SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY COMMISSION

 

Minutes of the Special Meeting of January 3, 2008

 

(As approved at the regular meeting of February 7, 2008)

 

The San Francisco Public Library Commission held a special meeting on Thursday, January 3, 2008, in the Koret Auditorium, Main Library.

 

President Higueras called the meeting to order at 4:31 pm.

 

Commissioners present:  Bautista, Chin, Coulter, Higueras, and Munson.

 

Commissioner Gomez entered the meeting at 4:37 pm.

 

Commissioner Kane entered the meeting at 4:41 pm.

 

AGENDA ITEM NO. 1 PUBLIC COMMENT

 

An anonymous citizen said that at the last meeting he had said that one of the most important things for the library is its institutional memory.  He said he has been giving some serious thought to what he meant by that.  He said first of all the library by its very nature is the institutional memory of the human mind.  He said that is what the public thinks and that is why the public places such great value on this institution.  He said the people are not looking for a new vision based on business services and philanthropy.  He said institutional memory is the crux of democracy and that democracy depends on memory so that people that serve the public can be held accountable.

 

Peter Warfield said he was disappointed that the notice for the special meeting went out without the topics to be discussed.  He said normally a notice for special meeting would include the reason for the meeting and who called it.  He said he was disappointed that there is two Peer Reviews to be heard at a special meeting.

 

AGENDA ITEM NO. 2 APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES OF DECEMBER 6, 2007

 

Commissioner Gomez entered the meeting. 

 

Public Comment

 

An anonymous citizen said the point he was trying to make on page 1 was that we are not in control of what people think.  He said he also drew a comparison between what you would like people to believe which was that the Main Library was on schedule, on budget and on program and what people actually do remember.  The point is a victory on Prop D won’t be seen as a victory unless you fulfill the promises you make.  He said the Public Comment on the middle of page 4 referred to the PowerPoint presentation and he had said that it was not available to the public.

 

Commissioner Kane entered the meeting.   

 

Peter Warfield said Happy New Year to the Commission.  He said the minutes have some good and some bad.  He said in his comments on page 1 he is summarized as saying he spoke to one of the members of the Citizens General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee and “was told that the Committee had some very serious concerns about the Library’s Bond program and had not praised the library as had been represented.”  He said it is very important to add “as had been represented by the library.”   He said his remarks on page 2 referred to the remarks by the teenagers and should have included that they were asking for more funding for books.  He also said when he was speaking about Link+ fees on page 7, the key was not to set up barriers to poor people for free and equal access.

 

Motion:  By Commissioner Chin, seconded by Commissioner Bautista to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of December 6, 2007 to modify the minutes as recommended by Mr. Warfield on the bottom of page 1 to add the words “as had been represented by the library.”  And to include the modifications to the Minutes as reflected in the memo from Commissioner Higueras dated December 28, 2007 

 

Action:  AYES 7-0: (Bautista, Chin, Coulter, Gomez, Kane, Higueras, and Munson)

 

AGENDA ITEM NO. 3 PEER REVIEW OF PROPOSED DESIGN FOR VISITACION VALLEY BRANCH LIBRARY

 

President Higueras invited the two Peer Reviewers to come to the stage and asked the City Librarian and Deputy City Librarian to move to the audience.

 

City Librarian Luis Herrera said in the past we have had three architects reviewing the design process.  He said this is being changed to allow the architectural review, but to also include the library perspective.

 

Marilyn Thompson, Bond Program Manager, said the Visitacion Valley Branch Library has had nine community and Commission meetings related to the property acquisition and deign of the new branch.  She said in 2003 the Library purchased the property at the corner of Leland and Rutland and since the site was significantly larger than the library had originally planned for, the budget was increased at that time by $716,000.  She said this was considered a good candidate for a Prop 14 grant and the design began in hopes that the State would fund 65% of the cost.  Unfortunately, Visitacion Valley did receive the Prop 14 money.  In March 2007, the Commission approved transferring 5 project budgets to other projects including Visitacion Valley. Andy Maloney, Bureau of Architecture (BoA) began work on the redesign last fall.  This new design was presented to the community and Supervisor Maxwell on October 25, 2007 and was well received.  She said the total project budget is $11.4 million, which includes site acquisition, site work, construction, architects, engineers all of the specialized consultants, testing, surveys, reports, moving costs, permit fees as well as contingencies, basically everything except furniture and computer equipment.  The project is scheduled to go to bid this fall and start construction early next year.

