September 19, 2014

Conservancy’s PX clearly best choice for Presidio Commissary

Rendering of proposed Presidio Exchange.

Rendering of proposed Presidio Exchange.

The Conservancy has been the non-profit partner of the Golden Gate National Parks for more than 30 years, with a demonstrated record of competence and commitment to park ideals. The Conservancy has the required economic viability, having raised $300 million to support the Golden Gate National Parks. The Conservancy has transformed Crissy Field, grown more than 1.5 million native plants, helped protect 34 indigenous sites in partnership with native peoples, protected 33 endangered and threatened species through habitat restoration and preservation, brought in 540,000 school kids in Parks as Classrooms, and built the Lands End Lookout, named the “Best New Building” of 2012 by John King of the San Francisco Chronicle. The Conservancy’s “Presidio Exchange” (PX) concept would create a 21st-century setting for connecting visitors with the natural world, the national-park system, and national parks around the world, through a wide range of activities such as film festivals, lectures, hikes, and classes.

The other main contender is the George Lucas Cultural Arts Museum. This would house Lucas’ collection of 20th-century American art as well as animation, digital art, and visual storytelling through art. This may be an extensive and interesting collection, but it has no relationship to the Presidio, its history, or the natural world. (Strategic Goal 1 from the Presidio Trust’s FY2005-2009 Strategic Plan is to “preserve and enhance the Presidio’s rich historical, cultural and natural resources.”) The Lucas collection could appropriately be sited anywhere, in or outside of San Francisco. Further the Presidio already has a museum of storytelling: the Disney Family Museum on the Main Post.

Rendering of proposed Presidio Exchange.

Rendering of proposed Presidio Exchange.

The other finalist is the Bridge/Sustainability Institute, whose plan would explore critical social, economic, and environmental issues.

The Commissary site, on the edge of Crissy Field, is spectacular, facing the Golden Gate and near an ancient archeological site. Should it house a site-specific institution focused on the history and environment of the Presidio–or a collection that could be placed anywhere? The Conservancy’s PX proposal would honor the power of this place at San Francisco’s front door, and at the edge of the city’s beloved front yard–Crissy Field–complementing the park’s unique natural and cultural setting.

Sep. 16 is the deadline for submission of final versions of the proposals. 

The Sierra Club supports the PX proposal and hopes that the Presidio Trust will not let the celebrity of George Lucas overshadow it.

WhatYouCanDo

On Mon., Sep. 23, come to a public presentation of the final proposals, followed by questions and answers. The meeting will be held at 6:30 pm, at Herbst in the Presidio, 385 Moraga Ave.

On Thu., Oct 24, the Presidio Trust Board of Directors will hold a public meeting for public comment on the final proposals. The meeting will be held at 6:30 pm. To learn the location (not yet announced), see www.presidio.gov.

To see the proposals and comment on them, go to the Trust web site at bit.ly/tellthetrust.

Becky Evans, chair, Sierra Club San Francisco Group

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