SAN FRANCISCO — The Fisher family behind Gap Inc. and the Haas family of Levi Strauss may be international rivals in the denim fashion arena, but the two San Francisco clans share common ground locally as major benefactors to the city’s largest park, the Presidio.
The former Spanish, Mexican and U.S. army outpost at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge is where Gap founders Donald and Doris Fisher have proposed building a museum to house their extensive modern art collection, which includes works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Calder, Frank Stella and Anselm Kiefer.
The Haas family recently donated $15 million to refurbish Presidio hiking trails and create overlooks throughout the 1,491-acre National Park Service preserve wooded with Monterey pine and eucalyptus trees. In addition, an $18 million Haas donation has restored part of the Presidio’s coastline and former pioneering airfield, Crissy Field, which is now wetlands populated by brown pelicans and skirted by joggers. Part of the new Haas donation will be used to complete a Presidio Promenade that skirts through the park, past Crissy Field and the Golden Gate Bridge.
The 218-year-old Presidio is now governed by a pact between the city and federal government, which will turn the park over to San Francisco in 2012, provided the park is self-sufficient. To make money, the Presidio’s early 20th-century cream-colored clapboard Army buildings and red roofs have been restored to house a mix of small businesses and artistic pursuits.
The largest tenant so far is filmmaker George Lucas, who in 2005 moved his digital studio operations to the location of the Presidio’s former Letterman Army Hospital, which was torn down and re-created to meet the needs of its high-tech tenant.
For outsiders, the Presidio’s most obvious attractions are its vistas of San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands across the bay. There are also historic military sites in the Presidio, which served as a gateway for Pacific Rim military action and treatment site for wounded in the Spanish American Civil War, World War II and the Vietnam and Korean wars.
Since the Presidio’s recent transformation, visitors also can dine within its gates beside the old post’s bowling alley. La Terrasse, a French bistro in the old Transit Center building, is a hideaway with a brick pizza oven and clear view of the Golden Gate Bridge from its petit bar. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner and also provides espresso and pastries in the morning for bird watchers.
Inside the LucasArts building is wine bar Pres a Vi and nearby, inside an old barracks, is the Presidio Social Club with a comfort-food menu and daily specials like Prime Rib Monday and Oyster Stew Tuesday. For organic cafe food like free-range chicken quesadillas, there’s Acre Café in the Center for Sustainability and Dish Café in the San Francisco Film Centre.