Laguna Beach buys library property for $4.3 million, assures residents of relocation issues | new university

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The Laguna Beach City Council approved the purchase of the property under the Laguna Beach Public Library for $4.29 million on April 12. They removed previous covenants that suggested the building be moved, allaying concerns about the loss of the beloved community building.

In a 4-to-1 vote, the city council agreed to a 25-year lease and purchased the land from Orange County, which previously owned and operated the library as part of the Orange County public library system. OC. The city will also need to lease a portion of the building to house the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce office for three years.

The resolution paid up to $4.29 million for the acquisition along with an additional $2.8 million provided by county property tax revenues to fund routine maintenance, renovations and other building renovations. It was seen as an overall victory by Laguna Beach residents.

The proposal has been the subject of intense public scrutiny since lease negotiations resumed in August 2021. The point of contention concerned clauses No. 9 and No. 14 of the terms of the lease which suggested that the county was “studying the possibility of moving the free public from the county library.” Councilman Peter Blake, the lone dissenting vote, had previously said publicly that the Laguna Beach library property could be turned into a convenient parking lot for activities In addition to the fact that the original terms noted a mere three-year lease versus the 25 years resolved, residents suspected the city had ulterior motives for the structure.

David Raber, senior officer of the Laguna Residents First initiative which advocates for resident-centered urban growth, has created an online petition opposing any possibility of building a parking lot and asking the city council to come up with a comprehensive plan to a library location if there were relocation plans. If the city council’s intentions were to preserve this library, then the petition called for not purchasing the land and leaving it under county jurisdiction. The petition gathered 1,496 signatories in total.

Residents gathered at the public hearing to give their testimonies in favor of the preservation of the library on April 12.

“A library is a culturally important part of any vibrant community and we have a unique library here,” Laguna Beach resident Paul Holmes said during the public hearing.

“This plan prioritizes money and tourists over people in our own town. I and over 1,000 people have signed the petition to urge the city council to leave our library alone,” an unidentified Laguna Beach resident said during the hearing.

Mayor Sue Kempf voiced support for the purchase ahead of the final vote.

“I think he needs technology upgrades and physical upgrades,” Kempf said.

She argued that by buying the land and placing it under the care of the city, she could make improvements to the library that are more responsive to the needs of local residents.

The library, located at 363 Glenneyre Street, was built in 1972 as part of an agreement between Laguna Beach and Orange County in 1970. The city had the option of purchasing the property within 50 years at from the date of the initial agreement. The city council had started negotiating the terms in January 2020, as they were due to expire by then. However, the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the board to postpone the matter to a later date.

Talks resumed in August 2021 and an appraisal of the property was completed in September. In the final vote, council member George Weiss pointed out that due to rising real estate costs, this would be the only opportunity for the city to purchase the library property and surrounding land at a price acceptable.

“Buy the library. By all means, let’s control it but keep it a library. Let’s invest some of that money, that $4.2 million, into something much better than it is today,” Weiss said before the final vote.

As it stands, the library will continue to serve Laguna Beach residents for years to come.

Kane Hong is a City News intern for the Spring 2022 term. He can be reached at [email protected]

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