Rachel Anderson joined the rally Tuesday evening outside City Hall. Photos: Tracey Taylor

Around 100 people turned out to a rally outside city hall Tuesday evening to express their support of continuing planned renovations to two Berkeley libraries, despite a lawsuit which argues that the city does not have the right to tear down and rebuild the west and south branches.

The rally, which took place at 6:00pm before the regular City Council meeting, was organized by a group calling itself New Libraries Now.

“The West and South branch libraries are incredibly important,” said Rachel Anderson who was holding a placard at the rally. “They are the last remaining community centers in the city.” Referring to the Concerned Library Users lawsuit, she said: “I am deeply worried that such a small number of people can have a large amount of power.”

Member of the Board of Library Trustees Winston Burton addressing the rally

Several speakers spoke to the assembled crowd. Board of Library Trustees member Winston Burton said the community deserved to get what it paid for. “We want our libraries to be green, beautiful and accessible,” he said.

“We want good-quality libraries for all of Berkeley, not just some of Berkeley,” said councilmember Linda Maio, referring to the fact that work has already begun on remodeling the Claremont and north Berkeley libraries.

The rally was organized by a group calling itself New Libraries Now

Councilmember Max Anderson asked which side of history people wanted to be on. “Do we want to stand outside the library door or facilitate development of resources for the city?” he said.

And councilmember Laurie Capitelli spoke of the “hundreds if not thousands” of hours of meetings that had preceded the decision to renovate the libraries. “The voters have said spend the money. No one, no one said stop at any of these meetings. It was only later that a small group of obstructionists appeared.”

Other speakers included David Snyder, executive director of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation, and Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, president of the Berkeley Unified School District board.

Related:
Rally planned to draw attention to library lawsuit [4.25.11]
Debate on the future of two city libraries sparks concerns [4.14.11]

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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123 Comments

  1. Todd Jersey clarified the facts about the Plunge in his letter to the City Council.  He initially said he could do a partial renovation for $4 million.  He ended up doing a full renovation for $8 million – which includes solar and energy efficient technology that will pay back the extra cost in energy savings.

    And they did the full renovation because Jersey helped do the fund-raising needed to raise that $8 million.

    As he writes:

    “The Plunge did cost $8,000,000 to build (though under my leadership the
    Plunge now has almost a million dollars of solar and energy efficient
    technology and therefore, in essence, I brought the project in way under
    what was originally budgeted) but I never claimed at any time that I
    could do a 50 year complete historic restoration for less than that. I
    did claim I could re-open the pool for $4,000,000 but not a full
    historic restoration. We ended up doing a full restoration only because I
    was active in helping to raise money for the project.”

     

  2. Hmmm. Interesting.

    I certainly didn’t see it, and nobody linked to it here…

    I’m surprised that nobody would have added that information to this ongoing discussion as soon as it was available.

  3. Thanks for the clarification, Mrs. O’Malley.
    You are correct in stating that I was incorrect! 🙂

    Still doesn’t change the fact that the project you and others who support renovation instead of replacement ended up costing more than twice as much as originally estimated.

    But ultimately I suppose this is all moot thanks to the City Council’s ordinance changes.

  4. No, you’ve confused (see your previous post) Richmond City Councilman TOM Butt with Berkeley architect TODD Jersey. My information was in response to Linda’s assertion that Tom Butt could confirm her charge that the Richmond Plunge had cost $8 million. TOM BUTT did confirm the cost (other sources said $7.5 million, but what’s a half-mill among friends) but he (still TOM BUTT) said that he thought the city had gotten its money’s worth, given changes etc. as the project progressed, as some other architect also noted somewhere on this thread. Technically Todd Jersey didn’t underestimate the cost as the project was originally specified, but the project changed, as projects often do, c.f. the North Branch in Berkeley. One source said a part of the extra cost was some new stuff which TOM BUTT himself asked to have added. I’m doing more checking which I will possibly post elsewhere.

  5. So what you’re saying is that he admits that his project for the Richmond Plunge cost over twice what he estimated?

    I’m glad that the City of Richmond is happy with the way the Plunge turned out and I think the finished product looks excellent, but all this does is prove that the City is almost certainly correct when they say that Mr. Jersey underestimated the cost of the renovation of the two libraries.

  6. Berkeley has a very active Architectural Heritage movement. Yet the
    arguments that occur regarding the maintainance of historic structures
    rarely take into account one of the most serious considerations; that of
    building technology and public safety. Buildings have appearances that
    are important but they are also structural entities, and the
    professional understanding of building technology has changed
    monumentally and continually in the last century. Unfortunately this
    understanding is not widely shared in the public sphere, including, it
    seems, among those who advocate for historic preservation.

    All buildings are first and foremost structural entities. If they
    can be made beautiful that is a plus. But it cannot be the most
    important concern when there are issues of safety. Many older buildings
    are built in a way that is completely out of date with regard to their
    materials and to contemporary seismic engineering requirements. New
    building engineering is as different as a modern automobile, say a Lexus
    Hybrid, is to a Model T Ford. Driving a Model T on a freeway, no
    matter how well loved, would be very dangerous. Using old buildings
    with outdated structures in a seismically active area is also
    dangerous. We in Berkeley will face a very large seismic earthquake,
    and public buildings should, above all, be able to survive such an event
    and even provide refuge for the many people who will lose their homes.
    Trying to effectively reinforce old buildings can be next to impossible
    and extremely expensive to achieve as it would be to try to make our
    beloved Model T into an effective modern automobile. This means we
    have to let some buildings go.

    Fortunately in Berkeley we have spent the money that is required to
    retrofit and rebuild many of our dangerous public buildings. We are
    about to do the same for the West and South Branches of the Berkeley
    Public Library.

    There are various concerns that have made it desirable to replace both
    of these structures including handicapped accessibility and outdated
    systems of all kinds. Structurally they are not sound and this should
    be of utmost concern to us all. Although there are elements we can all
    appreciate in these old structures, demolishing them to get effective
    foundations, to replace masonary walls with wood frame and steel and to
    have engineered structures
    calculated to safely withstand 7 point or higher earthquakes
    should allow us to look forward to our new accessible, green buildings most eagerly.

    In closing, I hope that the Concerned Library Users will look into
    the above issues as well as the expense to the City and the library
    system of lawsuits and allow the library system to move forward.

    CANDACE HYDE-WANG

  7. I agree completely. Anderson has a bad attitude, and often behaves in a way that is unbecoming for a public official.

    I agree with your assessment, I was merely pointing out that the way that Lori Kossowsky framed her complaint was a little strange.

  8. Sharkey says:

    Perhaps if the BDP had posted their article from the 27th earlier than today

    They did. Round about the 27th, as I recall. That’s around when I read it on their front page. It is carried over from last week’s “post publication breaking news” to a regular piece this week. To help people who missed it the first time around catch up.

