December 16, 2013
Lucas' Proposed Presidio Museum Panned By National Park Service
The Presidio Trust’s primary partner, the National Park Service, has just reiterated its concerns with the Trust's plans to redevelop the Presidio’s Commissary site across from Crissy Field and is strongly recommending that the Trust defer any decision for several years "to allow the site to develop in a more comprehensive, thoughtful, integrated, and planned manner."
The National Park Service has also expressed "serious concerns about the programmatic fit of the Lucas proposal," regardless of its architecture and design.
"From the information that has been presented to the public to date, we believe the program of the proposed Lucas Cultural Arts Museum has no genuine or substantive connection to the themes or programs of Crissy Field or the Main Post, or to other Presidio-connected themes that extend far beyond the boundaries of the post. While the programs of the proposed museum seem interesting, the museum’s offerings could be located anywhere; therefore, the museum does not merit one of the most important sites in the entire Presidio. The Trust’s own “Request for Proposal” spoke to the “Power of Place” as a primary theme: the Lucas proposal has no concrete reference to or interpretation of the Presidio."
The full letter to the Presidio Trust Board of Directors which was sent this past Thursday from Frank Dean, General Superintendent of the National Park Service:
Dear Trust Board Members:
We are proud to partner with the Presidio Trust in management of the lands, stories, and themes that comprise the Presidio. We have been pleased that the Presidio Trust has looked to the National Park Service for advice on the future use of the Commissary site. Because this site is located in a uniquely central position - precisely at the connection point between the NPS-managed lands of Crissy Field, and the Trust-managed Main Post - our interest in the right choice for the Commissary is very strong.
We appreciate that the Trust Board has at least temporarily delayed reaching a decision on the future use of the Commissary site. However, we must again express our strong recommendation, echoed by many others, that the Trust defer any decision for several years to allow the site to develop in a more comprehensive, thoughtful, integrated, and planned manner.
As we conveyed in our September 23, 2013 letter, the national landmark designation of the Presidio - and especially this site - deserves a use that relates to the Presidio’s mission and values and that fits seamlessly within the surrounding parklands. The proper stewardship of the Presidio merits taking a long view. The Presidio Trust should not rush a decision of this importance, especially if there is a lack of public consensus and if obvious controversy exists. With the many improvements already approved and planned, such as the new tunnel top parklands and the Presidio visitor center, there is wisdom in allowing these new uses to settle in before selecting a major new use and tenant for the Commissary site.
In our earlier letter we outlined what we believe are critical questions that should be addressed by the project proponents. The key questions related to programmatic and architectural fit. They were framed to insure that any future use of the site would enhance its national park values, become part of a carefully crafted continuity of programs that illuminate the Presidio’s cultural and natural themes, and respect important design guidelines and standards.
We are aware that the Trust has raised serious issues regarding the architectural design and scale of the proposed Lucas Cultural Arts Museum. But architecture aside, we have serious concerns about the programmatic fit of the Lucas proposal - something that is of paramount importance to us.
From the information that has been presented to the public to date, we believe the program of the proposed Lucas Cultural Arts Museum has no genuine or substantive connection to the themes or programs of Crissy Field or the Main Post, or to other Presidio-connected themes that extend far beyond the boundaries of the post. While the programs of the proposed museum seem interesting, the museum’s offerings could be located anywhere; therefore, the museum does not merit one of the most important sites in the entire Presidio. The Trust’s own “Request for Proposal” spoke to the “Power of Place” as a primary theme: the Lucas proposal has no concrete reference to or interpretation of the Presidio.
As you know, we have been working hard – together – to provide a cohesive visitor experience from the future Heritage Center on the south end of the Main Post to Crissy Field and its array of recreational activities and the acclaimed youth and family programs of the Crissy Field Center. We feel that only a use that enhances the opportunity to build the thematic and programmatic connections that NPS and the Trust have been working closely together for years to achieve should be selected for the site.
We offer these additional comments out of a desire to make certain the decision of the Trust Board is clearly informed by the perspective of the Trust’s primary partner at the Presidio, the National Park Service. To reiterate a point from our September letter, we commend the Trust for the openness of the very public process you have employed in reaching this very challenging decision. We request that you continue this openness throughout the rest of the process.
As it stands, revised proposals for redeveloping the Presidio’s former Commissary and current Sports Basement site across from Crissy Field are due on January 17, 2014 with the Trust Board having originally planned to indicate a direction for the Mid-Crissy Field site soon thereafter.
First Published: December 16, 2013 3:30 PM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
Defer it to NEVER.
How about something for veterans? Far better use.
Posted by: Invented at December 16, 2013 3:39 PM
I guess Lucas is building in Chicago then?
I'm actually rather glad as I feel the Presidio is amazing and does not need an interpretive museum or a LucasWorld.
Posted by: AnonArch at December 16, 2013 3:43 PM
Thank you. Good bye Darth. See you in Chicago.
