The Presidio Brat

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

She's Glowing in the Fog

I love getting off the 28 at the bridge plaza in the fog. The tourists always look sooooo confused. They stand in the bus stairwell, asking: Is this the right stop? Where's the bridge? And some smart ass bus driver is always like: What bridge? (Yes, yes, it's there. Get off. Just trust me.)

What I like about this photo is the faint orange glow of Miss GG.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Diggin It

The real highlight of the Town Hall meeting was a presentation by Presidio Trust archaeologist, Eric Blind, on a recent discovery: an old tunnel dug in 1853 and then mysteriously abandoned.

The tunnel was meant to transport water from Mountain Lake all the way through the Presidio and part of the city to Telegraph Hill.

Blind had suspected the existence of this tunnel for years, but lacked the budget to excavate it. When the Trust finally decided to remove 42 feet of landfill in a southern part of the Presidio as part of their landfill project, Blind finally got his chance to go snooping. His team found the tunnel.

The tunnel project was huge in its time. The equivalent today would be if the city decided to put an anti-suicide netting beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Something the whole city would be talking about. Back in the gold-rush days, SF had a problem with fire, so getting water to Telegraph Hill was truly essential.

However, while digging, they hit an unexpected spring of water (probably El Polin), which flooded the tunnel. The speculation is that Chinese immigrant laborers were doing the work -- digging with hand tools, a bit like being in a mine shaft -- and that they were in the tunnel when they hit the spring. 65,000 gallons of water pouring into that small space would have been lethal to the 200 or so workers. Did they die when the tunnel flooded? The newspapers of the time were sketchy on the reasons this "Herculean" project suddenly went bust....

Maybe the project ran out of money and time (the expiration date on the city permits put the pressure on), but given the importance of the project to the city, it's remarkable that it would simply be abandoned.

For an interesting KQED interview with Blind, click here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Spoiled Brat

So one of the highlights of tonight's Presidio Town Hall meeting was hearing Park Police Chief Woo say, "You guys live in ... well, Disneyland."

And he's RIGHT! Go on, we live in a magical place. It has everything a person needs for a good life: sun, mythology, walking trails -- and your very own police force.

I have friends visiting from Europe right now, and when they got here, they were floored. They were blown away by the gorgeous bay views and the happiness of Crissy Field and the fact that you can actually get espresso at the Warming Hut (as opposed to that metallic crap they serve at Muir Woods - don't swallow). For the past week they've been wandering around in a daze, fantasizing about moving in with me. And tonight, I came home bragging "AND we have our own POLICE!"

Did you know, for example, that their average call response time is 2-5 minutes? The San Francisco police are so overburdened that they don't respond to traffic accidents anymore unless there's an injury. But the Park Police motto is, I quote: "No call is too small."

(If you call from a cell, better call 561-5656, so you don't get routed to a Vallejo office or something. From landlines call 561-5505.)

Did you also know that they get absolutely no money from traffic citations? However, they still give citations, which is fine as long as I'm not the one receiving. Because you know the minute I get a ticket, your sweet little Briar Rose is going to turn into

They'll do a free safety check on your baby car seats. Their mounted police force will visit your kid's school. They'll even check on your house if you go on vacation. (Woo even sort of hinted that his guys would go above the call of duty on that, so I'm totally going to be like: "And will you water my plants?")

Unfortunately, the police station is located in what one Trust member aptly described as "the Bermuda Triangle of the Presidio." Building 1217 is not really enough of a description, and I grew up here. Oh well. This is a totally awesome place to live, so thank you, Park Police, for helping it be that.

10 Trails in 10....Years?

Okay, the Open House inspired an idea: I'd like to walk each of the Presidio's Trails. There are actually 12 big ones, but I'm leaving out the Anza Esplanade, which is the main post, and the Golden Gate Promenade, which is basically all the walking paths around Crissy Field, since I walk my dog there

I'd like to say 10 Trails in 10 Weeks, but realistically....

So here are the trails:

Batteries to Bluffs
California Coastal
Lobos Creek
Bay Area Ridge Trail
Park Trail
Juan Bautista De Anza National Historic
Ecology Trail
Mountain Lake
Tennessee Hollow Watershed
The Presidio Promenade

I invite anyone to join me! I'll post an announcement when I plan the first one.

Presidio Trust Open House

The Presidio Trust sponsored an Open House recently to showcase a bunch of projects going on in the park. I'm one of those people who likes to have someone explain something and show me a pie chart and try to convince me that it's amazing, so I went.

It was great. What interested me most were the proposed changes to the main post. Long term, the main parade ground is going to look a lot different. They've scrapped the building-of-the-unholy-alien-Gap-museum (thank god) and will construct something more modest. They're also getting rid of the big empty parking lot in front of the Montgomery St. barracks and will replace it with grass. YEAH, BABY!!! So what used to be this:

Then became this:

And will someday be more like this:

Beautiful! But what about parking? They say they'll be creating more spots, so the ultimate loss won't be as great as it seems. Empty assurances? Frankly, I don't think they want to mess with the Disney crowds.

They're also going to take down the Herbst Theater. The fate of the bowling alley is still uncertain. Poor bowling alley. Please don't take it down! Here's a good brochure on the whole caboodle.

They showcased the new PHSH apartments. I didn't learn anything that you can't find on the website, but we did discuss the potential closing of Battery Caulfield Road, and the Trust is still accepting comments through October 15th. So far, it's a 50-50 split -- so go on, somebody break the tie.

Ditto the Tennessee Hollow Projects: the website covers the bases. Personally, I get a lot more talking faccia-a-faccia, but for those whose missed it, here you go. I did learn that most of the landfill they're extracting is old army junk, and pretty harmless, like mattresses and bed frames and useless old wood.

My other favorite display was the Hiking Trails updates. The Park Trail is now complete, and a full map of the trails is available online.

Finally, there is, as usual, lots of arts and culture stuff going on this fall, which you can always find on their calendar.