Preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the new North Beach Branch Library and upgraded Joe DiMaggio Playground Master Plan is about to get underway.
As proposed, the existing North Beach Branch Library would be demolished and a new building would rise on the triangle bounded by Lombard, Columbus and Mason streets which is currently nothing more than a surface area parking lot (click images to enlarge).

The project’s first phase would involve full or partial vacation of a portion of Mason Street to vehicular traffic, landscaping improvements in the former Mason Street right-of-way, construction of a new [two-level] 8,500 sf branch library on the 701 Lombard Street parcel and a portion of the right-of-way, and demolition of the existing library.

The project’s second phase would include excavation, renovation and reorganization of the [Joe DiMaggio Playground]. The project would result in a total net increase of approximately 3,200 sf of library floor area and about 12,100 sf of new open space.

The development team is targeting a 2010 start for Phase One with completion in 2012. Depending on funding, Phase Two would commence as early as 2013 with completion in 2014. Of course that’s assuming not too much neighborhood opposition. In North Beach.
Initial Study: North Beach Branch Library & Joe DiMaggio Playground [SFGov]
North Beach Branch Library []

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by anon

    The THD are already all over this. Look for the current location to close and board up, then nothing to happen for 30 years. A la Pagoda Theater. That’s the North Beach way.

  2. Posted by Anna

    This would be a great development for neighborhood kids/families and a great infrastructure project for San Francisco.
    It’s too bad the North Beach NIMBY’s represent one of the most selfish and short-sighted groups around. I half expect a petition to landmark that little parking lot.

  3. Posted by flaneur

    Personally, I walk most placs so I feel all the streets in San Francisco should be turned into parks. But thhose NIMBY’s are so selfish…

  4. Posted by anon2

    That little parking lot should be landmarked as a memorial to the triumph of the one-party state over property rights. Heck, if the longshorefolks can get their old hall on the waterfront landmarked in order to stop a development, then the other side should be allowed to do it as well.
    Anyhow, whatever Emperor Peskin and his Queen Josephine want to do, it shall come to pass, as they look down benevolently upon the huddled masses from their hill dwellings.

  5. Posted by Mole Man

    Why no green roof? It would hardly cost that much than the fancy articulation in the design, and this is the perfect place for some life.

  6. Posted by wooo eez it?

    Who is the Architect?
    Honestly, I’d much rather have a parking lot than an UGLY new building. Hell, Id even be a NITBY.
    However, if the new building is attractive, by all means lets consider it.
    The renderings are too small to tell what the cladding wil be. Terracotta? Brick? GFRC? Stucco?

  7. Posted by woo eez it again

    And to step back a little.
    If this were Europe-they would consider placing the building underground (atleast a substantial amount), minimize above grade construction and let the triangle by green.
    But not here. Here the discussion will hinge on the shape of the bay windows. Sigh….

  8. Posted by Moving to SF

    Hey, to any of you native SFers. I’m going to be moving into the city soon. I was wondering what the general consensus was on North Beach? I hear a lot about South Beach, but don’t really know too much about NB. Does anyone have any other suggestions for someone like me?
    I’m a young professional that will be working in the financial district. I’m looking for a good area to live that is not too far away. I’m moving up from San Diego if that helps.

  9. Posted by anonn

    North Beach is great for Financial District workers. If you are so lucky, being able to walk to work is a blessing. The area is jam packed with restaurants and there’s a lovely park. Parking is difficult, so apartments/housing with garages cost a premium.

  10. Posted by BrianP

    I lived in North Beach for 5 years. It was fun in my early 20’s… easy to walk to work in the fin dist, lots of bars/restaurants. Feels like a city neighborhood. But after a while it just gets old. Constant tourist traffic (more so than any other neighborhood unless you live in Union Sq). East Bay drunks show up every weekend for the nudie bars on Broadway. Parking’s a bitch. The “italian” heritage is virtually gone, but it’s sad to see what little is left slowly slipping away to Chinatown. The restaurants aren’t that good (see constant tourist traffic).
    South Beach is cleaner, no tourists, but a bit soul-less, overrun on Giant game days, and not a true neighborhood yet. But come up, walk the streets, and see what you like.
    Good luck.

