The board of the Presidio Trust, a federal agency created to preserve the historic park and former military base at the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, has voted unanimously to reject proposals from filmmaker and philanthropist George Lucas and two other groups to build a cultural center on a prime piece of park real estate.
The Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, for which the Star Wars creator and Giving Pledge signatory has offered to spend $700 million to build and endow, would have housed a 10,000-piece permanent collection, five galleries, a theater and lecture hall, and two thousand square feet of multi-purpose rooms on the Mid-Crissy Field site currently occupied by the Sports Basement, a fitness retailer. The eight-acre site sits at the junction of the Presidio's Main Post and Doyle Drive, which, as part of a $1 billion project, is being transformed into Presidio Parkway — a semi-hidden approach to the Golden Gate Bridge topped by a ten-acre bluff-like park. The trust has asked Lucas to consider an alternative location within the park for the museum.
"Mr. Lucas has been a vital partner of the Presidio for many years," said board chair Nancy Hellman Bechtle. "We remain grateful to him for his many contributions to the park, in particular the transformation of the Letterman District."
In a statement, Lucas said he and his team had begun reviewing alternative sites for the museum. The filmmaker's proposal had been backed by California governor Jerry Brown, San Francisco mayor Ed Lee, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), director Martin Scorsese, and others. "For four years, we have been told that the only site available is the [Mid-Crissy Field] site, and we have worked and reworked our plan to make it work," David Perry, a spokesperson for Lucas, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Now, literally in the past few hours, we hear there is an alternative site."
The board of the trust also said it hoped to collaborate with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and WRNS Studio-Bridge/Sustainability Institute, which put forward the other two proposals, regarding future programs at the Presidio. "We are grateful to the trust board for taking the long view about this park site...by making a decision they believe is in the best interest of the American people," said Greg Moore, president of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. "The trust has come to a decision that is considerate of the transformation that is occurring here over the course of the next several years."