Monday, April 25, 2011

What's Going On This Summer?

One area of activity over the summer will be for the details of the recently approved Main Post Plan to be hammered out in the Programmatic Agrement process. Following nearly three years of disputes concerning a contemporary art museum, a hotel and shaping the future purposes of the Main Post of the Presidio, in February the Presidio Trust Board approved its plan. It also approved a "Programmatic Agreement," which is a formal contract that lays out what has to be done for historic preservation as the Trust moves to implement its plan. The key actors for doing that are the State Historic Preservation Officer and the National Park Service. They are joined by less influential but very important public and neighborhood groups. They are hammering out the detailed rules and procedures that the Trust must follow as it acts on the approved plan. What will the buildings or additions actually look like? The Programmatic Agreement process led to great improvements in the Lucasfilm buildings, for example. The Presidio Historical Association has chosen not to sign the Programmatic Agreement because that signature would mean that we agree that the Presidio Trust has met its legal obligations to minimize damage to the National Historic Landmark. We do not.

A second set of activities is centered on creating a visitors center and a Heritage Center, places where park visitors can go to find out why the Presidio is a valuable national park and what it offers to the public. The result of a series of workshops about the visitors center will be presented at the log cabin (in Fort Scott near the small chapel) at six o'clock, May 31. The visitors center concept, place and financing all remain pretty muddled. Lots of public concern and pushing will help to ensure that the bureaucratic and conceptual problems that exist are finally overcome. After all, where else is there a national park that has not had a real visitors center for ten years?

A third problem that the Trust faces is action by Congress to eliminate funding for the Presidio Trust. That was expected in 2013, so these cuts move the cutoff date forward by two years. Frankly, the Trust remains in good financial shape. It is the Park Service that is hurting. Trust budget cuts should not weaken commitments to create the Heritage Center in the Officers Club, nor will they materially harm historic preservation projects. "Greening" of Main Parade is underway. The Trust received an additional five million dollars in 2010 for the Heritage Center and six million dollars more than its original request to the federal government for other projects. The expected budget for 2011 was cut eight million, but in the past two years the Trust received over sixty million dollars for the Doyle Drive destruction of historic properties. Normal income from rentals has softened only slightly. The federal budget cuts can be absorbed by the Presidio Trust without missing a thing.

The Trust is rehabilitating the remaining Montgomery Street Barracks with its own funds, rather than rely on tenants. We understand that there will be a temporary visitors center in building 205, next to the Disney Family Museum. A business school is eyeing that building to lease. The Trust has pledged to use the ground floor of these historic buildings for "public purposes." That sounds like a deliberately misleading term for tee shirt shops and snack bars.

Finally, the Concours d'Elegance that was held successfully the past two years will not be on the Presidio in 2011. All the construction work prevents that from happening.

Please, attend meetings and keep your interests known by e-mailing, phoning or writing to the Presidio Trust and the National Park Service.


Anonymous said...

What's going on with Building 1201 on Fort Scott (the HQ building). I e-mailed the Presidio Trust and of course got no reply. The board of directors allocated funds for some sort of construction there and at the Baker Beach apartments.

PresidioPal said...

The Trust has advertised for someone to be the Executive DIrector of a leadership institute to be at Fort Scott. The buildings there under rehab are for that purpose. They anticipate raising 40 million dollars for the "institute." My shallow understanding is this leadership training will be for young potential leaders in public service and the nonprofit world. The Trust would not have started on this idea, I believe, unless they had a big donor standing in the wings. Fort Scott is a difficult historic property to rehab and reuse because of its extensive poured concrete internal walls. A use such as the one described would be supported by historic preservation policies and regulations and it is anticipated in the Presidio Trust Management Plan (2002). Presidio Pal