Town Hall, Tour Buses, and Cookies

tourbusA huge thanks to everyone who came out for the last Town Hall meeting! It’s always great to meet new residents and see the old ones again.

One of the subjects that came up at the meeting was tour buses–in particular, the crazy things they do in the park. What residents need to know is that the Trust follows up on all of the complaints, so if you see a bus doing something disruptive or dangerous in the park, it helps enormously if you take a photo or take down the bus information and send it to the Trust along with your complaint. (Every bus should have a sticker or an ID tag identifying it, and it would be great if you could get that information, too.) Email everything to and they will follow up.

We are the front line, folks. The Trust relies on us to report crazy behavior, and there certainly is plenty of that, if you ask me. Meanwhile, the infractions of regular automobiles should be reported to the park police at their non-emergency number: 561-5505.

And here’s a summer treat: the cookies that made their debut appearance at the last meeting. Soft, Italian almond cookies that will make you forget all about dieting. Enjoy!



Amaretti Morbidi

200 grams almond flour
200 grams granulated sugar
2 Tbsp white flour
2 large egg whites
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp almond extract
confectioner’s sugar

In a large bowl, mix together almond flour, sugar and flour. Separately, whisk egg white with salt until they reach soft peaks (not too hard). Blend in almond extract and then the dry ingredients until it forms a sticky dough. Coating hands or spoon in confectioner’s sugar, scoop pieces of dough into 1-inch balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Let cookies sit for 20 minutes and preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Sprinkle cookies generously with confectioner’s sugar and bake for 20 to 22 minutes. Let cool and serve.

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blue acmonA note for nature-lovers: check out iNaturalist. This link will take you to a fantastic website where you can share your photos and observations of any wildlife or plants you find on the Presidio. You can also browse through hundreds of other people’s observations – and perhaps identify that strange flower you’ve been wondering about, or that weird bush that’s taking over your backyard. 

It also seems that one of the site’s contributors, “js_young” is Jonathan Young, the Presidio’s first-ever wildlife ecologist. He’s a recent hire, and it’s his job to get a better sense of the many animals who inhabit our park – and maybe help figure out if we’ve gone over our four coyote maximum. 

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A Coyote Warning

Coyote, The Trickster, Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge, New MexicoI have always felt that coyotes are a magical addition to the park. They are somehow proof that real nature is being nurtured here, and whenever I see one, I get a little thrill thinking that I’m living side-by-side with wildlife.

But of course wildlife is WILD — and can be dangerous. It’s too early to identify a trend, but this recent report of coyote behavior makes me think we need to be much more careful around these animals.

coyote_on_golf_courseThis month, a couple was walking their dog near the golf course and they decided to wander onto the course. It was daylight. They were on the 7th hole when two coyotes came rushing out of the woods, charging their dog. The woman scooped the dog into her arms just in time – the coyotes were a mere three arms-length away. Their fangs were bared and one was hissing loudly.

coyote fangsYou’ve probably heard the advice to “make yourself larger” and “make a lot of noise” in an attempt to scare animals away, and the couple did that — but the coyotes did not retreat. Instead, they began to circle the couple. The Trust pamphlet on coyotes says that these animals avoid human contact but that they will go after dogs. And perhaps they wanted the dog, who was still in her owner’s arms. But they went after the humans, following them for several long, frightening minutes, circling and moving closer despite the couple’s yelling. Even after the couple made their “escape,” the coyotes stood there watching them. It goes without saying that the couple was very shaken up.

This incident was reported to the Trust, and one of their responses was to send out their pamphlet to residents again. While it contains good advice,at least one piece of information should be taken with caution:

“Typically they are timid animals with a natural fear of humans.”

coyote pupsThe pamphlet also states that coyotes may be more “active” from January to May, which is their pupping season. I presume this is because feeding young pups puts more demands on their hunting skills. So while coyotes may generally be afraid of humans, some are not, and those “some” happen to live on the Presidio. Maybe we’re finally learning what the Ohlone already knew: that humans will always have complicated relationships with these trickster dogs.

So please be careful, especially when walking your pet.

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A Historic Christmas Dinner – Presidio Style

arguello and rezanov

Concepcion and Rezanov as depicted on the Presidio chapel (Interfaith Center)

Few know the tragic story of Baron Nikolai Rezanov, a Russian statesman who came to the Spanish Presidio in 1806. Hoping to set up a trade treaty with New Spain, he was welcomed to the Presidio by Don Luis Arguello, not the commandante after whom our lovely street is named, but his son.

Don Luis hosted Rezanov at the Arguello home – in what is now the defunct Officer’s Club – which may explain why Rezanov fell madly in love with Arguello’s daughter, Concepcion.

