Battle lines drawn over Presidio future 

The battle lines were clear Thursday night over the future of what will become the center of the Presidio.

On one side stood supporters of an art museum proposed by "Star Wars" creator George Lucas. On the other stood backers of a cultural center proposed by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

While it was no melee, the two sides did not see eye to eye.

Nearly 250 people gathered in the Observation Post at the Presidio to weigh in on three very different proposals to create a cultural institution on what was once a commissary, but has been occupied by Sports Basement.

Whichever project is chosen will act as the centerpiece of the Presidio's phased repurposing of former airfield and barracks locale Crissy Field.

For Jim McCullough, a San Francisco film commissioner, only Lucas' project would do the historic site justice.

"Unique, special, fabulous and wonderful are a few words to describe the Lucas Art Museum," McCullough said . "We are being given an incredible gift. We should graciously accept it."

Lucas wasn't present, but his supporters were, many in orange T-shirts purchased by Melanie Blum, vice president of the San Francisco Film Centre and a consultant for the Lucas project.

Many of the supporters of the conservancy's proposed Presidio Exchange project, including Doug McConnell of Bay Area Backroads, were also present in numbers and sporting PX pins.

"Artists and filmmakers in San Francisco don't need more museums to be inspired," said Miles Votek, a local artist who supports the PX proposal.

What they need, he added, is a place like the PX to show their work and gather.

Still, others weren't in favor of any of the proposals.

Janette Barroca, a Marina resident who didn't like any of the proposals, specifically called out Lucas' plan as a bad idea.

The federal body in charge of the Presidio requested proposals in November 2012 to take advantage of the eventual linking of Crissy Field to the former military base's center, the Parade Ground. The timing of the project was linked with the Presidio Parkway, which has already tunneled a part of Doyle Drive (U.S. Highway 101).

The Presidio Trust's criteria were that the proposals had to fit in with the park's aesthetics, serve as a cultural institution and recognize the area's history.

Lucas, whose project has been most in the spotlight, has publicly criticized both competing proposals as well as the Presidio Trust's board for its inaction on his proposal, where he hopes to house his art collection. Lucas has pledged $700 million of his own money and has the backing of Mayor Ed Lee, even though The City has no jurisdiction over the project.

In 2009 another museum in the Presidio was floated by Gap co-founders Don and Doris Fisher, but was withdrawn because of public pressure.

The Bridge plan, which would be a "hybrid museum, science and nature center; a living building; and a portal into the Presidio," would focus on sustainability awareness, according to the proposal. The proposed building would act as a main access point to the Presidio as well as a site for rotating exhibits and a think tank.

The proposal by the Presidio Exchange is described as a cultural center that would host and put on cultural events and act as a main access point for the public to the Presidio. The project was created by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, a group that has had a lot of experience with similar projects in the area, according to their proposal. The group helped reinvigorate other sites in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, including Lands End, Crissy Field and Fort Baker across the bridge.

A final decision is scheduled to come by the end of the year.

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Bio:
Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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