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Facing reality is long over due.

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
October 14, 1999


Since incorporation, petty politics has been the rule in Encinitas. From sign stealing to cat fights, the political culture has always expressed itself in a very uncivil manner. Serving as a diversion, this public show has masked many a devious deed. Under the cover of chaos, private interests have distorted public process to the point of absurdity. The current library free-for-all is the latest example.

Pushed by the over-reaching Christy Guerin, there is a small minority of residents who are trying to remove the downtown library from it's current site. They believe that the reasonable thing to do with city money set aside for a new library, is to build one for the San Dieguito Union High School District. Where I agree that the students of the San Dieguito Academy deserve a state of the art library, I don't think the residents should have to pay for it. Nor should the environment.

By moving the library away from a regional mass transit hub, and into an already overcrowded residential neighborhood, this group will be working against efforts to revitalize the historic downtown Encinitas, and calm traffic citywide. What I don't understand is why Councilmember Guerin can not envision a new library as part of the City Hall complex. History and common sense dictate that the library should be rebuilt at it's current location. Why is she dead set against this?

Pork barrel politics, plain and simple, is fueling this scheme. Not concern for kids, not environmental considerations, and not a lack of better options. What this is about is appeasing one constituency, over the interests of all others. A significant amount property taxes go towards funding schools, reason follows that a school library should be funded by the school district, not city government. A city funded library should be built on city owned land, in a location best suited for the entire community.

As regional mass transit use increases, commuters will be well served by a library that is in walking distance of the Encinitas transit station. It also doesn't hurt to have a library close to downtown restaurants,the La Paloma Theatre, the beach, three city parks, and the future Heritage Museum. If residents are to reverse the trend of urban sprawl, dismantling downtown should be rejected at every turn. Elected officials who play politics with public amenities as if they were pawns in a game of chess, should be reminded of who is actually working for whom.

If by chance Christy Guerin gets her way, and the library is sited at the Academy, precedence has shown that it won't be long before Sante Fe Drive is widen to accommodate projected traffic increases. This in turn would signal a move to rezone the area around the San Dieguito Academy to mixed commercial, which would not bode well for residential homeowners. If you doubt this one needs only look at Encinitas Blvd. east of Interstate 5 to see how road widening is really about accommodating future development.

My mom always told me not to fix things that weren't broken and to make do with what you got. These bits of maternal wisdom are very relevant to this issue. The current library site is picture perfect, it is the library itself that needs to be fixed. Considering this, there is no reason to relocate the library to a neighborhood ill suited for it. The only people who support such a move are the ones who will profit from it financially, namely the San Dieguito Union High School District, and those seeking political favors and contributions.

Often I am accused of complaining about things, without offering up workable solutions, this is not the case here. To help Ms. Guerin and other proponents of the library smash and grab, let me draw a picture of a new and improved library at it's current site above city hall. Imagine standing at the downtown Coaster station and seeing a beautiful building above City Hall, with two stories of windows facing west, reflecting the Pacific Ocean. How many municipal libraries are situated in such a way to allow their users to take a break from their studies to watch the sunset?

Beneath the library envision a below ground parking structure utilized by library patrons as well as visitors to City Hall. Having the library close to council chambers would also facilitate residents researching issues before the council. It would also connect the concepts of knowledge and governance to those of environmental awareness and civic preservation.

If Encinitas Council members are sincere in their desire to represent the best interests all Encinitas residents, both present and future, they would resign themselves to the fact that the library site was decided long ago. And realize any efforts to move it are shortsighted and self-serving.

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