A New Oceanview Library Presents New Problems
|Current location of the Oceanview Library on Randolph Street
It has been decided that the present Oceanview Library on Randolph Street is too small and a new 20,000 square foot library should be built to replace it. Presently, the location the City favors is at the Brotherhood Way Greenbelt. Originally, the Greenbelt got its designation because there was historically a stream here, with organic soils and an earthquake fault. Today, the caution of building on a problem site has been dismissed.
In addition, the new Oceanview Library will be adjacent Orizaba Avenue, an extremely narrow street. To provide a public building here, would increase a traffic load to a street already overburdened. The neighbors in front of the new library would likely permanently loose parking in front of their homes. Safe to say, the more this library is successful, the more difficult traffic will be to overcome.
…the City is ignoring a large available site at 137 Broad Street. This site is 9,350 sq. ft. and includes a shuttered building and a large vacant side yard beside it. This site could easily provide the necessary space for the new library.”
Why Build In The Greenbelt?
One of the reasons the site was chosen is that the land is owned by the City, therefore, the purchase of land is not necessary. The land is described as “free”. However, numerous site problems will need to be addressed to build here. I believe the building of a library here would be the first step in further development of the Greenbelt for other City needs— e.g., Affordable Housing. Marc Christiansen, Vice President of METNA, has asked for a statement from the City, that no further development would occur on the Greenbelt in the future, if a new library is built here.
|Proposed location in the Greenbelt
The Greenbelt Construction Difficulties
• A signal light would need to be installed on Sagamore/Orizaba to slow down the pace of commuters and to channel vehicles into Orizaba Avenue at a manageable pace.
• The curb on the west side of Orizaba Avenue would need to be widened to allow easier access. (Eventually, houses will not allow any widening of Orizaba Avenue to correct traffic difficulties)
• A telephone pole on the side of the new library, would need to be removed.
• To build on organic soils with an earthquake fault, concrete piers would need to be part of the library’s foundation.
• Approximately 12 trees, with 24” diameters, would need to be removed with their root system.
• Since no building here is present, new gas, water, sewer and electricity will need to be installed.
• A lengthy EIR is required.
• The library would cast shadow on neighboring properties.
• A library at the Greenbelt provides no economic synergy with other businesses.
• Original zoning inhibiting building on the Greenbelt is being ignored.
Therefore, although the land is “free”, site conditions here make this site expensive to build on. Traffic solutions for the library will need to be polled by neighbors and may or may not be approved. The new library is 1-1/2 blocks away from the M streetcar, on a difficult grade for seniors or the disabled to walk to. Younger people that would walk to this site, will need to walk past the Oceanview Supermarket, where questionable people are present selling their wares. To walk to the new library at night, through the Greenbelt, could be like walking through Central Park in New York, where assaults regularly occur.
SFMTA: Engineering the Library’s Success?
For the library to be located at the Greenbelt on Orizaba Avenue, a traffic solution is required by the SFMTA. However, the SFMTA has shown itself to be clumsy in solving traffic problems. For example, the 54-bus travels up St. Charles St., which is very narrow, to go to Daly City BART. Last week, I saw 3 buses trapped there and unable to deliver their passengers because the congestion was so bad. A simple fix would be to have the 54-bus travel to BART by using John Daly Blvd, but this solution is ignored. SFMTA has designed numerous failed designs for the M streetcar along 19th Avenue over the years. One solution was to travel underground through the business district along West Portal Avenue. This would mean commuters could not see the local businesses —more pain for this business district. Another SFMTA plan was to skip the business district at the Lakeside Village. Then, to have an underground station at Mercy High School, creating a traffic jam of biblical proportions, as this station was being built. The point is, if this new Oceanview Library is dependent on a satisfactory solution from the SFMTA, that solution may not happen.
