Todd Jersey’s vision for a renovated West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library.

The architect who worked with Concerned Library Users, the group suing Berkeley to stop the demolition and rebuilding of the south and west branch libraries, has sent an apology for his actions to the City Council and city manager.

In a letter dated June 17, 2011, Todd Jersey apologizes for “causing more harm than good,” by presenting two designs that he said would “save the original buildings.” Jersey said his work was a misguided effort to resolve the dispute between the city, which wants to tear down the two branches and build entirely new structures, and CLU, which contends bond monies raised to renovate the city’s branch libraries cannot be used for demolition.

“This clearly backfired in many ways that in retrospect I should have known,” Jersey wrote in his letter. “Therefore I am also writing to apologize for the stress and hardship that my participation in the project caused you as City officials. Looking back on this now I can see that I naively thought that my participation could help settle the suit and alter the course of the projects in a good way. Obviously I failed to understand the amount of community investment in the work done by the other firms and furthermore, that in a lawsuit, there really is no opportunity for discourse. Instead of helping, my efforts created hardship for the City and for the Library Staff and The Friends of the Library. For that I am personally sorry. Clearly I have no intention of doing anything like this again.” (emphasis is Jersey’s)

Jersey wrote that he was never a signatory to the efforts of CLU to sue the city. In fact, he said, he does not support suing his own municipality.

The letter will not have any legal bearing on the CLU lawsuit against Berkeley, which will be heard before a judge on September 9th, according to Berkeley City Attorney Zach Cowan.

But Councilman Darryl Moore, who sits on the board of the public library, hopes Jersey’s letter prods CLU to reconsider its actions.

“The lawsuit is causing nothing but difficulty and pain throughout the community,” said Moore. “I hope those who filed it will read it, take it to heart, and consider dropping the lawsuit.”

Susan Brandt-Hawley, the attorney for Concerned Library Users, said the letter has no bearing on the group’s case, which was filed in August 2010. In the suit, CLU said the wording of Measure FF, a 2008 bond measure that raised $26 million to renovate the city’s four branch libraries, does not include any reference to tearing down any buildings. Consequently the city can not use those funds for demolition, according to the suit.

CLU wants Berkeley to restore, not demolish, the south and west branches which they say have historic significance. The group hired Jersey to come up with restoration plans, which they submitted to the city as part of the commentary of the Environmental Impact

Judith Epstein (the only publicly named member of CLU) “wanted me to show how we could take the program the city needed, fulfill that program and save those two buildings – and do so, if possible, at below cost,” said Jersey.

Todd Jersey

Jersey said he provided drawings that could do that, although the final EIR said Jersey’s designs would actually be more expensive (and run over the budget) than tearing down and rebuilding the two structures.

Jersey said he had not shown Epstein or other members of CLU the letter he sent on June 17 to city officials. He had recently informed her that the formal relationship between his office and CLU was over.

“In retrospect, I didn’t think this through clearly enough,” said Jersey. “During a lawsuit there is not an opportunity to negotiate. I understand now why. The city of Berkeley is under attack.”

“We all make mistakes,” he said. “I just happen to clean up my mistakes.”

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...