Ocean View Library Advocates Rally For A New Building

Neighbors rallied at the Ocean View Library for a new building on Tuesday while Supervisor Ahsha Safaí introduced related legislation.

Ocean View Library Advocates Rally For A New Building
Alyssa Cheung with Leila, Justin Chan, Jose Dolores “J.D.” DeAnda, Veronica Hunnicutt, Al Harris, EJ Jones, Mary Harris, a supporter and Renard Monroe. | Anne Marie Kristoff/Ingleside Light

Ocean View-Merced Heights-Ingleside neighbors rallied at the San Francisco Public Library’s Ocean View branch Tuesday while the neighborhood’s representative in City Hall introduced legislation to mandate a replacement library be built at a controversial location.

“We have lots of seniors, lots of children and families and it just would be really nice to have a really world-class library,” said Mary Harris, a leader of the O.M.I. Neighbors in Action neighborhood group who was among ten residents at the rally. “We had to fight for the library, the school to be rebuilt and then the rec center and so we've gone kind of full circle but now we're back to hoping to get this for our families and I think we really deserve it.”

For new parents Alyssa Cheung and Justin Chan, a new library would help fill the gap of missing neighborhood spaces.

“I think a library is just one of — especially after becoming a parent — the most valuable community resource that the city has,” Cheung said. “I think our neighborhood deserves a library that can serve the needs of all the families and all of the seniors and all of the people who are here. I think it makes me really sad that we don't really have a gathering space.”

Plans to build a three-story library on a piece of open space at Orizaba Avenue at Brotherhood Way were unveiled in 2022. While a significant amount of funding is in place, the project could not start because of an ongoing safety and traffic study.

The San Francisco Department of Real Estate did not conduct a study of potential properties for the project, a routine work up to provide a range of other sites to insure taxpayers get the best result possible. It’s unclear why this step was skipped and if it will be conducted in the future.

There's also a funding gap, according to the library.

People speak inside the stacks of a library.
EJ Jones, left, speaks to Al Harris after a small rally to demand action on the Ocean View Library project. | Anne Marie Kristoff/Ingleside Light

“Our current funding allocation through Fiscal Year 2025 totals $37.3 million, which is more than $10 million shy of the current cost estimate of $47 million,” Kate Patterson, a spokesperson for the library, said in November. “In short, we do not yet have the funding in place to move forward, but we continue to squirrel away funds from the Library Preservation Fund to ensure we can fully support the development and construction of the new branch.”

The project has received opposing feedback over concerns about the fast moving traffic at the proposed location. Despite this, Veronica Hunnicutt believes a solution can be found.

“Let's work together to get it done,” Hunnicutt said. “Let's stop finding fault and function out of love for our community, to do what our community desperately needs and we need a new library.”

EJ Jones, a candidate for District 11 supervisor and rally organizer, said next steps include more community outreach to obtain letters of support and petitioning.

Meanwhile, at City Hall, District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí introduced legislation that ties $35 million allocated for the new library building to 100 Orizaba Ave., and prohibits the city from spending any city funds, including the funds on reserve, on any other location pending the results from the environmental review.

“That is something I wish we weren’t at a point where we had to do that but given the circumstances of waiting for a few years, waiting for actually 23 years after the library was built, this is something that’s too important to the community and at the end of the day we shouldn’t be playing politics with a neighborhood library,” Safai said. “We should build a library and we should deliver on a promise that has been given and must be fulfilled for Lakeview/O.M.I.”

In December, Mayor London Breed told Safaí, who is running for mayor against Breed this year, that there are good reasons not to advance the Orizaba Avenue site, including a lack of community consensus and the budget constraints.

“It just feels like retribution,” Safaí told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It feels like she’s trying to punish the community because she’s angry at my challenge to her position as mayor.”

District 11 has another multi-million dollar building project in need of funding. The second phase for the transformation of the historic Geneva Office Building and Powerhouse into a community arts and technical training center have stalled. Safai's office did not provide a statement on the project by press time.

"The mayor and leadership from the San Francisco Public Library have been engaging with the community pertaining the Ocean View branch and the planning phase is ongoing," a spokesperson for Breed said. "As the City grapples with a dire financial forecast, it is important to recognize the challenges around identifying a new site as well as funding in light of the project’s scope change. Conversations are actively happening in partnership with the community to ensure we follow an open, transparent process in order to make an informed decision on this project."

Update: This article has been updated with a statement from the mayor's office.

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