  9. It may be bizarre for her to criticize him, but I don’t think it is bizarre for me to criticize him by saying his approach is counterproductive.

    If a councilmember phones a constituent and talks in a way that makes the constituent stop him by terminating the call (or feel he is bullying her if she doesn’t terminate the call), I don’t think that councilmember is acting effectively.

  10. Perhaps if the BDP had posted their article from the 27th earlier than today (or if Berkeleyside had covered it at all), we might have read about it.

    It’s not hard to miss the news, when none of the local news sources are covering it.

  11. It seems a bit bizarre to attack Council Member Anderson because he “would not stop” during his phone call.
    He may have been behaving badly, but she had the power to stop him at any moment just by terminating the call.

  12. I asked Tom via email, two questions: Is the cost stated above correct? Yes
    And did Richmond get what it paid for? Yes. Everyone I know there seems thrilled with the results.

  13. And I believe this is just a change in the zoning law that allows the projects to proceed without zoning variances. It does not address the issue of how Measure FF funding may be spent, though councilmembers and speakers talked about Measure FF.

    I think this quotation from the account of the hearing in the Planet article reveals a lot about the personalities involved:

    Lori Kossowsky spoke next. She told the council that that Max Anderson, her councilmember, had called her in what she described as an undisclosed ex-parte discussion on an issue that would later come before the Council.

    Anderson was “really yelling at me about the people who filed the lawsuit and he just went on and on and I am not part of the lawsuit. He was bullying me…”

    “Bullying!” Anderson said from the dais.

    “Yeah, when you don’t let me get a word in edgewise, that’s what it’s called,” Kossowsky retorted. “You’re not supposed to be interrupting me” during public testimony, she added.

    Anderson, Kossowsky said, “would not stop” when he called her to complain about the lawsuit.

    “I have trusted Max and have been proud to have him as my representative, but this was uncalled for…and not provoked. And it’s been clear that you have already made up your mind from the library projects because of this phone call.”

    [I don’t think that trying to bulldoze constituents who disagree with you is an effective way to get things done, particularly since it looks like the council is creating possible grounds for another lawsuit. It is more effective to ignore constituents than to phone constituents and not let them get a word in edgewise – which only gets them mad at you.]

  14. CLU is pretty savvy, they probably projected this as one possibility.
    The pattern of abuses of power in Berkeley governance is what lead to CLU suit in the first place.

  15. Wow! I agree with what they did, but not at all in the way they did it.
    Seems like a pretty major abuse of their power.

    How did this get past the Concerned Library Users???

  16. Good libraries are designed by librarians, particularly those trained in media and technology services.

  17. Excellent opinion piece by Christopher Adams (former president of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation and Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association) about the accusations of racism in the Library issue, and some interesting background on the history and problems associated with the South Branch Library.

    http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2011-04-27/article/37764?headline=Library-Obstruction.-If-It-s-Not-Racism-What-is-It-Opinion-

    As much as I may dislike the sometimes-biased nature of the reporting in the Berkeley Daily Planet I cannot help but admire their willingness to publish virtually all letters they receive even when these letters directly conflict with articles previously posted by the Planet.

  18. Long after whatever is built has faded into the familiar, the programs and services these libraries provide will determine their value. How quaint, it is the cover and not the contents which consumes our nobel amateurs.

  19. The architect for the library was not wrong about the cost. The bids came in higher than the city wanted and they changed some of the finishes to bring down costs. The city has accepted a bid on the North Branch now. It is closed and construction will start soon.

  20. Given that kind of track record, I suppose it’s not surprising that the independent auditors the City of Berkeley hired showed that Tom Jersey’s projected costs of the renovations to the Berkeley libraries was several million lower than the actual costs would be.

  21. Hello, Becky O’Malley, Executive Editor of the Berkeley Daily Planet. Looks like you accidentally posted under your pseudonym again. It doesn’t upset me that you’re a teensy bit hypocritical about commenting on articles. I just think it’s interesting to point out.

    “Person-years” is a new phrase to me. Does it have some special meaning, or are you just slamming two words together with a hyphen?

    1990 was 20 years ago. Even if they were working on convincing the City of Berkeley in 1999, that’s still over a decade ago. The BLPC and the BAH aren’t the ones waging legal battle against the City of Berkeley on this issue. Where were the CLU members in the last 10-20 years? It’s not like the addition to the front of the West Branch has been getting any less ugly in the last 11 years.

  22. A year? That’s super-quick for a large project like these. You really think all this legal wrangling will be fully resolved, and the bids will be re-done (GCs won’t hold their numbers for a year!), and everyone will be ready to mobilize a year from now? That’s overly optimistic in my opinion.

    And PS – the architect doesn’t set or manage the budget. It is the owner (city of Berkeley) working with their own PMs who do that.

  23. Is there some place online where one could read a concise summary of the age, size, and appearance of the existing buildings and of each of the competing proposals for both branch library projects? I’d just like to see this information in one place, organized for easy comparison. This wouldn’t answer all the process questions, like 1) whether CLU should have been involved earlier in the process or 2) whether officials deliberately avoided using the word “demolition” in order to increase the chances of passing measure FF. But it might help us all evaluate argument (e.g., by Charles Siegel) that the benefit of preventing the City from moving forward with its current plan (e.g., having buildings with a different appearance) would be worth the cost (delay, legal costs, potential loss of project funding and possible project cancellation). I admit that I’m very skeptical that it would be.

  24. “f they had simply moved to change that facade at some point in the last few decades, a majority of residents could have been able to see the original building, and might agree with them that it deserves saving.”

    I’m tempted to sign this “Fact Based”, but I’ll resist because it seems to upset some. The fact, however, is that the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission and Berkeley Architectural Heritage devoted many, many person-years to trying to persuade the city of Berkeley to un-re-muddle the West Branch. If you don’t believe me, go to the Planning Department and read the whole saga in the LPC minutes for the late 1990s..

  25. Quickly? The South and West branch libraries cannot begin construction until the North and Claremont libraries are complete, now scheduled for February 2012 and the second quarter of 2012 respectively. It will probably be later because the architect for the North was wrong about the costing for the project.

    Why did library officials choose to do the North and Claremont libraries FIRST, when the other two are in such an unsafe condition? – at least that’s what we are being told.

  26. Well, this is all to me a big waste of time and resources. While this gets tied up for years in legal wrangling, we in North Berkeley are going to have a nice upgraded library well before it ever gets resolved. It would be nice if the South and West could have new libraries too quickly so their populations could use and enjoy them, but with this massive delaying tactic underway I am not holding my breath that they will get this any time soon.

  27. It isn’t just that demolition wasn’t mentioned in the bond measure. Replacement of the buildings also wasn’t mentioned. And here’s the most important part. It was promised over and over again that renovation would include restoration and refurbishment of historic features. I don’t see how those words could just get thrown in repeatedly unless it was a deliberate effort to deceive.

