Misty Jones, San Diego Public Library director, talked to the Carmel Valley community on April 27 about the future of the Pacific Highlands Ranch library. At present, the library doesn't exist. According to Jones, the full funding isn't scheduled to come in until 2019, so it's likely that breaking ground won't happen until then. Per Jones, the budget is approximately $22 million.
Pacific Highlands Ranch is one of the newest communities in San Diego. It's still in the works, but has nearly 5,000 residents. It’s sandwiched between Fairbanks Ranch, Carmel Valley, Torrey Highlands, and Del Mar Mesa.
This new library, the city’s 37th branch, will be located on Village Center Loop Road where Del Mar Heights and Carmel Valley Road meet. Jones said the city has two lots, each 1.5 acres. The library will go on one, while a civic use space will go on the other. “The community wants to develop the civic use space before the library,” said Jones.
The outdoor civic space has been in the works as long as the library has. Both are mentioned in the 1999 subarea plan. Both are set to go into The Village, the heart of a large town center that will include residential, commercial, and civic uses. The latter will eventually serve as a gathering place for the community that will also connect them to trails and public transportation. The Village is currently open for business, but still has a ways to go.
Even though both the open space and library have been on the horizon for years, there was a bit of a disconnect when some in the community thought the library was trying to muscle in on the open space’s territory by building on three acres, instead of just one-and-a-half acres. Part of the confusion can maybe be found in 2007 city documentation that talks of plans to build a 18,000-square-foot library on a three-acre site, adjacent to a two-acre site for civic activities, such as a transit center and pedestrian plaza. In the 1999 subarea plan, the civic use space is measured in at five acres. The gist seems to be that there was to be five acres that included both a library and some open space.
This seems to have changed as now they will be sharing three acres instead of five. Perhaps the transit center is getting the other two acres? I wasn’t able to confirm this before publication. According to Jones, it's in the plans to have a transit center located next to the library, but she wasn't sure when it would happen.
The community was very vocal at the April 27 meeting about wanting the open space built before the library. The open space in The Village will connect to a future park across the street, next to the fairly new Pacific Trails Middle School (opened Fall 2015).
As soon as Jones realized what the community wanted, she was on board. This is the same modus operandi that led Jones to the library offering a much better catalog. “We used to purchase a lot of things because we thought we had to have them,” said Jones. “Now we have a team that is constantly looking at the next thing that is coming out that the community wants.”
Nancy, whom I met at Trader Joe's in the nearby shopping center, just moved to the area and had this to say about the tension between the two camps. “I want both, and it looks like both are coming sooner than later. I think people get their panties in a bunch over the silliest things sometimes. We are a work-in-progress here, it’s all happening, and before you know it, my kids will be buying houses here and raising their own families, and they will have never known a world without that promenade or that library.”
According to Jones, the city will soon hire a consultant with plans to start engaging the community this fall with the design of the new library.
Will there be anything unique about this branch? “That it’s a new library from the ground up is unique in itself. It will be the first one inside of a development. What I think we found, speaking to the community last night [April 27], is really that they have the idea that libraries are more of a community center. They are very interested in technology and have some really outside-the-box ideas for the new library.”
Jones said the Carmel Valley branch on Townsgate Drive, where the planning group meets, is one of the busiest branches and sometimes out-circulates the main library downtown.
Jones took the helm in 2015, not long after the new central library opened downtown. She was the deputy director before that. She said there are two more replacement libraries in the works (Mission Hills and San Ysidro). They will be similar to how the recent Skyline branch that opened in October. It went from 4,000 square feet to a new 15,000-square-foot building.