The Presidio as Prototype for the Sustainable Park Concept

Authors: Marcus Owens*, UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: Sustainability, Urban Geography, Urban Parks, Urban Planning
Session Type: Paper
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The development of the Presidio as a public park constitutes a key case study used by Cranz and Boland (2004) in articulating their concept of “the Sustainable Park.” Boland himself was already working for the Presidio Trust, the non-profit agency charged with managing the park, and currently serves as Chief of Park Development and Visitor Engagement. This paper therefore seeks to probe Cranz and Boland’s text, and situate their concept of the “sustainable park” as emerging during a specific phase of the conversion of the Presidio Army Base into a public park, part of a broader urban restructuring of the San Francisco Bay Region following the end of the Cold War and the Loma Prieta Earthquake. By taking a more up-to-date and in-depth examination of the politics of the transformation of the Presidio into the larger Golden Gate National Recreation Area, this paper presents a more nuanced and detailed understanding of the sustainable park concept. It suggests that rather than the periodization of public park types described by Cranz (1982) from which Cranz and Boland’s concept extend their concept of the sustainable park, the public park concept is better understood as part of a longer, more complex evolutionary process. This paper therefore proposes a genealogical method for understanding the emergence of the sustainable park from transformations in urban form and in relation to ideas of nature wrought by socio-technical change, framing the emergence the sustainable park in relation to geopolitical shifts and urban restructuring of the 1990s.

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