Presidio proposals prompt opposition
Plans for new construction at the Presidio's Main Post have come in for scathing public comments. Much attention has been focused on the proposed museum to hold Donald Fisher's contemporary-art collection. Although the Chronicle reported on July 2 that Fisher has withdrawn this proposal, we fear that it may be revived. Critics have also raised sharp concerns about a new lodge, an expanded theater, and the overall effect of the changes on the landscape of the national-park unit. The process to amend the Presidio Trust Management Plan remians flawed.
The public comment period on documents related to the proposal closed on June 1. In well-researched, extensive, and polished comments, writers criticized the Presidio Trust for:
- failure to present and assess valid alternatives to the "preferred alternative";
- proposed demolition of historic buildings;
- potential destruction to historic resources including archaeological sites;
- failure to demonstrate the purpose and need for the new buildings;
- loss of existing recreational resources;
- the sponsor-driven nature of the proposals,
- the potential loss of the historic integrity of the National Historic Landmark District;
- failure to follow the Presidio Trust Act;
- insufficient detail in project descriptions;
- inadequate analysis of parking and transportation;
- potential traffic signals and three underground parking garages.
Comments opposing the proposed "updating" of the Main Post came from such varied sources as Dr. Barbara Voss, assistant professor of anthropology at Stanford; the Descendants of the Anza and Portola Expeditions; former Presidio Trust boardmember Amy Meyer; Neighborhood Associations for Presidio Planning; the city and county of San Francisco; the National Parks Conservation Association; the Presidio Neighborhood Representative Work Group; Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier; the Presidio Historical Association; the National Trust for Historic Preservation; and the Sierra Club. Find links to these comments and others at SavethePresidio.org
San Francisco's mayor still supports the museum on the Presidio but the city's comments, compiled from city agencies by the city attorney's office, were thorough, professional, and at times deeply critical in their analyses which focused on traffic, archaeological resources, and violations of the National Environmental Policy Act.
Previous controversy had centered on the overwhelming size of the proposed contemporary-art museum. In the new iteration, though, it has not shrunk, but is merely set lower into the landscape. If it is somewhat less visually obtrusive, it is also closer to the archeological materials and former streambed below the site.
The proposed museum of contemporary art in a building of contemporary design should not have a place of honor at the heart of a National Historic Landmark District. It cannot meet the secretary of interior's standards for such a district and would diminish the heart of the NHLD.
Museum supporters have suggested that Donald Fisher is generously giving his art collection to the Presidio or the city, but in fact, the collection would be gifted to the Fisher Family Foundation.
The Sierra Club believes that the art collection should find a home outside the Presidio in a transit-rich neighborhood.
Public Health Service Hospital
The appearance of the Presidio's former U.S. Public Health Service Hospital is undergoing dramatic changes. This spring, as the large non-historic wings have been demolished, the distinctive anchor shape of the original seamen's hospital was revealed, along with its façade and entrance area. This was the culmination of a five-year battle with the Presidio Trust to reduce the size of the proposed development and preserve adjacent open space.
Four toxic fill sites are to be remediated through removal of ground and tree cover and recontouring. New sand dunes will be created and planted with native plants. Habitat will be expanded for the endangered San Francisco lessingia (a native plant), and significant areas around the hospital will be revegetated in keeping with the Presidio Trust's Vegetation Management Plan. Trees and shrubs will screen parking lots and the elevated front of the hospital. The west-facing parking lot will be re-contoured, and best-management-practice stormwater management and treatment will be used to protect Lobos Creek from pollution and runoff.
Wildlife will also be better protected once the project is completed, as use of Battery Caulfield Road will be highly restricted, and district tenants will not be allowed to have pets. For more information visit www.presidio.gov/trust/projects/phsh
Doyle Drive - changes to the landscape
This summer, work will begin on rebuilding Doyle Drive, on a fast-track three-year schedule due to an infusion of federal stimulus funds. Plans for a new interchange require 700 trees to be removed at the intersection of Highway 1 (Veterans Boulevard) with Doyle Drive. The Presidio Native Plant Nursery is collecting seeds and native plants from the affected area to preserve the Presidio's species diversity. The design team will soon begin the complicated process of detailing out the location and species of native plants and other landscaping elements for the entire project. Criteria will include location, soil type, wildlife protection, and cultural and historic considerations, under the guidance of the Presidio Trust's Vegetation Management Plan.
A welcome announcement is that stormwater runoff from the roadway will be treated on-site and discharged into the Bay, bypassing concerns about the potential pollution of the to-be-expanded Crissy Marsh and its connectors to the Tennessee Hollow watershed. The Sierra Club and the larger environmental community have been welcomed and actively involved throughout the extensive planning process. Many ideas for the protection and enhancement of native plants and animals, as proposed by the environmental community, have been included in this highly collaborative project. For more information visit www.doyledrive.com