  28. This is a naive comment. Demo isn’t free, and can be dangerous if not done correctly. Especially in locations where walls are adjacent to other occupied structures. Demo is not that cheap either, but it’s one thing you don’t cut corners with.

  29. I am an architect and CPM. Having done lots of renovations, I strongly believe that they typically end up way more expensive than new construction. Dealing with hidden conditions, and problematic issues of upgrading, integrating new to old, (etc) are ways to quickly blow a budget. They can be simply money pits.

    That said, your comment isn’t entirely fair to Mr. Jersey. There are many reasons why a project can go well over budget having nothing to do with the architect or the plans (as well as many reason why bad plans can indeed push up costs). Without knowing the circumstances it is impossible to know the drivers for why the project is over budget. Blaming him is not fair.

    But here’s the other thing – he is an architect, not a CPM as far as I know, and may not have the skills to be a great estimator. Many architects don’t do estimating and are not great at it. Just because he gives you a number doesn’t mean it is in any way accurate. I would not trust his estimate for the library job.

  30. More specifically, why didn’t the participate in the planning for the west and south branches during the last two and a half years, rather than jumping in the a lawsuit and alternative, more expensive, plans after the planning was over and the neighborhoods had said what they prefer?

  31. Yes, the word demolition is not in the Measure FF language. The city did screw up, and knows it. But is that a good reason to deny the people of west and south Berkeley the library branches they have asked for and worked on with the library trustees and the City for the past two and a half years? I don’t think so. I think it’s selfish. Not racist. Selfish and small minded.

  32. And, Todd Jersey told the City of Richmond he could do the Richmond Plunge for something around $3M. On the basis of that pitch, the City dumped the firm that had been working on the Plunge and hired Jersey. The cost is now at more than $8M and he’s still sending the City of Richmond bills. For more information contact Richmond City Councilmember Tom Butt.

  33. Thanks, Laura! I will check them out the next time I am in the Library. Which will probably be tomorrow.

    Thank you again for all you do, both here on Berkeleyside and in Berkeley’s City politics as a whole.

    We don’t always agree, but I am very glad to have your voice be a part of the discussion here in Berkeley.

  34. a book titled “the Cities Wealth” and Joseph Lyford ” The Berkeley Archipelago” the lbrary has the latter, which is an excellent history of a decade of neighborhood interviews and covering both the school board and city council. The roots of the current political climate are described in detail. You will laugh and cry at how little has changed.

  35. How much can it cost to demo the buildings? I bet the City could get it done for free. If the issue is really over the language of the bond measure, specifically that demolition is not mentioned and thus not allowed, then why doesn’t the City use other funds or arrangements to demo the buildings, and use the bond money for reconstruction? If the issue is simply poor wording, it seems like someone should be able to come up with a way around it. These political and legal maneuverings are exhausting.

  36. The South Berkeley branch is expected to perform poorly in a major eartyh quake and any attempt to address the earthquake safety issues will change the character of the building. So unless you are comfortable with putting the library users and staff at risk you will end up with a building that will not be the historical building that the CLU claims to want to preserve.

    Keeping the existing building will not only cost more but it will also place constraints on the ability of the remodeled library to meet the needs of the users.

    It is time to move beyond the mistrust of the city and conspiracy theories and take a position clearly in support of the current library plan.

  37. With the loss of the State Department of Health, Berkeleyans should decide on what is the current “Ugliest Building in Berkeley” Certainly NOT the West Library; it’s too modest in scale to have a big impact.

    I suggest the building on the NE corner of University and 9th.

    It is however one of the few (if only) examples of the “Brutalist” style in town. Should it be preserved?

    Perhaps a more accurate description would be Maginot Pillbox.

    Nominations?

  38. I agree.

    Why didn’t these preservationists complain about the addition that dramatically altered the look of the building?

    Why didn’t these preservationists band together at any point in the last few decades to demand that the addition be removed so that the people of Berkeley could admire the fine and magnificent architecture hidden behind it?

    For all the complaints they make about “ugly” architecture in Berkeley, the current facade of the West Berkeley Branch is one of the ugliest buildings in the city. Why didn’t they try to do anything about it until now?

  39. Yes, but my question is why the concerned and dedicated members of the CLU who care so very, very deeply about these libraries, completely ignored them until now.

    The West Branch has had that awful, awful facade for as long as I’ve lived in Berkeley. If they really think the library hiding behind it is so wonderful, why were they content to let it be obscured by one of the ugliest building additions ever made in Berkeley? If they had simply moved to change that facade at some point in the last few decades, a majority of residents could have been able to see the original building, and might agree with them that it deserves saving.

    But I agree with you completely about Max Anderson. And I agree completely that the authors of Measure FF should have known better than to write such awful legislation. It is very difficult to see the wording of Measure FF as anything less than intentionally misleading.

    But it is also unfortunate that some minority obstructionist groups in Berkeley hold so much control over the legislative process in this city that anyone would feel the need to write misleading legislation to avoid their wrath.

  40. The Richmond Plunge was and is significantly more historically important than either the South or West branch libraries.

    It seems like Todd Jersey has done some great work in the past, but his sketches and plans for these two libraries look like undergraduate student work. With a portfolio like his, I have a hard time believing that those poor-quality renderings are the best he can do. It feels like he farmed the rendering work out to interns or something.

  41. Ugghhh. I’ve spent too much time pouring over original source material. The letter from architect Todd Jersey, which is also included in the Final EIR, is worthy of a read. Unfortunately, it did have the effect of juxtaposing images of a filled Willard Pool and the Richmond Plunge in my mind.
    http://www.toddjerseyarchitecture.com/artman2/uploads/1/Letter_to_Aaron_Sage_January_31__2011.pdf
    His EIR rebuttal does allow you to see where the BAHA types are coming from. And said BAHA types, I would recommend you find a large image of the 1923 West Branch facade to rally around and use in media communications. The Todd Jersey sketch of the building is nice, but people need to see what you are fighting for…

  42. “I think their motive is obvious: they are lovers of historic architecture, nothing more sinister than that. No need for any long investigation to understand that”

    Actually, Mr. Siegel, I don’t know this to be true. And the reason I don’t is that the people who are so opposed refuse — as noted by Mr. Johnson — to engage in any dialogue. Whoever they are, however many of them they are, the *appearance* of their actions encourage speculation of their motives.

  43. If the members of the members of the CLU are “lovers of historic architecture, nothing more sinister than that” then why haven’t they been clamoring to have the ugly addition removed from the front of the West Branch in the decades since it was added?

    If they really love that architecture so much, why did they completely ignore it until now?

    You may be right and some of the members of the CLU are simply architecture buffs, but it seems like others in the group are people who voted and campaigned against Measure FF. It seems like they’re just angry that a parcel tax they were against passed and are trying to kill the Measure using the courts.

  44. “Those who want the renovation of the libraries to move forward are looking to understand the motivations of CLU and unfortunately it’s far to easy for people to conclude the issue is about race and/or class.”