Николай Петрович Резанов

Tell me that’s a hat

Born on the Presidio, military brat extraordinaire, Concepcion was 15 when she met Rezanov. Thank god her father was out of town – she and Rezanov spent all their time exploring the Presidio and planning a future together. Unfortunately, this was 1806, which meant that they couldn’t get married — he was Russian Orthodox, she was Catholic. In order to make such a cross-bred affair legit, Rezanov had to go back to Russia to ask the tsar’s permission. While traveling home to do this, he fell off his horse and died. In Siberia. In winter. Concepcion didn’t find out for another two years, at which point she swore off men forever and joined a nunnery. Which may explain how she went from this:


To this:

old concepcion

Another explanation could be her family’s amazing cooking. In the heyday of their love, Concepcion and Rezanov would have shared the bounty of a lush California. The Arguello household could serve up the most festive boda in town, and an early California banquet of that caliber would have had to include an Aves Relleñas – a stuffed fowl drenched with red chile sauce.

I first discovered this recipe in the Presidio of San Francisco Cookbook, published in 1976 by the Presidio Officer’s Wives Club. Their version of the recipe was taken from Early California Hospitality (1938) by Ana Packman. So if you feel like indulging in a bit of historic Presidio cookery, here is an updated recipe.

Aves Relleñas — Adobadas y Asadas
(Stuffed Fowl Roasted and Drenched with Red Chile Sauce)


1 large brined turkey or goose or suckling pig
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

For the relleño (stuffing):
2 lbs. shoulder beef (neck) and giblets
1 quart boiling water
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. fat
4 green onions
1 ripe onion
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. toasted breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1/2 cup pitted ripe black olives
1/4 cup raisins

Wash turkey. Rub salt and pepper inside and out. Cook beef and giblets in one quart boiling water. When giblet meat is tender, cool and chop into small pieces. Set broth aside.

Heat fat in skillet and fry minced onions until wilted. Add the chopped meat, vinegar,  black olives and raisins. Season with salt, pepper and sugar. Add in toasted breadcrumbs. Pour in one cup of the meat broth, a little at a time – this should be crumbly and not watery. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in the eggs. Add salt to taste. Stuff dressing into fowl and bake the bird at 325 degrees.

For adobo (basting sauce):
6 dry red chiles
2 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp. crushed oregano
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 cup boiling water
2 Tbsp. toasted breadcrumbs

Wipe chiles clean and remove seed veins and seeds. Cut into pieces and steam them over one cup boiling water for about half an hour. Rub chiles through sieve – or spin briefly in a food processor – adding in vinegar, salt, pepper, mashed garlic and oregano. Add the remainder of the meat stock. The result should be a rich, red puree.

When the skin of the bird is browned, begin basting with the the chile puree every 15 minutes until the bird is done.

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The Perfect Holiday Dessert – Presidio Style

IMG_8670 enhancedYou may remember that a year ago we requested submissions for a planned book of recipes related to the Presidio. Despite blanketing the park with requests, we only heard back from a single person: Frances on Portola sent a seemingly simple dessert recipe, and we were thrilled.

We baked the cake and brought it to the next Town Hall meeting, where it was swiftly devoured. Privacy issues prevented us from photographing the faces of those who first put the cake into their mouths, but we can attest that their expressions displayed the same awe and unabashed pleasure that we felt while gobbling our own large portions of this sweet.

DSC04464Do not be fooled by the word “cake.” This is actually a brownie buried in a giant cookie and posing as a cake. It has what we consider the most excellent combination of texture and taste, and we cannot express enough gratitude to Frances for sharing this recipe. It’s easy to make and needs no frosting. So go ahead and try it, diets beware.

Betsey Burbank’s Apple Chocolate Chip Cake

1-1/2 cup sugar
1-1/3 cup canola oil
3 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs
1 12-oz. package of Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
2-1/2 cups sliced sweet apples (Fuji or Gala are fine, leave peel on)


It may not look like much, but wait til you open it….

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In mixing bowl, beat sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs BRIEFLY, then add in the chocolate chips.

3. Mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Add to the above mixture.

4. Fold in apples gently.

5. Pour into greased Bundt pan and bake for 50-55 minutes.

Thanks again, Frances! Reader, if you follow these directions exactly, you will unleash a dessert into the family that will not be forgotten.

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Unsafe Levels of Lead Found at North Fort Scott

DSC04326As if the residents of North Fort Scott and Pilot’s Row haven’t had it bad enough with  all the Parkway construction — in particular the loss of a historic forest that separates them from the freeway — they now have another menace to contend with. Recent soil testing in the Lendrum Court area showed that lead is present in the soil around the homes in levels that are potentially toxic to humans.

presidioThis news came as a surprise to The Presidio Trust. In 1999, the US Army turned the responsibility for clean-up of the Presidio over to the Trust. The deal was that the Trust would pay for the clean-up of every dump site that the army disclosed. If they didn’t reveal a site to the Trust, the army would become financially responsible for its clean-up in the future. Thus, the Army had every motivation to be as transparent as possible. (The actual agreement is here.) For many years the Trust has had every reason to believe that its knowledge of the toxic sites on the Presidio was accurate.

