From Presidio Historical Association
August 28, 2008
The San Francisco Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board has sent a letter to the city’s Planning Director detailing its concerns about controversial development proposals in the Presidio of San Francisco, a historic national park.Â The proposals include a 100,000 sq. ft. contemporary art museum proposed by Gap founders Donald and Doris Fisher, a large hotel and movie theater multiplex.
In a six-page letter sent August 22 to San Francisco Planning Director John Rahaim, Landmarks Board Vice President Robert W. Cherny criticizes the Presidio Trust’s Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) which discusses the building proposals, stating that, “The Board does not believe the DSEIS is adequate because it does not fully evaluate the impacts to the [Presidio’s] National Historic Landmark District…”
The Landmark Board’s letter also cites the Board belief that three of four development alternatives covered in the DSEIS violate the Secretary of the Interior’s “Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties”.
The letter says that, “The Board concludes that the proposed art museum is not a ‘minimal change’ and would not be compatible with the massing, size, scale, and architectural features of the historic Main Post buildings, and would therefore violate the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards…”, noting that similar conclusions have been reached by State Preservation Officer Milford Donaldson, National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe, and Brian O’Neill, general superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA).
The letter also questions the Fishers’ private ownership and control of their art museum despite its being on public land.
The Board expresses cautious support for one alternative presented in the DSEIS which would make minor changes to the Main Post and old parade grounds, create visitor and archaeological centers in existing buildings, convert old barracks to lodging, and move the Fisher Art Museum off the Main Post to Crissy Field.
The Landmarks Board also criticizes the Presidio Trust for delaying release of a second report mandated by the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) which must address adverse effects of the Trust’s proposals upon the Presidio’s historic integrity.
As a national park managed by federal agencies, the Presidio lies outside of the jurisdiction of local government, but public outcry over the Trust’s actions by San Francisco residents led the city’s Board of Supervisors to strengthen constituents’ influence on the Presidio Trust’s decisions about the park’s future by creating a Presidio Neighborhood Representative Work Group to study and make recommendations to the city on local traffic, transit and parking impacts.
San Francisco’s City Attorney will issue a report on comments received from all city agencies on the DSEIS and submit it to the Presidio Trust.
“The Presidio Historical Association shares many concerns expressed in the San Francisco Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board’s letter,” said Gary Widman, President of the Presidio Historical Association, a nonprofit group focused upon preserving the Presidio’s historic integrity.
Founded in the 1950s, the nonprofit Presidio Historical Association (PHA) has worked in cooperation with the National Park Service and Presidio Trust since 1994 to advocate for preserving the integrity of the Presidio’s National Historic Landmark District, located within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA).Â PHA created a museum for the Army when it was based at the Presidio. Earlier, PHA helped restore historic Fort Point at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge.