“Tortured Path” of North Beach Library Project Comes to a Close

One proposal for re-purposing Mason Street as a park between the new North Beach Branch Public Library and Joe DiMaggio Playground. Courtesy Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects

Nearly two years after San Francisco reclaimed a short block of Mason Street in North Beach as a trial plaza, the SF Board of Supervisors yesterday approved the environmental impact report for the planned expansion of the North Beach Public Library.

The unanimous vote came as a relief to the majority of neighbors and some city supervisors who were eager to see the project come to fruition after being stalled by a handful of opponents.

“The tortured path of this project is in many ways symbolic of the dysfunctionality in land use in San Francisco,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener. “We have a highly popular, beautifully designed project to replace an outdated and inaccessible structure with a beautiful, usable and accessible new library; to create additional, much-needed open space in a densely populated neighborhood.”

“Any community would embrace and celebrate this project. Instead, a small group of opponents has stymied the broad community every step of the way,” he added.

The project involves creating a permanent open space on a 200-foot block of Mason Street that lies between the library’s current location and the triangle of land where it is expected to be moved. Doomsday traffic jam scenarios predicted by the persistent opponents were effectively debunked when traffic managers studied the impacts of the “closure” with a two-month long plaza trial in 2009.

“It not only helped to validate the analysis of the traffic impact, but really supported the notion that there was significant positive impact for the public for the increased open space,” said Ed Reiskin, the director of the Department of Public Works.

Wiener railed against attempts by the opponents to get the library nominated as a landmark, calling it a “disservice to historic preservation.”

“At some point, you come to the end of the road. We’re at the end of the road.”

  • Glad to hear sanity prevailed.

  • bs

    Amen Scott! So glad to have you represent district 8.

  • Patrick Moore

    The next bit that should be fixed in that neighborhood is the snippet of Powell on the NW corner of Washington Square. Get that combined with the square itself. And close Powell between Columbus and Union.

    I haven’t read the report but can anyone verify my personal bet that traffic actually improved as the result of eliminating the odd Mason/Columbus intersection?

    San Francisco should look at what NYC is doing with Broadway. Both Columbus and Broadway are these odd streets that cut across the grid, result in bad intersections and unsafe ped/vehicle interactions. ( http://articles.nydailynews.com/2010-02-11/local/27055965_1_pedestrian-zone-traffic-speeds-businesses )

    Hopefully someone is looking at following NYC and gradually returning Columbus to humans and not machines 

  • mikesonn

    There are plans in the works to address the horrible sidewalk conditions of Columbus. I can’t think of the website off hand, but I’m sure I have it somewhere buried in my email.

    That little stretch of Powell is really poorly lit and the Pagoda theater mess (the next great battle of NB now that library is hopefully settled) is really hurting that area. I think the new restaurant coming in will help but I hope the poor lighting and dead corner doesn’t put it at too much of a disadvantage.

  • @mikesonn:disqus I think this is the Columbus Avenue project you were looking for: http://www.sfcta.org/content/view/380/206/

  • mikesonn

    @c41dc132c0b311d07c00350f75a85294:disqus Yes, thanks!

  • Interesting about broken planning. Gabriel Metcalf of SPUR said as much to the WSJ too. I didn’t know, but I respect both of them…

  • Anonymous

    Good for NB!  

  • Maryloo_50

    This is NOT a small group of opponents. There are hundreds of us opposing this move.

  • Maryloo_50

    Walnut Creek is a great place to live.

  • Brandon

    Awesome, a new place for homeless to sleep!

  • mikesonn

    Did this just get linked in some SFGate story?

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