1920s presidio

Photo: Greg Gaar Collection

Unfortunately, they were wrong. Further investigation at the Park Archives helped fill in the rest of the story: as early as 1921, the army operated an incinerator just south of Lendrum Court. Trust investigators found a single map of the area that showed what they believe to be the incinerator – evidence further confirmed by its appearance on a historic photograph – although they still can’t be sure that it was indeed an incinerator. Its existence was not recorded in army records (which are otherwise thorough), and the building itself does not show up on later maps or photographs. It seems the building was taken down sometime in the 30s, because it lay right in the path of Doyle Drive. The Trust now believes that the toxic debris layer beneath Lendrum Court is waste from that incinerator.

baker beachSince taking charge of the clean-up of the Presidio, the Trust has spent $150 million  on remediation work on sites in residential, commercial and recreational areas. They’ve assessed over 800 buildings for lead-based paint, and they are subject to regulatory oversight by the California Department of Toxic Substances. Their remediation program is ongoing, with current projects at Baker Beach and Mountain Lake.

gopherAccording to one resident, the problems at North Fort Scott were first observed back in 2001, when the resident noticed shards of glass in her yard. She notified the Trust about the matter, which appeared to be a result of gophers digging in the ground and carrying debris to the surface, posing an obvious hazard to children who played in the yard. The Trust has been managing gopher activity in the area with traps.

But a few years ago, more residents began complaining of heightened problems with glass and gophers. Upon receiving those complaints, Ann Ostrander, associate director of residential asset management, set the wheels in motion, but thanks to work-order queuing and bureaucratic protocols, the soil testing wasn’t completed until this year.

ggclub2On Wednesday night of this week, Eileen Fanelli, program manager of the Presidio’s environmental remediation, met with the residents of North Fort Scott and Pilot’s Row at the Golden Gate Club to present the details of the soil testing and to field questions. Residents, who had already received copies of the soil testing reports (which can be found here), were concerned, alarmed and angry, and they raised some serious questions. Lori Koch, the representative for the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) was also present at the meeting, as was Genevieve Coyle, project manager with the environmental remediation program, Ann Ostrander, program manager of the Trust’s residential asset management, and Darin Delagnes from the John Stewart Leasing Company.

(NB: unless quotes are used, the questions and responses are our own paraphrases)

soilWhat happens next?

Within the next few weeks, the Trust will be doing additional investigations to determine the extent of the debris layer and its boundaries. They are going to expand the testing area to include the rest of North Fort Scott (Armistead Road and Ramsel Court). They are also fast-tracking their site clean-up response, and they hope that – pushing this project through as quickly as possible – environmental clean-up and a remedy (i.e. a new, protective dirt layer or grass planting) will happen next summer.

pilots rowWhat about Pilots Row?

Pilots Row had already been built before the incinerator appeared on the map, so the Trust has assumed that the soil beneath it was not contaminated.

Do you have proof that Pilots Row was built before the incinerator?

No. It could be possible that it was not, and with that in mind, the Trust will consider testing there as well.

swing2What about the playground? 

When the playground was built in 2005-2006, the Trust did not sample the soil because they did not know about the debris layer, and all the data they had indicated that the soil was safe. Also, when they were building the playground, they did not observe any debris. However, they plan to go back now and test it to confirm that it is safe.

A lot of the kids play on the hillside near the playground. What about that?

The Trust will make sure to screen that area as well.

lead poisoningWhat is the level of toxicity that our children may be experiencing by playing in the neighborhood?

The soil tests evaluate “reasonable maximum exposure” levels, which assume that a child will ingest 100 micrograms of soil, seven days a week for an unlimited period of time.

In 2011, the screening levels became more strict. Today, using the above scenario, a child’s blood must show less than 1 microgram/dl to be within safe limits (it used to be 10 micrograms), and soil must show less than 80 mg/kg (it used to be 400 mg/kg). This change is explained here.

lead tableThe results of the soil testing in North Fort Scott generally show that the lead levels in the soil are above 400 mg/kg. In some cases they are as high as 2100 mg/kg. This is far above even the old (higher) standards.

While most of the worst levels are found between 0.5-2.5 feet below the surface, there is contamination on the surface layers as well, thanks to gophers.

It’s a very windy area, what about airborne lead levels?

The Trust has not done dust monitoring for this specific problem, but they have done it for their lead-based paint clean-ups of the area, and they have never recorded dangerous levels. However, they will consider doing it for this clean-up project.

tapShould we be worried about lead in our water?

No. Your water supply is not coming from the ground water in your neighborhood.

Are you sampling the top layer of dirt, which is what we would be most exposed to?

Yes. The test uses a six-inch tube inserted into the ground, much like a core sample. It’s meant to measure the toxin levels in the top-most layer of soil.

dioxinYour report also found levels of dioxins and chromium in the soil. These toxins are actually more dangerous for humans than lead, and can be terribly toxic at much lower doses. The dioxin found is essentially “agent orange,” but you only tested for it in one trench location. Why haven’t you tested it in all sample sites?

