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NO condos in a National Park
by Presidio
Monday Jul 5th, 2004 6:41 PM
DON Fisher, GAP, privatization of Presidio, PBS, schools, Prisions, Genes, you and I.
Dear friends,

Your help is needed this week!

It appears that the idea of creating privately-owned residential condominiums in the Presidio National Park is not dead yet, after all. If you agree with me that a National Park is no place for privately-owned housing, please join me in e-mailing or faxing your comments to the Presidio Trust no later than this Wednesday, July 7.

And please forward this message to others who would be interested--especially people who live outside the Bay Area. The Presidio is not the only Park that may soon be targeted for inappropriate development.

Background info follows, but here's what to do, in a nutshell...

1)  Write a brief statement to John Pelka, the Presidio Trust's coordinator for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance, along these lines: 

Dear Mr. Pelka:

 I'm writing in response to the Presidio Trust's request for scoping comments regarding the SEIS for the Public Health Service Hospital (PHSH) project.

On page 109, the PHSH Environmental Assessment refers to "condominiums" as a possible type of residential unit in the PHSH district. I believe that privately-owned housing units--whether condominiums or single-family homes, and whether or not they are "leasehold" units or traditional units--are entirely inappropriate in a National Park. I urge the Presidio Trust to exclude condominiums and any other forms of privately-owned units from consideration in the PHSH district and elsewhere, and I urge the Presidio Trust to state this explicitly in the PHSH SEIS.

Our National Parks are our public treasure, and the Presidio Trust's responsibility is to protect that treasure for public enjoyment.

[Optional final sentence:  Toward that goal, I also urge the Presidio Trust to include in the SEIS a detailed cost/benefit analysis of a scenario in which the Presidio Trust--rather than a private developer--would act as "developer" for the PHSH project, thereby keeping these historic buildings under full public control while earning roughly five times the annual rent a developer would pay under a ground lease.]

Sincerely yours,


2) No later than this Wednesday, E-mail your statement to phsh [at] or fax it to (415) 561-2790

A little background info...

The Presidio Trust (which is not a "trust," but a government-owned corporation) is planning to rehabilitate--and possibly build new--buildings in the Public Health Service Hospital (PHSH) district for residential use. The Presidio Trust has encountered vocal public concern about the potential impacts of over-developing this district, along with substantial pressure to make the planning process more public and more open. Recently, the Presidio Trust decided to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, and it has invited public "scoping" comments; that is, comments regarding the range and scope of issues that the SEIS should address.

Here's where condos come in...

One of two private developers the Presidio Trust considered for the PHSH project proposed creating and selling condominiums ("leasehold" or ground-lease condominiums, whose buyers would lease, rather than own, the ground under the condos--a form of development often used in resort communities), at per-unit prices ranging from $1.95 million down to $275,000, the latter being the price of 450 square-foot studio units. The average price would have been $490,027. These figures are from a developer-supplied public document available in the Presidio Trust's library.

In April, the Presidio Trust announced it would not be working with this developer but rather with one who proposed creating only rental apartments. Many members of the public thought this meant the condo issue was moot.

Not so, it seems. Before the Presidio Trust decided to prepare an SEIS, it prepared a 200-plus page "Environmental Assessment" for the PHSH project. On page 109, the EA includes the following wording:  "multi-family residential units associated with development alternatives (including apartments, condominiums, long-term care facilities, and other attached dwellings)..."

Throughout the arduous public planning process that led to the 2002 Presidio Trust Management Plan--the master plan for the Park--the public was never asked to approve or even consider condos as an option, condos were not mentioned in the draft PTMP, and they're not mentioned in the final PTMP.

Will condos now be slipped in under the public's radar? Please help me say no!

(A word about Presidio finances. It has never been publicly asserted that creating condos rather than rental units would be necessary for the Presidio Trust's financial self-sufficiency--although the would-be condo developer's public document suggests a healthy return for the private investors in the project, including a 21% Equity Internal Rate of Return. Also, the Presidio Trust's Executive Director confirmed at a May 12 public budget workshop that the Presidio Trust will have more than $80 million in total revenue this year--$40 million more than is needed to cover annual operating expenses. And the financial outlook for the coming years is similar. With these extra tens of millions, the Presidio Trust could eliminate the need for an outside developer, handle the PHSH restoration fully in-house, and earn--according to the final PTMP EIS--roughly five times as much annual rent as a developer would pay under a ground lease. This is what the "optional sentence" in my draft letter to John Pelka, above, is about.)

Thanks for your help! Bill wh100 [at]

Learn more about Don Fisher, GAP, privatization of Presidio:

Learn more about commons vs corporations:

Program on Corporations, Law And Democracy

Ask for Adbusters magazine at your bookstore!

Creative hacking and subversion of corporations:

Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
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Too Lateann t. hearstMonday Jul 5th, 2004 11:23 PM
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