California Heritage Council

JUNE, 2008 NEWSLETTER

President’s Message - John J. Hodges:

We need a favor from you. CHC means a great deal to me and the June Awards Dinner will be my swan song as your President.

It seems like yesterday when Henry Prien and John Ritchie asked me to become involved with CHC. That was eleven years ago. I first served as President for four years, then Chair of the Board for two years and then President for an additional two years. But alas it is now time for the leadership to pass to others. No, I am not going away, just assuming the Board Chair position again; but I still need that favor of you being there.

I am asking all of you to attend the June Awards Dinner. I want to say good bye to all my friends and properly introduce a new management team. Here is the lineup: Bill Applegate assumes the Presidency, Chris Layton is Executive VP, and Winchell Hayward and Gary Widman step down and resume their positions as Vice Presidents. And as is tradition, I assume the Chair position as retiring President.

It will be my final pleasure to thank the retiring officers and introduce the new leadership. And it will be a great evening celebrating the 2008 Awards!

I will not attempt to sum up the many battles and events we have participated together. I'll save that for another time. But let me spend some time with you framing up the “philosophy of why we are so concerned about classic architecture and preservation.” And yes I will put my remarks in the context of the Presidio National Park simply because that is our most current major battle.

Many years ago when I was a child my father took me and my brother on a tour of Civil War battlefields. I remember asking him why they were important. What they represented? Why were they being saved? What was their purpose?

That was many years ago and I can't remember his precise answers but I recall from my youth the impression my father left with me:

“Son as you get older you will find many people who will tell you that America cannot advance without the moneyed upper class leading the way, forcing the regular people ‘to see things their way.’ The ultimate culmination of misdirection in this case was a civil war. But remember this: out of this special battleground there is evidence that the true health of society is determined by the quality of the common folks rather than that of the moneyed upper class.”

Wow, a lot to chew on in that paragraph. But look at the similes between those statements and what is going on at the Presidio. Just down the street from hundreds of war graves in the Presidio are very wealthy people with names like Lucas, Fisher, Disney forcing the need for further development pressing the common people ‘to see things their way.’ While at the same time there are groups of folks simply asking for historic interpretation of the Presidio and architecture that fits with the spirit of the place. It is obvious which group truly reflects the health of our society.

Frederick Law Olmsted is generally regarded as the “father of American landscape architecture” and his list of accomplishments as designer of New York’s Central Park, plans for the Capitol grounds in Washington DC and as the first Commissioner of Yosemite Valley bear out the aptness of that title.

Olmsted knew his landscape subject and he knew that he had to protect the people’s right to their landscape treasures. He said this:

“It is the main duty of the government, if not its sole duty to provide means of protection for all its citizens in the pursuit of happiness against the obstacle which selfishness of individuals or combination of individuals is liable to interpose to that pursuit.”

Olmsted noted that all though the rich were able to furnish their own recreational opportunities, it was the government’s obligation to set aside and safeguard ‘scenes of impressive character’ where citizens could go for contemplation and relief from ordinary cares.

Olmsted predicted with remarkable prescience the risk of special places by the very wealthy. And it is only fitting that his son was appointed in 1928 chairman of the National Parks Board of Expert Advisors for Yosemite and served in that position until his passing.

And so with those observations I leave the job of driving the CHC bus to others but look forward to further fights and further philosophic peregrinations from a different point of view as Chair.

I want to thank Chris Layton for arranging a wonderful day trip to Petaluma and Napa. We were treated to private tours and tastings because of Chris’ contacts. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and informative day.

I look forward to seeing you all June 26 on the occasion of our Annual Awards Dinner.