Lead is the number one clean-up issue in the Presidio. It’s essentially the driver of the investigation, so they follow the trail of that in their sampling. That is their normal protocol. But the Trust will consider expanding its tests and “more than likely” include more thorough tests for dioxins and chromium.

serpentiniteLori Koch, representative for the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), commented that in an area like ours, they look at the geologic formations they encounter – in this case Colma and serpentinite formations – and they look at the chemical signatures of those geologic types, so they believe that the high chromium found here is due to the serpentinite.

She also pointed out that at this point they’re going to make a certain generalization about the site — when they go to the site to remediate, they’re not going to just focus on single spots or single chemicals, they’re going to treat it as one large area of contamination and clean it all up.

GetTheLeadOut2Should our children be tested for lead levels?

You should definitely follow your doctors’ advice and do what’s best for your families.

Will remediation mean removal of the debris? 

The Trust does not know the best plan of action yet. They have to do more tests. A short-term solution will be to create a separation (a barrier of some kind).

What will be done to mitigate immediate risk? 

Interim actions – something that can be done to protect the neighborhood immediately – include a concerted effort to eradicate the gophers as well as laying down a barrier of some kind. The Trust will be reporting to us within the next few weeks on which steps will be taken.

presidiotrust2_620x390What preventative measures can we take right now?

Preventing ingestion is the best thing. Keep the kids clean and out of the dirt. Keep the dirt out of your house. Use a doormat, and make sure the kids don’t track in dirt.

Residents are already laying down tarps and turf to protect their kids from the soil. Is the leasing office going to yell at us for this, since it’s technically in violation of the leasing terms?

The Trust will speak to the appropriate people about this, and will be in touch about thing we can do and about any short-term measures the Trust will provide.

Are the maintenance people going to continue with the blowers? 

The Trust is going to notify them of the situation.

Will the Trust step up its efforts to monitor and collect glass in the area?


gopher2The elimination of gophers presents other problems – notably, the reappearance of earwigs colonies. What should we do about that?

The Trust is definitely going to step up its gopher-elimination efforts, and if you have any issues around this problem, please contact Ann Ostrander or the work order desk immediately.

Some of the areas with elevated toxin levels were remediated in the past. (The Trust excavated behind Building 1279 to remove lead in the soil from the lead-based paints that were used on the exterior of the building.) Why didn’t the Trust notice the elevated lead level when they did that remediation work? 

The lead-based paint clean-up was limited to within five feet of the building, so it could be that the underlying debris doesn’t exist that close to the houses, or the Trust simply didn’t encounter it. Also, the debris layer from the incinerator exists between 0.5-2.5 feet beneath the surface (although in some places the gopher activity has brought it closer to the top) and so it’s generally lower than the layer from the lead-based paints.

What has taken so long? The reports of glass started in earnest three years ago.

To the Trust, the reports of gophers seemed to be related to Doyle Drive activity. When those complaints came in, the investigative work began. The Trust knows that this process has taken longer than the residents would like, but again, the army had every incentive to tell the Trust about everything they knew, and the Trust assumed that they had done that. Apparently, even the army didn’t know about this. (They have since been notified.) As a result, it took time to uncover the whole thing. The Trust is going to try to “get to a solution” by next summer.

Is this the first time you’ve discovered toxic soil in a residential neighborhood? 

No, there were known issues in the site behind Quarry Road, and the Trust did lead clean-up there.

Will new residents be notified of this situation?

Yes, potential residents will have access to all this information and the Trust will provide full disclosure. It is not clear yet if this situation will affect rental rates.

On a final note, meetings will be ongoing with the residents and Trust about this issue. If you’d like to be notified of meeting times, be sure that the John Stewart Company has your updated email address.

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Town Hall Notes, July 2013

sports basementA huge thanks to all of the residents who came to this month’s Town Hall meeting. It was a record turn-out!

For those who missed the meeting, I’d like to provide a summary of the topics we discussed. We met at Sports Basement’s Big Room with Presidio representatives. Their contact info is below.


Obama couldn’t make it

The notes below are about the utilities discussion. For police topics that were discussed, go here. For tree removal at North Fort Scott and Pilot’s Row, go here.

And finally, a HUGE thanks to Sports Basement for your continued support of our Town Hall meetings. We are so grateful!

The primary topic on the agenda was utility billing of residents. For this, we met with Kathleen Catton from the Presidio Trust’s Utility Billing department as well as Ann Ostrander, Residential Program Manager for the Trust.

rising costsOne resident asked about rising utility costs, saying that three years ago we weren’t paying separate utilities, then we were paying 90 dollars a month. Today, this particular resident is paying between 140-150 dollars a month for his 950-square-foot apartment. So there’s a trend of rising costs, and he wanted to know where this trend was going.

