Minutes of the Regular Meeting of February 19, 2009


(As amended and approved at the Regular Meeting of March 19, 2009)


The San Francisco Public Library Commission held a regular meeting on Thursday, February 19, 2009, in the Koret Auditorium, Main Library.


The meeting was called to order at 4:35 pm.


Commissioners present: Del Portillo, Harris, Lee and Vice- President Munson


Commissioner excused:  President Gomez


Commissioner Chin arrived at 4:37 pm.


Commissioner Kane arrived at 4:38 pm.




Sue Cauthen, Chair of the Library Citizens Advisory Committee (LCAC) said the Board of Supervisors extended the LCAC for another two years by a unanimous vote.  She said the LCAC’s mission is to publicly discuss and recommend to the Supervisors expenditure of bond money, implementation and prioritization of library plans and programs and also the efficiency and scope of library operations and services.  She said at their last meeting they had a discussion on set asides.  She said it was a lively meeting and a lot of people attended.  She said it was a productive discussion.


An anonymous citizen said congratulations to Commissioner Kane for being reappointed to the Commission.  He said there have been so many scandals in the past years that in any other city this would be called Library Privatization Gate. He said there have many scandals along with a thousand public records and sunshine violations.  He said a representative of the San Francisco Bar Association once referred to the San Francisco Public Library as “like the Nixon White House.’  He said it may be from the Commission’s perspective that democracy is just a farce.

He said people are starting to understand that this privatization of public resources is just a scam.  He said now people want accountability.


Nancy Cross said the library could help resolve the budget crises and improve the well-being of the people of San Francisco by giving attention to communications.  She said it would be good if the library had public telephones available, maybe in the career center or other areas in the library.


Tes Welborn, Haight Asbury Neighborhood Council (HANC), said there are many things that are good about the proposed plans for the Park Branch but there are many, many problems.  She said it is time to reopen and restart the planning process for this branch.  She said there was a survey that found that 85% of the users were adults.  She said there was a meeting on July 15, 2008, which she attended and there were only 5 other residents and a couple other users of the library in attendance.  She said the January 22, 2009 meeting was scheduled at the same time as the children’s reading hour and notes of that meeting have not been published.  She said at the January 27, 2009 meeting one of the staff members said after the Peer Review the Commissioners would be ready to bless the plan.  She said staff has had a lot of time to say what they want in the library and how they want it and they want all of the patrons to be under their nose.  She asked that the Park Branch be put at the end of the list and to do the other libraries first.


Peter Warfield said the loss of public telephones is a serious problem and a problem for library users as well.  He said at the Library Citizens Advisory Committee meeting they had an interesting discussion last night about the set asides.  He said he was disappointed to hear from the City Librarian the benefits of Proposition E.  He said some of the things the City Librarian said may be correct but the impression is incorrect.  He said they were told there was a 400% increase in the book budget, he said in the first year after Prop E took affect this library had a 15% book budget.  He said while he appreciates the increase in dollars to the book budget it is still not at 15% of the total budget.  He said there was a onetime increase in hours after Prop E and then they did not increase for approximately 12 years until he and other members of the public made a strong push for increasing hours.




Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said the budget will be submitted on February 20 to the Mayor’s office.  He said this is a moving target and it is still a long process before it is finally adopted.


Maureen Singleton, Budget Manager, said the documents provided include updated information from the Commission meeting on February 5.  She said they will continue to update the Commission with changes as they develop. 


Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said the big issue right now surrounding the budget is the discussions about the set-asides and the proposed election.  He said there is a draft Charter Amendment and Legislative Digest relating to the set-asides in your packet and in the back for the public.  He said there is also a proposed Resolution from the Commission to go to the Board of Supervisors urging them not to submit a proposed ballot measure that would amend the Charter to set a dollar cap on the Library Preservation Fund Set-Aside. He said the issue was discussed at the Rules Committee meeting this morning.  He said the discussion was continued and there will not be a special election in June but there will be further discussion about this possible Charter amendment.  He said the Library is seeing unprecedented use in the library relating to the economic downturn.  He said there is a handout that highlights the specific increases in library use.    


Public Comment


An anonymous citizen said he attended a Library Commission meeting in the early 80’s and one of the Commissioners at that time was one of the founders of the Friends.  He said one of the proposals at that time was a provision of public gambling that became the California Lottery.  He said one of the slogans was “Our Children Win Too.”  He said this Commissioner announced she was against it and he thought my goodness a moral and socially correct point of view.  She said she was opposed to it because the children get the money but she would be in support if the libraries got the money.  He said the point is as long as people operate under the premise ‘what about me’, without any social responsibility the library is not going to be the winner.  He said the Library is a social and democratic institution.  He said the politics of free ice cream is over.  


