clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Trouble in CAMP Land: "Adverse Effects" Feared

New, 9 comments

As if the Presidio Historical Association was going to give up this early in the game. In a damning memo to the Presidio Trust, the National Parks Service dissed on CAMP and the hotel and movie complex proposed for the site, stating that their construction would have an "adverse effect" on the Main Post. (Though such effects aren't outlined specifically, not-so-surprisingly.) The letter suggested that Fisher and his CAMP camp find another site to build on “so that it does not dominate the historic setting.” The published assessment of the Presidio's "cultural landscape" also claims that the building's size exceeds the limits established by an environmental impact review by over 100,000 square feet. Not to be spared, Gluckman Mayner's plans were sent to Hades as the NPS implored the Trust (not the architects— no second chances here, gentlemen) to reconsider the size and design of the building in order to render it "compatible with the character and cultural landscape of the Main Post NHL and consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards." The tedium, oh how it pains us so.
· Gluckman Mayner Refines "Stupid Boxes" for CAMP Design [Curbed SF]
· Underdog Presidio Preservationists Make Bid for Endangered List
· The Old School Despises CAMP Design, Lacks Fear [Curbed SF]
· Balls to Bowling: Another Presidio Protest [Curbed SF]
· Don Fisher Wins Camp Go Ahead [Curbed SF]

April 15, 2008

For more information, contact:
Gary Widman, President: 415/435-0360,
Whit Hall, Director: 707/778-6975, //

National Park Service Cites “Adverse Effect” of Presidio’s Proposed Art Museum on Main Post

The National Park Service (NPS) has serious concerns about new construction, including a contemporary art museum proposed by Gap founder Donald Fisher, hotel and movie multiplex, being located on the Main Post of the Presidio of San Francisco, a national historic park. The scale, location and design of the modernistic Fisher museum have sparked negative responses from thousands of groups and individuals nationwide.

In a letter dated April 4 to the Presidio Trust, which manages the Presidio’s buildings, NPS official Brian O’Neill detailed Park Service concerns regarding the “adverse effect” that the scale and location of the proposed museum and other projects would have upon the Presidio’s National Historic Landmark (NHL) status. The National Park Service is responsible for monitoring and helping ensure that landmarks such as the Presidio’s Main Post retain their integrity.

The NPS made “strong” recommendations to the Presidio Trust, including building the museum in a more appropriate location “so that it does not dominate the historic setting.” The NPS also asked the Trust to make the design and scale of the museum compatible with the character and cultural landscape of the Main Post NHL and consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.

“We are extremely pleased that the National Park Service shares many of our objections to the Fisher Art Museum being built on the Presidio’s Main Post,” said Presidio Historical Association (PHA) President Gary Widman. “The Park Service echoes our belief that the museum and other proposed new construction on the Main Post could destroy its historic character forever.”

The Presidio was the nation’s oldest continuously operating military post, dating back to 1776. The Spanish, Mexican and American military were there until 1995, when it became a National Park managed by the NPS.

In January, the historical association, a small nonprofit that has spearheaded the growing opposition to the Fisher Art Museum proposal, formally requested that the National Trust for Historic Preservation include the Presidio on its 2008 list of the nation’s “Most Endangered Historic Places.” The National Trust, a prominent nonprofit organization, provides leadership, education, advocacy, and resources to save America’s diverse historic places.

In 1996, Congress passed the Presidio Trust Act, which identified the Presidio as "one of America’s great natural historic sites,” emphasizing the “preservation of the cultural and historic integrity of the Presidio for public use recogniz[ing] its significant role in the history of the United States.” The Act transferred most building management duties from the Secretary of the Interior to the Presidio Trust, mandating that “new construction [be] limited to replacement of existing structures of similar size in existing areas of development...” It also allows the Trust’s seven-member Board of Directors to close all but two meetings per year to the public.

The Park Service’s five-page letter to the Presidio Trust commented on the National Historic Preservation Act “Section 106” assessment of projects being conducted by the Trust. The goal of the letter was to help guide the Trust’s management of the Presidio’s historic buildings and landscape to make them consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. Last December, NPS submitted written comments on the Trust’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) process, questioning the scale and site of Fisher’s proposed 100,000 sq. ft. museum and adjacent 80,000 sq. ft. hotel. In March, the Trust unveiled a proposal to add 18,000 sq. ft. to a nearby historic theater, raising proposed new construction to nearly 200,000 sq. ft. -- larger than three football fields.

In its letter, the Park Service notes that, “[T]he proposed undertaking in aggregate would result in an adverse effect that significantly impacts the integrity of the NHL [National Historic Landmark status]. Furthermore, when the cumulative effort of the proposed new construction and changes that have already occurred through the landmark is assessed, the threat to the status of the NHL is even greater,” said NPS’s O’Neill. “The projects as proposed...are not consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards, nor are they in keeping with the Trust’s own planning guidelines and cultural landscape analysis for the Main Post,” the NPS letter states.

O’Neill cites the Presidio Trust’s Management Plan’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and its published assessment of the Main Post’s “cultural landscape,” asserting that locating any large-scale building at the head of the Main Parade Ground with the massing, scale, and materials of the proposed museum and lodge appears to be in “direct conflict” and “inconsistent” with the Trust’s own guidelines, and its analysis and recommendations of the cultural landscape assessment.

NPS’s letter also notes that,“the total proposed new construction exceeds the FEIS established maximum for new construction by more than 100,000 sq. ft...[and that] the end results of these projects...if they go forward as planned, would be an adverse effect and significant impact to the Presidio that threatens the status of the district as an NHL.”

“This raises the question of whether the [Presidio] Trust would be living up to the intent of the Presidio Trust Act",, the NPS letter noted, adding that, “The question is especially pertinent since the severe impact is avoidable.” NPS suggests the Trust seek a more appropriate location for the Fisher Art Museum, and rehabilitate existing historic structures for new lodging.

NPS quotes the Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR 800) on protecting historic properties, which “requires that the agency official, to the maximum extent possible, undertake such planning and actions as may be necessary to minimize harm to any National Historic Landmark that may be directly and adversely affected by an undertaking.”

Further, NPS recommends reducing the scale of the proposed 80,000 sq. ft hotel so that the cumulative size of new construction in the historic Main Post does not exceed the mandated maximum of 110,000 sq. ft.


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). 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.