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Supervisor Fewer eyes branch library sites for affordable housing

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Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer is floating a proposal to build affordable housing at library sites. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Amidst a scarcity of publicly-owned land and a housing crisis, one city supervisor has asked the library to explore building affordable housing on top of existing library branches.

Supervisor Sandra Fewer made the request both during a recent Board of Supervisors committee hearing and later in a one-on-one meeting with Acting City Librarian Michael Lambert.

“As you know we don’t own a lot of public space left in San Francisco,” Fewer, who represents the Richmond District, said in the hearing. “I love the libraries in my district, but they are low-density and so I am just wondering if we have ever thought about building housing above libraries.”

Lambert later told the San Francisco Examiner that “San Francisco Public Library is certainly open to such creative strategies for future library capital projects.” But he added, “There are no immediate plans for existing library locations to actualize such an option.”

Fewer’s suggestion comes at a time when some branches are being renovated. “We had a conversation about if we should be building some affordable housing above our libraries to be renovated. We think that it probably would be good use of public land,” Fewer said.

But Lambert told the Examiner near-term renovation projects wouldn’t work for housing.

Both the Mission Branch Library, a historic Carnegie library, and the Chinatown Branch Library are slated to undergo renovations, but the sites would not lend themselves to co-location, Lambert told the Examiner. There currently isn’t funding for the Chinatown branch library renovation.

“The Ocean View Branch Library renovation project is also in our near term capital plans,” he added. “However the prospect of co-location with affordable housing would only be viable with new construction on a different site.”

An example of affordable housing co-existing with a library branch is the Mission Bay Branch, which has senior housing above it.

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