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(and Minutes of the July 26, 2007, Board of Directors’ & Members Meeting)

NEXT MEETING: THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2007, 4:00 - 6:30PM: at the historic, Willis Polk home of Board Members, Ted and Dorothy Kitt, 2801 Broadway (corner of Broderick), San Francisco. Street parking available. Fillmore Street bus. Guests and prospective new members are welcome. Please bring refreshments for our reception that follows our meeting.

President’s Message - John J. Hodges:

"This is a very difficult letter for me to write as your President. And I will need your thorough indulgence and attention to my thoughts. The reason for your collective ruminations is because I think we are at a major cross-road for architectural preservation.

"You cannot walk the streets of our cities and neighborhoods without knowing that there is an accelerating pace to architectural preservation. There may not be enough going on to serve your taste or my taste but we have agree it is going on. Communities no longer automatically accept the demolition route as a convenient path for development or blindly accept the intrusion of new construction in say a park..

"The preservation movement in this country started with the preservation of patriotic monuments and knockout landscapes as Yosemite. Inflation, energy costs, and favorable tax policies have given solid economic incentive to preservation. But what about new construction, especially in historic natural settings? How are preservation organizations going to deal with new construction? Is it any of our business? Where does our advocacy begin and how far does it go?

"Specifically there is new proposal to build a new and very large building on the historic parade ground at the Presidio to house a contemporary art collection being given to the Presidio by a former Trust Board member. And art in the park may be a good idea?

"Let me make some bold statements which our organization may agree with or disagree with:

"First we must always be wary of agendas of a variety of constituents. For example it is human nature for any and all of us wanting to leave our mark for future generations to (in a very benevolent way) suggest policies that will maximize “I was here!” Many people have bricks with their name on it in the floor of churches or have dedicated a bench at a park or things like that. Some of us who have been dealt a good hand at life leave monuments of varying sizes. And frankly I see nothing wrong with a new art museum in the Presidio.

"But where will it be and what will it look like? MOMA? The new deYoung? The Jack Tarr Hotel? (Note to Presidio Trustees: Many people feel that public art should be decided by a public process, and that public buildings should reflect a sense of integrated design within a historic context). And by the way, where are all the cars going to park?

"And properties in the public domain under the stewardship of government agencies or quasi government guidance present a special case. Take the Presidio for example.

"Although preservation must have strong legislative support and guidance, federal and local public policy agendas often lack strong leadership for historic preservation and often get lost in politics and distraction.

"The fundamental question of who has ultimate responsibility for historic architecture in the public domain of the National Park is sharply defined, but in an odd way. The natural environment has a broad constituency all the way from the Park Service to the Sierra Club to the green movements that tend to hover around the park. These groups tend to have little interest in historic preservation.

"So by default, preservation especially cultural preservation is left to, no let me say delegated, to the bureaucrats who are mandated to protect both environmental assets but also the cultural assets. Implementation of the legislative guidelines is subject to their interpretation of the enabling legislation and is at best inconsistent and sometimes results in bitter conflicts. The most common excuse one hears is 'lack of staff and funding!'

"Should new construction be allowed to “intrude” in the Park environment? Should some old construction that represented an “intrusion” in WW1 or WW2 be torn down? What should the new architecture look like? When does old construction with a wonderful patina of years of exposure to the sun and edges softened by the fog and wind-driven rain become classic?

"Many of you are growing tired of the issues being played out in the Presidio National Park. I for one have grown disgusted with the management of many projects within the Park and should the Trust Board be interested in hearing from me on this topic I will meet with them any time and any place. But only face to face. Endless position papers for staff consumption are now a waste of time.

"The management of the largest urban park in the world just does not get it.

"The end result of having visited the Park for an American family or international visitor should be:

"Leaving with a memory that lasts a long time, of having been to a place with a special history, with unique architecture that merges with its setting and offers a strong image both of the whole and of its parts and pieces. Many of these special buildings and places will make an impression that lingers in the memories of visitors long after they have left. Perhaps years later the deep memory will be as fresh as today.

"So now the Trust Board will show its true colors and decide whether that memory is to be of this weeks featured “French Impressionist” or is to be the overall and balanced history of the newest national park, a history that many feel is about to be lost to future generations.