Kathleen Catton replied that for a long time, the Trust was absorbing the cost of utilities. They did not want to “roll out their utility program and have a big rate increase on top of it,” so they initiated billing with rates set at a 1999 level, while the Trust subsidized the overall cost. They have increased the rates slowly over three years, to avoid “hitting you with a major impact”. Last year, finally, Presidio utility rates met those of San Francisco residents overall.

water treatmentOn top of that, the Presidio’s entire utility system is owned and maintained by the Trust. They have operational costs, water costs, capital equipment and distribution system costs, etc. If a water pipe breaks, the city does not repair it – the cost falls on the Trust. And even though they buy electricity from PG&E, they have to maintain their own substations and high-volt crews. They need to run and maintain an entire infrastructure.

One resident wondered: Is there a cap on utility costs that the Trust is charging us? Kathleen replied that right now, the utility rates are capped at the San Francisco rate.

250px-Utility_Rate_ElectricI later emailed Kathleen for some clarification about rates. Regarding gas, the rate is set by PG&E. However, the Trust sets the rates for water, sewer and electric. About this, Kathleen writes: “rate calculations are actual total utility costs divided by total number of units delivered – not to exceed the cost of multi-family units for like service in San Francisco.” Here, “actual total utility costs” means not just what the Trust pays for water or electric, but also what it is paying to maintain its infrastructure. With that in mind, the Trust will not charge its residents rates higher than those of San Francisco, even if it means that the Trust takes a hit. And indeed, according to Kathleen, the Trust does “not recover [its] full costs for providing utility services in the Presidio.” It means they’re still subsidizing our water, sewer and electric.

historic water plant

Historic water treatment plant at Baker Beach

Kathleen talked in general about the water situation on the Presidio. The water treatment plant on Baker Beach provides 80 percent of the park’s water in summer, and 100 percent in winter. When the facility can’t produce enough water, the Trust buys it from San Francisco (“the Hetch-Hetchy stuff”), which comes to about 20 percent overall yearly. The California Department of Health requires that the Trust provide yearly reports, which can be viewed here. Our water quality is always very good.

water treatment baker beachIn terms of how residents are charged for water: Most residential units on the Presidio have separate water meters. Baker Beach is the only neighborhood where units share water meters. If a water meter is shared, the utilities department allocates expenses based on the size of the unit, not based on the actual number of people in the unit. This is because water usage “is more of a lifestyle issue”. Kathleen said: “You can have ten people in a unit that shower at the gym and don’t cook at home, and they don’t use as much water as one person who takes a shower in the morning, in the afternoon and evening, and who does lots of laundry.” In terms of electricity, all units on the Presidio are individually metered, except for Baker Beach, where meters are shared.

neighbors%20fightingA resident pointed out that the issue of shared utilities creates irritation between neighbors and it can be a non-incentive, with residents feeling that it’s pointless to conserve energy when their neighbors are wasting it. Kathleen replied that in fact she’s seen the opposite.

The bottom line: what can we do to change this cost-sharing between buildings?

Ann said that the army left behind “so many quirky conditions, especially when it comes to infrastructure” and the Trust has “looked long and hard at the costs and the analysis related to separately metering all utilities.” While they completely understand the frustrations of the current system, thanks to the way the army intermingled the piping between units (for both water and gas), it would be much too expensive to repair.

Utilities: GAS

radio read meterOne residents shifted the focus to piped gas: which is really the major cost on most bills. Do we have smart meters?

No. PG&E puts smart meters on their gas lines, but in many cases, a gas line feeds a boiler that is shared between two units, so the costs have to be split between the two units. (This is “shared gas”). This is the situation for apartments on West Washington, Upper Portola, Simonds Loop, Quarry, MacArthur, North Fort Scott, Kobbe, Morton, Sibley, Vista, Wallen and Brooks/Baker. In all other neighborhoods, including Baker Beach, units are billed individually for gas (except for four units on Baker Beach).

The Trust’s meters are “radio read” which are safer than smart meters because they are not constantly transmitting.

How are we supposed to handle it when, for example, one neighbor uses a lot of gas, and we don’t? Kathleen suggested coming to her directly with this. She can provide you with an overall picture of energy usage in your neighborhood and your building so that you have a better sense of the inequality between units, and so that you have a platform for which to discuss the subject with your neighbor. Having this kind of information can often be very enlightening, she said.

baker beachAnother resident pointed out that it was so much easier when our utilities were included in our rent. It eliminated the feeling of resentment of your neighbors’ energy usage. Kathleen replied that since utilities have been separately billed, there were significant drops in energy usage across all neighborhoods. In Baker Beach alone the electrical usage dropped 10 percent a year for the first two years. The suggestion was that seeing your own energy bill every month, knowing the costs and having to pay them separately, will prompt you to initiate better conservation.

