Editor's Notes

Commercialism creeps through the Presidio


I don't like the George Lucas building at the Presidio. I don't like the idea of an 850,000-square-foot commercial office complex (with a Starbucks!) in a national park, and I don't like the fact that Lucas got a $60 million tax break for locating in one of the most desirable locations on Earth. But at least the Star Wars man made some effort to ensure his $350 million headquarters looks a little bit like the historic buildings around it.

And by that standard, I really hate the plans for the new Don Fisher museum.

Fisher wants us all to think he's a great guy because he's going to spend his own money to build a grand hall to display his own modern art for all of his adoring subjects to see, and he's hired a fancy architect to design it. But check out the drawings — the thing is an abomination. It looks like something an alien dropped out of another galaxy far, far away and into the parade grounds of an old military base. It has no context, no connection whatsoever to anything that's already there. I'm sorry, but it's ugly. Butt ugly.

And it really doesn't belong in the Presidio.

Think about it for a second: This is a part of the city that has almost no public transportation. The old Sixth Army headquarters was never set up to handle hundreds of thousands of visitors (on the contrary: like most military bases, it was designed around security, with limited, narrow access gates that could be quickly closed down). The roads aren't wide, the nearby city streets are already pretty crowded, and there isn't a lot of parking.

So anything that brings large numbers of tourists in large numbers of cars to the center of the Presidio is going to be a problem. It's nuts that the Presidio Trust is even considering this project — either the museum is going to be a waste of everyone's time and money because it doesn't attract visitors or it's going to be a nightmare of traffic and crowds.

If the great Mr. Fisher wants to put his art on public view, he could offer to donate or loan it to the existing Museum of Modern Art, which is situated downtown, near tourist hotels and lots of transit. But he doesn't want to do that; the way I've heard it, the MOMA folks weren't quite ready to bow down and let Fisher run the place any damn way he wanted. So he took his art and walked away.

Since he's worth more than a billion dollars, he could also buy an existing building near MOMA or buy a parking lot and build a museum, but Fisher wants to pollute the Presidio instead. And guess what? He thinks he's going to get away with it.

See, he helped Rep. Nancy Pelosi create the privatized park, and he was one of the original trust members, and this is how the rich think: We took this land from the public. We'll do with it exactly anything we please.

Pelosi made sure the San Francisco government has no direct say over this decision, but the supervisors should at least try to fight it. They should hold hearings on this, pass a resolution opposing it, call on Pelosi to oppose it (and blast her publicly if she won't), refuse to provide municipal water and sewer service, refuse to make traffic improvements ... and make it clear what this is: a billionaire's attempt to stick it to the rest of us.

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