Minutes of the Regular Meeting of September 20, 2007


(As amended and approved at the regular meeting on October 18, 2007)


The San Francisco Public Library Commission held a regular meeting on Thursday, September 20, 2007, in the Koret Auditorium, Main Library.


Vice President Coulter called the meeting to order at 4:37 pm.


Commissioners present:  Bautista, Coulter, Gomez, and Munson.


President Higueras was excused.


Commissioner Chin arrived at 4:44 pm.


Commissioner Kane arrived at 4:46 pm.




An anonymous citizen, referring to the Controller’s Report said that if this was a movie review it would be called an” out of control” report.  He said that that is what it looks like to outsiders.  He said you have to have the background to know what the program is.  He said one of the things you see in the report is that everything that is not chalked up to delay is increasing the scope of the project and that covers a lot of blemishes.  He asked what happened to staying within the scope of the program.


Francesca Gessner, Deputy City Attorney, said as a point of clarification, the general public comment portion is for comments on issues that are not on the agenda and issues relating to agenda items will be heard as part of the specific agenda item.


Donna Bero, Friends and Foundation San Francisco Public Library (Friends), requested that the Commission adjourn the meeting in honor of Phil Frank, who recently passed away and who was a great fan and supporter of the library.  She said she had good news on the Yes on D campaign.  She said at this point there are over two dozen organizations endorsing it along with numerous elected officials, individuals and community leaders.  She said she had the complete list for anyone is who interested.


Marian Chatfield-Taylor, Friends, said there will be a program on October 17 on San Francisco’s Carnegie Libraries at the Friends’ office.  She said the Glen Park branch library opening will be on Saturday, October 13 at 1:00 pm and that they have received a permit to close the street so it will be a bit of a street fair as well.  Finally, she said there will be a Portola Garden Tour on October 20 from 11 am to 3 pm, with proceeds benefiting the Portola Library Campaign  


Peter Warfield said the campaign advocating for the passage of Prop D

apparently continues to provide no information about important aspects of the measure including the bond indebtedness that it allows and the major change in permission for what the money can be spent on.  He said that in that respect he would be very cautious about what an endorsement actually means.  He said there were 18 ballot arguments submitted to the voter information panel all submitted by the Friends and none of which mentioned the radical differences to the Library Preservation Fund under this proposition.  He said there are numerous endorsements for the No on D campaign and he would be happy to answer any questions regarding those.


Sue Cauthen, Chair of the Library Citizens Advisory Committee (LCAC), said that at their meeting the night before, Deputy City Attorney John Givner made a presentation on what the Committee members can and cannot do electioneering for Prop D.  She said 4 of the members of the LCAC took out an ad paid for by them as individuals in support of Prop D.


Anne Wintroub, Friends, said she wanted to remind the Commissioners about the Big Book Sale at Fort Mason September 26 – 30.   She said it kicks off with a Members Only reception on Wednesday, which Commissioners and staff are invited to attend.  She said there will be over 250,000 books and she said the One City One Book author Lalita Tademy will be at the reception as well.




City Librarian Luis Herrera said that the City Controller’s Office will be providing the findings on their review of the BLIP.  He said present from the Controller’s Office are Deborah Gordon, the audit manager and principal author of the study, Harriet Richardson and Peg Stevenson.  He said in March of this year he requested, on behalf of the Commission, a review of the BLIP by the City Controller’s Office.  The review was a result of numerous factors including increased construction costs, challenges attracting enough bidders to have a competitive bid climate, and a very ambitious community process that impacted the original project schedules.  He said the review also had the support from the Department of Public Works (DPW).  He thanked Peg Stevenson and Deborah Gordon for their support and professionalism in conducting this study.


