Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bayview branch library to get new building

A lively community meeting, part of the planning and design process for a new library to be built in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood, was held last evening in the community room of the existing library on Third Street at Revere.

About 50 people participated in a discussion about priorities for the new branch which will take the place of the existing building.

Negotiations are underway to buy the building next door (just north, on Third Street) to accommodate a larger one-story structure than currently exists. If the purchase is made, the Bayview branch library will be the biggest in the San Francisco branch system.

The demolition of the current building is currently scheduled for 2010, with the new building opening in 2011. Interim library services, though limited in nature, will be maintained just a couple blocks away at the YMCA on Lane and Quesada during construction.

The Portland, Oregon architectural firm of Thomas Hacker Architects, and the San Francisco firm of Karin Payson Architects + Design have been retained to design the new building. Concepts and a floor plan were presented to the public for the first time last evening. The participants were told that only limited adjustments suggested by the public group could be made to the design since that design had already met with positive reviews by a committee internal to the process.

That didn't stop residents from trying, however. Feedback on the design was spirited. And while participants did not always agree, disagreement was always friendly.

A "green" or "living" roof met with some approval, while most who voiced an opinion thought it was unattractive. Sustainable design, following LEED standards, remains a cornerstone principle of the overall concept.

Most participants felt that the design of the building, and the public art included in that design, should be Afro-Centric as the African American community is what distinguishes the neighborhood historically and in other respects. Others felt that the building should reflect the current multi-cultural nature of the neighborhood, or that ways to make the new building welcoming to all cultures should be found within the overall Afro-Centric design.

Some participants expressed the opinion that the design should create an open feeling for the new building. Most of those who spoke felt that a secure feeling was more important, with one resident suggesting that a library with windows open to Third Street was not realistic at this point given the level of violence along the corridor.

The amount of meeting space allocated in the draft floor plan, approximately the same amount as the current library's meeting room, was brought into question. A former Bayview resident, who has been involved in the Visitacion Valley library design process, added that immediate public advocacy for any desired changes to the design was critical, as it is difficult for community interests to be reflected in the design later in the process.

A call for artists to create art associated with the new library design had gone out, and the deadline for applications had past. Many participants were unaware of the request for proposals, and asked that the SF Arts Commission extend the deadline, and that the library leadership improve outreach for public participation.

A representative from Friends of the SF Public Library advised the group that, while about $10 million has been allocated for the building project, the furniture, equipment and fixtures would need to be purchased through private donations. A $500,000 capital campaign is underway for that purpose.

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