The Bay Shore Neighborhood Library in Belmont Shore is set to close its doors to all services on Aug. 12 for at least eight months while it undergoes a $1.4 million renovation, the city said Thursday in an announcement that surprised many in the community.
The library has long needed an overhaul to remedy its deteriorating, termite-riddled wooden exterior, which is made of glass, stucco and unfinished California redwood. But community members have been urging the city not to do away with the library’s beloved 1959 mid-century design in the process since a remodel was first proposed three years ago.
“There are people from multiple generations that have used that library that just don’t want to see it get—I use the term ‘remuddle,’ where you know, someone tries to restore a building and they muddle it up,” Michael Bohn, a longtime resident and architect at Studio One Eleven, told the Post. “I think the city owes the community the opportunity to do this—to get this one right.”
Back in 2020, several community meetings were held by then-Councilmember Suzie Price to discuss the renovations. During those initial planning stages, the city showed off a red-brick version of the library that was presented as a “facade improvement.” Kurt Schneiter, president of the Belmont Shore Business Association, likened the rendering to a “government building or an old medical building in the 70s.”
The dramatic remodel proposal for the library was immediately sent back to the drawing board amid backlash from the community.
“There was a lot of back and forth, you know, community concern. It had gone to the drawing board several times,” Cathy De Leon, director of library services, told the Post. “But I think we’re at a place where … we have struck a balance between restoration and renovation.”
The last rendering that was shared with the public went out in a newsletter sent by District 3 Councilmember Kristina Duggan in April.
The newest and final rendering was given to the Post on Friday by the Public Works Department. The only difference between the rendering sent out by Duggan’s office and the one shared by Public Works was the style and color of the railing in the front.
Bohn took issue with the railing in the last rendering, which he called “industrial institutional railings that you would see at the Port.”
While the newest rendering does stick much closer to the building’s original design, it would do away with the facility’s waterfront terrace, which would be replaced with a wheelchair-accessible ramp.
“It was a place to take my kids to get a book and read on the terrace and feel like, for at least an hour or two, I lived on the bay,” Bohn said.
Bohn and other community members have pointed out that an accessible ramp already exists on the other side of the building. Adding a new one to replace the terrace takes away from the facility’s original design, and it also adds significantly to the cost, Bohn said.
In 2020, independently of Studio One Eleven, Bohn and fellow architect Jan Van Dijs collaborated to help the city create a rendering that would be both more affordable and would remain true to the building’s mid-century modern design. Their contribution was pro-bono, Bohn said.
“We did provide … some direction that I think helped Public Works convert this to a restoration versus a complete remodel,” Bohn said. “I think we’re close. … I just think it would be great to do the right thing and preserve that reading balcony.”
A large chunk of funding for the renovation, $750,000, will come from Measure A, $660,000 will come from Assembly Bill 32 and the rest, $4,304.41, will come out of the city’s general fund, according to Joy Contreras, a spokesperson for Public Works.
The lengthy closure is in part due to the work that needs to be done to replace the library’s old windows, which will cost an estimated $450,000.
“Those windows on the side of the building have to be custom built. … It’s not like you can go to Home Depot and buy those,” De Leon said, adding that she hopes construction does not take longer than eight months.
Bohn, Schneiter and Heather Kern, executive director of BSBA, all told the Post they were unaware that the plans to close the library and begin construction were moving forward so quickly.
At a meeting that took place Friday morning, Bohn said he tried to persuade Public Works to preserve the terrace and to take the proposal back to the public one more time.
“It appears we are too late in the game and the ramp is going in,” he said. “They see it as an equitable issue even though there is a ramp in the back. … We agreed to disagree. I see an equity issue in the public not having access to a terrace to see the water.”
Public Works, according to Bohn, told him that it would be too costly to update the ADA ramp that already exists at the facility.
“I believe that that cost would be well worth keeping the integrity in front of the building,” he said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest rendering and more information from the city. It has also been updated to include details on a meeting that was held Friday morning between Michael Bohn and city officials.