Presidio's Main Post planning remains a hot topic

Presidio Planning
Main Post updated plan Illustration: Zendarski Studio
The Presidio Trust public board of directors meeting, originally scheduled for Dec. 8, 2010, will be held on Monday, Feb. 7, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at the Golden Gate Club, 135 Fisher Loop in the Presidio.
                 
Unlike the December meeting, however, Main Post planning is not on the published agenda as of press time. “The agenda is finalized as we get closer to the meeting,” said Clay Harrell, spokesman for the Presidio Trust.
                 
The final supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the Main Post update to the Presidio Trust Management Plan (PTMP) was released on Nov. 26, 2010. The Trust was required to circulate the SEIS for 30 days prior to adopting any recommendations in the report. According to the notice of release, “Although there is no requirement for the Trust to respond to comments received on the final SEIS, all comments received during the 30-day wait period will be considered.”
                 
The December meeting would have been within that 30-day comment period. According to Harrell, the Main Post will not be on the February agenda as most of the compliance issues and procedures, including the final SEIS, have been completed.

The process for recommending changes to the Main Post has been huge, taking years to complete and involving a large number of agencies, organizations, and individuals interested in providing input to the procedure. The 700-plus pages of reports can be accessed online at www.presidio.gov/trust/projects/mp. Below is a brief summary of the alternative selected, as described by the Trust:

•  El Presidio: The archaeological excavation of El Presidio will be enhanced with landscape treatments that will reflect the structure of the buried site and outline the open space of the original plaza de armas.
•  Archaeology lab and Officers’ Club: A state-of-the-art archaeology lab and curation facility will be located in rehabilitated historic buildings adjacent to the Officers’ Club, facing the footprint of the El Presidio archaeological site. The historic Officers’ Club will also be rehabilitated to host community and special events.
•  Park lodge: Building 34 (housing the current Trust offices) will be demolished to make way for a new park lodge along Graham Street, between the Main Parade and Old Parade grounds.
•  Presidio Theatre: The 1930s-era theater will be rehabilitated and used for its original purpose as a venue for performing arts and film. An addition will include two small theaters, accessible restrooms, and an interstitial lobby that allows the new construction to read as “distinct” from the historic building.
•  Montgomery Street barracks: Built in the 1890s, the six red brick Montgomery Street barracks that frame the Main Parade Ground will be rehabilitated and feature activities and services for visitors, such as restaurants, galleries and cultural institutions. The Walt Disney Family Museum opened in one of the barracks in fall 2009 and the International Center to End Violence will open in another in spring 2011.
•  Presidio Chapel: A small addition to the Presidio Chapel will provide an exhibition gallery and meeting space, accessible restrooms, and an elevator that makes the facility accessible.
•  Pedestrian access and parking improvements: Traffic will be removed from portions of Sheridan Avenue and Arguello Boulevard to improve pedestrian accessibility, circulation and safety. Parking will be relocated from the Main Parade Ground to the perimeter of the Main Post to create a pedestrian district in the heart of the park.

According to the Trust, concerns about a proposed park lodge in the Main Post led to modification of the project to better reflect the historic character of the area by approximating the pattern of the historic barracks that once occupied the site.
                 
“Lodging in the Main Post would help return some of the historic character and function to the Main Post and create a welcoming and accessible public place for visitors,” said Tia Lombardi, director of public affairs for the Presidio Trust. “The Main Post was historically a place where people lived and worked. It was a much more active place than it is today.”
                 
“We have successfully satisfied the public process for historic preservation,” said Rob Thomson, deputy federal preservation officer for the Presidio Trust. “Working with our partner agencies and a diverse range of interested parties, we’ve developed a plan to implement a range of projects that has the preservation of Main Post historic resources at its core.”
                 
Alan Silverman, of the Marina Community Association (MCA), feels that the hostilities surrounding the failed Fisher art museum proposal proved to the Trust that a positive working relationship with community organizations and individuals was critical.

 “The Marina Community Association was active throughout the SEIS process as an individual organization, as a member of Neighborhood Associations for Presidio Planning, and as a member the Supervisor Alioto-Pier’s working group. We spent hundreds of hours on this,” said Silverman. “When the Presidio Trust finally realized the strength of public opposition to the plans for a contemporary art museum, they seemed to have been more willing to listen to the neighbors and to the National Park Service, which has been very helpful in trying to resolve differences.”

Not all would agree.

Gary Widman, president of Presidio Historical Association (PHA), has found the Main Post planning process unsatisfying.

“Unfortunately, our most basic and important comments and suggestions were ignored, while Trust responses on minor issues created a misleading appearance of interaction with the public,” said Widman. “We are concerned that the Trust is trying so hard to spend its federal dollars on a Main Post hotel and put it where it doesn’t belong. It was created as a Presidio Trust, not a Presidio Real Estate Office, precisely because it was to protectthe most historic park and landmark site from development, not to build its own huge hotel on the site.”
                 
For further information about the Presidio Trust board meeting, directions to the Golden Gate Club, or other questions, please contact the Presidio Trust Public Affairs Office at 415-561-5418 or e-mail mainpost@presidiotrust.gov .