Posted by: Futurist at December 16, 2013 3:51 PM
Why doesn't Lucas build his beaux arts museum in the Palace of Fine Arts, where the Exploratorium used to be? It already has the architectural style he likes, and will be vacant by July 2014 (when the lease for The Town School for Boys ends).
Posted by: Tim Bracken at December 16, 2013 3:55 PM
Lucas could consider any number of other sites in the Bay Area as well. Santa Clara or Oakland would be more central than the Presidio. Granted SC or OAK aren't as prestigious of a location but if you were about to dump millions into a project like that what would you consider most important: prestige or the number of visitors it could attract?
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at December 16, 2013 3:58 PM
Yes, very good news. No need to have this intrusive museum of cheese in the Presidio. Put it downtown or yes, in Chicago.
Posted by: Snark17 at December 16, 2013 4:16 PM
Lucas, go ahead and build it on piers 30-32 instead of the Warriors arena. But make the museum better looking please.
Posted by: anon at December 16, 2013 5:15 PM
I assume you commenters love the Bay Area and want to see it improve, given the nature of this site... if so, regardless of what you think of Lucas's proposal for the Presidio (and I happen to like it), why would you be happy about a tourist draw going to another city?
Posted by: Sierrajeff at December 16, 2013 5:16 PM
great news! hopefully 6 more years of sports basement and fewer tourists.
on another note, i run in the presidio a lot and am disgusted by whats happening there. All the single track trails are being replaced by 8 ft wide hard gravel trails to make more accessible. It really ruins the rustic nature of this important park. Hundreds of trees have been removed over the past few years in this effort to make it more tourist oriented.
I do not want the presidio to be turned into the circus that is golden gate park.
Posted by: moto mayhem at December 16, 2013 5:19 PM
Gee...and the Disney Museum is so "in tune" with the Presidio? Give me a break!
Posted by: RDL at December 16, 2013 5:21 PM
God forbid we make the Presidio a park for the people.
And what's with the hate on the tourists? They're people from all over the world who come here because they think this is a great city.
Posted by: jenofla at December 16, 2013 7:24 PM
Location irrelevant. JHFC - what. a . piece. of. trash. schlock. A late 1980's po-mo car dealership outside the Vegas strip. crap like this is what would keep SF down just when we're on the rise as a real city at last. George baby, we really do love you (except episode II...) but please, let's hire some talent
Posted by: Sharperblue at December 16, 2013 8:17 PM
I still think it is unfortunate that Lucas needs to have a museum named after him, reflecting the pop culture of his life.
It would be so much better if he could be converted to an advocate for the Fine Arts Museums. He could give his fortune to them, and have a big auction of his pop collection, and give the proceeds to the Legion and De Young. They could in one generation go from two good regional museums to comprehensive international standing, and he would get the credit.
SF MOMA is moving in that direction with the addition of the Fisher collection.
Posted by: conifer at December 16, 2013 8:33 PM
conifer - Lucas' proposal specifically doesn't address the fine arts. This country already has many fine art exhibitions to choose from. But there's nothing as comprehensive for commercial artists.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at December 16, 2013 9:32 PM
A while back I visited the exhibition at the Presidio called "Before the Bridge, Sight and Sound of the Golden Gate". (This exhibit is now closed) While most of the out of state tourists were flowing into the Walt Disney museum next door, the Golden Gate exhibit seemed to be attended mostly by locals from the Bay Area. Although it did not have all the animatronic bling of the Disney museum I found the Golden Gate exhibit fascinating and learned a lot about the undersea canyons, migration of fish and birds, and how this unique spot has always been concentrated with human life for a very long time. The portion on military control of the entrance to San Francisco bay, especially before 1900 was astonishing. If additional exhibits about the Presidio, bridge and future were developed, I would think this type of "museum" would be much more appropriate than a Lucas museum. Why not a center that actually has something to do with the unique history of the Presidio and Golden Gate instead of George Fisher, Walt Disney or George Lucas? The Presidio should not become a billionaires memorial park. (I must admit, the Disney museum is over the top, and my out of town relatives love it however)
Posted by: anon94123 at December 16, 2013 9:38 PM
Right, that exhibition is now closed. What does that tell you?
Don't get me wrong, I too wish that people would flock to museums that are actually educational, rather than lame Disney-esque (or actual Disney) crap. But the reality is that they don't and reality kinda ought to be a factor in these decisions.
Posted by: formidable doer of the nasty at December 17, 2013 1:49 AM
Seems like the Sports Basement, being tied to nature and the outdoors and the ocean, is the perfect fit. That or a military/aviation museum (which I would actually like to see built). I can't think of anything else that would meet the board's preferences, though maybe I can come up with some ideas if I've got years to think about it.
Posted by: BobN at December 17, 2013 4:30 AM
I for one would love a museum with the collection of American popular artists of the 20th Century like Norman Rockwell, and yes some Lucas films paraphenalia, for those of us who enjoyed Star Wars, there is absolutely no reason not to enjoy an exhibition at a museum.