  11. Posted by Moving to SF

    Thanks to both of you guys. I’ll definitely check the area out on my way up.

  12. Posted by urbus

    There are many great reason’s to support the new Library project as. Mainly Great Urban Design; Triangles make horrible, disfuctional open spaces. No good for recreation and rather strange, self conscious, for passive open space use- do you sit on the edges or the in the center?
    Buildings on the other hand are great in triangular form and SF has a long history of significant, beautiful triangular buildings. In this case its a win/win as the new building location also gives clear and strong edges to the open space. I would dispute the earlier writer who thinks that Europeans would sink the buildings. In Europe and Asia the best designed public spaces do exactly what this proposal is recommending; Using building walls and significant architectural design to strengthen the street edge while turning the prime real estate back to the community in the form of well articulated open space. How about quality Urban Design instead of Polatics for a change in NB ?

  13. Posted by Sal Busalacchi

    New Library in North Beach too Small and too Costly
    There is a plot of land surrounded by three streets. Columbus Avenue, Lombard Street and Mason Street. This parcel of land was to be developed into 9 units but The North Beach and The Telegraph Hill residents with the help of Supervisor Aaron Peskin put a stop to this structure by using the city’s power of Eminent Domain for the specific purpose of keeping this small plot of land open space. The city, (we) paid around 2.8 million dollars in order that our children and our children’s children could enjoy an open space park and as well as being sensitive to scenic public views of landmark features of North Beach and Telegraph Hill,(including Coit Tower and the Saints Peter and Paul church spires) – views enjoyed and photographed by many thousands of tourist each year – would be cut off..
    Now that the city owns this land they want to spend an additional eight million dollars to put a building on this parcel to house a library. For the Library to have all of it’s services on one floor to function properly, this buildings footprint is so large it needs to be extended into Mason Street, thus closing a street that is used by two million cars annually and creating a traffic hazard throughout the neighborhood. (December 2005 DPW Traffic Survey). This new structure would only give the Library only 10 to 15% more space.
    These groups, SaveMasonStreet,org,, The North Beach Neighbors, The Telegraph Hill Dwellers, The Coalition of San Francisco Neighborhoods, Coalition for a Better North Beach Library and Playground, The Library Citizens Advisory Committee of the board of Supervisors, and the very same residents who wanted open space, are trying to convince our officials that they have alternative designs that exist that would create a bigger, better and greener library, saving millions of dollars in taxpayers money. These plans would enlarge the library where it is, enlarge the Toddler space in the playground, keep the bocce ball courts, keep the open space on the triangle lot, put a statue of Joe DiMaggio in the middle of the open space, leave Mason Street alone to through traffic and save approximately four million dollars in the process.

  14. Posted by San FronziScheme

    On May 6, 2009 8:46 AM anonn wrote:
    North Beach is great for Financial District workers. If you are so lucky, being able to walk to work is a blessing. The area is jam packed with restaurants and there’s a lovely park. Parking is difficult, so apartments/housing with garages cost a premium.
    Funny, this is my exact situation: live up Telegraph Hill, work in the FiDi and walked to work today.
    Garage is almost a luxury there. But parking is not that difficult when you have the residential parking sticker and you know the good spots. I never spent more than 5 minutes hunting for a space and it’s always less than 2 blocks from my place.
    Another important point compared to my previous nabe (upper Noe, close to Castro/24th): the weather is fantastic these days. Yesterday was a bit breezy but sunny all day, while Noe slowly slipped into the fog.
    Best area to live in town, imho.

