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!