Tuesday, December 30, 2008


2009. What lies ahead? A large hotel and a contemporary art museum in the center of a national park and a national historic landmark? The path open for more wealthy donors to build their personal dreams in a park that belongs to all of the people? The present proposals and the revisions we are told to expect in January will continue to endanger the Presidio's status as a national park. If it to continue as a national park, it must be managed to the standards of a national park. Every action that the Presidio Trust Board takes that impairs the historic resources of the Presidio is one step closer to the Presidio's losing its status as a national park and national historic landmark. There are people in San Francisco and in Washington who would be delighted to see that happen. Some don't want the Presidio to be governed by national park rules, but to be a gorgeous vacant lot upon which they can build their fantasy of the moment. Others probably think that they could profit from such a development. Still others think that they can manage the park functions of a national park better than the men and women of a Park Service that has nearly 100 years of experience and proud tradition as custodian of America's national parks.

All the public - even those who admire Mr. Fisher's art collection- cannot find a single reason why the Fisher Museum has to be in a national park rather than in the thriving, arts-loving city nearby. That is because a contemporary art museum is alien to the values of the Presidio. It expresses the values of a modern city. It makes the Presidio someplace that is fundamentally different than when it was designated a national historic landmark.

So, how can we continue to keep the pressure on to save the Presidio? Write now to Congresswoman Pelosi to express your outrage that this struggle is still going on. Ask on what authority the Presidio would be a part of the only national park in the nation with a newly built contemporary art museum, when no other national park would have such an alien activity forced upon it. Ask her why the Presidio believes that it is not required to follow the laws concerning the protection of national park resources that guide all other other national parks. Does she support that position? Was the intent of Congress in the Presidio Trust Act for the Presidio to be in the parks system, but not follow the rules that define what a national park is? Is or is not the Presidio a national park? Send a copy of your letter to .

Write! Continue to monitor this blog and

Friday, November 21, 2008


Events are occurring so fast in the environmental review process for a huge art museum and a 140 room hotel on Main Post that even we who spend half our lives fighting for a true historical park cannot keep up. Here's a guess as to what's happening:

1. The historic preservation authorities at Park Service, state, and national level have finally convinced the Trust that Fisher's museum cannot be built at the chosen bowling alley site and that it cannot be built elsewhere as a massive monument. Public opposition made it possible for these authorities to do their job in a difficult political situation. What government agency wants to buck the Speaker of the House? Public opposition paid off in this step toward preserving the historical Presidio- but we are a long way from having succeeded.

2. NPS and Trust got together to work out what MIGHT be acceptable for the art museum in the area of the Day Care Center across Moraga Street. Those ideas are now the subject of review. IMPORTANT: This does not say the art museum should be at that location: it only studies what it would have to look like if it were located there. I argue that there are very strong objections to having 100,000 square feet of two story construction within 160 yards of El Presidio and located at an elevation 26 feet above the objectionable bowling alley site and Main Parade.

3. This idea of relocating and redesigning does nothing to answer fundamental policy objections concerning the legality or appropriateness of a contemporary art museum in ANY national park.

4. The ideas do nothing to justify ANY construction in a national historic landmark when there is no clear statement of purpose and need. The Trust's propaganda "purpose and need" in the Main Post Update is meaningless with such phrases as "revitalization" and "making the Presidio a great urban park." This is marketing. These are not clear expressions of need that can be analyzed throughout the EIS. The public should be able to understand a convincing need that is expressed in clear terms such that when the project is done, the results can be measured, Objective analysis based on a purpose and need that is understandable should be able to guide the public in its analysis and support for one of the alternatives in the EIS. That is required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

5. There are many rumors that the schedule will be changed yet again, but that was denied by the Trust attorney at the recent meeting when the new design concepts were introduced. These concepts are posted on the Trust website

STAY TUNED. There is a key historic preservation consultation scheduled for preservation organizations and neighborhood groups on December 2. The situation should be clearer then.

