By Benjamin Hueso
How could someone be SO opposed to bringing a new Library to Logan Heights? The last time I witnessed a person opposed to building a library in a community, it was Congressman Bob Filner that addressed his opposition to a Library being built in a San Ysidro Shopping Center because it would be the least accessible and most dangerous location for children. He advocated for the Library to be built on a school site in a residential community. In regards to location, the current proposed Logan Heights library can resist any criticism by Congressman Filner.
Nonetheless, there has been opposition: that a school site located in the busiest intersection in the neighborhood would be a better location than an easily accessible site between two community schools and a neighborhood park. This makes very little sense.
Interestingly, the California Proposition 14 funding criteria that determined what projects received funding ranked projects based on need (community demographics showing a predominance of low-income households), location, community support, safety, inter-agency collaboration and design, among other important issues. Logan Heights was one of the few Libraries selected in the entire state. San Ysidro’s commercial location also applied for funding and was not selected, despite being located in a very underserved community, similar to Logan Heights.
The opponent of the library on the school property site has recommended other locations:
1. 28th and National Site: the principal argument is safety and accessibility. This site is in the busiest intersection (not determined by size of street but per day volume of vehicle traffic) in the entire area. This Commercial intersection has a freeway I-5 on-ramp and off-ramp, provides access to the largest Navy Base in San Diego, Nasco, Southwest Marine, Barrio Logan and Logan Heights Communities. Because of the two freeway overpasses, and the freeway access design, the crosswalks have pedestrian islands that would be very dangerous for younger children to navigate on foot. I wouldn’t want my children or anyone else’s frequenting that intersection on a daily basis to access the library. Also because the freeway cut into an already existing community, the design of the northerly on-ramp requires vehicles to begin accelerating on National in order to gain freeway speeds, so vehicle speeds on National are higher than average.
2. Cesar Chavez Park site: this site proposed by the opponent is not only inaccessible, but too close to the site of the Central Downtown Library on Park Boulevard and J Street and is not central to 92113 and part of the 92102 neighborhoods. This Industrial location, situated on the Bay front adjacent to the tenth avenue terminal, is not only far from children and families, but it is only accessible from the east, having the Bay as a natural barrier on the west. Families and children accessing the library would have to walk across trolley tracks, Harbor Drive, and the Santa Fe rail lines which constantly block the street with loading and unloading of cargo. Pedestrians would risk getting run over by trucks hauling cargo from the terminals. People would only be able to access this library on foot, because the site is so small that there would be no room for parking. Never mind the fact that the library will be nestled in between heavy industrial uses. It would have never been approved for State funds!
The current proposed site, which was awarded funding by the state, is on School District property and has many features that make it unique, innovative, and ideal:
Central Community Location- would be located on the same block the current library, between Logan Elementary and Memorial Middle School facing 28th street, with access at the center of Memorial Park and 28th Street.
More efficient use of land-Because Logan Elementary was also awarded proposition MM funds to rebuild the school; both projects were designed in relation to the functions they will both serve. This collaborative design process has allowed both the Library and School architects to work together to optimize land use more efficiently. Unused pockets will be put to more productive use.
Increased Parking- the reconfiguration will create more parking for the park, school and library. The street adjacent to the library has little traffic and ample parking spaces that are never used.
No fast moving vehicles- the existence of stop signs on a residential street , and an elementary school and middle school automatically requires slower speeds during school hours.
Efficient use of tax dollars- As a taxpayer, I will be getting more for my money. Joint use facilities cut construction costs and allow us to reduce development and maintenance costs. In exchange we get a larger facility. The library will be a 25,000 square foot facility with 50 computers compared to the current library which is 5,000 square feet, and 8 computers. It will have community meeting rooms, art exhibits, and five times the number of books of the current library.
Schools Benefit- It will be the largest branch library in San Diego, adjacent to schools with a combined population of 3,000 children, and within safe walking distance of Burbank elementary in Logan Heights and the new Laura Rodriguez elementary in Memorial, which will serve over 1000 additional students. Children will be able to learn, play, compete, read, and study without every leaving Memorial Park. It will provide educational resources to the school district, at the City’s and State’s expense and contribute to making Memorial Middle and Logan Elementary better choices for parents deciding where to send their children.
Community Residents Spoke and were Heard
Input from community residents was gathered in three separate community meetings (two that I attended). The site choice selected is ideal for the intended use and the design reflects the intent of the community residents: The library should be a place for families.
Overwhelming Community Support
Despite not being located in Sherman and Barrio Logan, community leaders that participated in the site selection process from these communities, support the current location. Senator Denise Ducheny, and Assembly-member Juan Vargas not only support the site, but lobbied the former Senator Dede Alpert hard to guarantee funding for our library. Community leaders, residents, elected officials all agree on the overall concept of the Logan Heights Library.
Our Children will have the Best we can Afford
In the end it is easy to criticize anything. It is easy to propose an alternate location or critique any design. We have waited a long time for a new library, and with the city’s ever worsening financial situation, the probability that we will get another opportunity seems more remote. In seeing the final design and configuration, I have come to appreciate the State’s decision to give higher considerations to joint-use facilities. As a Logan Heights resident I find it hard to criticize the work of our elected leaders when you consider our benefits. For a change Logan Heights is receiving a disproportionate amount of resources: a skateboard park, three new schools and the best branch library in San Diego, which altogether represents approximately 45 million dollars in improved facilities. It‘s hard to argue with that. While I agree with the opponent, that this library should also serve all members of the community, we need to serve our priorities. The opponent seems to want to serve shoppers in a commercial area or port workers in an industrial area or may just plainly not be familiar with the community, but I concur with the majority that this Library needs to serve the youth first. All nay-sayers, need to step aside and let the children benefit! Investing in our children is investing in our future. Opposing this library will deny our children better resources and a safer learning environment in a site they are most likely to frequent. Politics should be a distant last in priority when deciding how to design our communities. For our children’s sake, I hope you agree.