Minutes of the Regular Meeting of August 20, 2009


(Approved at the Regular Meeting of October 1, 2009)


The San Francisco Public Library Commission held a regular meeting on Thursday, August 20, 2009, in the Koret Auditorium, Main Library.


The meeting was called to order at 4:30 pm.


Commissioners present: Del Portillo, Gomez, Lee, Munson and Ono


Commissioner Kane arrived at 4:33 pm.


Commissioner Chin arrived at 4:45 pm.




An anonymous citizen said according to Roberts Rules of Order the Minutes should be the first thing on the agenda.  He said there has been a psychic assault by the Commission by removing someone’s access to the truth. He said removing voices of disagreement is the first step in enforcing conformity of opinion.


Sue Cauthen, Chair of the Library Citizens Advisory Committee (LCAC), said she is speaking for herself.  She asked that a summary be added to the minutes on the ruling of the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force (SOTF) on the public comment issue that arose during the discussion of the North Beach Branch.  She said the SOTF found Library commission chair Jewelle Gomez in violation of the Sunshine Ordinance and found her behavior official misconduct.


Gladys Soto, a member of the Library Citizens Advisory Committee, said she heard the tape of the meeting addressed in the SOTF complaint.  She said it was very shocking and she hopes it doesn’t happen again.


Peter Warfield said he is also a member of the LCAC, and at their meeting the previous night there was a member of the public who had been at the Commission meeting when the incident occurred and that person did not make public comment because of the bullying demonstration that had occurred.   He said he was silenced at a previous meeting when he tried to speak under public comment as well. 


Clarice Moody, a member of the LCAC, said she wanted to thank the Commission for their knowledge, leadership, courage, and tenacity in building a new library in the Sunset. 


Charles Moody thanked the Commission for their assistance in moving forward on the Ortega Library in the Sunset.  He said they have been struggling for a number of years to get a good library for the area.  He said thank you to the Friends of the Library for their assistance in obtaining the furnishings for the library and helping to rally the community.      




Luis Herrera, City Librarian, presented the background on the Bernal Library Mural.  He said the mural was dedicated in 1982.  He gave background on the artist of the mural, Arch Williams and talked about the mural themes.  He showed photographs of the mural on all sides.  He said discussions have been taking place on the mural since 2002.  He said various ideas and options for the mural have been suggested by the community.  He said the recommendation is to restore the mural on the Cortland Street side of the building only and paint over the east and south sides of the mural.  He said the next step will be to send the Commission’s recommendation to the Visual Arts Committee for review and recommendation to the full San Francisco Arts Commission in September.  He said Luis Cancel, Director of Cultural Affairs, San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) wanted to be at today’s meeting, but was not able to attend so he wrote a memo stating that SFAC staff’s recommendation to the Library Commission is that only the portion of the mural on the front of the building (Cortland Avenue) should be preserved and that the remaining three sides should be removed. 


Public Comment


Susan Cervantes, Director Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitors Center, read a letter from the Board of Directors in support of preserving and restoring the original mural by Arch Williams located on the front façade facing Cortland Avenue, east façade facing Moultrie Street and south façade facing the playground of the Bernal Heights Library. 


An anonymous citizen said both sides on this issue have equal claims to legitimacy.  He said a mural is tied to its time and place and inherently vulnerable to changes in circumstance.  He said he is a little concerned that the Library Commission is making this decision first before the Arts Commission makes its judgment.


Andres Rothblat said as a boy growing up in San Francisco he was inspired by public buildings built in the 1930s.  He said it was one of the reasons he became an architect.  He said restoring the current mural is not a practical option.  He said the mural is already compromised.


Richard Everett said he lives in Bernal Heights and is appreciative of all the WPA buildings in San Francisco. He said the Bernal Heights Library does not appear to be a WPA building because of the mural.  He said putting a panel in the garden would be an appropriate way to honor the historical significance of the mural while retaining the integrity of the building.


Rachel Ebora, Director of Community Engagement for the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, said the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center supports the resolution to maintain the mural facing Cortland but they also believe the murals on the other walls should be restored.  She said she would like a commitment from the Arts Commission to support an inclusive Bernal community process to create a new mural based on the same themes on the existing murals.