    I think their motive is obvious: they are lovers of historic architecture, nothing more sinister than that. No need for any long investigation to understand that.

    I myself often disagree with Berkeley’s preservationists, some of whom oppose all change. But in this case, I think they are right, and I think it is worth having a bit of a longer process to get a much better result.

    The libraries that we build because of these decisions will be there for many decades, maybe for centuries. I don’t think that the people using them 20 or 30 years from now will be happy to have an inferior building because the people in 2011 shouted “better libraries now” and were not willing to take a bit more time to come up with a better design.

    “What solutions are CLU willing to bring to the table to avoid the lawsuit, saving taxpayer dollars that could best be used to serve the community?”

    We don’t know what they are proposing. Negotiations about the lawsuit are private.

    I myself think that the changes to the design of the Public Safety Building years ago are a good model for a compromise in this case.

    The library and city council might do better if they tried to find this sort of compromise solution, rather than trying to vilify and to bulldoze the opposition. There is certainly as much hostility and unwillingness to compromise among the people running this rally as there is among the CLU. I don’t see the CLU saying things like “you are racists, so I won’t even deal with you.”

    “I have a hard time believing that if the word “demolition” had been included in Measure FF, the CLU group would not have filed the lawsuit.”

    If the word “demolition” had been included, they would have campaigned against the measure, and they would have had a very good chance of defeating it.

    Measure FF passed with 67.71 percent of the vote, just barely more than the two-thirds majority needed. The ballot argument actually said “Renovations will preserve and restore the historic architectural features at the branch libraries,” which tells me that the backers of the initiative realized they needed to attract preservationists to pass the initiative.

    You seem to be saying that preservationists shouldn’t have a chance to make their point during the ballot campaign, because of this “mistake” in the initiative’s wording. And they shouldn’t have a chance to make their point after the campaign because, as you say, the voters wanted “improved libraries” – which means that the voters must support demolition, even though they never voted for it.

    “the root of the problem – the arrogance that they know best for the entire community and that if they can’t have their way, they will use their considerable resources to force their will on the rest of Berkeley”

    I think the root of the problem is that democracy involves the rule of law, and demolition supporters want to ignore the law. I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that they are ignoring the law by:

    — ignoring the plain meaning of the text of Measure FF.
    — having ex parte conversations about a matter where they are acting in a quasi-judicial capacity, and even attending a rally where they announce their conclusion about the issue before they have heard the evidence at a public hearing.

    What would you think about a judge who speaks at a rally calling for a defendant to be convicted, before he presides over the case in court? Would you say that it is okay because the people of Berkeley want to stop crime?

    That seems to be the argument that demolition proponents are making. It is okay to ignore the law, because we are doing what the people of Berkeley want. Seems to me like an attempt at mob rule.

  45. It doesn’t seem that it was “covered up” so much as it was simply a victim of an ill considered addition of an HDA legal access ramp. Certainly no attempt to integrate the ramp into the existing building was made. A minor addition of floor space was tacked on to the front.

    I remember when I was a kid, upon seeing the original facade thinking that the City took its Libraries seriously, to build such a lovely little building in what was a distinctly poorer part of town.

    I don’t know if the existing building can be suitably modified at a reasonable cost. I don’t share Charles’ disaffection with modern styles, and I think that the program is more important than saving an old building at any cost.

    We should all regard the previous addition to the West Branch as a cautionary tale; preservation is not necessarily obstructionism. The original building deserved more respect.

    In regards to the CLU suit however I think it is dog-in-the-manger obstructionism, and I have no respect for those who have brought this lawsuit anonymously.

  46. Not to mention, how long has it been that way (hidden by a facade indistinguishable from the Holiday Inn next door)? And where were our stolid preservationists then? Also, I agree with enc above, had the measure been written just right, would there still be a lawsuit? Probably. Is taking this extremely divisive (not to mention “know it all”) stand worth throwing one-time monies down the drain? I agree with Chip Johnson when, to paraphrase, he said let the folks behind CLU speak to the people in the neighborhoods who want the libraries to be re-built, and present a convincing argument to them as to why preservation is more important. The meeting could be facilitated by a non-partisan outsider and have strict behavioral rules so as to keep the dialog civil…

  47. Is there anywhere I can go to read more about Bates & Co.? Other than the BDP?

    I’m interested in finding out more about them, but most of what I find seems to be in the BDP and they’re too biased for my tastes.

  48. One has to wonder why, if the building hidden behind it is really all that wonderful, it was covered up in the first place.

    If they do go the demolition route, I hope they at least allow Ohmega Salvage or a similar business to reclaim parts of the building for use in other projects.

  49. I agree about race baiting, it can distract from the issue and add unnecessary tensions – particularly in Berkeley.

    However, unfortunately in this case, it’s a far too easy to make a case about race and/or class to sway others. Why? Because the CLU group is using a very petty tactic to derail and undermine a project that is greatly needed by the poorer sections of the community. This seems mean-spirited and is frankly confusing. Those who want the renovation of the libraries to move forward are looking to understand the motivations of CLU and unfortunately it’s far to easy for people to conclude the issue is about race and/or class. Obviously, whomever files a lawsuit like this has the money available to pay their lawyers and drag this out.

    I have a hard time believing that if the word “demolition” had been included in Measure FF, the CLU group would not have filed the lawsuit. Really?! No one is able to predict what the outcome would have been had Measure FF been written better, but it is fair to say that the voters did vote for safer, disabled accessible and improved libraries available for all of Berkeley. That much is clear. That said, does this lawsuit really best serve the community, or just a few anonymous members of CLU?

    What solutions are CLU willing to bring to the table to avoid the lawsuit, saving taxpayer dollars that could best be used to serve the community? Oh right, they offered their own design, far more expensive to implement, but at least it fits within their all too important aesthetic and preservationist vision. This is obviously the root of the problem – the arrogance that they know best for the entire community and that if they can’t have their way, they will use their considerable resources to force their will on the rest of Berkeley by throwing a lawsuit at the City of Berkeley. Is this really for the greater good?! Unfortunately those who must pay are the very citizens who live in the poorer areas of town, who need safer, disabled accessible and improved libraries.

  50. “[Concerned Library Users], is all-Caucasian”

    Imagine how you would react if Max Anderson said he was against Concerned Library Users because it is “all Chinese” or “all Jewish”?

    I think Anderson has discredited himself with this sort of race baiting. It says nothing about what library design is best. If you are not capable of responding to the message, then your last resort is to attack the messenger – and the most divisive form of this last resort is to attack the messenger because of his race.

  51. The west branch is ugly from the outside, as you say. But the people you talked to may not know that there is a neo-classical building hidden behind that ugly 1970s facade.

  52. I stand corrected. From now on, I will blame the Board of Library Trustees for the bad design.

  53. I don’t disagree.

    Johnson recently wrote a piece about the wonders of city budgeting ala Bates.