I suggest waiting to write your comments due December 15 until after the December 2 meeting when I will update you. Meanwhile, look at the new concepts on the website. Review "purpose and need" in the Main Post Update, also available on the Trust website. If you think they don't make sense, then please write a letter saying that and mail it to the Trust. Overwhelming public objection or lack of understanding of the "purpose and need" would require the Trust to rewrite the Main Post Update and repeat most of the review process. PresidioPal

Friday, November 7, 2008


For the second time, the Trust has changed the date of the big public meeting. Could it be that they do not want 700 more angry citizens objecting in front of the press to the wild plans to fit a huge contemporary art museum into the heart of a 230 year old National Historic Site and a National Park? The new date is December 9, but keep checking- a lot is happening behind the scenes.The Trust staff and Board of Directors are feeling heat from you, the public, and from national official preservation authorities.

Please keep e-mails and letters to the Trust flowing in. You may write more than once if you have a new idea or another specific objection. Go to the Trust website and look at the documents. The Main Post Update has screwy statements of need: what really is the need for a contemporary art museum and hotel? It has design guidelines to control building that are specific to Fisher's art museum. Do you object to those guidelines, and why? Pick an item or two that really bugs you from the Main Post Update and then write your concerns. Be specific and cite the page number that you are objecting to.

The tide is turning!

Friday, October 31, 2008


I guess that the Trust either expects a humongous crowd of angry people, or it hopes that parking will discourage some of us from attending, but the last chance for the public to sound off is November 13, 6:30 P.M., at Saint Mary's Conference Center, 1111 Gough Street. Some parking in the Cathedral lot off Gough and more at the Japanese Cultural Center. Be there with a very short statement to the point of what you want to happen or, better, what bad information or lack of information bothers you, or how the whole process may be illegal or at least procedurally hard to understand.

It Gets Curiouser and Curiouser

We expected an authoritative analysis of the damage a large art museum would do to the Presidio as a National Historic Landmark. That may still happen, but what we did get was a series of presentations by the Trust to the people working on behalf of the public who are concerned about keeping the Presidio protected as a National Historic Landmark. The Trust, after consultation with the Park Service experts (Why didn't that happen two years ago and save us all this grief?) is proposing a large structure or structures for Fisher's contemporary art museum uphill from the site of the bowling alley and across Moraga Street. The details of what that structure or structures might look like are up in the air. My first reaction is, "Oops, that area is 28 feet higher than Main Parade!" "Wouldn't a large art museum there tower over the heart of the historic Presidio even more than it would at the earlier proposed site at the head if the parade ground?" We don't know enough to sound the alarm, but we do know that the suggested site for CAMP is the only possible site on Main Post for a major history center. CAMP at this new location would crowd out the possibility of a first class history center on the Presidio. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 10, 2008

New Article on the Presidio

Everyone should read this article that explains the current battle for the historic soul of the Presidio:  See the article at

Strong Opposition to CAMP Grows: NEW SCHEDULE

First, the new schedule is for a public hearing to be held by the Trust Board on Nov 13. This replaces the meeting that was scheduled for Oct. 10 because the official report on the damage that CAMP would do to the Presidio's historic integrity is not due until October 18.  The Trust will need time to adjust to what we expect will be a damning indictment. It is very important that this meeting be crowded with friends of the Presidio as a historical park, The Fisher people are organizing art students and collecting IOU's from organizations which have benefitted from Fisher's donations  to pack the crowd. Be there to represent the people.

Second, the final date for submitting comments was changed to Nov. 17. Numbers and the quality of letters count.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

This Turkey Won't Fly

Folks, You are doing wonders by your comments and participation. I believe that the momentum has turned strongly against the sponsors of the 100,000 square foot art museum in an historic national park, despite rigged "guided" tours led by Trust employees, not National Park Service Rangers.

The tide has turned also in the battle being fought in the background concerning technical historic preservation standards that are being violated and the National Environmental Protection Act that would be completely ignored if the Trust approved building its pet projects. An all day "consultation" held Tuesday, September 14, brought the top people from state and federal agencies, several from Washington, as well as local preservation groups and representatives for thousands of neighbors around the Presidio. It was bare knuckle time.

