Amid an ongoing development boom and projected population growth, San Francisco Public Library officials say there is potential demand for at least five additional branches in the southeastern neighborhoods of the city alone.
Last year, the library sought to meet demand for more use of its 28 locations by expanding hours to ensure they were all open seven days a week. Nine of the branches had been operating six days a week, closing on Sundays, Saturdays or Mondays.
But it’s not just hours the library sees a demand for — it’s more locations.
Acting City Librarian Michael Lambert said at a recent Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee hearing that there is “absolutely” a need for new libraries.
There have been preliminary conversations with other city departments regarding expansion plans, including with the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development and the Planning Department, Lambert told the committee.
Pointing to growth in population — The City’s population is expected to increase to as many as 1.2 million residents by 2040 — and ongoing development, Lambert said that “with those projections and our current standards of service there’s a projected need for a minimum of five new library locations just for the southeast corridor. And we are looking at the Shipyard, Candlestick Point, Hunters View, Dogpatch.”
He added that there are preliminary conversations “about co-locating libraries with future public housing sites and having all city and county services available on the same footprint.”
Lambert said they are also looking at opening a branch on Treasure Island, where a massive redevelopment project is underway.
“What we want to do is be intentional and strategic. We want to commission a new branch capital plan,” Lambert said. “And just as we did with the Branch Library Improvement Program, we want to be able to systemically prioritize where new library construction should occur. With this next wave of construction on the horizon we are examining opportunities for co-locating library facilities with public housing or perhaps even partnering with [San Francisco Unified School District] for a joint use facility.”
The library is expected to participate in The City’s update of its infrastructure nexus study, which shows the need for services like childcare, public space and pedestrian safety based on construction. The study, updated every five years by the Planning Department, allows The City to adjust development impact fees to help fund the needs. Libraries weren’t part of the previous nexus study completed in 2014.
The library currently funds capital projects drawing from the Library Preservation Fund, a voter-approved set-aside of a certain percentage of The City’s annual revenues.
“The Library is striving to pay as we go, self-funding our capital projects, however, major construction projects to meet future community needs for library services may also entail the need to identify alternative funding sources,” Lambert told the San Francisco Examiner.