The Presidio: Lessons in privatization

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So the Presidio Trust, the only private agency ever to control a national park, is going to make some cuts to meet its goal of complete economic self-sufficiency. But in tall the talk about this, it's easy to forget that the creation of the trust changed the mandate of the park -- and for the first time in the nation's history, established that a national park is all about making money:

In preparation for an end to federal funding, the trust purposely prioritized projects that would garner the greatest revenue, including residential units and the Letterman Digital Arts Center, said trust spokeswoman Dana Polk.

“We wanted to generate a revenue stream for the park right away,” she said.

Never before in the nation's history has anything like this happened. Yosemite doesn't have to generate enough revenue to cover its operating costs. The Grand Canyon doesn't have to accept real-estate development to pay its park rangers. National parks are something we use tax dollars to support.

Or at least, we used to. Until Rep. Nancy Pelosi came up with the idea of making the Presidio into a money machine.

Along the way, that great pauper George Lucas wound up with a $60 million tax break.

And we wound up with commercial office development and high-end residential uses in a national park.

What an awful precedent.