A resident of Bernal Heights for over 25 years said she is a visual arts artist.  She thanked the Commission for the expansion of the Bernal Heights Library.  She said the mural does not deserve restoration.  She said the community has tremendous talent in the community that could create something new for the library.


Darcy Lee, President of the Bernal Heights Business Alliance, said she is speaking as an individual.  She said the building deserves to be brought back to what it looked like when it was built.  She said the neighborhood is so appreciative of the renovation but she really thinks the façade needs a better picture or no picture.


Patricia Rose, Bernal Heights resident, said she is a Precita Eyes muralist.  She said she knew Arch Williams, the original muralist.  She said she is very fond of the murals on the library.  She said she is in support of preservation of the mural on all sides of the building.  She read a part of the letter from Precita Eyes Muralists Association in support of the retaining the murals.


Dena Backman, resident of Bernal Heights said the neighborhood is thrilled with the renovation of the library.  She said she would like to see the building restored to the glory of the WPA building in the neighborhood.  She said murals represent eras but not necessarily the community as it is today. 


Kimberly Alvarenga, District Director, for Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, said that the Assemblymember has heard from a number of constituents in the Bernal Heights who support the restoration of the murals.  He said, as a resident of the area, he also supports the restoration of all sides of the mural.   


Ellen Egbert, resident of Bernal Heights, said the architect of the library is a renowned respected architect.  She said she did not believe the building was built to be a canvas.  She said she hopes all of the Commissioners have had a chance to visit the branch.  She said she does not believe the mural was ever completed.  She said the refreshed mural will be a garish contrast to the beautiful new interior of the building.


Jeffery Miler said he is a Bernal Heights resident and a landscape architect.  He said the mural did not go through a typical review process and the mural was devised to protect the building from graffiti.  He said it is time to remove the mural from the library and return the building to the grace it once had.


Gladys Soto, a Bernal Heights resident, said the mural contains Spanish words and represents members of the community.  She said the mural can be restored. 


Peter Wiley said he is a 41 year resident of Bernal Heights and a member of the Board of the Friends of the Library.  He said the Friends do not have a position on the mural and he is speaking as an individual.  He thanked Luis Herrera for engaging with the community on this issue.  He said his major concern is not holding up the opening of the library.  He said the library does need to move on and the Arts Commission will need to make a decision on this.


Peter Warfield, Library Users Association, said he does not have an absolute opinion on this, but he does think preservation would be the direction in would lean in.  He said he is concerned about the process and the wording on the agenda.


Linette Haynes, Legislative Aid, to Supervisor Campos, said many constituents have come forward who would like to see the mural restored on all three sides.  She said the mural represents the cultural identity of Latinos in the area.  She said Supervisor Campos would definitely like to see the Cortland side restored and he would like the other two sides if not restored have murals added that go through a community process.


Wade Grubbs said he is a member of the Bernal History Project. He said he has seen photographs of the building when it was originally built and he would like to see it returned to its original WPA grandeur. 


Mauricio Vela said he lives in Bernal Heights and is part of the Friends of Bernal Preschool.  He said he does not support the resolution before the Commission.  He said if we can’t restore all three sides, then at least two sides of the murals should be restored.  He said there should be a community process to determine if the mural is replaced with new murals.


Nancy Everett a resident of Bernal said she is very excited about the new library.  She said it is a gorgeous building and the mural distracts from that.  She said public art belongs in Bernal and she suggested that the murals be restored on the back sides and remove the mural from the Cortland side or invite the community to do a new mural that would face the playground.


Roseann Legitt said she has been involved in the Library Campaign for a while.  She said a lot of money is going into the renovation and restoration of this WPA building and the community is very grateful.  She said the Bernal mural was done long ago and resulted in inferior artwork.  She said it represents ideas we all agree but it is incongruent with the design of the building.


Commission Discussion


Commissioner Del Portillo said she has received a lot of calls regarding this issue.  She acknowledged the people that have come out to the meeting today.  She said she worries about the money that would be used for the restoration and who will do the restoration.  She said the Latino Diaspora is very complex and that the mural does not represent Latinos in general.  She said the community deserves the very best.  She said the community seems to be split.


