When the city gets down to dealing with Mission Bay, the long-stalled 300-acre development Catellus Development Corp. wants to build in the southeast quadrant of the city, the key players at the table will be: Catellus; the administration of Future Mayor Emeritus Willie Brown (who is also the former lawyer for Catellus); and Catellus' new lawyers at Christensen, White, Miller, Fink, Jacobs, Glaser & Shapiro -- a Century City firm for which Brown once worked and to whom the new mayor referred Catellus.
Catellus struck a development agreement with the city in 1991, but never turned earth because of the recession. With the project back on the map, Catellus is planning to request amendments to the agreement, including a rollback of affordable-housing subsidies and toxic-cleanup funds. It's hard to believe the city will get the best deal if this cozy crew of cronies negotiates the pact.
When the doors closed for the last time at the old Main Library on New Year's Eve, the lights went out on a vast collection of historic documents and photographs, government records, microfilm, and practical manuals and guides -- most of which won't be accessible to the public until the Main Library reopens in its new building across Civic Center on April 16.
Other services, however, will suffer only a brief interruption. The Main moved its frequently used business services to the West Portal Branch, meaning Financial District types in search of investment newsletters can still find answers to their questions. And though limited telephone reference service and electronic access to the library's data bases will continue, Main Library patrons will have to request unavailable books through an interlibrary loan program -- or simply do without. No such arrangements were made for the Main's extensive art, history, law, medicine, and science collections.
"We can't move a million books, 5 million documents, and 3 million photos, and make them available at the same time," says Marcia Schneider of the S.F. Public Library in defense of the strategy. "We had to make some difficult choices."
The Main will make referrals to other libraries in the interim, she says. "We are not discontinuing library service during this period."
Schneider acknowledges that reopening in stages was considered, but other major libraries that have moved into new buildings advised against it. (In Chicago, the central library shut down when it moved into its new quarters, but took a month less than S.F. to complete the job. UC Berkeley, however, recently moved its 1 million-book collection to a new building without closing at all.)
Library activist Bill Hale brands the lengthy down-period for the Main "very bad planning -- I don't think San Franciscans are going to fare well during the move," adding that many librarians have not been trained for their transitional jobs. And, he notes that the Library Express program -- in which research is provided to those who can pay $60 an hour -- will continue uninterrupted during the move. "That's what the library calls 'free and equal access to information,' " Hale sneers.
By George Cothran, John Sullivan