Peter Warfield said the discussion regarding the city’s budget and the set-asides is a very unfortunate, sad and scary one.  He said very tough times are facing the city and the library.  He said certainly all libraries have greatly increased usage in hard economic times.  He said as far as he is concerned the library is important all of the time.  He said the question is whether a set-aside is the best way to fund the library.  He said there is an issue of set-asides in general that should be discussed.


Sue Cauthen, Library Citizens Advisory Committee, said she remembers what it was like before there was the set-aside when Mayor Jordan was balancing the budget by closing libraries in underserved areas.  She said we don’t want to return to that.  She said one of the things the set-aside legislation includes is that where a commitment has been made for bonding for construction of new libraries that commitment would be honored regardless of what happened to the set-aside.  She said LCAC discussed where the Library might be able to give back a little so that other Departments aren’t hurt as much.


Commission Discussion


Commissioner Del Portillo asked whether any of the stimulus money from the Federal Government would help the library.


Luis Herrera said it doesn’t look like any of the money is earmarked specifically for libraries.


Commissioner Del Portillo said that at the Mission Campus they track and identify failures and successes.  She said they find out how many student contact hours they have.  She said in spring 2008 compared to spring 2007 there were 98,000 more student contact hours with the same number of instructional hours.  She said it was a question of need.  She said these were in the noncredit courses and she said where the students go for their information is the library.  She said this is the way libraries affect people’s lives.  She said set-asides are the will of the people and they come about because the population has to direct the government on how they want their money spent.


Commissioner Chin said when she was first on the Commission the library had a budget of $18 million.  She said it was apparent there were not enough funds to run all of the branches.  She said libraries affect people in terms of quality of life in the city.  She said it would be great if we could get students involved in supporting the set-aside and the library.


Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said this is a great opportunity to talk about the value of libraries to the community.


Commissioner Del Portillo said libraries are extremely important to immigrant populations.  She said libraries make a fantastic difference in the lives of immigrants trying to assimilate into a new society.


Commissioner Lee said we need to communicate with Supervisors Chiu and Mirkarimi since they are the two driving this charter amendment.  He said the Commission resolution is too lengthy and it needs to be streamlined.


Vice-President Munson said the Board of Supervisors does not understand that the library is very far along on major construction projects.  There have been substantial amounts committed already and Proposition D was designed to allow the library to do lease financing to cover the rest of the capital expenditures.  He said the costs are actually coming down and now is the time to complete the Branch Library Improvement Program.  He said there is a need to take a broader view.  He said maybe there are some places to find some savings that are not directly related to the construction process.


Luis Herrera, City Librarian said staff will continue to look at efficiencies and the Commission will continue to be apprised of any changes.  He said there is a correction to page two under the first Whereas that includes the book budget it should be $10.7 million not $10.07 million. 


The Commission discussed the Resolution and ways to possibly streamline it keeping the same intent.  They suggested consolidating some of the paragraphs or deleting some of them.


Motion:  By Commissioner Lee, seconded by Commissioner Del Portillo to adopt a resolution urging the Board of Supervisors not to submit a proposed ballot measure that would amend the Charter to set a dollar cap on the Library Preservation Fund Set-Aside with direction to library staff to streamline the Resolution in substantially similar form as discussed and edited by the Commission.


Action:  AYES 6-0: (Chin, Del Portillo, Harris, Kane, Lee and Munson).     




Lena Chen, Bond Program Manager, said there are no informational or special reports this month.  She said as of 10/16/08 the approved budget was $153,110,196.  She said the schedule report has been distributed to the Commissioners and is available in the back of the room.  She said there is one change to the schedule this month and that is to the Richmond Branch which will be completed two months early in May, 2009.  She gave the status of the program and said that 7 property acquisitions are complete including the Bayview Branch; 8 projects are complete and open; 6 branches are in construction; 8 branches are in planning and design; Visitacion Valley was advertised on 1/24/09 and Parkside was awarded to LC General Engineering & Construction, Inc.; and currently awaiting the Notice to Proceed.  She showed photographs and gave reports on projects in construction including Richmond which will open two months ahead of schedule in May, 2009; Portola, is in the final stages of construction and the opening is scheduled for February 28, 2009; Ingleside; Bernal Heights, Eureka Valley, and Potrero.  She gave an update on projects in design including Visitacion Valley; Anza; Ortega; Merced; Bayview; Park; Presidio; Golden Gate Valley and North Beach.  She gave the summary of public outreach and said upcoming community meetings include: North Beach on February 24, 2009, Portola Opening Celebration on February 28, 2009; Visitacion Valley Public Art meeting February 21, and Bayview Civic Design Review on March 15, 2009.


