Pasadena’s Historic Central Library Closed Due to Seismic Safety Concerns – Pasadena Now

Pasadena’s Historic Central Library Closed Due to Seismic Safety Concerns – Pasadena Now

(Image courtesy City of Pasadena)

[UPDATED to include details on recent plans to repair the building]

On Monday, the City of Pasadena Building Official ordered the closure of Pasadena Central Library, located at 285 E. Walnut St, until further notice. View the order

“This is devastating news for us all. Central Library is more than just a building; it’s where generations of families have grown up, and an iconic building that completes our Civic Center as one of Pasadena’s treasures,” said City Manager Steve Mermell. “We intend to do everything in our power to assess the severity of the problem and to work toward its resolution. This library cannot remain vacant, and we need to conserve it for another century of use.”

The city has been planning to upgrade the building.

In March Pasadena Now reported that $30 million would be spent on building system upgrades and replacements at the Central Library including a fire alarm system and a new fire sprinkler system; roof replacement; replacement of domestic, sanitary, and stormwater piping systems, replacement of mechanical heating and cooling systems, including ductwork, electrical upgrades, seismic structural upgrades, and improvements to the exterior courtyard.

It is not known if additional funds will be required to repair the building and how long it will be closed. 

However, a recent structural assessment conducted as part of the scope of work for the Central Library Building Systems and Structural Assessment Capital Improvement Project revealed that most of the building is comprised of unreinforced masonry (URM) bearing walls that support concrete floors and walls.


URM buildings have been widely recognized as a hazard to life safety due to their potential to collapse during an earthquake. 

“While Pasadena passed an ordinance in 1993 mandating all URM buildings to be retrofitted, vacated or demolished, no record has been found as to why Central Library was not identified and addressed as a URM building,” the release states.


“Now that it has been identified, it is clear that Central Library is not in conformance with the City’s URM Ordinance. 

Additionally, the results of the review provided to the City indicate that Central Library does not meet current seismic standards recommended by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Therefore, given our present state of knowledge, the building is unsafe to occupy.”

This is a developing story and Pasadena Now will update it as more news becomes available. 

Designed by Myron Hunt in 1924, Central Library was the first building completed in Pasadena’s historic Civic Center Plan. The library is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Averaging 1,000 daily visitors, the library serves as an educational and community cornerstone for all to gather, learn, explore ideas, and connect with people and resources.


Library staff are working on interim solutions to meet the needs of the community, the city statement said. This includes developing short-term solutions to ensure the services and programs offered by Central Library continue at other library locations. 

Hastings and La Pintoresca Branch Libraries also recently reopened with limited hours. Those operational hours will be expanded by the end of this week. Lamanda Park, Santa Catalina, Linda Vista, and San Rafael Branch Libraries will open the week of May 10. 

Hill Avenue Branch Library will offer curbside pick-up for materials usually available at Central Library. Central Library staff will be re-assigned to other branches in order to offer expanded service hours at those locations. 

Library phone, chat, online content, and programming will continue without change

In-person library services recently resumed on a part-time basis following the county’s move into the less-restrictive orange tier.  

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