On October 8, the Palisades Branch Library suffered roof and ceiling damage from an overnight electrical fire. This past week, Circling the News began asking L.A. Library officials, “When will the Palisades Library reopen?” Seven months after the fire, the answers are not encouraging.
Our investigation began after we posted a story speculating about the citywide reopening of public libraries, given the rapidly declining number of Covid-related cases, hospitalizations and deaths. A reader responded by sending the following information:
“I talked with a worker from the Palisades Branch who now works at the Palms Library on Overland Ave. He said that the City has not made a plan to reopen, because of the severe fire damage at our Branch. The City has not yet made any plans for rebuilding the damaged portion of the facility. So, it is possible that the Palisades Branch will be the last branch to reopen on the Westside due to the fire damage.”
CTN contacted Mary Hopf, the Palisades senior librarian, who told the Friends of the Library board in January that repairs to the building could take another six months. She reported that the roof had been patched to protect against winter rains, but permanent repairs were yet to be decided.
We asked Hopf the following questions by email:
- What needs to be repaired? Does the wiring (in the roof) need to be replaced and is it just in one area? Does the roof need to be repaired?
- Has anyone in the City come out to give a cost estimate?
- Has a contract been given to anyone to make the repairs?
- If no contract has been given, who do I contact about a timeline?
- Could this library open even if these repairs are not done?
- Would it help if the Friends of the Library stepped up with temporary funds to get repairs done?
Hopf referred CTN to Peter Persic, a spokesperson for the L.A. Library’s public relations department, and he responded in a March 29 email:
“The library is currently working with the city’s General Services Department’s Construction Forces Division (CFD) and the Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Engineering (BOE) to complete the design, cost estimate and timeline for the repair of the Palisades Branch Library,” Persic said. “The project includes replacing the roof and repairing structural damage, air conditioning ducts and carpets. Also, the older lighting, which caused the fire, will be completely replaced with a new energy-efficient system.
“For safety, the library will be closed until CFD completes repairs, which will be paid for by funding set aside by the library for the project,” Persic said.
In a March 31 email, we asked Persic about a timeline for the library repair—would it be three months, six months, a year or longer? He was also asked about the projected cost for the repairs.
Persic responded, “We don’t know the answers to those questions yet, but I’ll let you know when we do.”
This means, of course, that the project has not even gone out to bid yet and thus nobody knows when construction might actually begin. CTN will continue to seek more information about this important community issue.
What was the cause of the electrical fire? Was it because of ongoing work or did it “just happen” for no apparent reason?
I thought that at the time of the fire it was reported that the damage was limited to a small area of the roof, and that most of the interior was undamaged. Are they going to replace the entire roof?
I hope you will continue to report on this.