"The Park Trustees must know the Park belongs to the generations that will follow us. The Trustees must know the men and women of the West gave their strength and wealth and lives to the Presidio and our military and our country. And the Trustees must know that history and story needs to be told as it belongs now to their successors and future generations and is the real canvas that needs to be displayed.

"I look forward to seeing you this Thursday as we discuss (non-Presidio) new architecture ideas, review some eye-popping examples, and I want tell you the story of my visit to the most incredible 'must see' new architectural masterpiece in California!"

Remarks of Board Chair, Gary Widman: The Fisher Museum Proposal:

"By now, you have either read articles or the editorial in the Chronicle, or seen the RFP ads in the New Yorker, announcing that former Presidio Board member Don Fisher is giving 60 (or 80, depending on the source) million dollars to the Presidio for construction of an art museum housing his own private collection of contemporary art. His museum would have more display space than the SF Museum of Modern Art, and would occupy all of the block above the main parade ground that now houses the bowling alley and the old USO/Red Cross building.

"While the man’s generosity with his art might be applauded, his anointed location is deeply troubling. The problem is not that the bowling alley and other buildings in the block are historical treasures that should never be removed. The problem is that this museum, along with the Disney Museum now being built, and the hotels currently planned for the Main Post area, appear to insure that the National Historic Landmark District, which Congress gave in “trust” to the Presidio Trust as a site for preservation, interpretation and understanding of history, will be turned over to commercial uses, and other uses (like this museum) more appropriate to municipal parks. If the success of the Trust is to be measured by the ways in which this core historic area is treated, and treated differently from ordinary municipal parks or commercial office parks, then putting this museum into the core historic district, will mark the failure of the “Trust” as an institution for protecting “national park historic values”. That is unfortunate, because had the Trustees respected their trust responsibility and sought funds for a history museum or learning center with the same vigor they sought funds for other projects, the historic values could have been not only preserved, but by now would be a destination attraction. Had history been interpreted and presented here, the Trust might have become a model for transition of military bases to parks worldwide. Unfortunately, the Trust appears to be on the verge of forgetting what it was 'entrusted' with, and why.

"Many have already contacted me protesting that displaying a private collection of contemporary art is hardly a fit use for the Presidio. Considering some of the other uses already permitted, it is difficult for me to argue against the museum somewhere in the Presidio. But we all agree that it is not a proper use for a site that should have been made into a history destination by now, so that those who paid for that site, could come and learn about what happened there and what happened in the nation and the world.

"Several years ago, the Congressional NAPA Commission warned the Trust against pursuing its 'business as usual' at the expense of the historic values of the site, but the warning appears to have gone entirely unnoticed by the Trust.

"Other disturbing developments include what appears to be the Trust’s blind failure to do an environmental impact statement considering all the cumulative and overlapping effects from the many projects on the books. And finally, to make the Museum happen, the Trust has put out an RFP with specifications so narrowly drawn, and a deadline so tight, (90 days) that it would be nearly impossible for anyone who had the funds and desire to build a more suitable museum, to meet it. This rush to administratively forestall more far-sighted responsible uses for this unique land is unseemly and troubling. The Presidio, the Bay Area, and those who concerned about teaching and learning the lessons of history deserve better."

Minutes of the July 26, 2007, Board of Directors and Members’ Meeting:

The meeting began at 4:00 PM at the San Francisco home of Board Member, Lynn Armstrong Winkel. President John Hodges presided. Board members present: Marsha Calegari, Bill Fries, II, Winchell Hayward, John Hodges, Allie Huberty, Redmond Kernan, Herb Konkoff, Christopher & Adele Layton, Bill Palmer, Dianne Rowe, Stephen Steczynski, Susan Walima, Gary Widman, Lynn Armstrong Winkel.

Awards’ Dinner Recap

John Hodges: In order to keep the price of the Awards’ dinner reasonable, we can only hope to break even and this year, after expenses, we had a $200+ profit. Our awards’ dinner also resulted in new members and an invitation from Rick Hastie to visit Nick’s Cove on Tomales Bay, purchased and restored by Pat Kuleto. A discussion followed after the suggestion of a speaker at our December Holiday Party. The following ideas will be investigated: Brad Fanning, historian on Angel Island and the immigration center; Carl Nolte, or John King, writers for the Chronicle. The presentation would be approx. 20 minutes.

