Hunt Banner

Your public library, closed indefinitely. Will it be funded by the Fullerton City Council, or sold off as surplus property?

Matthew Leslie

The Early March edition of the Fullerton Observer (End or Reopening of Hunt Branch Library?) reports that The Fullerton Public Library Board of Trustees met on February 25, and voted to recommend to the City Council that the Hunt Branch Library either be funded with $ 1.3 million for annual operations or be considered surplus property. Grace Ministries International (GMI) has been leasing the facility for the less-than-princely sum of $ 1,500.00 per month since its abrupt closure in 2013 amidst reports that library staffers did not feel safe so near the then-burgeoning homeless encampment nearby.

According to the Fullerton Observer account, it was none other than retired City Manager Chris Meyer who first proposed selling the library at the Thursday meeting, in response to the city council’s past failure to fund it. The suggestion came during a discussion of an agenda item to provide direction about the Hunt’s future, now that GMI’s lease period is expiring. Rag readers will recall that it was Chris Meyer himself who wrote to this very blog nearly three years ago to repudiate the notion that the Hunt would be permanently closed, and eventually sold. (The Beginning of the End of the Hunt?)

At that time, Mr. Meyer suggested that the Hunt could be utilized to provide 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,” he wrote. Mr. Meyer’s attempts to reassure Rag readers concluded with the admonition that, “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.”

Three years on, Mr. Meyer’s turnabout position to sell a public library he formerly predicted would enjoy a “renaissance” might not even result in a public sale of the facility, however, because current City Manager Joe Felz, who once served as Mr. Meyer’s assistant, is reported to have suggested that the city should “sole source” the sale of the Hunt to the church directly. “They (GMI) have been accommodating by inviting people to see the architecture,”  he is reported to have said in the Observer.

As the Rag noted in its last story, despite assurances from City Hall that the William Pereira designed Hunt library would be the subject of an historic preservation designation, no such protection for the facility has been achieved in the nearly three years since the library was closed. City Manager Joe Felz seems to think that GMI, who continue to lease the property, should now be offered the purchase of the library exclusive of any other buyers. This brazenly proffered triple foul would not only permanently rob the people of Fullerton of a public library, but add insult to injury by selling the mid-century architectural gem with no legal assurances that it wouldn’t be torn down, and without even offering it to the highest bidder.