Pacific Highlands Ranch Library design a mix of modern, hacienda styles


Reviews were mixed on the first set of design drawings for the new Pacific Highlands Ranch Library at a Carmel Valley Community Planning Board design subcommittee meeting on March 19. Planned to open in three to four years, the new 18,000-square-foot library will border the Village of Pacific Highlands Ranch’s open space promenade on Village Center Loop Drive.

Jim Gabriel, of Hanna Gabriel Wells Architecture, unveiled his vision for a modern building that he said drew inspiration from the pastoral and farmhouse history of Carmel Valley, as well as notes from the hacienda-style architecture of Pacific Highlands Ranch.

The design features strong flat white walls with a large peaked gray roof with screens and lattices to shade and temper the environment and fill the space with “beautiful dappled light and shadows.” A veranda area creates a connection between the library and the civic promenade of the Village, a bridge of “two important civic destinations.”

At the PHR Library design subcommittee’s first meeting in February, resident Karen Dubey urged the architects to consider drawing inspiration primarily from the Santa Barbara style that is prominent in the community, such as in the Village, fire station and community monuments. She asked for it to be “somewhere in the middle” between the contemporary designs of Canyon Crest Academy, Pacific Trails Middle School and the recreation center across the street, which was also designed by Hanna Gabriel Wells.

“I think you completely missed the mark and it’s a missed opportunity,” Dubey said. “I just don’t feel this is what the community wants.”

“I think people live in Pacific Highlands Ranch like the Santa Barbara style and this isn’t it,” echoed committee member and CV Community Planning Board member Ken Farinsky, noting that the design seemed too boxy, like a big box store.

Farinsky said he was disappointed in the design process and had envisioned the architect coming forward with multiple sketches of different possibilities and then everyone working together on a design. He said it seemed like the design decisions have already been made.

Committee member Stella Rogers said while she does prefer Santa Barbara style, she acknowledged that the design does offer something a little different that wouldn’t get “lost in the mix.” That being said, Rogers said she still thinks the design should better reflect the community.

Others did not mind the contemporary style as much.“I think it looks sophisticated and I think sophistication is something that resonates with a library,” said Allen Kashani, a member of the planning board.

Gabriel took in the group’s feedback and said while the design is more contemporary, he believes he incorporated the hacienda style with the consistency of the simple white walls as well as the detailing and articulation.The subcommittee encouraged adding something to those blank white walls such as color or tiles. Carmel Valley Community Planning Board Chair Frisco White said that neighbors will not want to look at a plain white wall.

“The Village Loop elevation needs to be given just as much weight because it is what everyone will see every day,” White said.

The library will feature a large community room that opens into an enclosed patio space and a variety of seating areas and stacks. Misty Jones, San Diego Public Library director, said they are aiming to have a collection of 75,000 books.

“We need a large collection because we have a lot of readers here,” Jones said.

The plan is to have teen-friendly spaces like a lounge, areas to do homework and study and an “idea lab.” A large children’s area will feature playful stacks like ones that children can crawl into or use as reading nooks.

At the meeting, JT Barr, of Schmidt Design Group, shared details about the landscaping and outdoor spaces that the library will provide.

Bridges will lead people up into the library veranda from the promenade, an area serves as an extension of the reading and learning environment with fixed and flexible furniture and seating. Landscaping will “stich the two functions together within the heart of the community,” Barr said.

Barr said they plan to “introduce whimsy” into the children’s outdoor space such as synthetic turf mounds reminiscent of Dr. Seuss. In the front arrival area, there will be a “uniquely different space”—an enclosed courtyard that can serve as a quiet, intimate reading nook with a small water feature.

The library will be surrounded by 35 trees and the subcommittee asked that bigger trees be placed closest to the road to help screen the parking lot.

The library parking was designed with 65 stalls with two-way traffic flow—the subcommittee asked the Gabriel to study an option with angled spaces and one-way circulation as it might be easier to navigate.

By comparison, the Carmel Valley Library parking lot is 56 spaces, and White said is very narrow and crammed although the one-way flow seems to work for people picking up kids and dropping off books.

Gabriel said they could come back with an option of a one-way loop which would have wider aisles.

The subcommittee’s next meeting date has not yet been set. To get on a mailing list for future meetings, email