Tom Blean, director of maintenance, illustrated this through his own experience, saying that previously, in 50 percent of his day-to-day work order visits, he would walk into a house that was heated “like an oven.” People very frequently left their heaters and electricity on while they were at work. Now that they pay their own bills, he has observed a lot less waste.

smart-thermostat-home11What about installing boiler upgrades or smarter thermostats? One resident pointed out that having a  thermostat replaced made a HUGE difference for her household. She had to call the work order desk repeatedly, but when it was finally installed, it was great.

Another resident said it would be best if the Trust took the initiative on this, instead of individual households having to call. Ann replied that they were very open to considering that. According to her, the Trust has “a long history of using both efficient hot water heaters and furnaces” and when they install new appliances, they always go for an upgrade in energy efficiency.


wind turbinesOne of the great things to come out of the utilities discussion came up when a resident asked if the Trust has sustainability plans.

The answer from both Kathleen and Ann: the Trust has alternative power coming into the grid from wind turbans at Crissy Field and solar paneling, etc. They are talking with the city about recycled water, and have been pursuing the idea of creating a recycled water plant on the Presidio. They’ve also installed a lot of purple pipe for reclaimed water.

solar power crissyAre residents able to install sustainable energy in their units? Does the Trust allow it? We pay very high costs for utilities, and a lot of the homes suffer enforced meter-sharing, what about defraying some of those costs with sustainable energy sources?

SolarEnergy_AdvantageBoth Ann and Kathleen were very receptive to this idea. They pointed out that while historic, rehabilitated units are now very energy efficient, residential tenants have not yet been considered for these sustainability practices. The thinking was: it takes 25 years to return the value of what you invest in a solar-powered system. Tenants might not be here that long, although the apartment would be.

Another resident pointed out that solar payback can be as little as 12 years, even seven. Some solar companies now lease, with no capital down, which would be a reasonable option. These companies would finance your cost if you commit to a lease.

electric carsAnn said, “I think we should consider this. It sounds like the technology is getting more efficient and practical for people.” And Kathleen seemed enthusiastic when she replied: “I will happily look at this issue.”

Another interesting note: the Trust says that if you want to buy an electric vehicle, they have a protocol for “helping residents install charging stations at their homes.” They have electric charging stations online already at Taylor Street, and more coming shortly. For more information on their protocol, click here.


Due to time constraints, and lack of residents at the meeting who were concerned with the issue of outdoor furniture, we decided to defer this topic. For now, Darin Delagnes offered to talk or email directly with anyone who has concerns. His contact information is below.


voteGiven that residents are a driving financial force on the Presidio, and that we have so little say in the day-to-day workings of the Presidio, some residents would like to see more representation of resident concerns in the Presidio Trust. How can that happen?

Ann replied immediately saying, “Come to these meetings, make these meeting happen more regularly, give us your voice. This meeting used to happen the first Wednesday of every month – and DID – for more than ten years. We used to hear from residents, and residents get things done. Your voices matter. The MacArthur neighborhood was changed to a large degree because of the voices of those neighbors. Let us know. It’s up to you to tell us. It’s much more powerful in a meeting than in a periodic email. We really do give this a lot of serious thought.”

el polin bbqAnother resident said it has been her experience that neighborhood issues were best resolved when neighbors got together to talk face-to-face with the Trust.

Is there an actual protocol for residents to resolve disputes or to get Trust projects underway in our neighborhoods? Ann says that yes, these meetings are the way to do that.


pay to parkDespite planning this as a subject for discussion at the next meeting, we couldn’t help talking about it here anyway.

Is there a cap on parking costs or will you continue to increase the costs? Between the parking and the high utilities, these costs total 3,000 dollars a year for one resident – a very high amount.

Kathleen clarified what is covered by parking fees: the costs of the parking program (printing of passes, some enforcement), parking meters throughout the park, and the shuttles, “which are quite expensive,” parking lot repair and maintenance, roads and sidewalk costs. In fact any of those “transportation costs” can be offset by parking fees. The Trust can’t say that they won’t ever raise our costs, but the “residential [contribution] is a small part of the revenue base.” Most of the cost of the parking program is paid for by the meters throughout the park.

parkingIs there anything we can do to stop this, any way we can have a say in these decisions?

Kathleen’s reply was that the goal of the Trust is “to reduce vehicles used within the Presidio.”

Residents replied that while we understand this, people with kids and with jobs can’t exclusively rely on the shuttle or public transportation. The few shuttles that go downtown typically take 1.5 hours. It’s really frustrating not to have a choice, but be told what to do, and to feel penalized for having a car that you need.

Kathleen replied that transportation systems in the city are paid for by a property tax that comes through your house. We don’t have that here.

presidentAs always, we would like to hear your thoughts and comments below, or via email. Our contact information is below.

This conversation will be continued at the next Town Hall meeting in August, and we hope you will join us. We feel strongly that the continued presence of tenant voices at these meetings sends a strong message to the Trust and will ultimately effect positive changes for all.

