I am not a sycophant or self-absorbed '90s neo-beatnik, just someone who knows what hard work, hard choices, and real craftsmanship look like. Barron exemplifies all three of these in his work. I am sorry you couldn't share more of his drawings and paintings with the readers.
Even though life has given him much to endure, my hope is, in his blackest moments of self-doubt, he can remind himself of the people (like me) whom he has touched and gain some strength to go on amazing us all.
Martin D. Kitzel
"Off-Base" (Jan. 10) was wonderfully written and quite informative. You are to be applauded for exposing all of the potential "foster parents" of our "child of historic whimsy," the Presidio National Park. While winding through your report I was sickened, yet could not stop reading. It was as if I was watching one of Marlon Brando's recent films.
Of course, the answer to managing the Presidio lies somewhere between the alarmist views expressed by both ends of the "political" spectrum you examined. I was disappointed to see that your article tended to divide this issue into a Republican vs. Democrat debate. This sort of rhetoric only serves to divide people and is quite far from the truth. I know many Republicans as well as many Democrats with sound, logical, reasonable solutions to the difficulties at the Presidio.
I believe the Presidio, if managed properly, could become a fully self-sustained national park in five years. But of course, therein lies the rub: if managed properly. I am a professional property manager and real estate professional by day. My firm currently manages in excess of 14,000 residences and over 2 million square feet of commercial space in eight western states. I'm also on the Environment and Natural Resources Section Committee of the Commonwealth Club. I also backpack every summer in desolation wilderness.
Michael Alexander, on the other hand, has no experience with any practical issues regarding management of the Presidio, yet he sure gets a lot of press. I've had a couple of conversations with Alexander regarding funding issues at the Presidio. He is another one of those individuals great at criticism but short on specifics. I guess that because he joined the Sierra Club and takes long rides on his mountain bike at the Presidio he must be an "authority" on how to run the Presidio. He is no more qualified than Bruce Brugmann. Brugmann is the Presidio's worst nightmare. His approach -- to create a homeless shelter on the Presidio -- is the most asinine idea I've heard. Yet, given a choice, I would have to lean toward Brugmann's view, primarily because a Presidio Trust creates nothing but more red tape.
The solution is quite simple. Do nothing. The Presidio should be the Seinfeld of national parks, at least initially. Today, the Presidio is a national park. Tomorrow it will be a national park. The National Park Service has the authority to hire individuals or firms to help them manage the buildings in a responsible and reasonable way that will generate truckloads of cash for the Park Service. This completely eliminates the need for a Presidio Trust and, more importantly, gets the Presidio out of the spotlight of the budget ax.
One approach would be to work backward through time, slowly restoring the park, little by little, to its natural state. As you explained, there are currently 780 acres of open space. Land is easy to manage, and costs are minimal. The problem lies in the 870 buildings on the other 700 acres. Look at each existing building, weighing factors such as usefulness, income potential, rehabilitation or conversion costs, and historical significance, under the supervision of the Park Service, and begin dropping buildings, reducing the park's "portfolio" of properties to 200 to 300 buildings. These would generate substantial cash flows to complete the real Park Service projects, like the restoration of the Presidio waterfront. By reducing the number of structures over time, the cost of running the park would decrease substantially, perhaps to less than $10 million a year.
That should open eyes in the U.S. House and Senate. "Hey, maybe the Park Service can handle the job," senators will say. I believe it can, it just needs to hire the right people.
Lawrence David Buck