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Located at the corner of Adams Avenue and Kensington Drive, the Kensington/Normal Heights Community Library is San Diego’s smallest public library. During the past few years, the Kensington Friends of the Library have looked at ways to grow their tiny branch, hoping to add on to the 2300-square-foot building. In late 2008, they unveiled a plan for expanding the facility, tacking a 1500-square-foot addition onto the southern portion of the 47-year-old building.

To make room, three 60-foot-tall trees, planted there nearly 100 years ago, would need to be axed, uprooted, and hauled off the site.

The removal of the trees has driven a wedge in the community, splitting it into two, one faction in favor of expanding the library and the other fighting for the trees and surrounding mini-park to stay intact.

Last July, after hearing about the plans to chop the trees down, a Kensington resident went to the Community Forest Advisory Board (CAFB) and asked if the trees were eligible for a historic designation.

On January 14, the advisory board made that distinction, voting unanimously to designate the Kensington library park trees as a Heritage Grove and Landmark trees.

At the February meeting of the Kensington/Talmadge Planning Committee, representatives from the Friends of the Library appeared in opposition to the city’s designation and pleaded with planning committee chair Tom Hebrank to ask the city’s forest advisory board to reconsider, at least until the community had a chance to comment. Days later, in violation of the city bylaws, Hebrank contacted the Community Forest Advisory Board and asked them to repeal their designation until the community had a chance to decide for or against removing the trees.

In a February 19 email obtained by this correspondent, Hebrank notified fellow planners and Kensington residents of his mistake.

“It appears that my request to CFAB [Community Forest Advisory Board] to roll back their decision until such time as community input could be obtained on the library tree issue may have run afoul of our By-Laws. While my sole intent was to ask CFAB to reverse the decision they made until such time as community input could be provided, some have interpreted my request as my taking a position on behalf of the Board. For this, I apologize; that was not my intention. I will retract my request to CFAB until such time as the KTPB [Kensington-Talmadge Planning Board] as a whole adopts a position on the issue.”

To hear what that position might be, the issue will be heard at the Kensington/Talmadge Planners Meeting on March 11 at 6:30 p.m.

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Comments

daisydukes March 2, 2009 @ 2:59 p.m.

The city would cut down 100 year old trees to expand a library that is a mile and a half from the big new library in City Heights? What, do we have money to burn? Or is Kensington so special they get to have two libraries?

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Viking13 March 2, 2009 @ 5:12 p.m.

I invested an entire career fighting to save forests, waterways, ancient Native American sites, and old buildings from bulldozers driven in the name of progress, only to learn the City of San Diego is contemplating cutting down three heritage trees to expand a tiny library in a pocket park that serves over 1,500 families. Can nothing be sacred to the City of San Diego? Those trees in Kensington Park were planted in 1909 for the benefit of everyone. Since the park is City of San Diego property, it belongs to us all, as do the trees, lawns, and playground equipment. It is a City Park. The trees have already been declared heritage trees, and so be it. If the City of San Diego wants to expand their library, then they can write a draft Environmental Impact Report on the legislative approval of the funding. If Kensing-Talmadge Community Planning Group wants to vote on the project, they can comment on the EIR.

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SurfPuppy619 March 2, 2009 @ 9:33 p.m.

Viking pretty much states the case. The trees belong to all of us-not just Kensington.

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SpliffAdamz_ March 3, 2009 @ 8:49 a.m.

We're in a economic crisis and the city is worried about some damm trees and a old library!!! No wonder why San Diego has money problems. Wake up people , how is cutting down trees and remodeling a old library going to help the economy? When are we going to get rid of these dumb ass people wasting time and money on issues that don't solve the problems we are facing these days? I like trees , because without them we don't have air. The library is a good place for people to gather info and use other resources a library might have. But I clearly don't think this is the time for expanding a small library in a small community , unless it's going to create more jobs. Which I don't see happening , I only see more money and time wasted on another petty issue. If the city has the time and money to waste on this issue , maybe we're not in a economic crisis. I guess we just got dumb ass people in office running the show , that are part of the problem and not the solution.

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SurfPuppy619 March 3, 2009 @ 11:47 a.m.

We're in a economic crisis and the city is worried about some damm trees and a old library!!! No wonder why San Diego has money problems. Wake up people , how is cutting down trees and remodeling a old library going to help the economy?

So by your thinking it is OK to wreck the environment, as long as we focus on the economy while we do it????? I don't get it-why can't we do both?

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LocalResident March 3, 2009 @ 4:22 p.m.

Have you seen the two pines on the south side of the library? These aren't a couple of "what's the big deal?" trees. They are magnificent! One may be the tallest tree for miles. The trees have been in our community longer than the library. In fact, when they were much younger the library was built around them. What a novel idea.

Considering what the planet is facing, it's incomprehensible that one small group of people could dream, let alone plan, on cutting down trees this old, this healthy & this spectacular. Trees that will be cleaning the air for another 300 years.

The good people trying to do right by the library must find a better plan, and do right by the trees, the park, the residents, the city and the planet.

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ken_res March 9, 2009 @ 1:14 p.m.

Let’s clarify. The library has been working on expansion plans for close to 10 years. They have worked with the City, Parks and Recreation, and the Ken-Tal Planning Group during this time pursuing various options. None of which were feasible, except for a plan to expand southward. At no time in that lengthy process did the City, Parks and Recreation, or the Ken-Tal Planning Group suggest that the two trees should be designated historic. I do not under-value the historic nature of the trees, but what I must do is correct a false impression that this article conveys. This article states that a “faction” of the community is fighting to save the trees. Truth be told, only ONE single resident in Kensington pursued and achieved a historic designation for 15 of the trees at the library/park site, after learning of the library expansion plans. The folks at the library didn’t know this was happening. No one else in the community was informed or involved. The neighborhood’s own planning group was never even brought into the loop – by either the individual or the Community Forest Advisory Board – until it was a done deal. This is not about chopping down trees. This is about community planning done right, communication among neighbors, and common decency. Regardless of how you feel about the relative value of these two trees in the grove vs. the ability of the library to expand, I hope you do see a serious flaw in the process.

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kensingtonian March 20, 2009 @ 2:47 p.m.

Bottom line, the trees need to stay. What about going underground or building a 2nd floor? How on earth could anyone think that cutting down a 100 year old tree is a good idea? So that we can have another sterile master planned community-type (ala 4S Ranch) park in the middle of an urban (San Diego-style) neighborhood? Phooey!

I use that library alot, but I think I'd rather see it close than lose those trees. Heck, replace it with an oversized gazebo and call it day.

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