The Trust officials  present included Craig Middleton, the hired executive for the Trust Board (and a former Pelosi staff member), the Trust's lawyer, and even the highly paid lawyer for Donald Fisher, sponsor of the contemporary art museum. They got an earful of six hours of direct, factual and expert objections not only to the proposals, but also concerning the irregular, confusing procedures that the Trust has applied to get us into this time wasting and expensive situation. 

 (Speaking of expensive, did you know that it is illegal for a government agency to spend funds to advocate for its favored alternative in the review processes? How much has all those marketing brochures and tour guides cost, I wonder? Do you think that they might have been biased in favor of the Trust's desired outcome? Send a comment to let us know.)

People who treasure the Presidio as what the State Historic Preservation Officer called, " A precious site unlike any other on the West Coast," left the meeting knowing that they were solid in their opposition to the Trust's reckless plans.  The feeling was that the unified position of authorities and the public in the review process finally has the Trust considering its options how to wind down this mess without too much egg on its face. But, we will be jerked around in this mess by the Trust for months more. I think that the Trust staff does not have the guts to tell the governing board of the Trust that "the Emperor wears no clothes," or (mixing metaphors,) "This turkey won't fly!" 

Participate! Continue your letters or e-mails to the Trust and Pelosi. Attend the workshops and meeting announced at or www. We are succeeding, but do not pullback your support now. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Under pressure from the public and from historic preservation authorities at the national, state, and city level, the Presidio Trust has extended its deadlines once again for comments on the proposed 100,000 square foot contemporary art museum, a hotel, and an expanded multiplex theater in the heart of the Presidio National Historic Landmark, part of a national park. The new schedule is:

Public Hearing, Tuesday, October 14, 6:30 pm at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater.

Public comments due, October 20.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Answers to Comments: Museums and Bowling Alleys

There was another bowling alley on the Presidio near Fort Scott, up near the Bridge. I believe that it had to be torn down because the building was in bad shape.

Yes, for years the Army operated a museum in a turn of the century hospital building. It actually was started by the Presidio Historical Association. After the Park Service took over, it was allowed to deteriorate until finally the NPS closed it due to poor access for handicapped  persons, no elevator, and the need for major building repairs.  It was popular with many people and school teachers, but too small to meet the needs of the Presidio. The National Park Service does not have the money or staff to operate a fully developed museum. The Presidio Historical Association has proposed a substantial museum to be established by a separate public nonprofit foundation, but with participation by the Park Service and the Presidio Trust. This vision would require a large sum of donor support. Until now, there has been little cooperation between the Trust and NPS concerning programs for the public or willingness to consider a third presence on the presidio to operate a museum. 

 We hope that the current debate about what the Presidio should be will reawaken and motivate new cooperation and new forms of solutions to create an important learning center to present America's history at the Presidio

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Can you believe the insulting attitude of "Let them eat cake!" of the supporters of the Fisher Museum on the Presidio? A BMW SUV pulled up in front of the July 14 meeting location and handed out box lunches to CAMP supporters and the crowd, most of whom were not interested, thank you. 

One extraordinarily well dressed man who spoke in favor of CAMP said, "No matter what you people do, you are wasting your time. Meetings like this are all ceremony, you know."

No wonder people's reaction is, "To the barricades!" Join them to reject CAMP. 

Monday, July 14, 2008


What a great show of support today for keeping historical values at the Presidio from being submerged in a sea of new construction that is completely unrelated to the natural and historic resources of the Presidio Park! All the 600 chairs were taken, hundreds more lined the walls, and more were turned away from the doors. The Presidio Trust offered its habitual nonsense about "revitalizing" the Presidio. Would you "Revitalize" Gettysburg or Independence Hall? 

The Fisher people, including the Mayor of San Francisco, made speeches about how wonderful the art collection was and  how beautiful the Presidio was, but none of them had an explanation why the unsuitably large building had to be located directly in the center of the most historic area of the 1776 historic site. Sure, we all agree to keeping the art in San Francisco, but not on the Main Post of the Presidio.

