August 7, 2009
From Historic To History For The Old Ortega Branch Library Building
First Published: August 7, 2009 7:45 AM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
I was at the Board of Appeals hearing and I'd like to offer a few observations:
1. It may be important from an architectural history perspective to have all of the Appleton & Wolfard libraries extant, but the community REALLY wants and needs a bigger, more functional library.
2. Despite what the opponents claimed, there have been years of community meetings and much opportunity for input. I found a flier from last year that clearly mentioned that the current building was probably going to be demolished, and I remember hearing about that plan at least 2 years ago. This was in no way a stealth effort on the part of the library to "sneak in" the demolition option.
3. The retrofit options mentioned by the appellant often conflicted with the very features of the building that were held up as significant. (For example, building an annex on the north side would necessarily remove the "generous setback" that is a part of this library's supposed historical significance.)
4. Nearly all of the speakers in favor of the appeal wore stickers reading "I am Inge Horton". This was a touching display of support from friends and colleagues, but it made the appeal appear to be the Quixotic mission of a solitary person. The fact that Peter Warfield of the "Library Users Association" also spoke was not impressive. (This is a guy who's protested having free WiFi services on the basis that they are a health risk.) It would have been nice to have some more sober presentations of the historical significance of this building.
Having said all that:
1. The planning department's notification procedures seem to be designed to avoid notifying those people who would be most interested in knowing about this kind of project.
2. Despite the fact that the appeal went the way I had hoped it would, I feel a bit melancholy about the loss of the current building. There is a chance that it should be considered a historical resource, and there might have been ways to accommodate the preservationists and the needs of the community. But post-groundbreaking is not the time to bring this up. I wish that the preservationist community had been on top of things enough to bring up the issue back when the neighborhood was having meetings planning the details of the new building.
3. Inge Horton is a true hero, and I hope that her reputation in the Sunset is not tarnished by the appeal. She has had a huge role in preserving important buildings in the Sunset (including the Shriner's Hospital on 19th). In this appeal I think that she followed the dictates of her conscience, which, in the face of significant opposition from your neighbors, is very hard to do. Unfortunately (for all of us perhaps) her timing was just way too late.
Posted by: Tom Ames at August 7, 2009 10:30 AM
My son is a soon to be 7th grader at A.P. Gianinni MS next door to the Ortega branch. I think I can speak for the people who live here, have children in school here, etc. It is about time this mid fifties piece of institutional garbage architecture was replaced... Post war was about cheap and throwing structures up to satisfy the needs of a booming population. The new structure looks great! The West Portal branch is a perfect example of bringing a historic building into the twenty first century, but that original building was a WPA project... during the depression it was about putting craftsmen to work and it really shows in that building. The Ortega branch was nothing less than a quick solution to a tremendous need at the time... there is nothing resembling 'craft' in that building! Thank goodness, the new one will be built!
Posted by: Portalheights at August 7, 2009 8:59 PM
Awesome post Tom Ames. That was worthy of being the article, not just a comment.
Posted by: Sb at August 9, 2009 9:37 AM