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Lawsuit Brought Against Presidio Trust to Halt New Construction at Historic San Francisco Park

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Main Post is home to Thea Award winner The Walt Disney Family Museum.– JK

San Francisco, CA, USA (February 2, 2012 /BUSINESS WIRE/ — The Presidio Historical Association (PHA) and Sierra Club filed a Federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court late Wednesday to halt proposed new construction on the Main Post of the Presidio of San Francisco, a historic national park in San Francisco. The lawsuit charges the park’s managing Federal agency, the Presidio Trust, with failing to comply with the Presidio Trust Act, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). 

“The Presidio Trust has violated these statutes in its push to convert the most historically significant site in the Presidio into a luxury hotel despite nearly unanimous public opposition,” said PHA President Gary Widman. “We have no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect this national park, which belongs to all Americans.”

The suit sets a precedent as the first to question activities in a national park that is not managed by the National Park Service.

Recently, the Presidio Trust’s Board of Directors changed restrictive zoning policies that protected the Main Post until now in order to permit construction of a 14-building hotel, a large addition to a historic theater and other structures, a move strongly opposed by numerous nonprofit organizations and private citizens.

“The Sierra Club has protected national parks since 1892, and played a major role in the creation of the Presidio National Park and Golden Gate National Recreation Area,” said Sierra Club spokeswoman Becky Evans. “The unique historic value of the Presidio Main Post should not be sacrificed to build an unnecessary hotel.”

The Sierra Club won a 1986 Federal lawsuit that enjoined the US Army from undertaking new construction in the Presidio, a military base at that time. “By filing this suit, the Sierra Club seeks affirmation of that 1986 decision and seeks the Presidio Trust’s compliance with the Presidio Trust Act and other environmental laws,” Evans said.

The lawsuit asserts that the Presidio Trust ignored its duty to “[protect] the Presidio from development and uses which would destroy the historic…character of the area…and other cultural resources”, and failed to limit new construction to one-for-one replacement of demolished structures as required by the Presidio Trust Act.

The plaintiffs also claim that the Trust’s NEPA process was flawed and that the Trust failed to minimize adverse impacts in its National Historic Landmark District to the maximum extent possible as required by the NHPA.

The Presidio Trust Act (PTA) of 1996 recognized and protected the 1,491-acre Presidio of San Francisco as a unique place of history and open space in a densely populated urban center. The Main Post, established in 1776, was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1962. The Presidio was home to Spanish, Mexican, and American military operations for nearly 220 years until the base became a national park within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) in 1994. More than 30,000 Americans veterans and their families are buried in the Presidio’s National Cemetery, on the western side of the Main Post.

The nonprofit Presidio Historical Association has helped to preserve and present the Presidio’s history for more than 50 years. The watchdog group recently gained attention for successfully fighting the Presidio Trust’s plan to build a massive, contemporary art museum on the historic Main Post.

The Stanford Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic is representing the Presidio Historical Association and the Sierra Club in the lawsuit.

The complaint is posted at http://presidioassociation.org/issues.htm

Joe Kleimanhttp://www.themedreality.com
Raised in San Diego on theme parks, zoos, and IMAX films, Joe Kleiman would expand his childhood loves into two decades as a projectionist and theater director within the giant screen industry. In addition to his work in commercial and museum operations, Joe has volunteered his time to animal husbandry at leading facilities in California and Texas and has played a leading management role for a number of performing arts companies. Joe has been News Editor and contributing author to InPark Magazine since 2011. HIs writing has also appeared in Sound & Communications, LF Examiner, Jim Hill Media, and MiceChat. His blog, ThemedReality.com takes an unconventional look at the attractions industry. Follow on twitter @themedreality Joe lives in Sacramento, California with his fiancé, two dogs, and a ghost.

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