Deborah Gordon, Audit Manager, City Services Audit Division of the City Controller’s Office said she had been at the Commission on June 21 and had shared the original scope and objectives for the audit.  She said that the report is available at the back table and is available on the Controller and Library’s websites.  She explained the background of the BLIP, the audit objectives, the scope and methodology, the findings, project delays by type, budget increases by category, and estimated budget increases from delays.  She said that selected recommendations to the Library and DPW are that they:   implement and monitor a new MOU that describes in detail each agency’s responsibilities for effective and efficient bond program management;   document and monitor all agreements for professional services provided by DPW and private sector consultants for bond projects;  improve bond report readability and completeness;  increase oversight of and controls over project budgets; and adopt any further best practices for increasing the number of construction bids received.  Additionally she said DPW should create a standard set of escalation estimation practices, communicate those standards to cost estimators, and monitor each cost estimate for compliance.


Luis Herrera, City Librarian, expressed his appreciation to Edgar Lopez, Project Manager for the Project Management Division of DPW and his team for working collaboratively in reviewing the report for factual information and responding collaboratively.  He referred to the letter attached as Appendix C to the Controller’s review as the Library’s response to the review and said that DPW and the Library concur with the recommendations.  He said this is the most ambitious capital improvement program to upgrade the city library facilities in over forty years.  He said there is already evidence of a more competitive bidding process.  He said one of the core principles for the BLIP has been to respond to community input and the needs for each of the neighborhood libraries.  He said the Library and DPW concur with the recommendations by the Controller’s office and explained the responses to the recommendations in Appendix E to the report


Edgar Lopez, representing DPW, said the Department welcomes the audit and said that DPW is already working on improving the areas outlined in the report.  He said DPW is hiring a second project manager to assist the program manager and has created a dedicated studio of architects and engineers who will be focused on the library improvements.  He said they are committed to adding all the necessary staff and have developed a strategy that if the schedule falls behind on any give project that they will hire consultants, who will augment city staff.

He spoke further regarding the responses to the recommendations in Appendix E to the report.


Jill Bourne said that the Library and DPW finance divisions are in the process of finalizing new fiscal procedures which will delineate responsibilities and expectations related to financial reporting.


Luis Herrera said that as a team the Library and DPW will adopt any best practices for increasing the number of bids received on projects.


Edgar Lopez said that there is a challenging contracting environment and he said DPW is leading a task force to try to increase the number of bidders that bid capital contracts.  He said there are a number of initiatives coming out of that.  He said the Mayor recently issued an Executive Order called Prompt Payment directing City Departments to make payment on construction contracts within 15 days of receipt of an invoice.  He said that message is very powerful.  He said the ability to estimate is closely tied to the number of bidders and competition that we create.  He said the outreach to contractors encouraging them to bid on BLIP projects is continuing.  


Luis Herrera said that the Library is confident that by implementing these recommendations it will make a difference in the execution of the BLIP and that it will be successful.  He again thanked the Controller’s Office and DPW.


Public Comment


An anonymous citizen said it was too bad President Higueras was not present because it would be nice to have the architect on the Commission present for this report.   He said he agreed with the Controller’s opinion that quarterly reports should provide clearer information on program schedules and budgets.  He said in Appendix A there were inaccuracies in the original projected completion dates and in the actual project completion date.


Beatrice Krivestsky, Chair of the Marina Library Campaign Committee, said this was the first time she had ever been identified as a “delayer.”  She said as a member of the public and happy Marina dweller she was very proud to be part of the conversation and discourse that made that library really feel that it belonged to the community.  She said democracy is wonderful but it is sloppy.  She said it takes delays and that is just the way things work.  She said the Library and the Friends do not need an apology they need a loud applause and she said thank you for the support and allowing laypersons to come and say “well done”. 


Kim Drew said she was another “delayer” said she is a Board member of the Friends, but she said she was speaking about her experience as a Noe Valley resident.  She said it was a privilege to be involved in the design development process for the Noe Valley library.  She said she thinks it will result in a better end product because of community involvement.  She read a letter from Rosalind Cutler, who is involved in the Portola project, giving examples of community input that resulted in changes to the design to improve the library for the community.  She also thanked the Commission for all its great work.


