In many ways, the area around the Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial branch of the San Francisco Public Library is a microcosm of the quality of life concerns in the city.
Improvements, however, are in the works.
Last July, the library became the target of the city’s initial Fix-It efforts in the Castro, and just last month, barricades were deployed around the library to deter homeless encampments from cozying up around the library’s perimeter (the barricades were later removed because they weren’t compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act).
Roberto Lombardi, the library’s facilities director, and his staff are working with Public Works on a landscaping redesign that will help to mitigate concerns around the library.
“We can’t solve any issue that is related to homelessness,” said Lombardi. “We can only do our part to make improvements to the landscaping, lighting, and security around the library.”
Easy To Clean Landscaping
Public Works is reportedly working on a number of designs focused on improving the library’s parking lot and small plaza.
“Architects are working on the redesign of the exterior of the library to make it more inviting for library patrons,” Public Works’ Rachel Gordon wrote to us in an email. These designs will be presented to the community in roughly three to four weeks, Lombardi added.
Although Gordon wasn’t able to share specific design features with Hoodline, Lombardi told us that the “non-controversial designs” will make the landscaping “easier to clean.”
As it has done for months, Public Works already power washes the sidewalks outside of the branch library on most mornings; however, the current landscape design reportedly promotes litter accumulation.
Lombardi said that design solution may include pavement features and decorative rocks.
“We’ll try to come up with something that works for us operationally as a library,” he said, “and meets the needs of as many people as possible.”
Lighting and Trees
A concern that is repeatedly raised by neighbors around the library is inadequate lighting.
Lombardi told us, however, that until a design is finalized, more lighting likely won’t be added to the building’s exterior.
Last year, trees on Pond Street were removed to improve lighting, which was a “big improvement,” noted Lombardi.
The ficus trees on the other side of the library, along Prosper Street, likely won’t be removed.
“They’ll probably be replaced by Public Works with a species that has a more open canopy,” Lombardi told us.
More Police, Added Hours, and Free Wifi
The Eureka Valley branch is looking to add more police presence at the library, and a recent request was put into Mission Station to have overtime officer support at the library during evenings.
“From a facility’s point-of-view,” Lombardi said, “it’s best when we can have people in the library to keep an eye on things.”
As such, the Castro branch library will expand its hours in June and will be open seven days a week (the library is currently closed on Sundays).
“We’ll be open on Sundays from 1-5pm,” said Michelle Jeffers, the library’s director of community programs and partnerships.
The announcement is part of a larger initiative to have all 28 branches of the library open seven days a week. The Eureka Valley and Visitacion Valley libraries will receive the largest bump in hours.
“Come June,” Jeffers said, “there won’t be a 24-hour period where staff aren’t in the library.”
When asked whether the branch library would consider turning off its 24 hour free wifi after hours, Jeffers said that conversations are happening.
Some neighbors believe that free wifi attracts overnight tent encampments.
“Our mission has always been to keep the library free and open access,” Jeffers said. “Shutting off the wifi would be a major shift in the way we’re doing that, and that decision hasn’t been made yet.”
“We’re not about keeping people out of the library,” Lombardi said. “We want to get people in the library.”
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