Amy Meyer, the "Mother of the GGNRA," spoke out strongly against the Trust's interpretation of the GGNRA legislation. Amy made it clear that the law does NOT permit adding up the square footage from various demolished structures to justify building one huge structure. The National Parks Conservation Association backed up that view with a stinging legal review letter sent on July 11. This obviously got the Trust Board's attention because Amy Meyer is widely respected in the community and was herself a recent board member of the Presidio Trust.

One objectionable event was a  person introducing 300 signatures in support of CAMP and the Trust accepting them to the record. Isn't the whole point of a public hearing for the public to show up and express themselves? Those names should not be accepted to the record. 

The key arguments used by our allies will be posted under "Issues" on

All in all, it was a very good evening for those who cherish the Presidio as a park for all the people. It was you, each one of you reading this, and your friends who made a strong statement to the Trust Board....are they listening? Do they understand what they are hearing?

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Presidio Hearing and the Good News

How wrong those were who said to oppose the limitless money and influence of Mr. Fisher and the arrogance of the Trust Board to support a huge modern art museum in a national park! Well, in America's unique democratic way, a powerful coalition has emerged to bring sanity to a crazy situation.

1. The National Park Service has ruled that the construction would threaten the Landmark. That was a high level announcement. The NPS has the responsibility by  law to protect national landmarks.

2. The State Historic Preservation  Officer has sent a very strong letter to the Trust to demand that it follows the prescribed procedures. The SHPO also has strong objections.

3. The National Parks Conservation Association has been working effectively in the background to protect park values  and authority in the Presidio. The NPCA is well connected in Washington.

4. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has come out strongly in opposition to the construction ideas.

5. 42 or more neighborhood organizations are on record to oppose the Fisher Museum. 

6. Many individual volunteers are working extraordinary hours to stop the art museum in the Presidio.

7. Most importantly, you, the public have been vocal in opposition. Literally thousands of comments to the press, blog entries, and letters to the Trust want history, not modern art, in our historic landmark.

Personally, I think far more progress has been made toward stopping the Trust Express than most people realize.

BUT, the Trust Directors may not be hearing you, nor are the politicians. We do not know if the intensity of the opposition is not being reported to them by the staff or if they think that public opposition cannot touch them. 

YOU MUST SPEAK OUT MONDAY, JULY 14,  AT THE 6:30 p.m. HEARING. If nothing else, say, "I oppose the alternatives  of a  big art museum or hotel, and I support Alternative 3, the History Center at the Golden Gate."    

The main page of will lead you to more detailed suggested comments.                                                                 

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Well, Maybe Not Quite So Big--Preparing for July 14 Public Hearing

My math enabled friends pointed out that I had omitted considering the fact that most of the CAMP (contemporary art museum at the Presidio) is two stories. So, working only from the text description in the draft EIS just released and from the rough schematic of the ground level with its scale, it works out that maybe it is not as big as 93,000 refrigerators. Is only 45, 555 refrigerators stacked up small enough that it won't make a difference to the "sense of place" of a 230 year old National Historic Landmark?  You decide. It still is far, far larger than the nearby buildings.

Watch the Presidio Association website for our first analysis of the draft SEIS that is supposed to be discussed by the public on July 14. We plan to have some key points for  your consideration posted on July 7. Wading through 318 pages of distortions, omissions, and ambiguities is not easy. We hope that you are trying to read the study, nevertheless.

 Do not base your opinion on the slick P.R. materials that have been issued. A brochure with a historic picture of soldiers in front of a 1902 barracks on the cover from that says we will bring back history by building a large contemporary art museum and a big hotel in front of those barracks. This does not pass the test of common sense. 

