Supervisor Ahsha Safaí Urges Neighbors to Push for Ocean View Library Project

The lawmaker met with the Ocean View-Merced Heights-Ingleside neighbors to advance plans to upgrade the Ocean View Library.

A man stands before a table with people seated in a meeting room.
Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, standing, speaks before members of the Ocean View-Merced Heights-Ingleside community about getting the Ocean View Library rebuilt. | Anne Marie Kristoff/Ingleside Light

A small group of neighbors joined District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí at I.T. Bookman Community Center on Monday night to discuss how to advance plans to update the Ocean View Library.

The San Francisco Public Library set into motion last year plans to build a new three-story building on open space along Orizaba Avenue to fully replace the Randolph Street location, which is currently the smallest branch in the system. Neighbors have been eager for a larger branch that can offer more services for years.

However, the project is stalled while the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority conduct safety and traffic studies. The fast moving vehicle traffic in the area raised significant safety concerns from community members.

“I just wanted to open up a conversation [about] where this is, how important it is to the community and how I feel like we’ve been strung along for the last year and half,” Safaí said, adding that the Board of Supervisors’ Budget & Finance Committee has put money for this project in reserve until progress continues.

Safaí is running against London Breed for mayor. He made headlines on Monday and Tuesday for his connections to three real estate developers indicted by the federal government last week as part of the ongoing corruption crisis.

Safaí claimed that money is not the issue yet the Library Commission is looking for other locations to place the facility. The library disputes this assertion.

It is typical for the Real Estate Division to conduct analysis of potential sites for new government buildings and issue recommendations in a formal report so the taxpayers can get the best long term deal. It's unclear why that didn't happen from the outset in this case.

“I’m talking to churches and I.T. Bookman and other people and other places and they’re investigating other locations,” Safaí said. “I honestly feel like, in my opinion, it’s a waste of time and they’re just trying to run out the clock on my term in office.”

The library is following the recommendations outlined in the Planning Department’s Preliminary Project Assessment by monitoring traffic studies along Brotherhood Way and exploring other locations, according to Kate Patterson, the library's director of communications. There will also be an update on these efforts during the Library Commission’s meeting on Thursday. (A recording of the meeting is available on Youtube.)

Patterson added that one reason they have not been able to advance the project is due to funding. Funds allocated for the project through the 2025 fiscal year are $37.3 million of the $47 million. Though the cost was estimated in 2019 for 20,000 square feet, Patterson said that they anticipate with inflation and the cost of escalations that the figure will go up. The library is also continuing to save money from the Library Preservation Fund to support the development and construction of the new branch.

“We appreciate the supervisor's staunch support for the library and we share this goal of delivering a world-class facility for the Ocean View community,” Patterson said.

People around a table.
Alida Fisher, EJ Jones, Maurice Rivers and Al Harris attended the meeting about advancing the Ocean View Library upgrade project | Anne Marie Kristoff/Ingleside Light

Members of the Ocean View-Merced Heights-Ingleside community, including the dozen that attended the meeting, said they feel differently and are eagerly anticipating the library construction on the Orizaba Avenue open space.

Renard Monroe, Director of the nonprofit Youth 1st, said he is frustrated with the delays. He and his team have to rotate the amount of children they can bring to the current library because of its small size.

“We have to put pressure on them to do the right thing because it’s being stalled out purposely, because it’s a political game, right,” Monroe said. “This is something that when you [Safaí] came into office, this is one of the things that you took on immediately to get our library done. It has nothing to do with him running for mayor. It has nothing to do with any of that. It has everything to do with us getting the library that our children deserve, that our community deserves, that we need right now.”

Attendees also expressed how their talks with the Library Commission have gone unheard.

“This is just another pattern of disinvestment in the south side of the city in our district that has the most working families,” said Alida Fisher, a neighbor and member of the Board of Education. “We don’t have the multi-millionaires who are going to invest in a lot of big and shiny ways but we do have the folks who are committed to San Francisco, who’ve lived here generation after generation.”

“We've done our part and they're [the Library Commission] all smiling and looking nice,” said Mary Harris, a leader of the OMI Neighbors in Action neighborhood group. “What do I say differently that's going to make them pay attention to the community?”

Safaí’s solution: Organize the community and advocate at City Hall to speak during the public comment segment of a Board of Supervisors meeting.

“There're a lot more reporters,” Safaí said. “There's a lot more people paying attention. You can come up to City Hall with a very clear message like stop playing games with our library. The money's there.”

Several people agreed with this idea and further planning is being discussed.

“The library serves us in so so many ways,” said Nicky Trasvina, a member of the D11 Democratic Club. “It’s got so much to offer and we need to pull all the people that have used the library for different resources to speak. We need to let them know that this is going on.”

Correction: This article has been updated to correct a statement from the library about the project's funding.

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