Commissioner Lee said no one is going to be 100% happy or sad.  He said this is a good compromise.


Commissioner Kane said he is very impressed with the public on both sides.  He said there are historical preservationists on the building and preservations on the mural.  He said his concerns are not to delay the project.  He said the preservation cost of the mural would be within budget. He said if the mural is painted over now it is permanent so he said he is in favor of the compromise.


Commissioner Munson said a number of the speakers said they were in support of restoring the building to showcase the original architecture.  He said a discussion could take place at a later time about whether to add a new mural.


President Gomez said the restoration of the mural would restore the vibrancy of the mural.  She said we have to give credit to the muralist Arch Williams and his standing in the community.


Commissioner Ono said the issue is very controversial and she gives a lot of credit to the speakers for coming out and sharing their views.  She said this seems to be one of the better compromises available.


Commissioner Chin said she has a concern with the amount of the mural covered by the ramp and wanted to make sure it did not cover the words on the mural.  She said there is a disconnect between the materials used for the mural and the maintenance of the mural.  She asked if the recommendation included the possibility of replacing the murals on the east and south sides of the library.


Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said that the recommendation did not include replacing the murals with new art work.  He said the Arts Commission would have to make the final decision on any new murals.  He said the branch would still open on time but the exterior will not be completed.


Francesca Gessner, Deputy City Attorney, said the Library Commission has no legal obligation to make a recommendation since the Arts Commission will make the final decision.


MOTION: by Commissioner Lee, seconded by Commissioner Kane to approve a resolution urging the Arts Commission to approve the restoration of the Bernal Mural on the Cortland Street side of the Bernal Heights Branch Library only, and paint over the mural sections on the east and south sides of the library.


AYES: 6 (Chin, Del Portillo, Gomez, Kane, Lee, and Ono)


NAYS: 1 (Munson)


Commissioner Kane left the meeting.




Donna Bero, Friends of the Library, said the Friends just completed their fiscal year on June 30, 2009.  She said they tallied the amount of volunteer time given on behalf of the Library.  She said there were 953 volunteers who gave 36,815 hours for a dollar value of $840,000.  She said the International Poetry Festival took place in July and was a tremendous success and they were thrilled to work with the Library and the Mayor’s office to present it.  She said the Bernal Heights History Day will be on August 29.  She said on September 13, Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snicket and his wife, Lisa Brown, will be hosting the movie Young Frankenstein at the Balboa Theatre with a special reception with proceeds benefitting the Richmond and Anza Branch Libraries. 


Public Comment


An anonymous citizen said he wondered if the value of the volunteers was ascribed to the library itself and not the Friends.


Peter Warfield, Library Users Association, said congratulations for the good work but he is very troubled that the Library Commission President has shut down public comment in the past and yet the Friends Executive Director was allowed to speak a second time on the Bernal Heights issue and to encourage people to take Friends literature.


Commission Discussion


There was no Commission Discussion.




Lena Chen, Bond Program Manager, said there are no informational or special reports this month.  She said as of 5/21/09 the approved budget was $187,166,352. She said $123,571,870 has been expended as of July 31, 2009.  She said the schedule report has been distributed to the Commissioners and is available in the back of the room. She said there are not changes to the schedule this month.  She said there are 5 projects in design and 9 projects are in the construction phase.  She said the changes since the August report include the Anza branch Notice to Proceed (NTP) issued August 10, 2009, Ortega branch NTP issued on August 17 and the NTP for Ortega is expected in the next week.  She said Golden Gate Valley will be going out to bid so it is now listed in the bid and award phase.  She said Park, Presidio, Bayview and North Beach remain in design. She showed photographs and gave reports on projects in construction including: Ingleside; Bernal Heights, Eureka Valley; Potrero; Parkside; and Visitacion Valley.  She said because of the appeal on the demolition permit the Ortega branch has been delayed 2 – 3 months at least.


Luis Herrera, City Librarian said the Board of Appeals rejected the appeal on the Ortega Branch Library.  He said staff presented the community process that had been undertaken for the branch.  He thanked the members of the public and several of the members of the Commission who testified at the hearing.


