The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved $4.7 million in funding for a new library in the Florence-Firestone community, while some residents complained the project wasn’t moving fast enough.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas asked his colleagues to commit to pay for a replacement for the Florence Library that once stood at 1610 E. Florence St., now a construction site for a planned affordable housing development.
Los Angeles County Library Director Skye Patrick assured residents that she and others were working diligently to find a new home for the “small but mighty” neighborhood library, reviewing dozens of potential locations.
“We have committed to this library and so has the supervisor,” Patrick said.
The original 5,000-square-foot Florence Library was built in 1970 and needed renovations. The county initially planned to rebuild at the existing location as part of a mixed-used development with affordable housing. However, the cost to do so eventually proved too high, leaving some residents angry about what they saw as a promise unfulfilled.
Patrick emphasized that the county has invested $100 million in the relatively small Florence-Firestone neighborhood.
Ridley-Thomas offered to open a library twice as big and with a community center in one of his district offices/constituent service centers, but community members had concerns about the location.
While looking for a permanent home, county staffers set up a smaller “express” library at Roosevelt Park, a half-mile away from the old location. The local library supervisor said there had been roughly 3,000 visits to the express facility since it opened in February. However, some residents characterized the area as dangerous for children, especially when walking during the dark early evening hours.
“Our community is in great need of a safe space,” said Amanda Murillo, a member of the Florence-Firestone Community Leaders.
The board motion called for the CEO to use best efforts to acquire a site by September 2020, but a contingent of neighbors — some of whom wore red T-shirts reading Save Our Library — said they want the county to move faster and called for an amendment promising a shorter timeline. Others seemed to indicate that they would not be satisfied unless the original location was restored.
“Our community cannot wait until September,” Veronica Ortega told the board. “We want you to take responsibility and return to us our library.”
Ortega’s elementary school-age son, Bradley, made his own plea to the board.
“I’m here because I want my library back,” Bradley said, talking about how he learned to use technology by using the library’s computers. “I need it back now.”
Construction is already underway on the affordable housing complex.
Patrick said community meetings to gather feedback would continue as the county seeks a long-term solution to the community need.