Public Comment


An anonymous citizen said the Commission needs to choose the responsible course and he said what is the responsible course is an unanswered one in many people’s minds.  He said it is no less irresponsible to undertake borrowings that you have no prospects of paying back.  He said the public placed conditions on the revenue bonds because they didn’t trust the Commission and others to mandate various aspects of the library’s budget.  He said there was a projected date set to issue the bonds of February 10.  He said it was implied that the revenue bonds have not yet been issued, so that is a question he has.  He said the Parkside closing party did not have hundreds of people as previously stated.


Peter Warfield said the schedule report doesn’t seem to have changed for a couple of months and he said his reading of the Park Branch bid award and move out portion looks like it starts in April.  He said he would like to know when that does start and in particular when the branch will be closing.  He said they have been told it will close in the summer and this looks like it would be a little bit earlier.  He said he is disappointed this schedule report does not show prior schedules.  He said the Commission has previously requested to getting information that would include changes from previous schedules. He said the process at the last Park Branch community meeting was awful.  He said there was nothing reported on the previous community meeting or the survey previously taken.


Ellen Egbert said she was at the Parkside closing party and there were definitely hundreds of people there.  She said it was a great closing party and people were working and using the library.  She said it is terrific the bid climate has changed and we might be under budget.  She said because of the economic climate perhaps we should not do the add alternatives and save the money instead.


Commission Discussion


Commissioner Lee said it is good to hear Richmond will be finished ahead of schedule and more importantly that there are no change orders.  He asked if there were any incentives for contractors to finish the schedule ahead of time. 


Lena Chen, Bond Program Manager, said they have liquidated damages that will be assessed.  She said there are no incentives in the contracts.


Commissioner Lee said he is concerned about the roof garden at Bayview and how it will be maintained.


Luis Herrera, City Librarian said there has been ongoing dialogue on the Park Branch issues and they are looking at some modifications based on feedback at the last Peer Review.  He said there were approximately 400 surveys received last summer so a lot of feedback was received in that way.


Commissioner Kane said the news on the bids is wonderful.  He wanted to clarify that every other project is on time and on budget. 


Luis Herrera said they are looking at timing impacts regarding closures so if there are impacts it will be brought back to the Commission.


Jill Bourne, Deputy City Librarian, said there is also a concern about the timing of the bids and spreading them out a little bit.




Public Comment


An anonymous citizen said these minutes do not show the egregious distortions and lapses we have sometimes seen in the past.  He said there are a few flaws.   He said the minutes do not mention the departure time when Commissioners leave the meeting.  He said in the past items

that require follow up had been highlighted in the minutes.  He said under public comment the anonymous citizen introduced his comments by addressing the new Commissioners and the powerlessness of the citizens in the face of the distortions of the truth.  He said the anonymous citizen said that libraries are the reservoir of people’s culture and you would want them to be more democratic than otherwise.  He said these comments and others were completely left out.  


Peter Warfield said on page three there is something attributed to him, which he did not say and which is incorrect.  He said the discussion was public comment on agenda item no. 2.  He said that he had said he was concerned that there had not been a cost attached to what would happen if the bonds were to be sold at 12%.  He said the last sentence is complete nonsense.  He said on page six under his public comment under item no. 3 he that he said “there are studies that show that featuring certain books . . .”and the words “there are studies that show” are not included.


Motion:  By Commissioner Lee, seconded by Commissioner Chin, to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of January 19, 2009 with a correction to the bottom of page 3 to delete the sentence “He said that will wipe out everything else but the repayment of the loans.” 


Action:  AYES 6-0: (Chin, Del Portillo, Harris, Kane, Lee and Munson).




There was no public comment on this item.


Motion:  By Commissioner Chin, seconded by Commissioner Munson to adjourn the regular meeting of February 19, 2009. 


Action:  AYES 6-0: (Chin, Del Portillo, Harris, Kane, Lee and Munson).


The meeting adjourned at 6:20 pm.


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  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).