 

Andrew (Andy) Maloney, Project Architect from the Bureau of Architecture’s Library Design Studio, gave a brief overview of the Visitacion Valley area.   He showed slides of some of the buildings in the area and he explained the process of developing the proposed design for the building and showed some of the early hand drawn studies.  He said the lower case “t” shape seemed to work best.  He explained how the process proceeded with a flow without cramped space.  He showed the floor plan with the corner entrance.  He showed slides showing the precedence of the classical and historic elements to the design.  He said this building solves the needs of the community.  He said the building is approximately 8600 sq. ft. with 3400 linear ft. of bookshelves. He explained the building security, other service areas in the library, technology, infrastructure, the courtyards and the landscaping.  He said he thinks this solution is a good one for this community.  

 

Brian Bannon, Chief of Branches, gave the staff’s comments to the design.  He explained the staff process in looking at the design of the building especially looking at our future vision for the library.  He said this included teen spaces, defined children’s areas, and programming space.  He said this building allows us to meet all of these needs very well.  He said a variety of staff have given feedback on the plans and they believe this design will meet programmable and functional needs.  He also said the community feedback as been positive.

 

Marilyn Thompson, Bond Program Manager, introduced the Peer Panel members.  She said Sarah Willmer has practiced architecture for nearly 22 years, designing everything from corporate campuses and university buildings to residential dwellings and renovations.  She said she has served with several prominent firms and founded the Studio Sarah Willmer Architecture.  She lives with her family in Noe Valley.  She said Monique Le Conge has been Director at the Richmond Public Library since October 2004; formerly she was Director of the Benicia Public Library.  She said she is the 2008 President of the California Library Association.

 

Sarah Willmer said she had some very positive comments and some questions.  She said the central space is a wonderful space, the other areas are clearly marked out and she said the scale is appropriate.  She asked about the symmetry of the building and said she found the form sort of antithetical to the site.  She said the staff area has a courtyard on the south in the light and the community room and the children’s section are on the north side of the building.  One advantage is that you have four equal plazas in footprint, but that they are not equal in quality of space.  She said a library needs to be forward thinking and she thinks this building is accomplishing that.

 

Monique Le Conge said as a librarian her focus is more on the function of the building rather than the way that it looks.  She said it is a building that lends itself to flexibility.  She said walking into that large open space can feel welcoming.  She is concerned about the height of the stacks impeding the site lines from the reference desk or from the entryway.  She asked about the computers in the teen section and wondered how many there were, where they are situated and whether they will accommodate more than one teen at a computer station.  She wondered how the acoustics would work with the rotunda.  She said she had concerns about the delivery area, the location of the trash and the stair access to the basement.  She said she liked the use of natural light in the building.

 

Marilyn Thompson thanked the peer review members for their comments.

 

Public Comment

 

An anonymous citizen said he was concerned that there were not any explanatory documents and none of the documents referenced in the discussion were available to the audience.  He said we don’t know the background of the panelists.  He said in the past there have been three architects and we are down to one.  He said the primary issue is the esthetic with Leland Avenue.  He said in his opinion this evokes a 19th century Spanish Mission.  He asked how that works with Leland Avenue.    He said he was concerned about the flexibility of the spaces.

 

Peter Warfield said it is very hampering to the public to not have the documents in advance and particularly all the documents that were referenced.  He said there were no documents on instructions to the architect on what he was expected to do.  He wondered how you can review something when you don’t know what the plan or program was.  He said he was disappointed that the word “books” was only used twice.  He said there was nothing mentioned about the number of books.  He said he was startled to hear references to classical this and classical that.  He said this reminds him of the design of a classical church.

 

Sue Cauthen, Library Citizens Advisory Committee (LCAC) speaking for herself said she knows why Andy Maloney is a star in the Bureau of Architecture.  She said this is a great design.

 

Edie Epps, a resident of Visitacion Valley, said she was at the community meeting on October 25 and she said the community was pretty much all on the same page in liking the design and liking the presentation.  She said there is a little concern about the plazas and how they are gated and maintenance is done.  She said the wind is very strong in the afternoon, which may kick up a lot of debris.  She said the community would like to see this building as green as possible.  She said she is also representing the Visitacion Valley Business Opportunities and Outreach to Merchants and passed out a letter sharing the merchants’ concerns about parking.

 

Fran Martin, Visitacion Valley Planning Alliance and other committees, said the community really likes the design.  She said this type of architecture appeals to people.  She said this will be the civic center for the area and this is something the people can have pride in and pride in themselves.  She said the Greenway Project and Andy Maloney received an award on the clubhouse in the area and the children are so excited about architecture and how the clubhouse was built for them.  She said she hopes no decisions are made at this meeting because the community hopes the final decisions are made by them.