    The recent Chronicle coverage on guns at BHS was lame.
    We have supplied numerous stories to the Chron about school safety, none have ever been written.

    During the climate action plan process the city made a similar error, homeowners were concerned that would be required to make costly changes to their homes. Chron reporter covering Berkeley at the time Carolyn Jones reported the story accurately based on a careful review of the language in the city’s plan. She was immediately attacked publicly by the council, the push back from homeowners was blamed on inflammatory reporting, while at the same time council worked feverishly to change the offended language in the CAP.

    The only other Chronicle reporter to ever allow opposing views in the paper was Patrick Hoge. In 2004 his reporting helped defeat four new tax measures based on sound review of the city budget policies.

    Standard operating procedures in a one party town.

  54. Yes, the authors of the measure screwed up by having insufficiently precise wording and leaving themselves open to lawsuits from obstructionist minority groups like the Concerned Library Users. The writing in Measure FF was terrible. That’s why I think they should put a question on the next ballot asking Berkeley residents if they approve of using the funds for demolition & new construction at the West & South branches. They mentioned “construction” as one of the things the funds would be spent on, but they should have clarified in the measure that different branches would need different approaches depending on the condition of the buildings.

    http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Clerk/Elections/Measure%20FF%20Library%20Bond.pdf

    I don’t know much about Johnson or Bates. Johnson may be a Bates supporter for all I know. But all the Berkeleyans I’ve talked to in the not-internet about this issue favor going with the demolition, mostly because of cost, but also because both buildings are pretty ugly from the outside right now. Especially the West branch.

  55. Johnson writes investigative pieces on Oakland that often get at some underlying truths, but in covering Berkeley he is decidedly a Bates supporter.

    The city screwed up, read the measure.

  56. Chip Johnson wrote an article about this in the Chronicle today.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/04/29/BAKS1J9DQR.DTL&tsp=1

    “[Concerned Library Users], is all-Caucasian and includes several members who live outside Berkeley, Anderson said. Only two live in the neighborhood where the library would be built, he added.”

    “Even more galling to Anderson, who is African American, is that the group has employed legal tactics used in the civil rights movements to protect the plaintiffs’ identities and block a worthwhile project in a predominantly minority community, he said.”

    “And after two years of public meetings on the project, this group of people who stand in the shadows and impose their will on a city of 112,000 residents should be fought with every ounce of resolve city officials can muster.”

  57. The West Branch Library was built in 1923, not in the 1960s. According to the EIR for the Branch Libraries Program, the 1923 portion is in the Classical Revival style. Most of the original building is still there under the blocky additions that were added in the 1970s.

    I agree with everything Susan Kuchinskas said, above.

  58. Neither the west nor the south branch – the ones in dispute – are in any way even remotely Beaux Arts in style. They are basically 1960’s boxes. OK as it goes, but not very historical or interesting.

  59. You make a good point, Susan! And I’m glad the CLU got the City to have an Independent Auditor take a serious look at the proposed renovation plans and compare them to the demo/rebuild plans. Unfortunately (and a bit surprisingly) rehabbing the buildings would cost more than a straight demo & rebuild.

    I think you’d have a very hard time arguing that the West or the South (especially the South!) branch libraries are as architecturally significant as the Paramount Theater or the Becketts building.

    The argument really comes down to opinion. Do we spend more money to try to save “cool” buildings with “character” or do we spend less money to build something from scratch that will better suit the changing function of libraries but that is in a style that Berkeley’s architectural connoisseurs dislike?

  60. Why insist on renovation? Because these are two cool buildings with tons of character — the kind of buildings that give Berkeley its charm. Why didn’t they tear down the Paramount Theater in Oakland? Why didn’t they tear down Becketts? For that matter, why aren’t they tearing down the North Library?

  61. Nobody is saying we don’t want renovated libraries. No one is saying that we don’t want libraries to be green, beautiful and accessible. But why would you tear down a beautiful, historic Beaux Arts building? Look at the terrific job Berkeley did of renovating the downtown library — it’s all of those things, AND it preserved the original building. That is all we want.

  62. I had read in other postings that she lived in the fancy part of town in the North Berkeley hills. You corrected me and said that she lives in the fancy part of town in Claremont/Elmwood.

    I didn’t disagree with your correction, so why are you acting like I did?

  63. Note that the quote refers to anonymous “opinions”. The location of the Elmwood is not a matter of opinion, it’s a simple fact–even if “Sharkey” thinks it’s in the North Berkeley Hills, it’s just not. Real opinions are better signed so they can be evaluated, while simple factual corrections can easily be verified externally. And I still don’t understand how the Disqus comment program assigns screen names–I tried to use my own name (Becky O’Malley) for the last post (which was partially opinion, partially fact) and it posted the screen name I’d been using for short fact corrections instead. I really hate clogging Berkeleyside’s potentially interesting threads with pointless bickering–let’s stop here.

  64. One of the most important, unspoken issues here is that the nature of what a library is and the services it provides have changed over the past generation, especially so over the past 15 years. I suspect the desire to preserve buildings is really about holding on to a romantic notion of what libraries once were – primarily dispensaries. The most valued libraries are now community centers providing information as well as services, facilliated by technology. Let’s embrace this change and get on with the business of serving the community of today, not yesteryear.

  65. Full, unedited quote from a previous Berkeleyside comment by Becky O’Malley/Fact based:

     Becky O’Malley

    My grandmother always said, “Consider the source.” I consider anonymous opinions from cowards to be much less valuable than signed posts from upright people willing to stand by their opinions. Anonymous opinions are not necessarily wrong because the poster is anonymous, but they’re suspect. Correlation doesn’t prove causation, but it’s interesting that on websites which allow phantom posts the number of ill-formed ignorant opinions often correlates with the number of anonymous postings.

     Like
     Reply
     03/07/2011 04:17 PM
     F

  66. Sharkey:

    Good sleuthing. Thank you for exposing this (and so many other) hypocrisies and points of falsehood on this and many other threads here. You are a tireless advocate of reality based policies and the perfect counterweight to “Bruce Love” and “Fact based”.

  67. Actually the important question is how and when these underserved areas will have the libraries they need and deserve as quickly and cost effectively as possible. I live 2 blocks away from the West branch and can’t wait for the new library to be ready in time for my new baby to enjoy them in a couple of years. For now I take the extra 15 minutes and walk to the Central library because it is a much more welcoming space. I hope the community members can put aside their selfish needs and opinions so the work on the new libraries can move forward and we can all enjoy them as soon as possible.

  68. I don’t choose to publish anonymous or pseudonymous letters in the publication I edit because I don’t want to be responsible for the kind of factual errors and/or deliberate mis-statements that people make when they don’t have to vouch for their own opinions.

    Of course I was aware that anyone who wanted to could figure out who I was if I posted here–I didn’t alter the profile, wouldn’t know how, and it looks just the same to me now.

