As New North Beach Library Opens, Lawsuit Challenging Its Construction Is Rejected

Three days after a gala ribbon-cutting ceremony at the $14.5 million new North Beach Branch Library in San Francisco, a state appeals court rejected a lawsuit challenging its construction.

A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal unanimously ruled that the city’s project to build the new branch and demolish an old one was given adequate environmental review and did not violate the city’s Charter or General Plan.

“The city could reasonably conclude the project would further the objectives and policies of the General Plan related to parks and open space,” Justice Maria Rivera wrote for the court.

The project was challenged in a lawsuit filed in 2011 by Friends of Appleton-Wolfard Libraries and the Coalition for a Better North Beach Library and Playground in 2011.

The appeals court upheld a similar decision issued in 2012 by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Teri Jackson in favor of the city.

The newly built 8,500-square-foot library at 850 Columbus Ave. opened on Saturday after a ribbon cutting by Mayor Ed Lee at a ceremony attended by City Librarian Luis Herrera and an array of city officials.

It will replace a former branch, which is still standing, built in 1959 on an adjacent parcel of land at 2000 Mason St.

The previous branch was constructed in a mid-century modernism style by Appleton & Wolfard Architects of San Francisco and is one of eight branch libraries the firm built in the city between 1951 and 1966.

The city is planning to demolish it and use the site to expand and improve the Joe DiMaggio Playground.

The two neighborhood groups challenged both the construction of the new building and the demolition of the existing building, which their lawsuit calls “an undisputed historical resource.” They contend the city should have given more consideration to renovating the older building and expanding it in a northerly direction.

The Mason Street building was in use until early April, when it was closed so that books could be moved to the new structure, according to library spokeswoman Michelle Jeffers.

Last week, the appeals court blocked the demolition of that building, with the exception of asbestos removal activities, until June 23 to give the groups time for a possible appeal to the California Supreme Court.

Their lawyer, Paul Carroll, was not available for comment today on whether they will appeal.

Jeffers said, “We’re certainly thrilled we have a brand new North Beach library that people are already using heavily.”

The new building is 60 percent larger, seismically safe and accessible to people with disabilities, she said.

It is the 24th and final branch library to be built or remodeled through the Branch Library Improvement Program, a $105.9 million bond measure approved by city voters in 2000, Jeffers said.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!