Tuesday, December 14, 2010

While We Wait ???

What is happening between the Cancellation of the December 8 Presidio Trust Board meeting and the Holidays? Short answer: a lot of heavy lifting and maneuvering by neighborhood groups, national organizations and the Presidio Historical Association. The Trust has given us a short deadline to agree to sign a "programmatic agreement" that the "Big Three," the key agencies, have agreed to sign. This is an agreement on the procedures how they will supervise any actions that the Trust takes after - or if - it approves the plan for construction on Main Post of the Presidio. The Trust had planned to do that by the end of 2010. The big danger to us is that if we sign, the agreement is worded to go beyond procedural approval to say that the Trust has "taken into account" the many objections to its building plans. What does "taken into account" mean? How can the Trust approve actions that its own study says will harm the historic integrity of the Presidio and "take into account" the fact that this damage will happen?

This bizarre situation is our main issue: what does "taken into account mean?" Organizations that do not sign will lose their rights as "concurring parties" in future implementation of the plan, such as commenting on what a hotel would look like. But if they sign, they may be yielding completely to the Trust's incorrect claim that the Trust building plans comply with regulations and law. We know that they do not. How can we sign a document that says it is okay to go ahead and damage the historic landmark? Even worse, signing would undermine any later complaints we make through other channels.

So? The Trust has been asked to extend the deadline to sign the programmatic agreement until the end of January, It is now due on Christmas Day. That time is needed to get help from technical experts and for community groups to meet with their membership. For you, I say forget this stuff until after the Holidays and return from good times with family and friends to fight another battle soon after the New Year.

Season's Best to All, Presidio Pal

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Today, December 7, the Presidio Trust abruptly cancelled tomorrow's long-announced Board of Directors meeting that included the last time that the public could speak directly to the directors to tell them that people care about the Presidio and do not want a commercial hotel in the middle of it..... especially since the Trust has no real reason to do that harm to the National Historic Landmark.

One thing about being a Presidio groupie is that there's never a dull moment. And, we never know exactly what's going on.

So, we ask, what's up? Even though the Trust was not required by law or policies to open tomorrow's meeting to public comment, it announced that it would. Now, the meeting is cancelled until some time in January, a date uncertain. They claim scheduling difficulties for this meeting that has been scheduled for weeks? Not convincing. Has the Board decided that it could not take take the heat of more hours hearing the public telling them that they are on the wrong course? No, the board members are very experienced in flak catching.

My speculation - absolutely a SWAG - is that one or more of the board members is asking to maneuver around more public testimony by making the decision first and then later having a public meeting to announce the decision. On the other hand, there are few board members who do have quiet reservations about a controversial hotel decision being really necessary right now, when there is not a commercial sponsor chomping at the bit to pay for it and ready to start building. Are these directors bucking the Trust's group think and speaking their minds to cause this delay?

Wouldn't it make sense if the hotel project were put on the back burner until it could be revived - if the Trust decides to fight on - in a revised master plan for all the Presidio that is due in a few years? By then, personal egos can chill and the memory of the art museum fiasco will fade away. Then, maybe a hotel could be located in a far less sensitive location that makes better sense for temporary lodging purposes and better respects the historic values of the national park. Nah, nothing at the Presidio makes sense, so why should this?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

December 8 Meeting of Presidio Trust Board is Crunch Time

At 6:30 p.m., December 8, the Presidio Trust Board of Directors will hold a business meeting at the Golden Gate Club (near the National Cemetery) with an opportunity for the public to speak. This is our LAST CHANCE to tell the Trust that they have no understandable excuse to knowingly harm the historic landmark that Congress told them to protect by building a commercial hotel in the center of the most sensitive historic heart of the Presidio. The commercial hotel chain that offered a proposal has disappeared. The Trust gives no economic reason for this damaging project. Competition from 33,000 hotel rooms in San Francisco makes building 100 more in an urban national park ridiculous.

The Board will formally approve the project shortly after this meeting unless YOU, the public, makes it clear that this turkey won't fly. We did it with the proposed modern art museum, and we can do it again on Wednesday night.

For details, go to the Presidio Historical Association website at For more, go the the Presidio Trust website - Major Projects - View the Documents. Find the latest Main Post Update dated November, 2010, and see pages 36 and 37 for their sanitized description of the "Lodge." An earlier analysis of the damage Trust plans will do to the historic integrity (that's what makes it a NATIONAL Landmark) is in a document titled "Finding of Effects," also on the Trust web site. It is written in National Historic Preservation Act language, but we all can see that even the Trust admits it is screwing up if it builds this hotel.

Why does the Trust Board persist in this scheme that started as an arts district based on the now-defunct "gift" of a mega art museum? Hubris perhaps? Top staff's careers invested in getting something out of this mess to save face? No, the Trust Board is made of very prominent and well intentioned people accustomed to the sort of power no one says "NO!" to. They aren't used to reexamining their assumptions or backing off under pressure. They don't question wayward staff judgments, and they have staff that does not challenge them. YOU, the public, have to make that challenge. Wednesday, 6:30 p.m., Golden Gate Club (next to the National Cemetery. Signs will be posted.) BE THERE!


As you can picture, there are too few of us in the trenches and Presidio issues have been flying fast and furious. My day Presidio volunteer job is eating up most of the time. (Don't ask). Presidio Pal has not responded to over 80 posts. In fact, I missed finding them until today. This cybergeezer has much to learn about blogging. Thanks for your patience and support. We are in the midst of redesigning our web/blog/social networking methods. Until then, stay tuned, but above all, keep up your wonderful presence in supporting the richly historic Presidio and Golden Gate National Park. Thanks, Presidio Pal