By Katherine Lopez
Anyone who grew up in the Memorial/Logan area remembers visiting the Logan Heights Public Library; our first visit was an important rite of childhood, introduced to a wide world of books and knowledge, scrawling our name on a library card one of our earliest acts of responsibility. That lovely old building long ago exceeded its capacity to keep up with the needs of the community and for years area residents asked for a new library, but were told funding was not available. Library after library was built in other parts of the city while we were neglected.
Three years ago, Councilmember Ralph Inzunza announced a proposal to build a new public library on the school grounds of Logan Elementary, a deal which was apparently consummated between the city and the school district in the amazing space of six weeks. At every meeting where Mr. Inzunza did not weight the audience in favor of his proposal, objections have been voiced regarding this location. Mr. Inzunza responded with bullying tactics and scare-mongering: “Do you want a library or not?” Supported by his usual “community leaders,” and manipulating the impatience of a community desperate for this precious resource, Mr. Inzunza pressed on with little regard for the concerns that were raised.
In brief, these are some of the concerns:
1. Traffic and security. Traffic on South 29th, the narrow street that runs directly by the Logan school buildings, endanger Logan and Memorial children every day, yet this is the street proposed as the main access to the new library; how much more danger will ensue with increased traffic from library patrons? Building a large public facility on the Logan school grounds will not make the children safer and more secure, it will make them less safe and secure.
2. Allocation and diversion of resources. According to a former principal, the Logan school library will be closed when the new library opens, and Logan has struggled to get enough technical support for its computers, yet rationalized by the reasoning that this will be a “joint use” library; the new library has secured millions for new computers, books and other resources. Building a library will not bring more resources to Logan Elementary, Logan will lose resources.
3. Impact on school grounds and adjoining parklands. Logan Elementary is one of the last “loft” schools in San Diego Unified, and the facilities are overcrowded and dysfunctional. The building should be razed and replaced with a new school properly configured to create a superior educational environment, and to better handle traffic and parking for its students, teachers, parents and staff. Placing the library on the school grounds would close off crucial options in any future relocation of a new school.
Logan currently has twenty-seven bungalows skirting its grounds. To get them out of the way, the bungalows would be torn out and crammed into the teacher’s parking lot. Half of the children’s playing field and a portion of the asphalt would also be taken for the library; in all nearly a quarter of the school grounds would be lost. Building a library at Logan Elementary would not make the school less crowded and more functional, it will make the school more crowded and less functional.
In addition, an adjoining portion of Memorial Park would be permanently removed to provide parking for teachers. It is not good park policy to put another facility into an already overcrowded, under funded, understaffed area when the Park and Recreation budget cannot provide resources to mitigate the additional influx into the park. We need more open park space and playing fields, not taking of parkland for parking spaces.
Though these are all important issues, the most important issue is the integrity of Logan Elementary itself and the arrogant usurpation of those lands in pursuit of a seemingly cheap and easy answer to a campaign promise. I ask those who know of our chronic neglect and abuse by the powers downtown two questions:
1. Can you imagine anyone taking school lands without the informed consent and approval of its constituency in any school north of 8? So what made them think they could do it here? Did they think the parents here couldn’t understand, or wouldn’t oppose, this proposed decision? Sheer condescension!
2. Is everything the city does with our lands in our best interests? Remember the fight for the land for Chicano Park. Remember the fight against the land taken for the I-5 freeway. In each case, we were told that there were more important “community interests” at stake. The big selling point for the library being built at Logan has been that the land is “free.” Excuse me? Our lands are not a commodity to be taken and given away at will.
Mr. Inzunza recently admitted that, “It was my fault. I should have asked first.” Clearly he acted in haste and now regrets that decision. While Mr. Inzunza has rightly focused attention on this vital need for a new public library, his choice of location is not acceptable. Logan Elementary is a respected and important institution within our community, and we must protect its integrity. So the answer to his question is, “Yes, we want, need, and deserve a new library and the sooner you obtain a proper location, the better.”