By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
The Trust would be required to hold two public meetings annually; it would also have to submit to a General Accounting Office study after three and seven years.
A liaison from the federally appointed Golden Gate National Recreation Area Advisory Commission (which counsels the Park Service's Golden Gate National Recreation Area) would be allowed some sort of oversight role. And the Trust (much like the Park Service) would be required to establish a system for giving public information and receiving public feedback. But the Trust would otherwise operate as a business, free of most public scrutiny.
A majority of its members would not have to be environmentalists or experts in conservation, education, or public-interest matters, a reversal from the initial grand vision of the Park Service general management plan. Instead, the seven trustees -- three from the Bay Area, and one being the secretary of the Interior -- would possess "extensive knowledge" of "city planning, real estate development, and resource conservation."
The trustees would have to consider the general management plan, the legislation says. But their main duty would be to find tenants that "enhance the financial viability of the Presidio ... maximize the amount of revenues to the federal government ... and facilitate the cost-effective preservation of historic buildings."
Which is what critics call the smoking gun.
"The legislation turns the Presidio into a business park -- a cash register for for-profit business," says failed mayoral candidate Joel Ventresca, chair of the Preserve the Presidio Campaign. "It proposes to set up an unelected, unaccountable, private-sector, corporate board of directors to run the Presidio."
Ventresca and other No Trust'ers -- not their official name, but an apt description -- hark from a group as disparate as they come. There is Ventresca, a neighborhood activist so opposed to development that he's one of the few people speaking out today against the proposed privately funded city baseball stadium.
Joining him are anti-vivisectionists like Eduardo Cohen of In Defense of Animals (who protests the possibility of future animal research at the Presidio); former Supervisor Lee Dolson, representing retired military personnel (who protest the closing of Letterman Hospital); and Supervisor Angela Alioto, whose Presidio cry, "Don't give it away!" was a trademark of her own failed mayoral bid.
Capping the list is the San Francisco Bay Guardian -- which gives the foes a bullhorn.
"Save the Presidio From Becoming a Mall!" ... "Don't let them steal the Presidio!" ... "Pelosi's puppets" and "operatives" are cutting a deal that will "flood the Presidio with commercial activity similar to that at Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39," the Guardian has proclaimed in free ads or articles this past year.
The Guardian, to its credit, is the only local paper covering the issue with any regularity. And it does so exhaustively, alternatively focusing its disapproval on Pelosi, on PG&E and the $80,000 the utility was paid for a Presidio engineering survey (among other ventures), or on the Trust idea in general.
The comparatively "don't worry, be happy" Pro-Trust forces, meanwhile, include environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, San Francisco Tomorrow, and the People for a Golden Gate National Recreation Area, along with the League of Women Voters, a number of neighborhood organizations, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, most Bay Area Democrats, a majority of supervisors, former Mayor Frank Jordan, and the newly elected Mayor Willie Brown -- not your usual rape-the-environment cabal.
These Pro-Trust'ers call the latest Pelosi legislation "a victory for the Presidio" and "the only available way to save the park." They snort at the notion that the park will become a business mall; they tick off the ways that legislative and historic preservation safeguards will keep the Presidio beautiful. The Trust will provide a long-term guarantee of income for the park -- and a chief cook in what is a very needy kitchen, they believe. But the Pro-Trust forces are more subdued than the antis, and the caution in some of their voices, of late, hints of disappointment, or damage control.
"It's not the piece of legislation I would write today," says Alexander. "But are we probably as close as we're going to get now? Realistically, yes."
Which side -- pro- or dis-Trust -- is right?
Both are trying to read the future, rarely an accurate undertaking. Reading the past is the better bet.
When the Spanish in 1776 needed to establish the first military presence at the Golden Gate, the Presidio wore Endicott rifles. When the U.S. needed a resting place for its dead, the Presidio bore the West Coast's first national cemetery. When the Spanish-American War erupted, the Army opened its first permanent general hospital at the Presidio. After World War I, the Army filled the tender marshes and made Crissy Field the coast's first Army Air Service defense station. (The Presidio, in deleterious duty, was the first post assigned to send Japanese to internment camps.)
The base was even a leader in sand traps -- home of one of California's first golf courses.
So perhaps, Alexander is asked, it's predictable that the Presidio, so often a trendsetter, is on the verge of wearing a Republican hat?