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 presidiotrust.gov.
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