    When I occasionally correct errors like yours on this blog I don’t want my name to distract from a simple message, since this isn’t really my space, so I follow the local custom and use a screen name for short fact-check additions to a thread.

    Nevertheless, it’s still true that Elmwood is not “the North Berkeley Hills” either geographically or sociologically, and it’s of very little significance that Judith Epstein lives in the Elmwood, along with Lance, Tracey, me, my partner, Linda Schacht of the Lbrary Foundation and many other contributors to this discussion. Frances lives just a few blocks uphill. We’re all in easy walking distance of one another and of both the Claremont and the South branch libraries, and not far from downtown on the 51 bus.

    I imagine all of us go to the South library branch for meetings and tools, to the Claremont branch if we’re in a hurry, and downtown if we want something special. So what?

    The important questions are whether the bond issue was truthfully presented and whether demolition or renovation is the best alternative, and reasonable minds can differ on these questions. It adds nothing to the discussion to call anyone out for living in the Elmwood and expressing his or her opinion on these topics. Berkeley is a small town–all the civic buildings are everyone’s responsibility, and everyone pays for bond issues.

  69. The Library Foundation just raises money for the library. It did not design anything. The Board of Library Trustees is completely different and they chose the architects and approved the designs after much much community input.

  70. What’s in a name, in this case, is that someone who has repeatedly attacked those who use pseudonyms to express their opinions is using one herself.

  71. Why are you using the screen name “Fact based”?

    Just clicking on your profile shows that you’re really Becky O’Malley, Executive Editor of the Berkeley Daily Planet.

  72. Regardless of what you call that area, it is not close to either library and chances are this person uses libraries closer to her home and has no reason to visit the West and South branches. Even with the current closures, she is likely using the Central branch which is closest to her home and much nicer than the other two.

  73. Oh? What’s the elevation in the Elmwood/Claremont area compared to the West Berkeley flatlands on the other side of town, where she’s working to block a new library from being built?

  74. Elmwood (College/Ashby) is just a couple of block north of the Oakland border. And it’s mostly flat. But if your mind is made up don’t let facts confuse you.

  75. She lives in Elmwood. Which I guess puts her in the Central Berkeley hills, not the North Berkeley hills.

  76. I agree with you completely that most people attending these rallies aren’t thinking at all about the style of the building. Most of them probably wouldn’t be able to pick the proposed buildings out of a lineup if shown a series of proposals.

    But your wording makes it sound like you’re saying that anyone who has thought seriously about architecture will have the same opinions as you, and conversely that anyone who disagrees with your opinions simply hasn’t thought seriously enough about architecture.

    It just sounds bad.

  77. The renaissance style was once considered shockingly modern compared with the established Gothic style of the time.

    But the gothic style, the renaissance style and the craftsman style all have those common features that Alexander talks about.

    Mies van der Rohe, Frank Gehry, and Thom Mayne do not.

    I apologize for talking so much about architecture. As I said, it is one of my idiosyncrasies.

  78. Here is a common example: evolutionary psychologists say that people across cultures believe that faces with more regular features are more beautiful. They have done experiments where they take pictures of people and then have a computer create a composite picture that averages out the features of all those individual people. People say the computer composite is the most beautiful face, because the averaging removes the irregularities of the features.

    They explain this by saying that people with irregular features are more likely to have diseases or heredity defects, so those who are attracted to people with regular features are more likely to have mates who produce healthy children and who survive to raise those children.

    Let me make up an example about architecture/urban design, using a very extreme example to make the point obvious.

    Imagine an urban street that has bare concrete walls eighty feet high on both sides of it, with no walls and windows and with no other features in the street. I think we can all agree that most people would not find this place attractive; in fact, they would find it unsettling and would want to get away from it.

    We can explain this by saying that people in the environment of evolutionary adaptation were more likely to survive if they did not wander into narrow canyons, where they were more vulnerable to predators and where they were likely to hit a dead end that would make them even more vulnerable and that would waste their time and energy by forcing them to double back.

    “Beautiful” may be the wrong word, because it raises a lot of side issues. Eg, a portrait of an ugly person may be a beautiful picture. It would be better to say:

    There are some common feelings among all people about what makes a face attractive or appealing, as the evolutionary psychs’ experiments show.

    There are some common feelings among all people about what makes a place attractive or appealing. One way to find this is to look for the common features of all vernacular and traditional architecture, as Christopher Alexander has done.

  79. It is not grossly arrogant to say that most people have not thought much about architecture.

    There are lots of more important things in the world, and my own concern about architecture is a bit of an idiosyncrasy.

    I am sure you know that most people rallying for library construction care very much about getting a library and don’t care very much about its architectural style. There is nothing wrong with that.

  80. It’s especially telling that the one person named as a member of the “Concerned Library Users” group lives in the North Berkeley Hills and probably hasn’t visited either of the libraries she’s suing the City about a single time in the last year.

  81. “Most people who don’t share my preferences simply have not thought about architecture enough…”

    Wow. That sounds grossly arrogant.
    Come on, Charles. You seem like a good guy.
    Think before you say this stuff.

  82. I’d note that the arts and crafts style so beloved in berkeley was in itself shockingly modern at one point.

  83. BerkeleyCitizen,

    It’s not as if this is just about a single word accidentally omitted from the ballot measure. When Measure FF went on the ballot the planners were already talking about demolishing South (but keeping West) — and yet the ballot item, the City Attorney’s analysis, and the “argument in favor” from Bates, Moore, et al. all clearly emphasize a renovate / expand / seismically upgrade / preserve project.

    In November 2008, measure FF appeared on the ballot. Earlier that year, in July of 2008, the Berkeley Libraries Facilities Master Plan was published. The library summarized that demolition and replacement was the better option for South, renovation and expansion the better option for West. See, for example, http://www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org/about_the_library/FMP-summary.pdf

    Serious structural deficiencies make renovation difficult, unattractive and uneconomical. It will be vastly more efficient and cost effective to build a new structure to house the South Branch and Tool Lending Library.

    In spite of that, the city attorney’s analysis of Measure FF clearly says “[…] ISSUE GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS NOT EXCEEDING $26,000,000 TO RENOVATE, EXPAND AND MAKE SEISMIC AND ACCESS IMPROVEMENTS AT FOUR NEIGHBORHOOD BRANCH LIBRARIES […]” emphasis added.

    Bates and Moore, then in office, were among the signatories of the argument in favor which reads (emphasis added):

    This measure will bring the buildings up to current code standards, meet seismic requirements, make all of the branches fully accessible to Berkeley’s diverse population, provide environmentally sustainable “green” operations, and create adequate space for the Tool Library and Berkeley Reads, the adult literacy program. Renovations will preserve and restore the historic architectural features at the branch libraries.