 

Russel Morine, resident of Visitacion Valley and a merchant on Leland Avenue, said the design is a vast improvement over what was designed before.  He said he has concern and has heard other express the opinion that the plazas and the open space might be wasted space.  He would like more information on that issue.  He said his biggest concern was the budget and whether we will have the money to build this building.  He asked what the bid alternatives might be for the project.  He said he hopes that this can be a silver or platinum green building.

 

Betty Parshall, Visitacion Valley, said after the decision was made not to reuse the supermarket building she advocated using the full site.  She is glad the entire site is being used but what she had in mind was that it would be used for library function not for outside plaza areas.  She said she was hoping that idea could be revisited and some of that plaza space could be used for indoor library space. She said she was also concerned about the budget and having enough money to build this building.  She said she is interested in function over form.  She said the building is very attractive from the street.  She said she had a concern over circulation staff space.  She would also like to know the number of books that are planned for the branch.

 

Commission Discussion

 

Commissioner Munson asked what sort of flexibility is available and would it be possible to increase capacity.  He said it is a handsome building, but he said he assumes the Commission’s role is to look at budget questions, is the community happy with the design and function of the building.

 

Commissioner Kane said there were very good comments from the community.  He asked about the need for the plazas and within the budget would it be possible to increase the size of the building.

 

Commissioner Gomez said she loves the design.  She found it lovely and thought it fit into the surroundings.  She wondered about the trash area near the children’s space.  She wondered about the security and fencing about the plazas.  She also mentioned concern about the site lines.  She asked how the linear space of shelving compared to the existing space.

 

Commissioner Coulter said he enjoyed the presentation and appreciated that the community likes this design.  He said he would like to hear more about this being a rectangular building.  He wondered about the plazas and how they would be used and their security.  He said he would like to hear more about the number of books for the branch and the expansion capabilities.

 

Commissioner Chin said she appreciated the presentation by the architect who shared his thought process on this building.  She said she did wonder about filling in some of the open spaces and the possibility of turning it into an octagon.  She said if you expand later it will be more time and money.   She said the community room is 19’ x 38’ and that is not very big.  She said she would like to see the teen area and the children’s area expanded outward a little bit.  She said it will be an important institution and it should stand out.  She also asked what type of materials will be used.

 

Commissioner Bautista said she thought we did not do solar panels because there was a deal with PG&E.  She said she would like this building to be as green as possible and would like to revisit the possibility of solar panels for the building.  She said this is Visitacion Valley’s civic center.  She said the community room needs to be larger and possibly gardens in the plazas.  She said she was concerned that there will only be 12 computers.  She said she is concerned with the security of the building especially the fencing, lighting and graffiti proof materials.  She also was concerned with the number of rest rooms.

 

President Higueras thanked the architect and said how important it was that this will be a civic space and how important it will be for this building to reflect the culture, the history and the ambitions of this neighborhood.    He said regarding the issue of classicism v. modernist the trends seem to be going more toward the modernist.  He said being true to classical design requires some budget.  He said he does understand that as the building is currently designed it does meet the budget.  He said he has a concern about the circulation within the building.  He said he hopes that the stacks will be half height stacks.  He said the plazas offer the opportunity for light and air.  He said there may be some code implications for exiting the building.  He said the issue of the location of the trash enclosures needs to be studied.  He said the more geometry you have the less flexibility you have so he would like library staff to be very comfortable with the very geometric space.   He said he does not see this easily lending itself to expansion, but it does provide a strong identity for the community.

 

Andy Maloney, Project Architect, said the main point of criticism seemed to be the form and that it was rigid.  He said the simplest solution would be a box, which would provide more flexibility.  He said the building is more than just the function; it has to make a statement of a civic building.   It would not be easy to expand.  He said he took a risk that this building would reach higher.

 

President Higueras said some of the comments made will lend themselves to reconciliation within the design and he hopes those things will be looked at.

 

Andy Maloney said they would like to look at solar panels, but it is a budget issue.  He said the exterior of the building is stucco with asphalt roofing.

 

President Higueras asked about benchmarking regarding library materials.

 

Luis Herrera, City Librarian, thanked the panelists for their great input.  He said all of these items have been discussed and will continue to be looked at.  He said regarding the collection it will be increased by approximately 60%.  He said there will be between 35,000 and 55,000 items in the collection.  He said it will be one of the larger collections of any of the branch libraries.  He said the meeting room will be one of the larger meeting room spaces.  He said he appreciates the comments from the public.