The museum would be a big draw for us natives and all the tourists we love to hate while we work in industries that serve them. (disclosure: I don't work in the hospitality industry).
That being said, I really wish Mayor Lee and SF Recreation and Parks take the lead and explore the Palace of Fine Arts exhibition hall as a place for Mr. Lucas museum, it would be a perfect fit.
And please folks, can we get past all the "billionaire" hating that goes on at this site and many others in SF. It was "billionaires" of the past that gave us many of the museums and cultural institutions and hospitals that we take for granted now.
Posted by: e flat at December 17, 2013 7:53 AM
A military museum would be very relevant here
Posted by: Spencer at December 17, 2013 9:52 AM
As someone who's not a big fan of the current role of the military in the US, I have to say I think a military museum at this site would be fantastic. (Yes, obviously a red herring because such a thing was never proposed...I'm just musing here). A military museum ON a historic military base, in one of the most left-leaning cities in the US, could be brilliant if it presented a wide range of views on the military history of the US. The usual military history/monument/memorial is nothing more than jingoistic patriotic pablum. I'd love to see something distinctly different..not knee jerk anti-anything, but showing scholarship and a range of viewpoints. Let's start the process over...now who will pay for it? lol
Posted by: curmudgeon at December 17, 2013 10:16 AM
Please consider moving your (planned) musuem to Alameda Point. There's plenty of room in a spectacular setting. The museum will be a part of new a beautiful, vibrant, transit oriented, urban neighborhood. In fact, once the neighborhood is fully built out the musuem will be easily accessable by car, bike, light rail and ferry. If you want institution that will be treasured, fully integrated into the community and used every day...then come on over to the East Bay.
Posted by: VancouverJones at December 17, 2013 10:16 AM
Along the lines of what you're thinking curmudgeon is the new Imperial War Museum in Manchester, UK. Despite its bombastic name this museum is a lot more than an exhibit of military hardware. It delves deeper into the impacts of warfare and global conflict. The plight of refugees and other civilian effects are given prominence and consideration.
Something like that might fly in SF.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at December 17, 2013 10:56 AM
san francisco and the west coast role and presidio in WW1 and WW2 and internment camp exhibits would be great.
Posted by: moto mayhem at December 17, 2013 11:00 AM
Everyone needs to realize that the Presidio Trust is self-supporting. They don't get money from congress like the National Park Service. They lease out buildings and land. That's how they get funds to operate. Lucas is not jamming this down anyone's throat, the Trust wants his money. Military museum is not going to pay off - indeed that's the kind of organization that would ask for an in-kind donation of rent-free space.
Posted by: TEJ at December 17, 2013 11:16 AM
TEJ....I think most on here realize that. It's just idle musing. I think if anything we can say this whole story exposes the difficult mandate under which the Presidio Trust operates.
Posted by: curmudgeon at December 17, 2013 11:29 AM
Anyone know where the formal authority for the decision lies? It's interesting to see two agencies discuss this out in the open.
Posted by: Kenz at December 17, 2013 11:41 AM
GBye Mr. Lucas! Now, can we finally stop pretending that we are going to have a nature preserve on some of the most highly coveted land in the US and turn the keys over to the developers? I foresee lots of condos and high density housing. All highly desirable - why not move the techies here? Would you rather have an office overlooking Mission Street or the Golden Gate? heck, you can even squeeze in some commercial space
Posted by: wrath at December 17, 2013 3:03 PM
^^^ Only if residential and office uses are balanced by industrial. I'm thinking of lead smelting or perhaps the ever so green metals recycling facility would be good.
And freeways too. The Presidio would make a great shortcut between the Marina and the Richmond.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at December 17, 2013 3:54 PM
The Presidio has a LOT of rental housing already . They have created more decent attractive livable rental units than any of the so called large developers in the city. I just looked on their rental site and the 2 bedrooms are around $2,700. One bedrooms are around 1,900 to 2,100 a month. All have parking and access to one of the most spectacular settings in the world.
Posted by: Anon94123 at December 17, 2013 7:24 PM
Anon94123, where are you seeing 1BDR's in the Presidio for $1900? I just ran a search on the site for 1/1 under $3000 and there was nothing available - there were two 1BDR units listed as "not currently available" for $2900 and $2500, respectively.
Posted by: Fishchum at December 17, 2013 9:55 PM
True, what is currently available is not much. There were 2 bedrooms that were listed around 2650 ( south Baker Beach as an example ) but these seem to have been leased however. I checked with my friend and her lease on a 1br is $1950 a month , but she las lived there for 3 years, so it might be more today? I know the Presidio is not for everyone, but I have two friends leasing there and they love it. It sort of has a Big Sur atmosphere in the middle of the city. She recommends getting pre-approved and wait listing for the housing someone wants. There are 1 bedrooms, but they come up rarely and go quickly.
Posted by: Anon94123 at December 18, 2013 5:20 AM