The Newspaper of the San Francisco Bay Chapter
March - April 2007
Presidio Trust clips hospital's wings
Important step to reduce clutter of buildings in national park
After years of review, the Presidio Trust Corporation has announced its decision to tear down the wings added in 1952 to the Public Health Service Hospital, leaving the building shell as originally built in 1937.
The Sierra Club has worked with the Trust, since the Trust was set up in 1997 to manage most of the Presidio National Park, to reduce the quantity of buildings in the park. Many of the buildings are historic, and many are required for meeting the congressional mandate that the park take in enough rental revenue so as not to require any federal appropriations beyond 2012.
The 175,000 square feet of the original building (near 14th and Lake Streets) will be converted into apartments, largely studios and one-bedrooms. These smaller units will, for the first time, provide housing within the park that is suitable for the typical family sizes of park employees and employees of the non-profits and other businesses renting space in the park. Most housing units now in the park have 3 - 5 bedrooms, built for large Army families. If people who work in the park can also live there, they will generate less in-and-out traffic. The Club will encourage the Trust to give park-based employees preference for renting there. Some rentals may be subsidized for low-income employees. The Sierra Club has proposed a public advisory council to help promote interest within the Presidio for the new residential neighborhood.
We are encouraged that the new Trust Board has listened to the voices raised at public meetings and in neighborhood groups to take down the non-historic wings of the Public Health Service building. This will be the first time the Trust has torn down without rebuilding. Congratulations go to the Club for its long-term involvement, plus the Neighborhood Association for Presidio Planning, the Planning Association for the Richmond, and the Richmond Presidio Neighbors.
Other housing possibilities
In a less welcome move, the Trust is planning to issue a Request for Proposals for developers to bid to build housing near the Lucas project at the Lombard Street entrance to the park. The 150 units would `replace' a non-historic barracks-like building. The Trust has not even begun to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement on the project. Without updated estimates of expected in-park employment, now ranging from 5,500 to 7,000, it is not clear whether more housing is needed for park-based employees. (It is outside the Trust's mandate to build new homes for the general public.) We have urged the Trust to set up a public task force on Presidio housing before moving ahead with any new construction.
A better housing move, which we urge the Trust to look into carefully, would be to reconfigure 100 existing large units into 200 smaller units to meet the needs of park-based employees.
Congratulate him on the good decision for the Public Health Service Hospital. Encourage him to pursue full occupancy there by Presidio-based employees. Request a re-look at subdividing large units elsewhere in the Park to provide more appropriate smaller-unit housing for park-based employees. Before requesting developers to propose additional new construction, ask the Trust to prepare a parkwide plan for housing designed to meet the needs of people working in the park.
© 2007 San Francisco Sierra Club Yodeler
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