Remarks of Board Chair, Gary Widman: Presidio Update:

The future of the Presidio as a historic site has never been as precarious in the past as it will be this summer. May could have been a great month for the Presidio Trust to pause and respond to the public outcry it has generated. But despite the clear and strong opposition expressed by every group examining the Trust's plans, there was no signal that anyone in the Presidio Trust was willing to stop. look or listen. The Trust apparently does not "get" that while its activities since the Meadows controversy have been below the radar of neighbors and public interest groups, they are no longer. The Trust's refusal to protect the historic Main Post's historic integrity has now reached the tipping point. As David Bancroft of the Cow Hollow Association put it, the community is no longer going to play on the Presidio Trust's seesaw. The community has walked away from that game. Understandably, strong opposition to the Trust has been expressed in resolutions from the Cow Hollow Association, the Marina Community Association, the Neighborhood Associations for Presidio Planning (12 associations) and the Council of San Francisco Neighborhoods, (45 homeowner associations), and others. (There is some overlap in membership in these groups.) As a unifying political force in San Francisco, the Presidio Trust has no equal. More groups are opposed to the Trust proposals than are involved in any other issue in recent San Francisco political history.

The National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Presidio Historical Association have all advised the Presidio Trust that its Fisher Museum and hotel projects in the Main Post will likely cause a delisting of the Presidio as a National Historic Landmark District.

But the Trust appears to neither hear nor care. It continues to work with Fisher and with its hotel developers before it even completes its draft EIS. That EIS embodies its bold attempt in one stroke, (or one process) to modify the Main Post Master Plan and Design Guidelines to legalize huge structures prohibited by current plans and guidelines. But the Trust Board has said it will NOT discuss these matters with community groups until after its EIS is issued and the clock is running on the review period. And then there is Mr. Singer, a spokesman for Mr. Fisher and at times for the Trust, who said in the press that they have received great support for the Fisher museum, (obviously ignoring, or reinterpreting, strong objections of over 50 homeowner groups, all the history and environment groups, and all the government agencies commenting on the Trust's proposals).

That tells you what to expect from the Trust and those speaking for the Fisher museum in the weeks ahead. The Trust's draft SEIS has just been issued, with a statutory minimum of 45 days for comment. The Trust has scheduled Wednesday. and Sunday walks through the Main Post when it will explain the benefits of the proposed museum and hotel projects to the public. (See item elsewhere in Newsletter.) Fisher architects and lawyers are meeting with local groups, saying they "have heard the complaints of the people" and have "made changes" in the Fisher Museum plans. But in fact, they have not made any significant changes of location, design or size. Therefore, the only thing that has really changed is their rhetoric. We expect to see more press releases and presentations (one is already scheduled) where only one side of the issue will be presented, (the pro-Fisher and pro-Trust side). We, and the public, need you to be part of those audiences, to be a truth-squad, asking the tough questions that will reveal the truth to less informed members of the public.

In the two months ahead, we hope we can count on you to volunteer time and funds to various projects countering the Fisher and Trust P.R. blitz. There will be an urgent need for you to send written comments on the EIS to the Trust, to send letters and emails to the various editors, and to ask for action from our elected federal and city representatives, who have remained silent so far, (Sens. Feinstein and Boxer, Rep. Pelosi and Mayor Newsom). The Trust's public hearing on its EIS is set for July 14. Please mark your calendars now. We will try to keep you posted, but to stay up to date on Presidio issues, please also see the Presidio Historical Association website.

Thanks in advance for your help this summer when it will be so urgently needed.

Minutes of the April 24, 2008 Board of Directors Meeting: The meeting was held at the site of one of our Award nominations for 2008: St. Mark’s Cathedral (circa 1895), 1111 O’Farrell Street, San Francisco. Directors Present: Conchita & Bill Applegate, Marsha Calegari, Winchell Hayward, John Hodges, Redmond Kernan, Herb Konkoff, Adele and Chris Layton, Bill Palmer, Betty Ann Prien, Dianne Rowe, Stephen Steczynski, Sue Walima, Gary Widman. After a tour of the Church, given by the architect that did the restoration, our meeting began at 4:30 PM.

