Richmond Branch Facilities Survey

Image of Richmond Branch Library showing front and back entrancesBACKGROUND Year Built: 1914 Architect: Bliss and Faville Seismic Hazard Rating 4 Number of Stories Two Type: Carnegie Address: 351 Ninth Avenue Gross Sq. Ft.: 9,891


The recommended modernization improvements would be to expand the facility while maintaining the historic character of the existing building and minimizing the risk of structural damage and potential safety hazards associated with a major earthquake.

The existing building was designed by the architectural firm of Bliss and Faville who also designed the Southern Pacific and Matson Buildings, the Geary Theater, the St. Francis Hotel, the Bank of California and the State Building at the Civic Center. The main second floor is a reinforced concrete slab on girders/beams. The roof is constructed of wood sheathing supported by steel trusses spanning the entire 54-foot width of the building.

The recommended structural retrofit is to add plywood sheathing to the roof, sway bracing, roof-wall anchors, and steel trusses to strengthen the building. The existing roof will be completely removed to access the roof framing. The historical and intricate ceiling construction will be temporarily braced during construction.

New or alteration construction will meet State (Title 24) and Federal (Americans with Disabilities Act) guidelines. Given the age of the building, careful review will be made to determine the most appropriate disabled access modifications. The scope of disabled access work anticipated includes the addition of an elevator, exterior ramping, re-planning existing restrooms and adding new restrooms, blue curb accessible parking zone, modification of counters, bookshelves and table spacing at the reading room areas.

Building code impacts involve mechanical and electrical system impacts that are triggered by the modernization plan. Of primary importance is the upgrading of mechanical equipment, ductworks and seismic bracing of the ductworks.

Electrical equipment must be upgraded, switches, electrical panels and wiring must be replaced. The fire protection system must also be upgraded. Special attention will be placed on preserving the character of the unique interior ceiling and exterior elevations. Stairway, restrooms, staff room, the electrical room, and the mechanical room will be modified or relocated to conform to code related accessibility and life safety and owner improvements.

Current law requires removal of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), including plasterboard walls, vinyl flooring, and roofing related to the anticipated construction activities associated with seismic retrofit and disabled access construction work. Lead that is impacted will be abated.

The Library Department wishes to expand the facility. Additional public space is needed for collections, services and a community room. Staff will also receive adequate space for administration and processing work. Seismic repair, accessibility and code related life safety requirements will cause the library to lose floor area.

The proposed expansion will recover this loss and provides for additional public and staff areas. Other improvements include a new furnace, improved lighting, replacement of windows and floor, interior paint, and additional data/electrical outlets in walls and floor throughout the building. Site work will include replacing fence and retaining walls and landscape refreshment.



  1. Individual steel roof trusses need to be braced and connected to perimeter wall.
  2. Non-reinforced masonry wall needs reinforcement to resist lateral forces.
  3. Wall-to-floor connections need to be strengthened.
  4. Foundation modifications will be needed to effectively transfer lateral loads.

Non-Structural Deficiencies

  1. The decorative ceiling and high glass windows may become potential falling hazards during a major seismic event.


  1. Provide lateral bracing to roof trusses.
  2. Provide a horizontal truss system to connect roof trusses to perimeter wall.
  3. Apply shotcrete to the inside face of the non-reinforced perimeter wall.
  4. Modify foundations as necessary to make the entire structure act in unison.
  5. Brace and support decorative ceiling as part of the seismic work at the roof level.


  1. The entire second floor is not ADA accessible.
  2. The first floor is only ADA accessible from 10th Avenue.
  3. Counters, work areas, restrooms, and other public amenities are not accessible.


  1. Add an elevator to make the entire building accessible.
  2. Add an exterior accessible ramp connecting the site between 9th Avenue and 10th Avenue.
  3. Make all work areas, counters, restrooms and other public amenities accessible.


  1. Mechanical, HVAC, and plumbing systems are outdated and in poor condition.
  2. Mechanical equipment may need to be upgraded and relocated to serve the existing building and the proposed expansion.


  1. Replace all mechanical HVAC equipment and ductwork.
  2. Relocate and redesign mechanical and plumbing systems to serve the expanded building.


  1. The main electrical panel and power distribution system is outdated and in poor condition.
  2. A larger service transformer may be required to serve additional electrical load, including an elevator.
  3. Lighting is in need of replacement.
  4. Power outlets and communication lines will need to be added to work with the modernization plan.


  1. Replace all electrical power, communication equipment and distribution systems to handle a larger capacity.
  2. Replace lighting throughout building with particular attention to selecting lighting appropriate for the historic nature of the building.
  3. Develop an electrical power and communication outlet layout to work with a new flexible layout.


  1. The building lacks life safety systems and controls.
  2. All security equipment and systems need replacement or need to be added.


  1. Add new emergency lighting, exit signs, fire alarm, smoke detectors, and fire sprinkler systems as required by code.
  2. Add fire extinguishers as required.
  3. Add security grilles.
  4. Add exterior and interior security lighting as required.


  1. Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM’s) were identified in this building.


  1. Where impacted by construction, abate asbestos in the plaster walls and ceilings, vinyl floor tiles and mastics, window caulking, built up roof, grout under marble baseboard, mastic under Formica counter, and ropes in double hung windows.
  2. Lead that is impacted by construction shall also be mitigated.


  1. Existing flooring and wall finishes need to be replaced.
  2. Existing ornate ceiling finishes need to be preserved.
  3. Work areas and public access areas need to be of adequate size.
  4. An expansion should be built with modern needs in mind and should complement (not compete with) the historic structure.


  1. Replace non-ornate finishes as appropriate while preserving the historic character of the building.
  2. Preserve ornate ceiling at the main reading room.
  3. Build expansion to create a functional, low-maintenance facility that provides access, security, and comfort.


  1. The site has extensive landscape and a playground.


  1. Protect and restore landscape impacted by construction.
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