 

President Higueras thanked the architect for the presentation on the design.

 

The Commission recessed at 6:29 pm. and reconvened at 6:46 pm.   

 

Commissioner Kane left the meeting.

 

AGENDA ITEM NO. 4 PEER REVIEW OF PROPOSED DESIGN FOR PARKSIDE BRANCH LIBRARY

 

Marilyn Thompson, Bond Program Manager said the process for the Parkside Branch Library began in late 2002 as a simple renovation with no additional space.  She said the service needs for the neighborhood did indicate that more space would be needed than was budgeted for.   By January, 2004, an additional 1,000 sq. ft. was added and an additional $500,000 was added to the budget.  The project was put on hold to not conflict with the nearby West Portal branch closure.  Three community and Commission meetings were held between late 2002 and 2004 and due to the escalation in construction costs in the next three years, the new cost estimate showed an increase of almost $1.7 million.  She said in March 2007, the Commission approved funds moved into this project, which enabled it to move forward.  The budget was increased to $4.9 million, enough to build the larger library that was envisioned.  Design was restarted last fall and a community meeting was held on December 15, 2007.    The project budget includes site acquisition, site work, construction, architects, engineers all of the specialized consultants, testing, surveys, reports, moving costs, permit fees as well as contingencies, basically everything except furniture and computer equipment.  The project is scheduled to go to bid this fall and start construction early next year.  She introduced Kacey Jurgens, Principal Architect, Thomas Hacker Architects out of Portland and said that in the audience is Karin Payson from the local associated firm.  She said Karin Payson Architecture + Design are responsible for the interior architecture and the construction administration.  She said this is the same design team that completed the successful renovation of the West Portal branch library.

 

Kacey Jurgens, architect, said the Parkside Branch Library was built in 1951.  She said it is adjacent to a large public park and near Lincoln High School, so the building is well used by high school students after school.  She said the library has been well kept up.  She showed photographs of the interior and exterior of the library and explained the design features.

She said there is an ADA issue getting into the building.  She said they looked at a variety of ways to increase the size of the building as well as bringing the building up to code.  She said they tried to maintain a lot of interior structural walls.  She explained the proposed floor plan including site lines and views.  She said the collection size will be approximately the same as exists now with approximately 50,000 items.  She said they are adding to the media section and slightly reducing the book collection.  She said seating will be increased and they will be adding 7 new computers.  She explained the proposed ADA access into the building.  She said they were not able to add a program room because of the size of the addition.  She said there has been a discussion about keeping the fireplace.  She said the addition needs to fit gracefully with the existing building without mimicking it.

 

Brian Bannon, Chief of Branches, gave the library’s response and thanked the architect as well as staff for their work on this.  He said there are issues that need to be addressed, such as storage of furniture since there is no program room.  He said this branch has between 100 and 200 children for story times and there is a lot of teen usage after school.  He said it is a very busy branch.   He said the library is excited to see the expansion of the teen area.  He said there is a community meeting room across the street in the Police Department, but they are continuing planning a flexible meeting space within the library.  He said the function is working well with the design and the library is pleased with the aesthetics of the building   

 

Sarah Willmer, Studio Sarah Willmer Architecture, said the design is very elegant and respectful of the existing building. She said moving the teen section near the courtyard gives them a real sense of space in the building.  She said the children’s area is very special and she supports keeping the fireplace.  She said she agrees with keeping the book stacks low to maintain site lines.  She said the meeting of the new and the old façade is well done.  She also said she would try to scale down the ramp into the building if possible.

 

Monique Le Conge, Director at the Richmond Public Library, said this is a well thought out renovation.  She said the circulation desk is a rather large space and she said that much space might be better used for something else.  She said she loves the teen space but questions the number of computers in the area.  She said all of the computers in the library will probably be used by teens after school.  She said the flexibility of being able to move the furniture for programming works well.  She said she supports keeping the fireplace, because it makes the space distinctive.  She said from a functional stand point it is a good solution.

 

Marilyn Thompson, Bond Program Manager, thanked the Peer Panelists Sarah Willmer and Monique Le Conge for helping to ensure that design excellence will be an integral part of the Library’s design program.