Friday, June 20, 2008

First Look at Draft Environmental Impact Statement

Doublethink pervades the draft EIS for the art museum, hotel and expanded theater in the Presidio National Historic Landmark. Readers are asked to believe that the Trust is defending the historic place by building a  huge contemporary building! Think about that. We see a brochure with Spanish American era soldiers sitting on the steps of a 1902 barracks, and inside is the smallest picture of the art monument that can be imagined. Somehow, the new construction of an art museum and hotel is supposed to "revitalize" a national park by bringing activity to the park that is not grounded in national park values or practices. The NPS quit building hotels like the Awahnee in Yosemite many, many years ago. The Trust says that every great national park needs a large hotel! 

The Park Service takes its responsibility under the Park Service Organic Act to protect park resources and values very seriously. The Presidio Trust says that it does, and the law establishing it orders the Trust to protect the National Historic Landmark.  Despite these facts, the Trust recommends a preferred alternative that inflicts damage so severe that the Park Service has stated it would threaten the Landmark Status (and the protection against development that landmark status is supposed to provide.) The Trust draft SEIS is so convoluted in its logic that we have to wonder if it were written by George Orwell as an example of his propaganda controlled world in 1984. 

A serious deficiency is that the Trust acknowledges in the draft EIS that there will be "adverse effects" on historic integrity, but there is no analysis of those adverse effects nor how to mitigate them. Why this omission? The answer is that the Trust has suspended  detailed consultation with the Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Presidio Historical Association. This consultation was part of a formal process recommended in the National Historic Preservation Act. Instead, the Trust has chosen to hire a consultant - the usual solution for getting the answer you pay for. The consultant is to write a "Determination of Effects" that describes adverse effects. This procedure bypasses input by expert organizations that the Trust knows oppose the massive construction. It also fails to inform the public so it can comment with full informaton at the public meeting scheduled for July 14 and in written comments due to the Trust by July 31.

We will spend a week or more to thoroughly analyze the EIS and post a detailed point paper here or on the Presidio Association web site,  . The analysis will be assisted by a registered PhD. Architectural Historian. This analysis will be completed in time for you to make your own decisions prior to the July 14 meeting at the Officers' Club at 6:30. Be early and get in line to speak. It will be a crowded event.  

Thanks to those who have posted comments, phoned or e-mailed. Keep  your thoughts and suggestions coming!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New Environmental Impact Study Ignores Objections of the National Park Service and National Trust for Historic Preservation

We have not yet seen a copy of the Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement released by the Presidio Trust to the press before September 9. The long document is posted on the Presidio Trust website. We will soon summarize our analysis here. 

The headline in the San Francisco Chronicle that reported on the new study erroneously stated that "park officials" selected the museum plan. In fact, the Park Service strongly opposes this plan. The reporter made the frequent error of equating the Presidio Trust with the national parks. The Presidio Trust is a Republican-appointed board of business people that have no official relationship to the Park Service: the Trust is an oddity in our national system. It reports only to a subcommittee of Congress, which in practice means that the Presidio Trust has very little oversight at all.

We do know that the new study follows what seems to be a predetermined path to approve the nearly three football fields' worth of new construction in the heart of a National Historic Landmark and a national park belonging to all the people. The study selects as the preferred alternative to build the 100,000 square foot Fisher Contemporary Art Museum and a large hotel in the center of the historic landmark, despite warnings by the National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation that the actual status of the Presidio as a landmark would be threatened by such construction. The Presidio Trust would ignore such opposition at its peril: these organizations are dedicated by law to preserve national historic landmarks - as is a mission of the Trust itself! If this construction happens, the board members of the Trust would be defying this mandate from Congress.

Stay informed. Our analysis of the new study will be posted on the Presidio Historical Association website,, by June 21. This will give you time to form your own opinions to express at the key public meeting scheduled for July 14 at the Presidio Officers Club. Be There!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Board of Supervisors Will Vote to Create a Committee to Monitor the Presidio

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier has introduced a resolution to establish a watchdog coalition to focus on Presidio projects, including a contemporary art museum, a  large hotel, and a movie multiplex to be constructed on the National Park, which is also a National Historic Landmark. The resolution responds to residents' outcry against the Presidio Trust's development plans.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on June 3 to create the Presidio Neighborhood Working Group for the people of San Francisco to monitor development of the national park, the Presidio of San Francisco.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Nation's Leading Voice for Historic Preservation Opposes Contemporary Art Museum and Hotel on the Presidio

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, which is the most prominent national organization for preserving the architectural heritage of America, has written a strong letter condemning construction of a contemporary art museum on the Presidio National Historic Landmark. The Presidio Trust that manages the Presidio has publicly supported this proposal and has selected a developer for building a 80,000 square foot hotel near the art museum and the 200 year old site of the Spanish Presidio in the center of the historic district. 

