The Old Logan Heights Library is shown on May 17, 2023. The city of San Diego is planning to renovate the building. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

A former library in San Diego’s Logan Heights neighborhood is getting one step closer to a makeover that could convert the beloved building into a multi-use center for residents and schools nearby.

The Old Logan Heights Library on South 28th Street has been closed for nearly 15 years, leaving the building vacant and at times riddled with graffiti and litter. It soon could find new life: A city survey last year found most residents want it transformed into a “triple combined use” building, housing a youth center, cultural archive and a computer lab.

Why this matters

The now-vacant Old Logan Heights Library holds historical significance for the community, at one time serving as a safe space for information and resources beyond books, especially for local Spanish speakers.

But while renovations could be completed by early 2026, plans have yet to be finalized and officials face the ambitious task of fitting residents’ wishes into the 3,000-square-foot, 96-year-old building in a neighborhood that historically has been divided by past government policies.

More money, yet to be secured, will be needed for any project to come to fruition. And the city faces a spring 2024 deadline to spend the $2.4 million in state funding it’s already been awarded for needed upgrades to roofing, electrical, plumbing, windows and disability access.

“Now we’re going into a third year of the discussions, and frankly it’s pretty disappointing to me,” said Josephine Talamantez, a historian and co-founder of the Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center.

The Old Logan Heights Library is shown on May 17, 2023. The city of San Diego is planning to renovate the building. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

Logan Heights is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, having been established in 1867 where the area’s indigenous people, the Diegueño Indians, lived for hundreds of years, according to Chicano Park Museum archives. 

Community members organized to open a permanent site for a Logan Heights library in 1927. Beyond books, it served as a safe space for providing information and resources for people seeking help with immigration and emergency food, shelter and clothing services.

The library represented “a community that values knowledge, opportunity, family, community, and education,” according to the museum. It closed in 2009, when the city opened a new, two-story, 25,000-square-foot library just down the street. 

Today, the neighborhood is home to mostly Latino residents, and the city has identified it as a “community of concern” — meaning it tends to have less access to resources, including clean air, walkable sidewalks and healthier outcomes than other areas in San Diego.

Like many other cities across the country, San Diego experienced discriminatory housing policies such as redlining — and Logan Heights was one neighborhood that barred people of color from owning homes, which arguably prevented economic mobility in the area. 

Talamantez, whose family has lived in Logan Heights for more than a hundred years, said the community has experienced “neglect and disrespect.” She cited redlining, and poor air quality, as well the neighborhood being divided by the construction of Interstate 5.

“The history in this community that we have faced all of these years is worth noting so that people don’t forget,” Talamantez said. “Because kids grow up feeling less than, or not good as, because they’re looked down on in this community.” 

The Old Logan Heights Library is shown on May 17, 2023. The city of San Diego is planning to renovate the building. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

More than 200 residents filled out the city’s survey, which said the “most selected option would be chosen.” In addition to the triple-use features, residents also wanted the building’s outdoor area to be used as a community garden.

Logan Heights resident Marisol Garcia, a mother of two who participated in the survey, said she would rather see a youth center there, especially as a form of child care for many working-class families in the area.

“It’s very common that both parents work, and they don’t have time for their kids,” she said, adding that it’d be a better option than having children stay at home unattended.

Fellow mother Erika Javier said that children like her son need more access to build their technology skills, so a computer lab would benefit them the most.

“We need to have more programs in order to have our children be a part of what’s growing, and what’s growing is technology, computers, and being able to connect,” she said.

City officials say they are in the process of getting an extension to use the $2.4 million in renovations funding that was secured in 2021 by former state Sen. Ben Hueso, a San Diego Democrat.

Further funds haven’t been identified and would be “premature” to discuss because project plans haven’t been finalized, said David Rolland, a spokesperson for Mayor Todd Gloria’s office.

Type of Content

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Crystal Niebla joined inewsource in June 2022 as an investigative reporter focused on infrastructure and government accountability in the San Diego region. Her position is partly funded by Report for America, a national program that supports local journalists. At the Long Beach Post, Niebla served...