 

Public Comment

 

An anonymous citizen said there were no explanatory documents on the agenda and he said that this is a legal requirement and they should be available to the public.  He said the additional $500,000 was added for this library in 2002 by Supervisor Ma.  He said it looks like that addition is being given over to back office functions and he doesn’t think that is what Supervisor Ma expected for that $500,000.  He said he has not had a chance to review Options A and B, the slide went by too fast and there are no copies for the public.  He said the crucial aspect is the use of the patio space.  He said it is very ill used and he asked if that is the best use for that space.

 

Peter Warfield said the public had not been provided with documents prior to the meeting and have not been provided with documents relating to what the architect was asked to do.  He said Supervisor Ma was concerned with expansion and he said he is disappointed that this design has about the same number or a little less in books.  He said we are spending millions of dollars and have 1,000 sq. ft. of expansion but are not getting any more for the collection of the books.  He said he would like to see the originals of the documents presented as well as copies and that he thinks the Commission should make those types of items routinely available to the public.  He said one of his concerns is comparing the number of reference desks from the existing libraries to the renovated or new branches.

 

Commission Discussion

 

Commissioner Munson said it seems like the building could be slightly larger.  He said he is concerned that the number of books is not going to increase.  He said it seems we are short on computers.  He said maybe we are squeezing too much on the dollars for this branch.  He also said there may not be enough restrooms.

 

Commissioner Gomez said she had concern over the use of the courtyard and whether that could be used as part of the teen section.  She said it does look like we are adding computers, but she did wonder how the windows would affect the screens on the computers.  She said she would really like to see the fireplace retained.  She said she also has a concern over the restrooms.  She said she does like the solution for the movable furniture so that programming can take place.

 

Commissioner Coulter said he agrees with most of the comments and said he is sad that there is not more space in the building.  He said the building works well on the outside and other than the space issue the building looks fine.

 

Commissioner Chin said that the building is quite light and she said it is a well used library and that it might be best to use the space outside in the courtyard for the inside of the building.

 

Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said there is an expansion to the facility of 1,000 sq. ft. but there are trade offs.  He said the original $500,000 was to expand the facility.  So he said we are gaining the teen space. 

 

Brian Bannon, Chief of Branches, said that if we had used the original footprint of the building and tried to meet just the ADA requirements, we would have lost a considerable amount of space.

 

Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said that the collection is increasing by about 200 items.  He said it will be slightly smaller in the children’s and adult sections but will be gained in the teen section. 

 

Commissioner Bautista said she is happy that this building is expanding and having a teen section.  She said the courtyard is heavily used.

 

Brian Bannon, Chief of Branches, clarified the use of the courtyard.  He said a portion of it is owned by Park and Rec.  He said there was a lot of discussion about the use of this area. 

 

Commissioner Bautista said the terrain of the courtyard is not level.  She said she is concerned about the ADA ramp.  She asked if there could be a sitting area. 

 

President Higueras said he thinks this is a very nice job for an expansion of an existing building.  He said his understanding is that the courtyard is a well-used space.  He said where the expansion occurs is a very nice resolution of how to build out an existing building.  He said the ramp switchbacks will have handrails and he would like to see if there is any other way to handle the ADA issues.    

 

Marilyn Thompson, Bond Program Manager, again thanked the peer reviewers for giving us their thoughts and the time spent on this.  She said there will be a response made to these comments at an upcoming Commission meeting. 

 

 

AGENDA ITEM NO. 5. ADJOURNMENT

 

Public Comment

 

There was no public comment on this item.

 

MOTION: by Commissioner Bautista, seconded by Commissioner Munson, to adjourn the special meeting of Thursday, January 3, 2008

 

ACTION:  AYES: 6-0 (Bautista, Chin, Coulter, Higueras, Gomez and Munson).

 

The special meeting of January 3, 2008, of the San Francisco Public Library Commission adjourned at 7:42 p.m.

 

Sue Blackman

Commission Secretary

 

Please note:   Copies of commission minutes and handouts are available in the office of the secretary of the San Francisco Public Library Commission, 6th floor, Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102-4733.

 

Explanatory documents:  Copies of listed explanatory documents are available as follows:  (1) from the commission secretary/custodian of records, 6th floor, Main Library; (2) in the rear of Koret Auditorium immediately prior to, and during, the meeting; and (3), to the extent possible, on the Public Library’s website http://sfpl.org.  Additional materials not listed as explanatory documents on this agenda, if any, that are distributed to library commissioners prior to or during the meeting in connection with any agenda item will be available to the public for inspection and copying in accordance with Government Code Section 54954.1 and Sunshine Ordinance Sections 67.9, 67.28(b), and 67.28(d).