Change Afoot at the Presidio – Take Action!

The face of the Presidio is changing and our input is needed. The Presidio Trust is acting on long-term plans to create a cultural space at the historic site of the former Commissary. As Sports Basement transitions elsewhere in the Presidio, the new space promises to be a cornerstone of the park going forward. We have the opportunity to see that the changes both embody and strengthen the mission of the National Park Service. The Trust is currently considering three proposals for the Presidio’s former Commissary site, now occupied by Sports Basement: the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, the Bridge/Sustainability Institute, and the Presidio Exchange.

The Wild Equity Institute believes that the Presidio Exchange (PX) creates the greatest sense of place by focusing on the beautiful and distinctive Presidio park space, while also housing a cultural and historical center. The proposed Lucas Cultural Arts Museum simply does not embody the spirit of the Presidio or the National Park System. While the Bridge/Sustainability Institute proposal attempts to incorporate the unique setting that is the Presidio, the plans come across as interchangeable with any other sustainable business building complex.

Crissy Field Marsh and Lagoon restoration could benefit from a good design for the Commissary.

However, the Sustainability Institute proposal does contain one element that should be explored and potentially adopted by the PX proposal: expanding Crissy Field Marsh and Lagoon into the Commissary property. Due to a variety of constraints, the restoration of Crissy Field Marsh and Lagoon several years ago was limited to a smaller zone than is needed for the lagoon to fulfill its intended ecological functions. The PX proposal should review the sustainability institute’s proposal to expand the lagoon and incorporate that element into its project to the maximum extent possible.

While the PX proposal is the best fit of the three choices for this location, it tries to be too many things to too many people all at once, and in the process short-changes the unique elements of its National Park setting. The National Park Service’s Organic Act, which established the agency, includes a non-impairment mandate. This mandate requires the agency to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” This is the National Park Service’s unique contribution to the multitude of open space agencies in the Bay Area, yet remains a relatively unknown element of park management. We would like to see the PX live up to this mandate by making a greater commitment to interpreting and explaining the National Park Service’s unique mission.

The former Commissary site at the Presidio has the potential to be a place of magic and beauty where the story of the unique land management mandates of the GGNRA and the Presidio are widely told. The Wild Equity Institute suggests that the Presidio Exchange receive the bid, but that the proposal should be modified to ensure that the programming is fully committed to the mission of the National Park Service.

Tell the Presidio Trust that you support the Presidio Exchange with modifications. Submit your comments at today!

Mark your calendar for September 23, 2013, 6:30 pm, 385 Moraga Avenue in the Presidio. Public presentations of final Commissary proposals followed by a question and answer session.

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