SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Opponents of the plan to build a new library in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood by demolishing the old one have sued to save a building on track for designation as an historic landmark.

The architect behind the lawsuit, Howard Wong, said the San Francisco Public Library should retrofit and preserve the existing building as it has done with other branches designed by the firm Appleton & Wolfard in the years after World War II.

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“The library itself has for many years recognized it as a historic resource. It is one of the best mid-century modernist libraries,” he said.

Wong wants a San Francisco Superior Court judge to order the city to carry out another environmental impact review that might persuade the city not to demolish the building.

KCBS’ Barbara Taylor Reports:

Earlier this year, the California Office of Historic Preservation nominated the building for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places maintained by the U.S. Interior Department.

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But city officials said retrofitting the 1959 building would be costly without creating more usable space inside the already tiny branch.

So the Board of Supervisors and the city Planning Commission approved a plan to create a new park that would combine the Joe DiMaggio Playground with a modern, much larger North Beach Library.

Wong said the fences around the existing park could come down to create the additional open space supporters of the demolition plan believe the area badly needs.

“It’s also a very significant open space that’s part a historic playground where Joe DiMaggio played,” Wong said.

He and other opponents also worry the bigger footprint of a new, taller building will block views and lead to congestion since it would eliminate a lane now open to vehicle traffic.

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