Huge shortfall for library renovations in S.F.

Lack of oversight, staff vacancies and construction delays have contributed to a $50 million shortfall in The City’s ambitious project to overhaul its branch libraries, according to a report released Monday by the Office of the Controller.

In 2000, San Francisco voters approved a $106 million bond to help fund the so-called Branch Library Improvement Program, which included four construction projects and the renovation of 19 library branches. The program is now short by as much as $50 million, and voters are being asked this November to approve another bond measure to fill the gap.

The report said a number of factors contributed to the shortfall, of which nearly 40 percent is from project delays. The program saw increases in the scope of some projects, a two-year vacancy in the library’s chief of branches position, community meetings dragging on about branch designs, and poor planning and monitoring by the library and the Department of Public Works, according to the report.

To date, the program has resulted in five completed projects, with four under construction and three to begin construction this fall, according to City Librarian Luis Herrera.

“The [report] comes at a very good time. … We aren’t surprised by the findings,” Herrera said. “We are already taking steps to address the recommendations.”

In March, the San Francisco Public Library Commission unanimously approved a new timeline for projects and postponed the renovationof the Golden Gate Valley, Merced, Bayview, Ortega and North Beach branches. The commission decided to use the money sitting in these project budgets to help fund the completion of 11 other branch library projects. To fund the five remaining branches, the commission backed the November ballot measure, which has the support of Mayor Gavin Newsom and members of the Board of Supervisors.

Herrera said that by implementing the recommendations, all construction should be completed by 2011 — if voters approve the measure this November.

Opponents of the November measure say that the library should not be rewarded for failing to complete the projects within budget. Since the commission’s March vote, five branch projects did not meet deadlines to begin work, according to the report.

Better branches

Status report on the San Francisco Public Library’s Branch Library Improvement Program

Completed branches:

» Mission Bay

» Excelsior

» Sunset

» West Portal

» Marina

Opening soon:

» Glen Park, grand opening Oct. 13

Under construction:

» Noe Valley

» Richmond

» Western Addition

» Portola

Construction to begin this fall:

» Ingleside

» Bernal Heights

» Potrero

jsabatini@examiner.com

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