullerton City Council at the time of the lease approval.

The Hunt Branch Library was given to the City of Fullerton by Norton Simon, whose businesses were headquartered in the neighboring office building, now owned outright by GMI, who later added an outsized building to the campus. Both the Hunt and the original office building, now largely obscured by GMI’s giant addition, are mid-century modernist gems designed by world famous architect William Pereira. At the time of the Hunt Branch’s lease to GMI in 2013, assurances were made that the process for listing both Pereira structures for historical preservation, or at least recognition, purposes would soon begin. Two and half years later, neither building is listed with the National Register of Historic Places or enjoys any measure of protection at all.

Now, the FPL agenda letter explains that the “term of the lease is now nearing the end of the term and we request direction for the use/disposition of the Hunt Branch Library. The lease continues on a month-to-month basis until the Library Board of Trustees and City Council provide further direction.”

In a series of posts about the Hunt Branch in 2013, The Rag expressed dismay about its closure, and some skepticism that it would ever open again as a library. (The Beginning of the End of the Hunt). Retired City Manager Chris Meyer, who now serves on the Library Board of Trustees, was good enough to write into the blog and leave this comment below the first story:

March 29, 2013 at 12:04 pm

This is not the beginning of the end for Hunt . Rather, it is the first step in getting back control of a City facility that has suffered from budget cuts, a hard to find location, a hostile, and unsafe environment, and a need for its role in the community to be redefined, and funded accordingly. The Norton Simon Foundation has released its reverter clause in the gift deed, and the facility is now unfettered by its requirement to solely be a library, which opens up a wide range of services, including a library, and media access center, and whatever the community needs. It is my belief that after the homeless issue at the branch is addressed, and the City’s budget recovers, there will be an opportunity for a renaissance of the facility, and the adjacent park. To that end the Daltons, and Fullerton Heritage will be working to add the branch, and the main building on the Grace Ministries campus to the National Register to protect these significant architectural structures designed by William Pierra (sic), as part of the City’s rich cultural history. This is not the beginning of the end, but rather the start of a new, and much more diverse role for Hunt in the southwest community.

Chris Meyer

Fullerton City Manager, Ret.

Mr. Meyer’s contention that the Hunt is hard to find is open to debate. The facility is easily reached from Valencia Ave., where many underserved children live in apartments that line the street. However, his comment does express hope that the Hunt may find a new use that serves the community. The Rag and its readers await today’s meeting to find out whether or not the Library Board of Trustees still believes the Hunt Branch will enjoy the “opportunity for a renaissance” Mr. Meyer offered, or will recommend handing it over to a church instead.