  15. Posted by Aaron Middlebrook

    Not necessarily here but in general there seems to be such a big deal being made about the closing of Mason street and the construction of the new library on the triangle at Lombard and Columbus. I think the reorganization of the park with the library in this location, the closing of mason street and the relocation of the playground would bring the clubhouse, the library and the children’s play area together to create a focal point of the park and would thus build community….isn’t that what good architecture does?? There is a tremendous amount of emphasis being put on the traffic impact of closing mason street. We are talking about 50 ft of street. If traffic concerns are THE guiding principals in urban planning then maybe we shouldn’t have renovated the Ferry building. Ever been down the Embarcadero on a Sat morning?? The renovation of that building has revitalized the downtown and turned it into a destination for locals and tourists alike. This is San Francisco! Lets do some forward thinking, lets envision a city that doesn’t cater to vehicular traffic, lets get people out of their cars and push public transportation…its only going to get better if we demand it. I think the premium on protected green space (parks) needs to be higher efficient traffic patterns- I am sorry, our children’s access to open space has to trump our need to ‘get there quicker’. Oh and as far has obstructing people’s views- 3 or 4 stories??? Lets save that argument for the Crystal towers of the neighborhood (who let that monstrosity pollute or beloved North Beach??). Think about the kids, not the taxi drivers that race through Mason street at 40 miles an hour!

  16. Posted by aaron goodman

    Library is one of the Appleton + Wolfard designs (approx. 7 libraries) being pushed “fast-paced” by the planning dept. and library group to rennovate prior to a full EIR on the impacts on these 1950’s designed modern libraries. Merced, Parkside and the one on this site all are part of this architects work. They should be EIR reviewed as a GROUP, and not picked off one by one without adequate review, this was the reason PROP J was enacted to enforce preservation codes, and look at buildings prior to allowing re-development, and to ensure adequate review, and process, to ensure poor architectural designs are not the standard….

  17. Posted by Karl Beale

    In the planning phase for the North Beach Library/Joe Dimaggio Playground insufficient consideration was given to pedestrian safety. The lack of attention to public safety in this process is outrageous given the inevitable diversion of traffic from the proposed blockage of this secondary arterial, Mason Street, towards the 1,000 students who attend 3 grammar schools and 3 preschools, as well as, a senior center all within 2 blocks of the proposed street closure.

    The community remains largely unaware of the full plans because notification for the full scope of the project, re: the possible closure of Mason Street, was never written on the few public notices that were posted.

    The total package: The proposed plan renders the playing field too small for softball/baseball (farewell, Joe DiMaggio), tears down an architecturally significant building, is the least “green” option because a library addition is viable/preferable, a triangular rebuild is a very expensive option, the design fails to maximize the space (i.e. roof gardens/bocce), and this plan closes the ONLY unobstructed two way street that runs north to south in the whole of our busy North Beach neighborhood.

    This plan is a loser all the way around.

  18. Posted by Preservationist

    Why the mad rush to demolish historic libraries? There are 8 of these Appleton-Wolfard libraries from the’50s of which 5 are slated for demolition. It starts with City planners with nothing better to do, desperate to hold on to their jobs, who decide to demolish and re-build until they are old enough to retire. Why not renovate and restore? It costs less but requires more imagination. I used to work for the City and I know how desperate these people become when they run out of work.They will invent any excuse to look busy and creative.

  19. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    Looks like the NIMBY brigade is out in force on this one.

  20. Posted by San FronziScheme

    I stumbled upon this older thread. I’ve passed by the temporarily closed section of Mason many times in the past month. Of course this “mini park” is temporary. It’s a pain in the b@tt for cars but terrific for pedestrians. For cyclists it’s a mixed bag with the cars and occasional larger vehicles blocking the intersection at the traffic signal at Columbus.
    It’s worth checking out I think.

  21. Posted by Reven

    I’m wondering how many people will actually use the library. Perhaps they should have a building with lots of computers and add sleeping pods below for the homeless. For the millions they are talking about, couldn’t cardholders just email and have the city pay for a book from to come to our door?

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