West Branch Library
Since Berkeley’s voters approved Measure FF in November 2008, the Library has embarked on its building program to improve accessibility, code compliance and seismic safety in all the neighborhood branches.
The design team of Harley Ellis Devereaux - GreenWorks Studio is the firm selected to work on the West Branch project. The current plans are to replace the existing building with a new 9,300 sq. ft. library. The current branch, constructed in 1923 and expanded in 1974 to 6,200 sq. ft., has served as a neighborhood meeting place and community library for the historic Oceanview and West Berkeley neighborhoods. In 2004 the Library applied for California State bond funds to build a 14,600 sq. ft. library – the 2003 Conceptual Design for this project was estimated to cost $14 million, about $19 million in today’s dollars. The grant was not awarded but, thanks to Measure FF much needed improvements can now be made. The West Branch Library serves an active and diverse community and houses the library’s vital and successful Berkeley Reads adult literacy program.
The Board of Library Trustees has decided to replace the existing building with a new, larger one-story building that complies with all current codes including being seismically safe and fully ADA-accessible. Information on the condition of the existing branch is available in the Branch Libraries Facilities Master Plan and was updated in the design process by the architects. Input from the community during the planning process, including the three neighborhood community meetings and four presentations made to the Board of Library Trustees by the design team, was a critical factor in the decision-making process. When completed, the Library will be a warm and welcoming place and reflect Berkeley’s commitment to a green future by reducing energy and lighting consumption and will serve the community well into the future. As the first Net Zero Energy Library in the country it will contribute to the energy grid and be a proud gateway to Berkeley from the West.
Among the options Harley Ellis Devereaux - GreenWorks Studio presented during the design process was to reconstruct what remains of the 2,000 sq. ft. 1923 portion of the building and replace the 1974 addition with new construction. To attempt this, the older portion of the building would have to be lifted and moved to accommodate a larger addition and be seismically reconstructed to become part of a functioning library facility. In order to build a branch as large as the new one-story planned, a costly two-story addition would be needed. For these reasons and others, the Board of Library Trustees has decided to replace the building and give the community the most functional, efficient, and welcoming branch the budget will allow.
The new West Branch Library will have enhanced library services with adequate space to accommodate all library and adult literacy programs, including a quiet study room, teen room, program room that can be used for multiple purposes throughout the day, increased computer access, improved access to collections and comfortable seating for adults and children, to create an oasis for learning and reading as envisioned by the community during the planning process.
The planning process is ongoing. The City of Berkeley Planning & Development Department is managing the CEQA process, and an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is underway. Prior to finalizing the plans, there will be review by the Zoning Adjustment Board, the Design Review Commission, Landmarks Preservations Commission, the Board of Library Trustees and other agencies as required.
For more project information, go to http://berkeleypubliclibrary.org/branchimprovements or call 510-981-6195.
The Library continues to seek input from the Berkeley community! Please share your comments, questions, and ideas about the branch improvement projects on a Branch Improvement Program Comment Form. We value your input!