    The City Attorney, again:

    The bond measure specifies that bond proceeds would be limited to renovation, construction, seismic, and disabled access improvements, and expansion of program areas at the City’s four neighborhood branch libraries, but not the Central Library downtown. Current plans for renovation include restoration and refurbishment of historic features at the branch libraries as part of any renovation.

  84. I’m all for Palladian structure and all that, but all people do NOT have shared ideas of beauty. Quite far from it. That’s a bizarre notion. Even if there are proportions that may be more pleasing, “beauty,” is a complex thing and clearly we do not agree on it even in small groups, much less “all” people.

  85. PS: Maybe Eric can fix this problem by photoshopping in some awnings.

    That is why awnings are sometimes used on traditional buildings. But, of course, there is no room for them on a glass curtain wall.

  86. I said clearly that it is my opinion:

    “I don’t want to get into a long argument about architecture again, but I think Christopher Alexander has shown that all vernacular and traditional architecture shares common features that are needed to design buildings that people love”

    But the fact that our opinions differ does not have to make us relativists who believe all opinions are equally valid.

    “To my mind, a “glass box” is a better library design, at least for library reading rooms and public spaces.”

    Note that the reading room of Doe library has its windows facing North. It is not a glass box, but it does have large windows for natural lighting.

    This library has the glass wall facing south. Have you ever had a job where you had to sit next to the south wall of an office building with a glass-curtain wall? I have, and it is very unpleasant. Because this is a LEED building, I expect it uses high-tech materials that will mitigate this problem, but it is still hard to read when you sit in the direct sun.

  87. I just want to live in a reality based world, as much as that is possible, I do not need people to agree with me, just share information as best as possible, which Berkeleyside is helping us do.

    BDP called me out as a racist more than once. Berkeley is too political, we need some balance.

  88. Culture can override the preferences that are wired into us by evolution.

    In some cases, this is a good thing. We have lots of violent impulses wired into us by evolution that need to be controlled, as much as possible.

    In other cases, it is not a good thing. When impulses wired into us by evolution are harmless and can make us happier, it is not good to thwart them.

    At any rate, many evolutionary psychologists have written about beauty (see any textbook on the subject), but none have suggested that people who don’t have those preferences are evolutionarily abnormal.

    In the case of architecture, I would say that:

    Most people who don’t share my preferences simply have not thought about architecture enough to think critically about the conventional modern style. They really don’t care one way or the other, and I am sure that those people would all be rallying for a new library in any style, not just for a glass box.

    Some people who don’t share my preferences have been indoctrinated in architecture school. They have been told that they had better accept the conventional modern style, or they won’t graduate. (Of all the architecture schools in the country, there are only three that expose students to styles other than modernism.) This is a clear case of culture overriding inborn preference.

  89. BC, we know….. never was confused, just underlined that the location was important and why.

  90. Tizzielish have you ever stopped to think that perhaps it wasn’t intentional misleading, but maybe, just maybe, an honest error that possible teardown wasn’t in the initiative? After all, it is my understanding that the first designs did in fact try to incorporate the existing structures, but that there just was no reasonable and cost appropriate way to do this. Why does it always have to be a conspiracy of “Power Brokers”? You give the supposed power brokers too much credit for giving a whit about public libraries…The people of Berkeley really do love their libraries and I’d be willing to bet that if you were to conduct a survey a majority of them would laugh at the idea that evil power brokers are behind the drive to get comfortable, modern and safe libraries built to last for the next century.

  91. The Berkeley Daily Planet supports obstructionist groups and is just as big a part of the problem with the political landscape in Berkeley as the politicians they spitefully skewer.

    But thank you for pointing out that some Councilmembers have had a hand in organizing the event. I generally agree with your comments and think you do a great job speaking for citizens in Berkeley.

    Hopefully we can find a way to both protest against the City misappropriating funds AND get new libraries for South & West Berkeley.

  92. Why would you feel the need to remind people that the Tool Lending Library is important when nobody has suggested otherwise?

    I like your comments about the Ed Roberts center.
    That could have been a very interesting solution.

  93. I just have to chime in here and say I think you go way, way too far when you say that in order for a building to be loved, it must be built in the style of “vernacular and traditional architecture.” That is simply at odds with the reality of many of the most well-loved buildings form the past hundred years. Your preferences are your preferences. To my mind, a “glass box” is a better library design, at least for library reading rooms and public spaces. Guess what? Neither of us is right. Or we both are. Reasonable people can disagree on matters of taste. This whole debate is depressing — at this point, I’d rather the money be spent to erect a clean, well-lit tin shed that could provide a safe, comfortable place for kids to fall in love with books. Instead, the money will be spent on lawyers. Ugh.

  94. So people who don’t have the same aesthetic opinions as you are evolutionarily abnormal?

    Yikes.

  95. Councilmember Anderson sending out an e-mail about the upcoming rally is not the same as orchestrating the event. Most of our city leaders seem to be reactionary and I’d be surprised to find out that they were pro-active enough to start a protest rally and smart enough to organize a conspiracy to make it look like someone else was doing the organizing.

    Do you have any evidence that New Libraries Now, and their protest against the lawsuit were actually secretly created and orchestrated by City Officials?

  96. All this talk of “bait and switch” is a distraction. Berkeleyans need better South and West branch libraries. Given that the current buildings are unsound and do not merit preservation, the city is trying to meet these needs in the most efficient and cost-effective way.

    The real deception here is coming from library opponents, who are exploiting a legal technicality to obfuscate their motives. Instead of having a debate about the merits of the current buildings and the pressing need for new libraries–a debate they know they’ll lose–they trying to twist this into a debate about imagined municipal malfeasance. I find it appalling that these obstructionists would cast aspersion on the Library Trustees, the City and Council, and others, even as they pursue an elitist and megalomaniacal scorched-earth campaign. These naysayers think they know best for everyone; they’ve shown themselves perfectly willing to jeopardize our libraries to get their way. If ever there was a more clear-cut case of snobbery, I have not seen it.

  97. No, I did not insinuate that, I merely reminded decision makers that poor homeowners do our own work, and that the tool library is a critical service maintaining south Berkeley housing stock. I would have preferred the tool library move into a rehab south branch with additional off street parking available, and I as posted the library be a part of Ed Roberts center, with a well designed computer room.

    Moore and Anderson office has been public in their organizing of the protest, Barlett is the son of Shirek’s long time aide and political strategist.

  98. I don’t want to get into a long argument about architecture again, but I think Christopher Alexander has shown that all vernacular and traditional architecture shares common features that are needed to design buildings that people love – and that these features were ignored by modernist architects whose fascination with technology led them to build glass boxes like this one.

    I have written an essay arguing that these features are based on evolutionary psychology, which should be published on the web site of the Prince’s Foundation some day.

    More generally, evolutionary psychologists have shown that all people have shared notions of beauty, which developed because these notions helped people to survive and reproduce when the human species was evolving.