The NTHP stated in a letter to the Presidio Trust "This project would not conform to the Secretary's (of Interior) standards, and indeed, would be inconsistent with the Presidio Trust's own planning guidelines and analysis." 

The NTHP elsewhere in the letter makes this strong statement: "Taken together, the diminished historic integrity of the Main Post that would result from the proposed undertaking is profoundly disturbing. Given the Main Post's role as the historic heart of the Presidio, the degradation of its  historic integrity would be fundamentally contrary to the Presidio Trust's mandate, and must be avoided at all costs." 

The National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation now are on record along with the people of San Francisco to demand that the historic character of the Presidio be preserved. How can the developers on the board of the Presidio Trust be so deaf to the voice of the people and the authority of the nation's top historic preservation organizations that they plunge ahead with the reckless idea of a contemporary art museum and a hotel in the center of an historic national park?


Saturday, May 10, 2008

San Francisco Neighborhoods Unite to Save the Historic Presidio

A powerful coalition of 48 San Francisco neighborhood groups has united in opposition to the construction of the large Contemporary Art Museum at the Presidio. This is a break-through development that clearly and forcefully mirrors the opinions of  hundreds of letters received by the Presidio Trust that oppose any building that damages the historic character of the Main Parade Ground area of the Presidio.  

 The resolution of the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods "urges our elected officials to oppose any buildings or activities that compromise the historic significance of the Parade Ground either by their purpose and function, architecturally, by the size, color and design of the proposed new building(s), or by the level of activity that will be generated by the new use(s)." 

The Neighborhood Coalition also stated its concerns about the growing traffic and parking issues associated with any large new enterprise on the Presidio.

Friday, April 11, 2008

New Key Support to Preserve the Presidio National HIstoric Landmark

The National Park Service has taken a strong position warning that the proposed Fisher art museum would have serious adverse effects on the integrity of the National Landmark. The law requires the Presidio Trust to preserve the Landmark. The Park Service's strong and principled statement strengthens greatly the odds that the art museum will be moved and modified in size.

Many do not know that the entire Presidio is a National Historic Landmark designated by the Secretary of the Interior after review by a panel of historians and historic architects. The National Park Service is the federal agency responsible for identifying and preserving national historic landmarks. The are about 2,500 national landmarks in the nation selected to preserve an important story of American history. The Presidio is even more rare, a landmark DISTRICT, which is a collection of structures and landscape that collectively express important stories of American history. 

The National Park Service is responsible for preservation of the "integrity" of National Historic Landmarks by advising and warning. It does not have the legal power to compel an acton. It is participating with the Presidio Historical Association, the State Historical Preservation Officer and other agencies in a review of the proposed new construction, including the massive contemporary art museum that has been supported by the board members of the Presidio Trust. Other agencies have joined the Park Service and the Presidio HIstorical Association in rejecting the size, design and location of the museum proposal. These positions opposing the art museum are being taken in a formal process under the National Historic Preservation Act. Although the Presidio Trust can by law ignore the recommendations of the panel, it would take a tin ear by the Trust to ignore formal opposition under the Historic Preservation Act and the outpouring of public outrage expressed in  hundreds of letters, comments to newspaper articles, and questions from the press.

Nevertheless, money talks and money talks loudly to politicians. The possibility of a massive modern structure paid for by a billionaire in the middle of San Francisco's treasured historic landmark district is still very real. If you have not written Congresswoman Pelosi, please do. If you have, write or e-mail again. We hope that the message finally will get through to the key decision makers. Until now, their gatekeepers are protecting decisonmakers from  the truth about the real threat the Fisher art museum is to the Presidio remaining protected as a National Historic Landmark. 

