Public given voice for 45 more days

The Presidio Trust extended the public comment period Monday on a controversial proposal to construct a contemporary art museum, hotel and theater in the Presidio after hundreds of people packed a hearing on the project.

Five hundred people filled the Presidio Trust’s meeting Monday night to capacity, while hundreds more stood outside waiting to tell the board what they thought of the museum plan put forward by Gap founder Don Fisher.

Leaders of one of the plan’s opponents, the National Parks Conservation Association, said they would have no choice but to press forward with a lawsuit if the trust backed the proposal. Deborah Reames, attorney for the NPCA, said the organization sent a letter to the Trust last week “warning” it that approving the projects would violate the Presidio Trust’s enabling legislation, which prohibits new construction in the Presidio except when new buildings are replacing old buildings.

Trust Chairman Dave Grubb was met with a round of applause when he announced the board would extend the public comment period by 45 days, to mid-September.

The delay effectively moves back the likely approval date for any project from before theend of the year to early next year, according to Lane Kasselman, spokesperson for Fisher’s Contemporary Art Museum of the Presidio.

The offer by Fisher to build a 100,000-square-foot modern-art museum in the Presidio to house his sizeable collection has evoked passionate responses from history buffs and neighborhood residents, who disagree over the vision for the future of the 1,491-acre national park.

Opponents, who include the Sierra Club, the Presidio Historical Association and nearby neighborhood associations, unleashed a litany of complaints about the project: namely, that the large museum and hotel would overwhelm the historic nature of the park, which overlooks the Golden Gate, and create dire parking and traffic problems in the area.

But project supporters, including city officials and art enthusiasts, told Trust members that The City would be foolish to reject Fisher’s offer of a world-class art museum.

kworth@sfexaminer.com

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