Contact info for the representatives:

Ann Ostrander, Residential concerns: aostrander [at] presidiotrust [dot] gov, 415-561-5328

Kathleen Catton, Utility services: kcatton [at] presidiotrust [dot] gov, Utility Billing: 561-4112

Tom Blean, maintenance: 561-4270

Darin Delagnes, John Stewart Company: ddelagnes [at] jscopresidio [dot] com, 561-5454

Park police: 561-5656 (emergency), 561-5505 (non-emergency)

Town Hall organizers (residents): presidiotownhall [at] gmail [dot] com


Presidio Residents Organization

Facebook: Presidio Residents Organization

P.S. Special thanks to Erich for the awesome brownies!

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Neighborhood news: North Fort Scott and Pilot’s Row


Soon, all these trees may be gone

One of the main topics at the recent Town Hall meeting was the fate of the trees at North Fort Scott and Pilot’s Row, and residential concerns about the likely impact to their neighborhood.

A bit of background: North Fort Scott and Pilot’s Row are about to lose the row of trees that currently shields them from Doyle Drive traffic. CalTrans is not willing to build a replacement barrier there – a sound wall, a berm or anything similar – and the Trust has not committed to building a barrier either. The Doyle Drive project is also expanding the freeway closer to the neighborhood. In a few months, the residents of Armistead Road will have front row seats of the traffic, with apparently no barrier between their homes and the highway. Private arborist consultants have also explained that because these trees provide such a significant windbreak, their removal could likely mean the removal of many other trees in the neighborhood as well.

pilots rowNorth Fort Scott and Pilot’s Row – traditionally very active and organized communities – turned out in full force. Trust representative Ann Ostrander offered to discuss exactly what the Trust can and can’t do with regards to this issue, bearing in mind that the Trust and CalTrans are already planning a neighborhood walk with residents to discuss these topics in late July.

Ann clarified the Trust’s role by saying that Doyle Drive project is controlled and managed by the Doyle Drive Project Team, which is made up of CalTrans, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, and the Federal Highway Administration. They make the decisions. The Trust is not a member of this team, but merely “the land management agency that permits the project to be built in the Presidio.” They may “provide input to represent the Presidio’s long-term interest”, but it’s only input, not direction.

doyle drive1However, Ann said that the Trust does “make an effort to minimize and mitigate short and long-term impacts.” They have frequent meetings with the Doyle Drive Project Team, and the Trust itself meets weekly to discuss the project.

Residents have reported removal of brush, bushes and plants already, making the freeway now visible to units on Armistead.

What used to look like this:


Now looks more like this:


The main concern of residents is what is going to happen when the trees come down fully? Who can we turn to for this? Ann assured the residents that the Trust is just as worried as they are about the “final condition” of the road section. It is a “major concern” for them, and they do advocate on our behalf.

Will the Trust advocate with CalTrans with our interests in mind? Ann said “Be assured, we are completely advocating for the best interests of the park, and there is considerable overlap between the best interest of the residents and of the park. We want this project to be the best it can be.”

Some freeway berms are beautiful

Looks more historic than a freeway, eh?

Another resident expressed significant frustration that whenever we contact CalTrans, they tell us that building a sound wall is a Trust decision — and that the Trust has chosen not to do that because it doesn’t fit the aesthetics of a “historic landscape.” And yet the Trust is saying that the decision rests with CalTrans.

The same resident then asked about installing a berm. She has raised this issue repeatedly over the course of many years, and every time it has been overlooked. Residents said that they want the Trust to bring up the issue of a berm, which is not a sound wall, and which is not historically inappropriate. Ann said that she will bring these sentiments back to the Trust’s internal meetings about Doyle Drive, but she replied that CalTrans talks to members of the Transportation Department, and this question will be better addressed to them at the neighborhood walk.


talk about a wall!

One resident pointed out that the incredibly large walls near and inside the new Doyle Drive tunnel do not exactly fit with the cultural “historic landscape” either.

Another concern that was raised is that the “neighborhood walk” will not be an actual discussion but rather a presentation in which CalTrans and the Trust reveal an already-decided-upon set of plans, in which residents have had little say. Are any true negotiations still an option for us? Being candid, Ann replied that indeed, the meeting will be to explain next steps. However, given her earlier comments, I believe it’s safe to say that it will also be a place to confront CalTrans and the Trust directly about the neighborhood’s overlooked concerns.


Another resident pointed out that the project’s environmental plans ensure — and thereby, legally the Doyle Drive team is required — to consider the building of a berm, because we meet the criteria for negative air-quality impacts once the trees have been removed.

tunnel2And finally, a resident asked what the Trust was willing to do to mitigate the air quality or sound quality issues that will only get worse if the freeway is expanded and CalTrans does not install a protective barrier. Would the Trust be willing to put double-paned windows in the apartments, for example? Ann asked us to please wait until the final plans have been made about the sound wall before we ask for specific assurances. After all, we may be able to get a protective barrier there.

nfs3The residents requested that the Trust let us know what position they are taking on these issues so that we are in the know. Ann agreed to present these requests to the responsible parties in the Trust — notably Mark Helmbrecht, Transportation Program Manager for the Trust.