Public outrage expressed well, often and loudly will be the real "decider"in  the Presidio fight. Make your opinion known.

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, 450 Golden Gate Avenue, 14th floor, San Francisco, CA  94102. Or,

Also, Board of Directors, Presidio Trust, P,O, Box 29052, 34 Graham Street, San Francisco,  CA  94129.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

New York Times Chimes in on Challenge at the Presidio

The Sunday, March 30, New York Times has an excellent article that accurately and forcefully outlines the fundamental issues and personalities concerning a proposed 100,000 square foot art museum in the historic center of the National Landmark.

We do not yet have permission to post the full article. Go the the New York Times website. You can easily find it. You may have to register. The author is Patricia Brown. The title is "Art and History Clash on City's Sacred Ground."

We think having the national newspaper of record recognize this situation for what it is will focus a bright light on the abuse that is developing at the Presidio where an unelected board of business people is trying to force an inappropriate and possibly illegal privately managed personal art museum into the center of historic grounds owned by the people of the city and the nation. 

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Unbelievable: Now a Multiplex Theater is Planned for the Historic Presidio!

First, the developer for a 80,ooo square foot 100 room luxury hotel right in the center of the Old Main Post was selected. A few months later, the Presidio Trust welcomed a proposal for a glass and white stone huge contemporary art museum to be built next to the flagpole. Historical groups and regulators point out that such glaringly inappropriate and large new construction in the area would destroy the integrity of the National Historic Landmark: such construction can't happen there.

 Now, a new building is being planned. It is an addition to the Old Post Theater on Moraga Avenue located right across Montgomery Avenue where the big art museum is to be. The addition is a modern movie mall sort of structure that is larger than the historic old theater building itself.  The management of the Trust has shown either arrogant disregard for historic preservation principles, or the Trust Board has its head in the sand and does not want to recognize that there are real limits from public opinion and  historic preservation standards that prevent massive inappropriate new construction in a National Historic Landmark. What the Trust wants to do is build 200,000 square feet - MORE THAN THREE FOOTBALL FIELDS - of modern looking new structures within a few hundred yards of the 1776 Spanish Presidio the  and even closer to the flagpole.


What can we do to stop this madness that will ruin the Presidio and maybe even cause it to be removed from the list on National Historic Landmarks? E-mail Nancy Pelosi with  your thoughts to: and copy the Trust at 

Your actions will bring sanity to this crazy situation.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Less than 10 percent of letters from the public received by the Presidio Trust want a contemporary art museum in the designated prime location on the historic landmark, the Presidio of San Francisco. 30 percent specifically favor a proposal by the Presidio Historical Association for a History Center at the Golden Gate. The Trust chose not to consider that proposal due to the fact that it was not funded. Comments ranged from 15 percent in favor of both museums to 15 percent saying no museum construction at all.

This information was acquired by reviewing one half of the 300 letters submitted. 43 of the letters were from civic and cultural organizations or commercial businesses. Of these, only 10 percent want the contemporary art museum built as proposed, while 25 percent specifically endorsed the History Center proposal. 

The Presidio Trust made the decision to move forward with the Contemporary Art Museum at the Presidio (CAMP).

Stay tuned. How long can the Presidio Trust Board (on which Mr. Fisher, the donor of CAMP has served)  ignore overwhelming public opinion that CAMP is the wrong idea in the wrong place at the center of a valued National Historic Landmark and a National Park? 

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Today, January 30, it was announced that the CAMP Museum (Contemporary Art Museum at the Presidio) was selected by the Presidio Trust, the govermental corporation that manages most of the Presidio National Park.  However, overwhelming public opposition resulted in the Trust confirming that no decision would be made until a comprehensive environmental review is completed. It is possible that this review will require relocating the big glass and white stone structure away from a proposed central position in the historic park to a less objectionable site. That would be a major victory for those of us who defend historical values and American history. 

