For several years, the University Heights Community Development Corporation has been pushing to acquire the old Teachers Training Annex 1, owned by the San Diego Unified School District. The development corporation’s plan would renovate the 1910 structure and make it the new University Heights Branch Library (replacing the small library building at 4193 Park Boulevard).
The building is a National Register of Historic Places site and currently part of the school district's education-center complex along Normal Street (at El Cajon Boulevard).
Also advocating to save the Italian Renaissance Revival–style building is Save Our Heritage Organisation. According to the organization’s website, “Originally functioning as a living laboratory for student teachers, [the building] was transferred to the City of San Diego Schools in 1931 and served as the original Alice Birney Elementary School until 1951.”
Also, according to Save Our Heritage Organisation, “The structure was eventually delegated for records storage and has been left to steadily, and visibly, deteriorate for decades.”
However, the annex is “no longer used for records storage” since the building has not undergone seismic retrofitting, said district spokesman Jack Brandais.
Bruce Coons, executive director of SOHO, was asked about possible support from mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer and council president Todd Gloria.
“Yes, we will be asking for Kevin's help on this,” said Coons in an interview. “I don't know if Civic San Diego will have a role, but that may be a good question for us to ask both Todd and Kevin, as Civic SD is seeking an expanded role to survive.”
Midori Wong, director of the school district’s special projects, said, “The district has been in communication with the University Heights Library Task Force with regard to Annex 1 for some time. Superintendent Cindy Marten and I attended a meeting of the group last fall. The district continues to be very supportive of ongoing dialogue around the future of the building.”
Ronald V. Johnston is chair of the University Heights development corporation’s library task force. In an email, he said he has “done all of the negotiations, and reached agreements with the school board and school district. The city is not, and never will be buying the land or building.” Johnston added: “The land and building is owned by the school district, and the library is to be a JOINT USE library as well as a shared–use space for the community and school district.”
Coons is skeptical that progress is being made. He previously stated that the building “sits in a state of demolition by neglect. The powers–that–be appear to simply be waiting until it's conveniently too late to save this uniquely grand piece of local history.”
The renovation cost would be substantial. Johnston said “the extensive evaluation of the building, which was done by the architectural firm of Fields Devereaux, estimated the cost to approach $10 million. That was a few years ago, so that number could be higher or lower now.” As for funding, Johnston said their “current goal is to get the project included in the city's infrastructure bond issue funding.”
(revised 2/24 4:10 p.m.)