Presidio Update

John Hodges referred to a June 18, 2006 Chronicle feature on the Presidio stating: “more culture, less cash” and returning to the original mission as mandated by Congress. Several articles were distributed. President Hodges further expressed concern that the Doyle Drive project may not be managed well and suggested a contractor such as C.C. Myers be brought in. He rebuilt the freeway in So. California after the earthquake and did the quick repair of the recent freeway mishap in the East Bay. Local mayors should also be involved. It was suggested that we use our website to post articles or opinion pieces and have links to Congresspersons and Senators. We need to form a small committee to draft position statements for our website.

Gary Widman reported that the Environmental Assessment is out regarding the proposed hotel at the Main Parade Ground and that it states that there is no need to do a full EIS/EIR. He feels we should respond with the position that this document is not adequate because, for one thing, the hotel’s positioning isn’t shown. The Presidio Historical Association (“PHA”) is writing a letter of opposition to the Trust and suggests CHC do the same. There was a general agreement to write a letter in support of the position taken by PHA. Redmond Kernan stated that the PHA is forming a coalition of historical groups and they will meet in the near future.

There is also a public art project by Andy Goldsworthy called “Pyramid of Trees.” It will be 75' tall and composed of eucalyptus or cypress logs. There has been no public process. A private party will be paying for it but the Trust will not say who it is. Sue Walima will draft a letter to the Trust Board and fax it to Gary Widman. Our letters should also be sent to the press and especially the reporters that have written articles, such as John King. A suggestion was made to meet at the new Presidio Golf Club in the late afternoon, early evening and invite John King to speak. There will most likely be a charge for renting a room.

Website update

Chris Layton and Curtis Winslow: Chris stated that the website is 99% complete, however, we need an environmental statement and have a section devoted to advocacy, i.e., take on causes and post position statements. The website should be a good tool for expanding our membership. We also need to send a letter to all award recipients and ask permission to link to their web site and grant permission to link to ours.

New Business

Christopher Layton: Conchita Applegate has been in touch with the Commonwealth Club and they have agreed to host a program with us wherein Daryl Sattui, of the Sattui Winery in Napa, would be the speaker. Mr. Sattui has recently built a castle in Napa, bringing some materials from Europe as well as craftsmen from Europe to build it in the old style. This would be a December event.

Old Business

Neil Malloch is in the process of setting up a presentation for the anniversary of the Fairmont Hotel. He is currently approaching the Park Service and the Mayor for a proclamation commemorating Adolph Sutro and the Cliff House that was destroyed by flames in 1907.

The meeting adjourned at 6:00 PM and a reception followed. If you would prefer delivery of the CHC Newsletter by email versus U.S. Mail, please send your email address to This will assist us in keeping the list current.

(Please mark your calendar):

Monday, Sept. 24: 5:30-6:30 PM: Reception and briefing regarding the proposed Fisher Museum at the Main Parade Grounds. Meet at the Presidio Historical Association headquarters on Funston Street (2nd building in from Lincoln Blvd. & across from the YMCA). This meeting precedes the 6:30 PM Presidio Trust “scoping” meeting for the public.

Monday, Sept. 24: 6:30 PM: Presidio Trust Scoping Meeting regarding the proposed Fisher Museum at the Main Parade Grounds. Officers’ Club, 50 Moraga Street, Presidio of San Francisco.

Tuesday, Oct. 2: 6:30 PM: Presidio Officers’ Club, 50 Moraga Avenue. Tennessee Hollow Watershed Public Meeting to discuss the Environmental Assessment. Written comments accepted through October 9th.

Thursday, Oct. 25: 4:00 - 6:30 PM: CHC Board of Directors & Membership Meeting. Location will be announced.

Tuesday, Nov. 13: 6:30 PM: Presidio Trust Public Board of Directors Meeting. Golden Gate Club, 135 Fisher Loop.

Thursday, Nov. 29: 4:00 PM: CHC Board of Directors & Membership Meeting. Location will be announced.

Thursday, Dec.6: Thursday 6:00 PM: CHC Annual Holiday Dinner, Old Presidio Golf Club

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Sept. 27, Thursday, 4:00 PM Board of Directors & Members Meeting. at the historic Willis Polk home of Board Members Ted and Dorothy Kitt, 2801 Broadway in San Francisco.

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