Lena Chen, Bond Program Manager said construction on the Anza branch is being mobilized.  She said the construction contract was awarded on the Merced branch on July 29 and the NTP is pending.  She said the tentative advertisement for bid for the Golden Gate Valley Branch is in early September.  She said Park, Presidio and Bayview Branches are in the construction document phase.  She said design development has begun for the North Beach Branch Library.  She said as part of the study for the Environmental Impact Report Mason Street has been temporarily closed with a park from August 1 through September 27.  She invited everyone to go and view the temporary park space.  She said the Ingleside Grand Opening will be September 12, 2009.  She said the Noe Valley branch will receive an award from the California Preservation Foundation on September 19, 2009.


Luis Herrera, City Librarian said included in the Commission packet is a letter to Charles Chase, President of the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) in response to the request by the HPC for more information about the BLIP program, the City Planning review process and specific updates on the Ortega, Merced Park, and North Beach projects.  He said there has been a commitment to working with historical preservationists and one of the strengths of the program has been the community outreach efforts.  He said he wanted to thank the BLIP team for all their hard work on this.


Public Comment   


An anonymous citizen said this was a very interesting report. He said Miss Bourne saved the day at the Historic Preservation Commission.  A number of issues were raised at that hearing and showed the tension of the community about saving some of the library buildings.  He pointed out that some of the libraries in this report are not fully funded.


Sue Cauthen said she belongs to a group called save the Appleton Wolford libraries formed to lobby on behalf of preserving the 8 Appleton Wolford libraries.  She said there was a problem with the noticing on the Ortega Branch and she is hopeful they will be able to save the North Beach Branch.  She said the temporary park on Mason Street does show how great it would be if we kept the library in its current location.  She said they have asked for story poles to show the size of the branch. 


Ellen Egbert, Bernal Heights, said she encouraged everyone to go to the temporary Mason Street park and while there to look at the existing library and imagine what it will be like with the new library.  She said she wanted to thank Luis Herrera, Jill Bourne and Mindy Linetzky for their work on the HPC presentation and the Commissioners who attended the Board of Appeals on the Ortega Branch.


Peter Warfield said the response letter to the HPC should have been a separate item on the agenda.  He said the community process for the branches is questionable at best.  He said there were a number of people at the Board of Appeals and the HPC in opposition to the position taken by the library.


Pat Fahrenthold, Chief of Technical Services, said she was speaking as a private citizen and on behalf of the visitors and tourists who come to North Beach.  She said a beautiful new library in a park like setting in the heart of North Beach will show visitors that we honor and celebrate the cultural and literary heritage of our city.     


Commission Discussion


Commissioner Lee said the North Beach temporary park on Mason is very nice and he encourages everyone to go visit it.  He asked about the Merced branch remodel and said the budget is very high.  He said he would like to know more about the soft costs for the project.


Commissioner Chin said the addition of the park on Mason is great and there doesn’t seem to be a problem with the traffic.




There was no labor union report.




Public Comment


An anonymous citizen said on page one that the point he made under public comment was not reflected accurately.  He said on page 2 his comments about $1 million missing from the reserve were also not reflected accurately.  He said on page 3 the comments by Maureen Singleton about the numbers on the budget being clarified in the minutes were not actually clarified.  He said on page 6 a summary of his comments should have been reflected in the minutes.


Commissioner Chin left the meeting.


Peter Warfield said lacking specificity in the minutes is an eradication of history.  He said his comment on the book budget on page 2 did not include what the discrepancy in the book budget was.


Commission Discussion


MOTION: by Commissioner Munson, seconded by Commissioner Del Portillo to approve the minutes of July 16, 2009


AYES: 5-0 (Del Portillo, Gomez, Lee, Munson and Ono)




Public Comment


There was no public comment on this item.


Motion:  By Commissioner Ono, seconded by Commissioner Munson to adjourn the regular meeting of August 20, 2009. 


Action:  AYES 5-0: (Del Portillo, Gomez, Lee, Munson and Ono)


 The meeting adjourned at 7:00 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).