Slate of Officers for June, 2008-2009: The Nominating Committee report was read by Marsha Calegari as follows: William Applegate, President; Christopher Layton, Executive Vice President; Secretary, Dianne Rowe; Treasurer, Yusuf Uraiqat; Honorary Chair of the Board, John J. Hodges. Winchell Hayward and Gary Widman will be added to the Vice Presidents’ list. A motion to approve this slate was made by Marsha Calegari, seconded by Redmond Kernan, and unanimously approved by the Board members present.


Awards Update - Christopher Layton, Chair.

The following awards are proposed:

  • California Mission Models’ Museum, Sonoma Carson Mansion, Eureka
  • Castello Di Amorosa, Calistoga John D. Ellis House, Petaluma
  • Grand Theatre Center for the Arts, Tracy St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, S.F.
  • Culinary Institute of America/Greystone, St. Helena Stonehouse, Nevada City

After discussion, a motion to approve the above awards was made by Christopher Layton, seconded by Bill Applegate, and unanimously approved.


May 22, 2008 Day Trip to Petaluma and Napa - Christopher Layton: Approximately 25 members are planning to attend this chance to see 3 Award Nominations. We begin with a tour of the John D., Ellis House in Petaluma at 10:30 AM, have lunch in Petaluma, drive to Castello Di Amorosa in Calistoga for a private tour and wine tasting, and end at the Culinary Institute at Greystone for a private tour and dinner. An exact itinerary will be provided to everyone in advance.

Presidio Update - Redmond Kernan: The Draft Environmental Impact Statement and the Main Post Update of the Presidio Trust Management Plan should be out the first week of June. It includes the Museum, Hotel and Theater preferred sites and alternative sites. Anyone can pick up a copy of the report from the Presidio Trust Office at 34 Graham Street in the Presidio. Written comments on the adequacy of the draft SEIS and/or the merits of the alternatives must be received on or before July 31, 2008. Comments can be emailed to Mainpost@Presidiotrust.gov or faxed to Main Post (415) 561-5315 or mailed to Main Post, Attention: Compliance Manager, 34 Graham Street, P.O. Box 29052, San Francisco, CA 94129. Oral comments will be accepted from the public at a Trust Board of Directors meeting on July 14, 2008 at 6:30 PM at the Officers’ Club, 50 Moraga Avenue, in the Presidio. Redmond urged everyone to attend and be heard on July 14th. Eleven neighborhood groups wrote letters of opposition as well as the Coalition of Neighborhoods (34 neighborhoods) wrote a letter opposing the location in a historic district, traffic and other issues.


The meeting adjourned at 6:00 PM. A reception followed.

 


CALENDAR OF FUTURE MEETINGS & EVENTS

(Please mark your calendar):

Thursday, June 26: 6:00 PM: CHC Annual Awards Dinner, Old Presidio Golf Club. Reservation required.

Monday, July 14: 6:30 PM: Oral Comments accepted by Presidio Trust Board Members regarding the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. Presidio Officers’ Club, 50 Moraga Avenue, in the Presidio.

Thursday, July 31: 4:00 PM: CHC Board of Directors and Membership Meeting. Location pending.

Thursday, July 31: Deadline for written response to Presidio Draft SEIS. See above for addresses.

August A CHC Board of Directors/Membership Meeting will not be held this month.

Thursday, Sept 25: 4:00 PM: CHC Board of Directors and Membership Meeting. Location pending.


Every Sunday and Wednesday, June 15 to July 30, 2-3:30 pm

Presidio Main Post Walking Tours

Join us for a walking tour to learn more about proposals for the future of the Presidio’s Main Post. The walk will share background about the Presidio’s history and offer information about proposals for a Presidio heritage center, an archaeology lab, public uses in historic brick barracks, a park lodge, and a museum of contemporary art. Share your comments on the projects with the Presidio Trust at mainpost@presidiotrust.gov. Free. No RSVP. Meet at the Presidio Officers’ Club,
50 Moraga Avenue.www.presidio.gov or (415) 561-5418.

 


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