Sunday, May 29 , 2016, 5:12 am | Fog/Mist 57º

Santa Barbara Library’s Plaza Plans Backed By City Parks Commission

Improvements call for enhancing safety and visibility at the entrance, adding paved public space for programs and reducing the cost to maintain landscaping

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

The Santa Barbara Library’s plaza and landscaping improvements will go to the Historic Landmarks Commission again, with the Parks and Recreation Commission’s support of the conceptual design.

This project aims to make the library’s Anapamu Street entrance safer and more visible to the public, add paved public space for library programs, reduce landscaping maintenance costs, and make all entrances more accessible.

The Central Library and Faulkner Gallery at 40 E. Anapamu St. are both city landmark buildings, and five eucalyptus trees on the site are also landmarks, so they won’t be altered in the improvement plans.

During public workshops, people complained that the entrance is hidden by trees, and there is no outside area for library activities.

Bicycles get stolen so often from the racks that people chain them to trash cans and other features in the more visible entryways.

Making the entry feel safer — and with more lighting — is one of the project’s priorities.

Most of the grassy area near the Santa Barbara Museum of Art will be removed as well. All of the library’s lawns, including that spot, are frequented by homeless people now.

Landscape architect Regula Campbell called the walkways “cattle shoot paseos” with their walled borders and high shrubbery. She detailed a plan that will remove many of the bushes and trees on all sides of the library site, as well as the walls surrounding the sidewalks and pathways.

There will be a 4,500-square-foot plaza for events, which could add to the appeal of renting out the Faulkner Gallery, some commissioners noted.

The plan will also remove the fountain and put back reflecting pools, which were part of the design until replaced in a 1980 remodel, library director Irene Macias said.

“We planned to do away with it (the fountain) from the beginning,” she said.

People in public workshops and the Historic Landmarks Commission all wanted to bring back the library’s original look with the reflecting pools, she added.

This design would also add a visitor’s kiosk and open up the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s east-facing wall (adjacent to the grassy area now) so it could put up art installations and show outdoor movies.

“The library is definitely in need of some love around the edges,” Commissioner Beebe Longstreet said.

She was concerned about maintaining the reflecting pool/fountain water feature, but Macias said the library is looking for an endowment to help keep it up.

Overall the commission was very supportive of the project design, including the landscaping plans.

“I think this is going to serve the public really, really well,” commission chairwoman Lesley Wiscomb said. “The visibility obviously is very important, and your design is very open. I think it will help with safety issues in that area and I hope the project moves forward.”

The concept design, by Campbell & Campbell Architects, is scheduled to go back to the Historic Landmarks Commission on Feb. 12. After that, there will be more public participation before the preliminary design and construction estimates.

The project was going to be funded through the Redevelopment Agency, which has since dissolved, and estimates in 2011 put the cost at $1 million to $2 million.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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