The Presidio is a former military base converted into a 1,500-acre beach-front park located next to the Golden Gate Bridge. The well-adorned park features several private residences, office spaces, hotels, a golf course, and event venues located in the heart of Speaker Pelosi’s 12th Congressional District.
Here are a few key questions that need to be answered about how the Presidio’s funding was inserted into the Natural Resources list of priorities and how it will be used:
Why are taxpayers footing the bill for a self-reliant park?
According to the park’s website, Congress intended it to be self-sufficient and not rely on taxpayer funds. “The Presidio Trust is an unusual federal agency. In our founding bipartisan legislation, Presidio Trust Act, the Trust was charged with operating the park without taxpayer support,” according to the site.
The Presidio is supposed to operate on commercial revenues earned on site. Although for the first 15 years Congress appropriated funds for the park that decreased annually from $44 million to $12 million, by 2013 the park was required to be financially independent.
Why are park officials now turning to Congress for this massive project and why aren’t lawmakers providing details about how the money is to be spent?
Are taxpayers funding a failed fundraising campaign?
In 2018, park officials began a campaign to raise $200 million dollars to repair Fort Scott, a military post built in 1912. According to a KQED radio report, the mission was to provide a facility for people working on environmental and social justice.
Commercial revenues at the park were apparently insufficient to cover the costs, so officials sought private donations through philanthropic organizations. The Presidio’s chief financial officer, Jean Fraser, “knows not many environmental and social justice non-profits have that kind of money lying around, so the Trust is looking for foundations, individual philanthropists or a group of organizations who might have greater liquidity.”
KQED noted that Fraser and her team were willing to be particular and not rush into accepting just any proposal. Since they couldn’t find enough funders, are they now asking taxpayers to foot the bill? How is environmental and social justice served by a transfer from average American taxpayers to a wealthy San Francisco park?
Is Congress prioritizing a pork project over the climate?
Joe Biden is known for saying, “Show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.” If that’s the case, then The Presidio is a higher priority than many other projects slated for significantly less funding:
Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Grijalva and Democratic lawmakers have stressed the importance of addressing priorities such as climate change, renewable energy, and tribal relations through the infrastructure and reconciliation packages. So why siphon off $200 million for just one park that has a golf course, hotels, office rentals, and other profit sources?
Why does the Presidio keep turning to taxpayers?
Despite the park’s claim that it doesn’t rely on taxpayer funds, earlier this year it received $8 million in Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) funding. The funds were allocated from the Interior Department’s federal oil and natural gas royalties.
Now Congress is on the verge of rushing through 25-times that amount but with none of the vetting the Interior Department does under GAOA. Why is the Presidio again turning to taxpayers for funding and why is there such a lack of transparency?
Oil and natural revenues pay for reconciliation projects
To offset the spending on these projects, Chairman Grijalva plans to raise taxes and fees on federal oil and natural gas production. Grijalva has 26 proposals to raise $6 billion, 19 of which target oil and natural gas. Grijalva’s list of proposed “Revenue Raisers” includes raising royalty rates, leasing fees, rents, bonds, and penalties, and assessing new inspection and nomination fees. Yet all the new fees and financial burden would significantly reduce—if not eliminate—federal leasing and production . It’s hard to raise revenue by driving producers completely off federal lands.
Instead of increasing revenues to fund projects like the Presidio, the Natural Resources Committee is embarking on a path that would yield significantly less revenues. By making leasing and development nearly impossible on federal lands, in a few years revenues will rapidly dwindle.
But hey, at least we can all go play golf at The Presidio on the taxpayer.