Peter Warfield said that the report is better than he expected but certainly not as good as he had hoped.  He said he was concerned from the beginning about the scope and objectives and that the input from the organization being audited in those scope and objectives does raise questions about the independence of the audit.  He said there were many issues that he would have liked to have seen included in the audit.  He asked why the most earthquake prone branches were not the first to be completed.  He asked why alternate services weren’t seriously considered throughout the project.  He said that a maximum of 4 branches being closed has been exceeded.  He said a real gloss has been put on the delays and reflects badly on upper management.


Donna Bero, Friends, said how lovely it was to have the last Commission meeting at the Bayview branch.  She read an open letter from the Friends, which said in part that the Friends of the Library are pleased to be working with the Library and DPW to revitalize and renew our remarkable public libraries.  As a grassroots community foundation with significant investment in BLIP the sound management and oversight of this ambitious program is critical to Friends and the thousands of community members that we represent.  We have done considerable examination of the BLIP program and its management and as an investor we are confident of the solid management and extensive oversight of the program.


Melissa Riley, representing the Librarians’ Guild, said that any delays on the projects may in fact ultimately save money because of the new competitive bid process, especially because of this report which will help us to understand the difficulties with the process.  She said whatever delay it took to get Brian and Jill on board is money well spent and Luis as well and said they are delighted with the very high quality of the management team.  She also said it is important to provide color copies when information is presented on charts, etc. when the colors are important to the understanding of the documents.


Ellen Egbert, Bernal Heights, thanked that Commission and the Library for requesting that this report be done.  She said it is important to look back and use the information for the future.  She said it is important to communicate with the community about delays and project schedules.


Chet Roaman, Council of Neighborhood Libraries (CNL), said he agreed with the comments just made regarding communicating with the public.  He said the library is a bastion in search of excellence and democratic principle in this city.   He spoke about a charrette that was held at the beginning of the BLIP where architects and architectural students were brought in with interested stakeholders to look at designs of various libraries.  He said the inclusion of the public in the process is a sign of excellence.


Deborah Doyle said that when she arrived in San Francisco 30 years ago the institution was much different than it is today and that it is going to be in 10 years.  She said mistakes have been made along the way, but we are a model for people outside of San Francisco and we should be very proud of ourselves.  She said when a project is of this scope that is when you can identify where efficiencies can be found.   She thanked everyone here and also thanked Marilyn Thompson for her hard work as well.


Commission Discussion


Commissioner Chin said she was late to the meeting because she was yelling at a contractor at her school because of a construction issue that may cause a delay because there was not enough input into the project.  She said community involvement is very important.  She said the Commission has been shocked to learn of the high increase in cost of steel, concrete and the competition for building materials around the world.


Commissioner Bautista said she was thankful to Chet Roaman for reminding the Commission about the charrette that was held at the beginning on the BLIP, which showed everyone how to measure excellence.  She said because some of the buildings are Carnegie buildings they require many specialized design features.  She said she is glad the city is doing something about paying the contractors on time.  


Commissioner Kane thanked the Controller, the Library and DPW staff for their cooperation and hard work on this.  He said the delays caused by public input are well worth it.  He said whatever mistakes have been made, we will learn from those mistakes.  He said he would like to see a status report back in six months from DPW and the Library on where we are in addressing some of these issues.


Commissioner Munson said he had supported the idea of an audit and he agrees with Commissioner Kane.


Commissioner Chin left the meeting at 5:55 pm.


Commissioner Gomez said there are two members from the public, who think that library staff and the Commissioners were sent from the devil, but she said the professionalism and dedication from the staff always inspire confidence in her and she said she hopes the Commission will take that message out into the community.  She said constant negativity will get us down and that will be the cause of delay.