The Presidio Trust also announced 5 million dollars for a visitors' center ( a Park Service responsibility that has not been funded) and a "history center." But, the "history center" is nothing more than a promenade with exhibits along the way and an audio tour of the buildings: it does nothing real to bring meaning to the history of America found at the Presidio National Historic Landmark District. That historical meaning will remain a closed book to the public if the promenade were to be the only "history center." 

A proposal for a 50,000 square foot "History Center of the Golden Gate" was rejected on the grounds that it was not funded.  The group proposing the History Center, the Presidio Historical Association, had asked the Trust to join with it to explore funding opportunities for a museum with nation importance at the Presidio, a proposal that is fitting with the magnificent site and National Historic Landmark.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


The Presidio of San Francisco was nominated to be one of the nation's "11 Most Endangered Historic Places". What do you think? Let us hear your comments. Here is the press release:

News Release


For Immediate Release - January 9, 2008


For more information, contact:

Whit Hall, Director:   707/778-6975, 

Gary Widman, President:  415/921-8193,


Historical Association Seeks “Endangered” Status for San Francisco’s



The Presidio Historical Association (PHA) announced today that it is

seeking “Most Endangered Historic Site” status for San Francisco’s

Presidio park.


On Tuesday, the Historical Association formally requested that the

National Trust for Historic Preservation include the Presidio on its 2008

list of the nation’s “11 Most Endangered Historic Places.” The National

Trust, a prominent nonprofit organization, provides leadership, education,

advocacy, and resources to save America’s diverse historic places.


PHA President Gary Widman said the move was necessary because the

Presidio’s management requested a proposal from Gap founder Donald Fisher to build a 100,000 sq. ft. modernistic stone-and glass-structure

showcasing his contemporary art collection on the Presidio’s historic Main

Post. The Presidio Trust, a federal agency, manages that part of the

Presidio. It has already named a developer for another new building, an

80,000 sq. ft. hotel to be built nearby on the Post.


The Presidio was a military garrison from 1776 to 1994, and is designated

a National Historic Landmark District, the highest possible designation,

by the Secretary of the Interior. Its buildings and setting reflect 220

years of America’s heritage.


The Presidio has not had a history museum since 1994.  PHA submitted a

plan for a “History Center at the Golden Gate” as an alternative to

Fisher’s much larger art museum.


“This precious historical site must be preserved for future generations

and protected  from incompatible structures and uses that would destroy

its integrity forever,” said Widman.  Widman noted the location sought for

the art museum lies in the heart of the Presidio, just yards from where

the Spaniards built their garrison in 1776.


Preeminent San Francisco landscape architect Lawrence Halprin said of

Fisher's proposed structure, "The absurdly inappropriate. It

would ruin the unique architectural character of the Presidio..."


Charles A. Fracchia, Founder and President Emeritus of the San Francisco

Museum & Historical Society and author of three San Francisco history

books, wrote that “...the [Main Post] should be preserved as it exists.

The intrusion of a large hotel and museum in a contemporary style of

architecture into this delicate space would be a desecration, both to the

aesthetic and historic importance of the site. Such a mistake, if allowed

to continue, will be looked upon in ages to come as eyesores built by the

unfeeling and the insensitive.”


Boyd de Larios, speaking for the Descendants of the Anza and Portola

Expeditions, whose ancestors founded the original Presidio garrison in

1776, supported PHA’s request for endangered status to bring “national

attention to the irresponsible proposals for large-scale, new, and

inappropriately designed construction in the historic heart of an

irreplaceable national treasure.”


The controversy over building the art museum and hotel on the historic

Main Post, when many more appropriate sites are available on the Presidio,

has generated thousands of critical comments on the internet.


Founded in the 1950s, the nonprofit Presidio Historical Association (PHA)

has worked in cooperation with the National Park Service and Presidio

Trust since 1994 to advocate for preserving the integrity of the

Presidio’s National Historic Landmark District, located within the Golden

Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA).  PHA created a museum for the Army when it was based at the Presidio. Earlier, PHA helped restore historic

Fort Point at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge.