Copyrighted material

The Vision Ignored

by Diana Scott

to main story
In June 1999, when Marin-based filmmaker George Lucas' proposal for the development of Letterman Digital Arts Ltd. beat out San Francisco real estate mogul Walter Shorenstein's mixed-use proposal for the development of the 900,000 square feet of space on the 23-acre Letterman site, the contest among six finalists (from an original field of eighteen) for the site apparently ended. But the question remains whether this use violates the essence of the vision detailed in the General Management Plan.

An amendment made to the Presidio Trust Act in 1997 included a General Management Plan (GMP) for the Presidio. The goal of creating a global center was the ostensible reason for converting into the Presidio into a national park.

Adding the General Management Plan to the Presidio Trust Act is a mixed blessing, for while it lays out the vision of environmental and ecological sustainability (not to be confused with financial sustainability or self-sufficiency), it's a rather diffuse planning blueprint -- long on vision and short on steps for implementation.

In its 150 well-designed, amply illustrated pages, the General Management Plan notes the former base's exceptional cultural, natural, and recreational resources. It outlines key planning issues and concerns and identifies four "broad, interrelated program areas" best suited for the park's facilites, setting, and purpose: stewardship and sustainability; cross-cultural and international cooperation; community service and restoration; health and scientific discovery.

The GMP, with sections on ecologically-sound transportation strategies, and sustainable design and conservation practices, goes so far as to link environmentally-sustainable concepts and actions to 13 "planning areas" throughout the park. But it goes no further. Instead it turns implementation over to an envisioned "federally chartered management partner with skills and authorities that supplement National Park Service expertise, particularly in professional areas that are not widely represented in the agency, such as financing, capital improvement, programming, and leasing."

That partner, which is now the Presidio Trust, has already modified guidelines by giving the nod in its requests for development proposals to high tech, market-based uses over less lucrative environmentally sustainable ones, and has explicitly ignored the GMP recommendation, stated on page 72 of the plan, that Letterman/LAIR remain a scientific research and education complex "to improve human and environmental health...and understanding and manage the interdependence of health and the environment."

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor December 28, 1999 (

All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permission to use in any format.