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!

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