Ignoring a Better Site on Broad St.
|Alternate site on Broad Street
Choosing this site in the Greenbelt for the library, the City is ignoring a large available site at 137 Broad Street. This site is 9,350 sq. ft. and includes a shuttered building and a large vacant side yard beside it. This site could easily provide the necessary space for the new library. Already two existing barbershops, two family grocery stores and two churches would benefit from a library here with the increased foot traffic. Ironically, if the Oceanview Library returned to Broad and Plymouth Street, it would be returning close to the original location of the old library which was at Ana’s Market, a nearby grocery store.
Advantages of Broad Street Site
• No traffic gridlock is created with the library here.
• This location is beside a M streetcar stop.
• Walking to the library from the M streetcar stop is on flat ground.
• Demolition to prepare the site for construction would be easy.
• Sewer, water, gas and electricity are readily available.
• This site is closer to the Minnie and Lovie Ward Recreation Center.
• The Sheridan Elementary School is closer to this location.
• A library here would remove the blight of an abandoned building.
• This site would benefit a nascent business district with more foot traffic as the original library did at Ana’s Market.
• No EIR is required because a library was previously near here, in the not so distant past.
• Most importantly, a library on Broad street preserves the Brotherhood Greenbelt and preserves the original zoning given the site.
How Lame Are These Excuses?
Numerous poor excuses to not build on Broad St. are offered, and all the justifications for the less desirable site are made with misstatements and fiction.
One misstatement was the site was too small being only 5,000 sq. ft. in total. This information immediately dismissed this site as an alternative. However, this information was false. The Senior Architect, Andrew Sohn, visited the site and confirmed the site was 9,350 sq. ft.
The next excuse was that the land is zoned residential, not commercial. A stroke of the pen can change this designation. If zoning is a concern, the fact that the Greenbelt has been zoned off limits to development for over a century, should be an impediment.
Next excuse? The site should remain zoned residential because the City needs more residential housing. However, Oceanview district needs a more robust business district also. More residential housing could be gained by rebuilding at numerous shuttered businesses in the district, converting them into housing.
Another argument is that there is no parking at 137 Broad Street, but neither site has parking, and, the Greenbelt site has the intrinsic traffic problem of too narrow a street.
Recently, objections have been raised that the site is a single-story neighborhood presently and a two story library would not be allowed. Is the fact that nearly every house on this block is two stories irrelevant?
The last excuse was that 137 Broad Street was next to a previous crime scene where shootings had occurred. However, simply by the addition of a camera, shootings here have stopped. Sociologists believe eyes and foot traffic discourage crime. With the presence of a library here, and a greater police presence this can be mitigated.
The property on Broad St. would probably cost less than the cost of the improvements to the site on the Greenbelt, since it would include earthquake proofing, MTA changes on Sagamore, demolition of 12 trees and their root system, a telephone pole replacement, a lengthy EIR process, as well as running sewer, gas, electric and water lines to the new library. All of these improvements are expensive and not necessary on the Broad St. library site.
Another excuse is that the Broad St. location is not at the corner of the block. “All libraries are at the corner of the block,” we were told. However, the original library at Ana’s Market was not at the corner of the block. In this part of the OMI district, superblocks are very common, which reduces the opportunity to have intersections, as streets are as long six regular blocks. In a neighborhood with so few intersections, having a library at the corner is desired but difficult to provide. One neighbor explained, if 137 Broad was discovered to be the site of the new library, they would increase the price of the property, making this solution too expensive. Well, the City has had no hesitation in purchasing property in the Fillmore district, for half the true value of the real estate, during the restoration of the Fillmore. In the negotiations of real estate, the City can be very forceful, which could also include obtaining property by imminent domain.
CALL TO ACTION
The City continues to be in favor the site at Brotherhood Way Greenbelt. Oceanview residents and all San Franciscans need to contact and voice your disapproval:
Also. please ask sue.Blackman@sfpl.org at the Library Commission when the next outreach meetings will occur so you can be present and voice your opinion in person.
Glenn Rogers,RLA is a landscape architect living on the westside. See his website at alderlandscarearchitecture.com