The Public Comment Summary Statements included in these Minutes are authorized by San Francisco Administrative Code Section 67.16.


These summary statements are provided by the speaker:  Their contents are neither generated by, nor subject to approval or verification of accuracy by, the San Francisco Public Library Commission.


Library Commission Meeting of August 20, 2009.


Item 1: General Public Comment


Anonymous Citizen: Approval of the minutes should be first.  One of the issues discussed at the last meeting was a citizen reporting that she felt traumatized by her treatment at the hands of the Library Commission.  It was psychic assault, an obvious abuse intended to inflict pain, used for manipulation.  Not to be confused with an assault on one’s dignity, psychic assault is removing someone’s access to the truth.  Removing voices of disagreement by use of psychic assault is the first step in enforcing conformity of opinion, in making facts themselves conform to corporate or bureaucratic goals from which we get group think and herd mentality.


As a society we have decided that suppressing open discussion is not worth the damage that it does. The war in Iraq, the subprime mortgage crises and the history of this institution, are examples what happens when bureaucratic self-interest is placed above access to the truth. 


Item 2: Bernal Heights Branch Library Mural


Anonymous Citizen: Wouldn’t it be nice if the citizens had access to the graphics, especially on a graphic issue?  This is not really a controversy because both sides have equal claim to seriousness and legitimacy and both sides can imagine using the other side’s arguments in other circumstances.  A mural is tied to its time and its place and vulnerable to changes in circumstances. 


The mural movement has been primarily focused on recovering dehumanized spaces, brightening dead walls, not being put across an architectural face.  Murals are inherently vulnerable to becoming anachronistic.  No matter how much it fits in at a certain time, there comes a time when it does not.  I am concerned that you are making this judgment before the Arts Commission makes its judgment.  The library renovation program is about renewal and it might be appropriate to have a modern mural.  Preservation for every mural is just not realistic. 


Item 3: Friends of the Library Report


Anonymous Citizen:  Stop the hate, stop the ignorance – don’t give money to the Friends and Foundation, don’t accept money from the Friends and Foundation. 


I don’t want the Executive Director to feel bad.  Sometimes people get up and leave while I am talking and it doesn’t mean as much as you might think.


We have not heard about the Public Comment Fund.  I am sure it is still as healthy as ever.  Since it is continuing to do its work, I certainly continue to do my part.  We might hear where it is going. 


I wonder if the value of the volunteers should be ascribed to the Friends.  Won’t at least some of those people volunteer for the library itself?  The power of words, indeed.   


Item 4: Bond Program Manager’s Report


Anonymous Citizen: Stop the hate, stop the ignorance – don’t give money to or accept money from the Friends and Foundation. 


With such a long time between meetings it might be fruitful to have a City Librarian’s report because there are things that we might want to hear about.  Today’s Chronicle has a list called “Top Eleven Librarians You Don’t Want to Mess With.”  I thought the omission of Jill Bourne was an oversight, but it turns out the category was “fictional” librarians.  Ms. Bourne pretty much carried the day at the Historical Preservation hearing. 


The hearing highlighted that libraries are about preserving what is important in the past while addressing current concerns.  The library administration was hustling to fill in some gaps and seemed successful.  How the Historical Preservation Commission gets by without a sense of history is not clear.  The report mentioned branches that had not been funded. 


Item 6: Approval of the Minutes (July 16, 2009)


Anonymous Citizen: Stop the hate, stop the ignorance – don’t give money to the Friends and Foundation. 


Public comment indicates that the anonymous citizen talked about the virtues of democracy.  The comment was, this commission thinks it is aristocratic and your refusal to conduct yourself in a democratic manner has a devastating effect and you are still suffering from “le mot de Coulter.” 


Under the City Librarian’s report the mention of a million dollar’s missing is about the gap between estimates three months apart and a drop that precipitous is important.


The Maureen Singleton’s comment on page five states that there will be a clarification in the minutes, but there is no clarification or indication of what needs to be clarified.


And on the approval of the minutes itself, the statement, the minutes “do not reflect everything said,” does not summarize in any way what was missing or needed to be changed.