February 19, 2003

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Hall Monitor

Reading books is fundamental: The Marina Library is among the first of 19 city branches scheduled for renovation next year as part of a $105.9 million bond measure that will also fund the construction of five new branches. As plans for its $3.9 million renovation begin to take shape, concerned Marina patrons are demanding that library officials not replace books with computers.

Library activist Peter Warfield was one of 28 patrons who attended a community meeting Jan. 21 with branch architects to request that the library renovation include obtaining more books and supplying additional places to read. Warfield told us that library officials want to reduce the number of books and ignore patrons who demand otherwise. Even though 64 percent of 362 Marina Library patrons surveyed in September said they want an increase in books and materials, library officials have publicly stated that purchasing more computers and advancing a citywide catalog system are among their top priorities.

Charlotte Breckenridge, a former economist at the Library of Congress, said library officials continue to misinterpret their own surveys. "They say computers are just as important as books to people when their own surveys show differently," she said. But city librarian Susan Hildreth told us many patrons enjoy information in all kinds of formats – including video, CD, and books on tape – and people shouldn't characterize the library as "just a place to get books." Hildreth said many people like to access information electronically. "We also need to have some computer access to information," she said.

But activists insist that books should be the library's primary concern in the Marina Branch renovation, since only 22 percent of the patrons surveyed said they visit the library to use the computers or access the Internet, while 74 percent said they come to check out books.

Plans for the Excelsior Branch Library renovation, which show the possible removal of 4,500 books to make room for lounges and computers, also have patrons worried. According to library activists, when the San Francisco Main Library moved to its current location in 1996, 200,000 to 500,000 books were permanently removed. The Library Commission will vote on the Excelsior Branch design at its next meeting, Thurs/20, 4 p.m., Main Library, Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin, S.F. (Shadi Rahimi)

No mercy ... yet: Call it the song that never ends. Lingba Lounge owner Cody Robertson must continue to wait to see if he can host DJ music at his popular Potrero Hill venue. Though the battle between the 18th Street club owner and the neighbors was expected to be resolved at a Jan. 29 Board of Appeals hearing, board members decided to delay a decision on Robertson's entertainment license after discovering the San Francisco Planning Department and the Police Department had locked Robertson in a catch-22, with each department blaming the other for the bureaucratic blunder (see "Is This Performance Art," 1/29/03).

Since there was no city Planning Commission for most of 2001 to hear Lingba's original permit request, the SFPD took the lack of action as a denial by the Planning Department. The Planning Department then canceled Lingba's discretionary review hearing, leaving Robertson at the mercy of the appeals board.

But the appeals board decided Jan. 29 that Robertson should have his chance before the Planning Department, followed by a hearing with the Police Department. In the meantime, Robertson, the Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association, and the San Francisco Late Night Coalition have agreed to sit down to a mediation session in the hopes of hammering out an agreement between Lingba and the neighbors who have long complained that it attracts loud, late-night crowds. (Corbett Miller)

Hearing from Harvey: Facing a massive, $350 million deficit, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is looking for guidance. Who better to ask than Harvey Rose, who has served as the board's steadfast budget analyst for some three decades. But now the board may hear from him about more than just the budget.

Board president Matt Gonzalez has introduced legislation that would free up Rose to take stronger positions on matters that affect the city's finances. Most often, when scoping out the economics of a proposal with political ramifications, Rose simply states in his report that the issue is "a policy matter" up to the supervisors to decide. But with Gonzalez's legislation, Rose would be able to make recommendations whenever he sees fit. "I've seen steam coming out of your ears," Gonzalez remarked to Rose at the board's Feb. 11 meeting, referring to occasions when the supervisors are trying to make a decision and Rose apparently has a strong opinion on the matter. "I want to be able to empower the budget analyst to be able to weigh in more often." Sup. Gavin Newsom said earlier at the meeting that he thought the move might "hurt the credability" of Rose's office. It's true Rose has been careful to stay out of city politics, and he bristled at Newsom's comments. "Never, ever will my independence be impaired by a piece of legislation the board adopts," Rose said hotly. In the end Gonzalez decided to send the legislation to committee for further discussion. (Savannah Blackwell)