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.