Hundreds pack to debate Presidio plans

July 14, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
There was nowhere near enough room for all the people who came to San Francisco's Presidio to talk about the plan to redevelop the old military base.

The founder of the GAP wants to build a new contemporary art museum in what was the main post. The museum would be the center-piece of a re-envisioned Presidio.

The decision is ultimately up to The Presidio Trust and they got an earful on Monday night.

So many people who wanted to speak out were shut out because the exhibition hall could hold only 500 people. The issue over what to do with the Presidio is bringing out strong opinions from just about everyone. Should the historic main post or undergo major development, including the construction of a new art museum?

"This is a good location, that's going to get a great building," said Ellen Newman, a museum supporter.

Nonetheless, not everyone sees it that way. In fact, just as many seemed repulsed by the idea of a 100,000 square foot modern building at the head of the parade grounds. If approved, it will be called the Contemporary Art Museum at the Presidio, or CAMP. Gap Founder, Don Fisher, is offering the building and the works of art as gifts to the city. Monday night, he showed no emotion as the public criticized his project.

"The Fisher Museum is huge, large, out of place. It is an insult to the main post. It is not a gift, it will be owned and controlled by one family," said Sharon Gadberry, speaking against the museum.

And bitterness toward the Fisher Family seemed to be widespread among the crowd.

"It's a vanity museum, it's one man's museum who wants to show off his art collection," said Gary Widman, President of the Presidio Historical Association.

However, the museum project has some high-profile supporters including San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

"To have a world-class institution, a cultural institution that can inspire generations, is something we need to take quite seriously," said Mayor Newsom.

The Mayor got his share of boos as he left, but there were plenty of people who felt the same way he did.

"I've never been so proud of our city as when the Ferry Building was refurbished and the doors reopened at the DeYoung. I expect that CAMP will make me feel the same way," said Samantha Dunne, a San Francisco resident.

The Presidio Trust extended the public comment period until September 19, 2008, so there will be another public meeting. A decision will be made some time in the fall.


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