Vice President Coulter said that the previous City Librarian pushed very hard on the program and in some cases pushed too hard and in the case of the Richmond branch the community pushed back and that really started the public process.  He said the process has worked well.  He said there were some things that were disturbing and some things that were not so bad in the report.  He asked the Controller’s Office about other audits of other Departments.


Deborah Gordon, City Controller’s Office, said she has done one other bond audit and said it was for the 1999 bond issue for the San Francisco School District.  She said it was so completely different that it would be difficult to compare.


Peg Stevenson, Director City Services Audit Division, said there were some lessons learned from doing this audit.  She said the time it takes to go through the community input process was greater than expected.  She said the bond program management has done an excellent job in trying to move the projects forward, but she said if it is not realistic to build so many facilities in so short a time, the City should not plan to do that.


Commissioner Bautista said we were counting on State money and when that did not become available it caused additional delays.


Commissioner Munson said that there will be delays whenever there is a major gap in top management.  He said it was a perfect storm with the increase in cost of construction materials and personnel issues.  He said this could have been a huge disaster, but he thinks this will work out just fine.


Vice-President Coulter thanked the Controller’s Office again for their report.




Marilyn Thompson, Bond Program Manager, said that there were no informational or special reports.  She gave the regular monthly report and said that the budget report is available at the back of the room and includes every budget change that has been made by the Commission to the bond program since its inception.   She said every revision requires Commission action. She explained the current Schedule Report and said the last time the Commission made a change to the schedule was in March of this year.  She said it lists every schedule change to the bond program since its inception.  She said fully funded projects will be completed by the end of 2010 and the remaining projects will be completed by the end of 2011 pending additional funding.  She explained the Active Projects Report including information on new construction and renovations; and the Construction Report.  She showed photographs of some of the projects including Glen Park, which will have its opening celebration on Saturday, October 13; Noe Valley; Western Addition; and Richmond.  She also gave the Community Outreach report and said there would be community meetings at Potrero on October 1 and Visitacion Valley on October 25 in addition to other events and programs. 


Public Comment


An anonymous citizen said he was gratified that the representatives from the City Controller’s Office and DPW had stayed for this presentation to see the regular Bond Program Manager report.  He said if you think openness and democratic process explains some of the delay in this bond program, someone will try to sell you the Golden Gate Bridge.  He said if you believed in democracy and open access to records the negative citizens wouldn’t be so negative.  He said the gadfly in democracy is supposed to be a respected individual.  He said the previous comments about making the report readable and in color are well founded.


Peter Warfield said he was expecting a dramatic change in the format of some kind and he is disappointed that it has not come through.  He said it was interesting that some “delayers” are praised but others don’t have the same respect.  He said a process for community participation is important to programs like this.  He said the Library has not listened as much as they could have done, for example he Richmond Branch had to be re- done because of the community outcry about the design.  He said some of the delays were due to rejections of applications by the State Bond Program.     


Commission Discussion


Commissioner Kane said it would be nice to show the original schedules on the report.  He said that if there are delays of more than three months he would like to see the cause of delay identified on the report so that there is real time transparency and budgeting issues.  He said that that extra information would be helpful to him.  He also said that when there are delays the community should be notified and that should be noted on the report.  He asked about the protests that were reported.


Marilyn Thompson said that you cannot predict the number of bid protests on any specific project.  She said there were multiple reasons for the protests, but she said she was hoping it would be wrapped up in a timely manner.


Luis Herrera, City Librarian, said it was very important to keep on top of the protests and to review specific information.


Commissioner Kane asked about the opening of the Noe Valley branch.


Luis Herrera said it is planned to open in March, 2008.




MOTION: by Commissioner Munson, seconded by Commissioner Bautista, to adjourn the regular meeting of Thursday, September 20, 2007 in honor of Phil Frank, a great friend of the library. 


Public Comment


There was no public comment on this item.


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


The regular meeting of September 20, 2007, of the San Francisco Public Library Commission adjourned at 6:30 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).