Will the rent prices be adjusted to a new reality – when the units are facing a freeway? Darin Delagnes from the John Stewart Company replied that the Trust looks at unit rental prices on a month-by-month basis, taking into consideration the unit, its location, and its whole neighborhood. Without knowing the final outcome for these neighborhoods, the Trust can’t tell yet what will happen to rents.

Obviously, this will be an ongoing discussion, so feel free to leave your comments below or email them to presidiotownhall [at] gmail [dot] com.

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Considering the purchase of an electric car?


The Presidio Trust will assist residents who are considering the installation of an individual charging station at their home. While the Presidio Trust supports the use of electric vehicles, approval for the installation of a car charging station depends on the physical conditions of each proposed location. If approved, all installation costs are borne by the resident, to be paid through the Presidio Trust’s billable work order system. At vacancy, and at the sole discretion of the Presidio Trust, the resident may be required to pay for the cost of removing the charging station and returning the site to its pre-installation condition.

Depending on individual site conditions, installation costs may cover, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. High voltage service connection to garage or other service location
  2. New service panel and electric meter to record usage amounts that will be part of the resident’s monthly utility bill
  3. Permit and inspection fees

If you are interested in installing an individual electric car charging station at your home, please provide the Presidio Trust with the following information:

  1. Date:                                                                                          _______________________________________


  1. Name:                                                                                          _______________________________________


Address and telephone number:                  _______________________________________


Email address:                                                                        _______________________________________


Preferred way to be reached:                                    _______________________________________


  1. Proposed installation location:                                    _______________________________________


  1. Make of electric vehicle:                                     _______________________________________


  1. Model of electric vehicle:                                    _______________________________________


  1. Year of electric vehicle:                                                      _______________________________________


  1. Expected amperage load:                                    _______________________________________


  1. Preferred date of activation:                                    _______________________________________


  1. Preferred method of charging (rapid/wall-mounted charging station or mobile/universal with charging cord or cable) – please circle one


  1. Preferred electrical service demand (120VAC or 208/240VAC; single phase or 3-phase) – please circle one per category

When complete, please return this form, either in person or via email, to the Presidio Trust Work Order Desk: 1750 Lincoln Boulevard or

A Presidio Trust staff member will contact you within 5-7 business days of receipt of your completed form to schedule a time for an on-site inspection. A cost estimate will be provided once the inspection is complete. Thank you for your interest in electric vehicles.

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Police Corner: July 2013

park policeOne of the great things about the Town Hall meetings is that they give us a chance to talk with the park police. They always respond to individual concerns that residents bring to the table, and they catch us up with happenings around the park. In July’s meeting, Commander Jason Wu answered our questions.  

One of the first issues raised was an observed increase in parking citations around the park, and that, combined with the already high cost of parking, is concerning residents.  Chief Wu explained that formerly, the police did not have the ability to issues fines as regularly, but that there is “no concerted effort to pick up enforcement.” He also reminded residents that the amount of the citation fines (for example, $100 for a parking violation) is determined by district courts. The police have no input on that, and neither the park police nor the Trust collect any monies from those citations. That money goes straight to the US Treasury.

As a side note, the police are experiencing cutbacks right now.

godzillaA Pilot’s Row resident voiced concern that large construction trucks were speeding down Lincoln Blvd with no regard for pedestrians. With Doyle Drive construction picking up, and summer tourists flocking to the bridge plaza, this is a potentially deadly situation. The park police committed to confronting the construction companies in an effort to get compliance before sending routine enforcement to the area.

A North Fort Scott resident voiced a complaint about the dangerous misuse of a one-way street on Armistead Road, and Chief Wu responded that the police very much rely on residents to call them when they see dangerous or illegal behavior, or even something “out of place”, and that they will always respond, generally within five minutes, often faster. “No call is too small.”

iphone emergencyA crucial side note: if you call 911 from a cell phone on the Presidio, you will be automatically directed to San Francisco emergency services. In order to reach the park police on a cell phone, you have to call 561-5656. That’s the emergency number that goes directly to the park police comm. center, it’s our “911.” The non-emergency number is 561-5505. (If you call 911 from a landline on the Presidio, it will go to park police.)

park police3One of the things that makes the park police unique – certainly in the Bay Area – is that they are not simply invested in law enforcement, they also focus on ways to improve quality of life for residents and visitors. So every month the police come up with an “enforcement initiative” where they focus on a particular issue. Past issues have included crackdowns on speeding and stop sign violations. This month, they are focusing on illegal campsites, making sure there are no homeless encampments on the Presidio.

After successfully tackling a spate of car thefts on the Presidio, the police are happy to report that no hot crimes are happening right now.

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