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City Council to Receive Report on Central Library Seismic Upgrades Next Monday

Published on Monday, November 22, 2021 | 1:15 pm
Pasadena Central Library. Courtesy Pasadena Public Library Facebook page

The City Council will now receive a staff report on upgrades to the Pasadena Central Library on Nov. 29 due to Monday’s canceled City Council meeting,

According to a city staff report, seismic work on the Central Library will take almost two years.

On May 3, City officials were forced to close Central Library for a required seismic retrofit and restoration to meet life safety requirements. A structural assessment revealed that most of the building consists of unreinforced masonry.

The Pasadena City Council will receive a status report on the Pasadena Central Library and hear discussion of plans for seismic upgrades on Monday.

According to a city staff report, KPFF Consulting Engineers has performed an assessment of the building’s condition and its various systems, with the thought that as part of a possible extension of a local parcel tax, voters might consider supporting additional funding to rehabilitate the nearly 100-year-old structure.

The five-year parcel tax was first initiated in 1993 when Pasadena voters agreed to tax themselves in order to prevent service reductions to city libraries due to the prevailing economic conditions at the time.
Since that time, the parcel tax has since been renewed twice, for 10 years and then for 15 years, in 1997 and 2007 respectively, each time with tremendous levels of voter support (1993 – 79.9%, 1997 – 84% and 2007 – 80.4%).

In the meantime, KPFF has completed a seismic evaluation outlining the retrofit needs of the building’s structural system, along with a rough order of magnitude cost estimate of approximately $111 million for the retrofit and the restoration of the building’s systems including mechanical, electrical, plumbing and roofing.

Utilizing the information compiled by KPFF, staff has issued a request for proposals in order to select a qualified design team, well-versed in both seismic retrofit and historic preservation, to further refine the analysis, prepare the environmental report, develop options for retrofit and refine budgetary estimates.

On Sept. 27, Assemblymember Chris Holden presented a check for $4 million to the city and Pasadena Public Library to help repair the nearly 100-year-old Central Library.

Although the Pasadena Central Library is closed at this time, it is supported by nine neighborhood branch libraries that are open and continue to offer in-person or online access to books and periodicals, collections, language arts, career and personal development programs, computers, and the internet.

The Central Library is one of the three major buildings in the city’s Civic Center District as part of the Bennett Plan. It was dedicated on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, Feb. 12, 1927.

The plan, developed by architect Edward Bennett, placed the city’s most important civic institutions — including the library and City Hall — within an area where streets conclude at the buildings: City Hall to the east, the library to the north, and the Civic Center to the south.

The library was closed for a year during the pandemic.

The Central Library is home to almost 300,000 items in its collection. As such, it is not possible to relocate all these materials to the branches.

Consequently, staff has been pursuing options for the continued operation of Library programs and the relocation of the collection, including use of a modular building in the Central Library parking lot that currently serves as a materials handling location to ensure new materials are making their way into the system and circulating.

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