Presidio Trust decides on museum proposals

Pub date February 3, 2014
SectionPolitics Blog

The Presidio museum showdown has come to an end for now, and the winner of the hotly contested mid-Crissy Field site is (drum roll, please) … no one.

Not the Golden Gate National National Park Conservancy. Not the Bridge Institute. And no, not Star Wars creator George Lucas.

At an impromptu press conference this afternoon, Presidio Trust Chair Nancy Hellman Bechtle said the board unanimously voted to not move forward with any of the museum proposals.

“This is the most spectacular site in the country,” Bechtle told reporters. “We simply do not believe any of the projects were right for this location.”

Since November of 2012, The Bridge Institute, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy’s Presidio Exchange, and filmmaker and Star Wars creator George Lucas’ personal pop art collection have all competed for a patch of uber-desirable real estate a stone’s throw from the Golden Gate Bridge.

The site is currently occupied by Sports Basement, whose planned move will be unaffected by the decision to reject the museum proposals, a spokesperson for the Presidio told the Guardian.

In January the three teams were made to re-submit their three proposals to the Presidio Trust, which cited Goldilocks reasons for not liking the various proposals. The Lucas Cultural Arts Museum was too big, the Presidio Exchange was too programmatically vague, and the Bridge Institute didn’t have enough of the green stuff (money).

But unlike Goldilocks, in the end the Presidio Trust did not find any porridge that was just right. However, it did offer to assist with finding alternative sites in the Presidio for the museums to find homes.

“There are a number of sites in the Presidio that are possible places to build,” said Presidio Trust Executive Director Craig Middleton. “We are really early in these conversations.”

The Lucas Cultural Arts Museum’s spokesperson, David Perry, said there are many cities vying for Lucas’ pop and cultural art museum.

“We’ve been getting requests to look at other sites for this museum, we’re going to look at those sites,” Perry said. We asked if he was referring to Chicago, where Lucas has expressed interest in building the museum before.

“I’ve heard all kinds of cities,” Perry said.

When we asked Perry how Lucas felt when he heard the news, he answered a bit oddly, if candidly.

“I spoke with George this morning,” he said.  “And as my grandmother used to say, if ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candies and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.”

Above: Hit “play” to hear Lucas Cultural Arts Museum spokesperson David Perry tell us how his grandmother would have reacted to the Presidio Trust’s decision. 

Okay then.

Notably, the Lucas proposal was endorsed by Mayor Ed Lee, tech venture captalist Ron Conway, and a host of other well-heeled and monied backers. In a letter to the Trust, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi publicly urged its members to hurry up on a decision, and to choose something that would bring in “a vibrant cross section of visitors to the Presidio, with particular attention to inner-city youth.”

We asked Becthle what influence, if any, opinions from powerful politicians had on the Trust’s ultimate decision.

“They’re very interested in California and the city,” she responded. “Sure I listen to [Sen. Dianne Feinstein], and to Nancy, but I think it was most important to do what was right with the park, and not to please one side or the other.”