Lawmakers Tie Funds for New Ocean View Library To Controversial Site

The saga to build a new Ocean View Branch Library continues with a new piece of legislation.

Man at microphone
District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí's legislation to tie funds for the Ocean View Library to a controversial site was passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday. | Courtesy SFGOV

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 on Tuesday to approve an ordinance that would tie existing funds to build a new Ocean View Branch Library to a controversial site.

District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí introduced the legislation in early January — while neighbors simultaneously held a rally in support — that would force the city to only spend funds, including the funds on reserve, on building the library on the open space at 100 Orizaba Ave. pending the results from the environmental review.

Safaí has accused Mayor London Breed of halting plans to build a three-story library with room for nonprofit organizations to stymie his campaign for mayor against her.

However, studies of the area are being conducted by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and San Francisco County Transportation Authority. Moreover, the San Francisco Department of Real Estate did not study potential properties for the project, a routine analysis to provide a range of alternative 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.

“We wasted enough time,” Safaí said during a hearing on the legislation at the Rules Committee on Monday. “I know that there are members of the community that have said that this is one of the things that they want to see get done as a centerpiece of the work that they've done and dedicated to San Francisco before they move on to the next world.”

Work on the new library began in 2018. The existing library, despite being 18 years old at that point, was too small for the neighborhood’s numerous families. However, the fast-moving traffic around 100 Orizaba Ave. has drawn serious concerns.

Several community members opposed the potential location during the Rules Committee meeting, citing concerns for pedestrian safety and disapproval of building on one of the few open spaces that the city has left.

“I agree with the need for the new library, it's very restrictive right now,” said Eric Bergquist, a member of the Merced Extension Triangle Neighborhood Association. “This is one of the toughest intersections and one of the most highly trafficked. It seems like we’re putting the library right in a hot spot and it doesn’t make sense to me especially when we have possibilities that would be right there at the M-Line.”

Talks have also been underway to consider combining a location for the library, Pilgrim Community Church, I.T. Bookman Community Center and build housing with Mission Housing.

“We have been and remain committed to building a state-of-the-art library for the Ocean View community and are taking the full and necessary steps to make that a reality,” public library spokesperson Jaime Wong said. “In order to reach that shared goal, we’ve been setting aside funding and actively listening to the community. We will continue to move as expeditiously as possible in our efforts to solidify a site that will be most optimal in meeting our residents’ needs for enhanced library services.”

Supporters of the project also spoke at the committee meeting to express the need for a new library.

“We need to make sure to provide the impetus to go ahead and build this library now because the community is growing,” Ann Marie Nowak said. “There are more families in it. There's a very diverse community that can be served and as a result we can make San Francisco a better place starting with a forgotten neighborhood like ours.”

A majority of the Board of Supervisors voted in favor of the legislation Tuesday with Supervisors Myrna Melgar, Rafael Mandelman and Matt Dorsey against.

The library would also be along the District 7 border which Melgar represents.

“There is not a consensus and my job as a supervisor is to lead a community process where folks can come to the consensus about what we’re going to do with this very valuable 12-acres of open space that is publicly owned,” Melgar said. “It may be that a library is an appropriate use for some of that public space. I’m completely open to it but to prohibit the exploration of other spaces, to me, when we have not done the studies and when we have not engaged the constituents on my side, on District 7 side, to me, is not something I want to do.”

The ordinance was co-sponsored by District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton and District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen. Because the legislation was passed by a veto-proof majority, Breed does not have to sign it to be enacted.

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