New PHR Library’s design evolves in development phase


There have been some edits in the design for the new Pacific Highlands Ranch Library as it works its way through the development process. The timeline for construction has also been pushed out a year—the city is now targeting a spring 2022 opening.

At its Feb. 28 meeting, the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board heard an update on the progress of the library planned for an open lot on Village Center Loop Road, bordering the Village of Pacific Highlands Ranch’s community green and across the street from the new community park, set to open on March 21.

The design is meant to complement the Village and community’s look with white walls, alcoves, wood details and a standing seam metal roof. Outdoor elements include landscaping with lots of trees, a quiet courtyard with a water feature and a porch-like veranda space that connects to the Village civic use with a variety of gathering spaces for adults and teens and a children’s area with Dr. Seuss-esque synthetic turf mounds.

About halfway through the design process, there have been a few concessions, according to Jim Gabriel of Hanna Gabriel Wells Architecture.

The overall height of the building has been lowered about a foot and a half, a little reduction in height that actually saves a lot of money, Gabriel said. The original plan had a trellis that stretched over the veranda space but Gabriel said they weren’t able to get it all into the budget.

“We didn’t want to give up on all the things that had been agreed with the community such as the form and material of the buildings,” Gabriel said noting that as the original idea of the veranda space was to stitch the library to the civic space, they decided to swap the trellis for double the amount of trees, creating a “robust” tree canopy over the patio rather than the “substantially unaffordable” architectural feature. “All of the spaces and finishes remain the same.”

Gabriel said they were considering the use of Palo Verdes trees for to create the canopy—the trees feature a green bark trunk and yellow blooms.

Planning board members as well as Pacific Highlands Ranch residents in attendance had concerns about the tree choice. Board member Ken Farinsky said that the tree is deciduous, meaning for most of the year it is a “stick tree” without foliage.

Bruce Cameron, who serves on a PHR homeowners association, said they had Palo Verdes at their community’s recreation center for about a year but made the decision to pull them all out.

“Pollen was the first problem, they provided very little if any shade and they attracted a huge number of bees,” Cameron said.

Karen Dubey, a PHR resident who served on the design subcommittee for the library, said the trade-off of the trellis for the trees was reasonable but she echoed the concerns about the Palo Verdes.

“They offer no shade, they’re unattractive and they’re all the sudden everywhere but they look like Phoenix, they’re not San Diego,” Dubey said. “I would look for a tree that is better and more native, with more shade and less pollen.”

Gabriel said he heard the input about the trees “loud and clear” and that they would explore other options.

San Diego Public Library Director Misty Jones said planning for the library’s layout has been going well—they are refining the interior design to create more than just stacks but reading nooks, workspaces for teens, a large community room for meetings and an idea lab/maker space for kids with technology such as 3D printers.

Jones said they have also been in communication with the local schools to find out what kind of services would be needed.

“We’re looking forward to having this library,” Jones said. “I think you’re going to be very pleased with what we are doing.”