  99. Without naming names, I will share a comment made to me yesterday by one of the key strategist behind the protest fishing for information which I have none to provide. He claimed that the Ed Roberts idea could not work because south Berkeley black boys running around the library would conflict with disabled folks in wheel chairs. Of course I broke out in protest, reminding him that librarians don’t allow any kids to run around in libraries black, brown or purple. And yes this strategist is one of the many chronic race baiters of all colors and stripes undermining community values and IMHO part of the reason multiculturalism is failing us.

    I wanted to see the warm pool and library included in the Ed Roberts campus, with a plaza on the west side of BART connecting the neighborhoods. Multi-purpose at its best, near transit, reading and recreation with community support services in one comfortable and beautiful building.

  100. “Do you have any proof that the protest against the lawsuit is being orchestrated by city officials,”

    I don’t know how much of the protest is spontaneous and how much is being stirred up by city officials. I suspect, though that most people do not read Berkeley news and would not even know about the lawsuit unless someone was organizing for the demolition and rebuild.

    Here is one piece of evidence:

    Press Release: Councilmember Anderson Calls for Rally to Support Demolition of Branch Libraries
    Monday April 25, 2011
    RALLY AT OLD CITY HALL – TUESDAY, APRIL 26TH AT 6PM
    2134 MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. WAY
    New Libraries for South and West Berkeley NOW!!!

    http://berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2011-04-20/article/37724?headline=Councilmember-Anderson-Calls-for-Rally-to-Support-Demolition-of-Branch-Libraries

  101. I dislike the bait-and-switch tactics the city leaders use just as much as you do, but why insist on renovation if we can get more library for our money with replacement?

    It’s great to fight against the man or whatever, but all lawsuits like this ever seem to accomplish is stalling plans until they collapse and convincing the citizenry to always vote against parcel tax measures when they come up in the future.

    Will you still be glad if these lawsuits drag on so long that the city just gives up on them and leaves the South & West branches the way they are now?

  102. I think you meant to say “The Library Foundation as developer made the mistake of designing buildings that I, Charles Siegel, personally think are ugly.”

    Beauty.
    Eye of the beholder.
    That whole thing.

  103. Though I have defended the lawsuit, I also agree that the South Branch is not worth preserving. On the other hand, I think the West Branch is worth preserving, and I would like to see the CLU’s design built precisely because I agree with the speakers who said:
    –“We want our libraries to be green, beautiful and accessible,” he said.
    –“We want good-quality libraries for all of Berkeley, not just some of Berkeley,”
    I don’t want an ugly glass box in West Berkeley. I want to see a library of the same quality as the North Berkeley branch.

    I think the problem is, as Laurie Capitelli said
    the “hundreds if not thousands” of hours of meetings that had preceded the decision to renovate the libraries.
    Once developers push a project through this much process, the development begins to take on an air of inevitability, and anyone who opposes it is branded an obstructionist.

    I am generally pro-development, but in this case:

    — The Library Foundation as developer made the mistake of designing buildings that are ugly and the even worse mistake of ignoring the law that says the funds must be used for renovating and expanding the libraries.

    — The opponents of their design are not obstructionists. They have a design of their own that they want to see built, and they are as committed as anyone else to building a beautiful, good-quality libraries for all of Berkeley.

    I should say that they are more committed than most to building beautiful libraries for all of Berkeley. Most proponents of the Library Foundation design for West Berkeley actually seem to care very little about the architectural quality of the building and instead to want something – anything – to be built as soon as possible.

  104. There’s something wrong with Berkeleyside’s commenting right now.
    I keep trying to reply to Tizzielish but the comments keep showing up as replies to the article instead.

  105. I’m a bit confused about your stance on this, Laura. You’ve suggested in earlier comments that the City plans to move or eliminate the Tool Lending Library, but this is apparently completely unfounded.

    Do you have any proof that the protest against the lawsuit is being orchestrated by city officials, or is that just speculation on your part? I’ve talked about this issue with my neighbors, and everyone I’ve spoken to thinks the lawsuit is ridiculous and counter productive.

    I don’t like the bait-and-switch tactics the city leaders use any more than anyone else does, but surely there must be some way of combating them without holding libraries hostage in the process.

  106. I personally think the South Branch library is a tear-down. And I personally would prioritize improving library services to the south and west sides of Berkeley ahead of the wealthier areas because the poorer areas need services so much more.

    And I am saddened that the south and west branch renovations/rebuilds are being delayed by the law suit.

    But I am sickened that this city’s leaders used a special voter initiative, expressly worded to tap the taxpayers for funds to renovate and then the library board is using the money for something else.

    I read that some folks at yesterday’s demonstration say they are tired of progress being slowed down by a few. Yeah, so I am. I am sorry that a few power brokers in city hall think they can manipulate voters, manipulate the language in a voter-approved resolution and that a very few people strip money from taxpayers saying they will do one thing and then turn around and do something else.

    If our public servants always operated with transparency and integrity, we would not be in this library mess.

    The ends do not justify the means.

    I love Laura Menard’s information. It seems to me that integrating the south branch library into the Ed Roberts campus would have been a great thing. It’s a shame that good solutions created by the actual citizenry gets overlooked because this city (and this country) seems to have been hijacked by folks determined to impose their will — not to mention their greedy fingers (think jobs for relatives with developers) — on the rest of us.

    The folks behind the library law suit are holding the line for the rest of us. I don’t want Tom Bates’ personal vision, which seems so rooted in sucking up to developers and imposing those developers’ will on the city which will last for many lifetimes, being the main imprint on Berkeley.

    I’m mad as hell at the way things are going in this country, in this culture. I am tired of bullies who are temporarily in charge acting like kings. I’m mad as hell that the library board tricked voters into giving them money to renovate and then decided to raze. I’m mad as hell that the poor neighborhoods aren’t getting priority for library renovations. I’m mad about a lot of things.

    But I am glad a few concerned citizens are suing the library board for disregarding the wording of that library vote.

  107. I was the chair of most organized neighborhood group in south Berkeley for most of the last decade.
    Therefore I was contacted by the Library outreach director repeatedly to invite community to the planning meetings. The story being repeated is incomplete.

    At one time there was a brief discussion of moving the south branch into the new Ed Roberts campus in order to ensure permanent anchor tenants to sustain new project. Personally I was in favor of this option, understanding one of the most critical service locals need is access to technology, as do low income disabled folks.

    The idea of moving the south branch from Russell St upset a handful of locals who fought just as hard as this current group, and then killed any possibility for this option to be considered. If the branch was moved to Ed Roberts campus, the tool library could have expanded into the current building.

    From my point of view, communities that create shared services between various agencies (such as community colleges that share libraries with cities) are fiscally responsible and ensuring better service delivery.

    Personally I think the south branch is tear down. But that is not the issue. This protest against the lawsuit is the result of city leaders concerns that the lawsuit has merit and is exposing the bait and switch tactics they typically employ.