Santa Ana Main Library will close on June 20, 2024, for a two-year renovation project. Learn more here.

Main Library patio to become community and event space

Posted on August 25, 2023

Conceptual rendering of the new east patio at the Santa Ana Public Library 1
Conceptual rendering of the new east patio at the Main Library

The Main Library is undergoing a major transformation to preserve and enhance library facilities and services for the entire community. Over the next two years, the Main Library will be reimagined with a new interactive children’s learning area, modern building mechanicals, a complete restoration of its Italian marble façade, and a return to the building’s original design intention and layout. This restoration project will breathe new life into the Main Library, preserving its mid-century charm while introducing modern amenities and improved accessibility.

Included in the project scope is a complete renovation of the Library’s east patio, transforming it into a vibrant, welcoming, and accessible community and event space for everyone. The space will include amphitheater-style covered seating, outdoor reading areas, and new landscaping. The outdoor space will be an extension of a new large community room that will be used for Library programming, meetings, and events. Modifications to the existing landscape and replacement of several trees are necessary to provide the community with safe and accessible outdoor spaces.

Conceptual rendering of the new east patio at the Santa Ana Public Library 3

Accessibility to the existing patio has been limited for years and the space has not been available to serve a community in need of safe and accessible public spaces. This is due to safety hazards caused by a large Ficus Drupacea Tree (“Ficus Tree”) that is planted adjacent to the building.

Ficus Tree fruit droppings on the Library's east patioThose hazards include:

  • Excessive fruit droppings (1.5 to 2.5 inches in size), creating tripping hazards.
  • Large tree leaves (6-10 inches) that shed heavily, creating tripping hazards.
  • Fruit droppings that attract wasps.

Multiple city staff have been injured due to falling fruit and debris from the tree. The City has attempted to treat the tree to mitigate falling fruit and debris, but this was unsuccessful.

The Ficus Tree’s location next to the Library is also concerning from a facility maintenance standpoint due to:

  • Uncontrolled buttressing root system that can reach up to 30 feet in diameter and potentially impact the building’s already leaking foundation.
  • Overgrown tree canopy that may damage the Library’s exterior marble façade and roof.
  • Increased landscape maintenance and cost to clean and remove debris and fruit.

Protecting the Library facility, which opened in 1960, is particularly important as it has been determined to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The Library’s exterior marble façade is explicitly noted as one of its historical character-defining features, and will be fully refurbished in this restoration project. Removing the Ficus Tree will help protect the restored marble façade and the building’s structure from future damage.

Conceptual rendering of the new east patio at the Santa Ana Public Library 2

It is important to note that the historic landscape design for the Library included very few trees. In the east garden, no trees that exist today are original. In fact, the Ficus Tree was planted nine years after the Library opened. Therefore, the decision has been made to remove and replace the tree to create a safer space for all who want to enjoy the new east patio. While several trees will be replaced, the large street trees outside the fence along Ross Street will remain to create a mature tree canopy.

FAQs Regarding this Project and the Ficus Drupacea Tree

Ficus Tree at the Santa Ana Public LibraryQuestion: Is the Ficus Drupacea tree the largest in North America?
Answer: No. Larger specimens exist including a specimen in Fort Myers, Florida, that is approximately 105 feet tall or about 40% taller than the tree at the Santa Ana Public Library.

Question: Is the tree being removed to create five parking spaces?
Answer: No. The project will create a new outdoor community reading garden, youth activity area and community event space.

Question: Is the tree ancient or hundreds of years old?
Answer: No. The tree was planted nearly a decade after the building was completed in 1960.

Question: Will any of the trees being removed be replaced?
Answer: Yes. The City is committed to replacing every tree in the space.

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