San Francisco Fire Station #1 (Image Source:

“Very hush-hush talks going on for the Museum of Modern Art to expand into San Francisco’s Fire Station No. 1 on Howard Street – with speculation that SFMOMA would use the space to house the art collection that Gap founder Donald Fisher wants to show off.”

51 thoughts on “From CAMP SF To CAMFS? (Contemporary Art Museum Fire Station)”
  1. Anyone who has ever stayed in the W Hotel will find it ironic that you could use “hush-hush” and SFFD#1 in the same sentence!
    Seriously though, the Fire Department would need to be able find another location which can deliver fire engines to SOMA and the financial district as quickly as Howard & 3rd. There is clearly plenty of space over near the Transbay redevelopment but will the city really want fire engines all over their new, pedestrian-friendly Folsom Boulevard.

  2. I think it’s great that so many SF locations are now being proposed — see John King in the Chronicle over the weekend.
    My recommendation: Somewhere along the waterfront would be ideal, near the Ferry Building or as far south as Mission Bay.

  3. Given the fact that the fire station on the Embarcadero, under the bay bridge, has been closed (due to falling into the bay), we already have limited fire stations in SOMA. It’s hard to imagine how this site could be made large enough to accommodate the Fisher collection, given that it wouldn’t fit in the SFMOMA if we cleared out all the art that’s already there.
    How about the Metreon?

  4. Agree with Nick – I had an office 4 blocks away from this station in Union Square and would hear loud sirens bouncing off the buildings at least 1-2 times an hour as they made their way up third and onto Market Street to head for some call in the Tenderloin.
    Great idea to put the Fisher collection closer to other art centers (SFMOMA, Yerba Buena, & the countless art galleries in the SOMA/Union Square area) but it might be a little tricky to move the fire station as I doubt any residential use in the area is going to be welcoming of such a noisy new use. However, I doubt private residential users would be able to do much to stop such a clearly civic use from re-locating anywhere they deem fit.

  5. Maybe relocate by the temporary transbay terminal?
    Regardless, I have always wanted to see Donald Fisher’s collection. It’s a shame that it is locked away in Gap HQs.
    So close, yet so far.

  6. Maybe we could convice Tishman Speyer to bring part of their collection out West and combine with Donald Fisher’s collection. That would be world class.
    The problem with the MOMA is that the collection is lacking.

  7. I second the metreon suggestion: great location for all the wasted space (although, I like the presence of the farmer’s market currently there in the old discovery toy store and sony PS store). I heard the need for outdoor space for the sculpture garden and Yerba Buena has a nice space in back of the Metreon (although, it seems like it’s already put to good use w/the events like the current outdoor theater program, etc.).

  8. Speaking of artistically lacking collections, the de Young immediately comes to mind too.
    The Fisher collection belongs in a new museum in the Presidio.
    San Francisco’s legions of amateur and misguided (though likely well-intended) urban planners continue to boggle the mind.
    Perhaps some will join Chris Daly in Fairfield and help make that city the new centerpiece of misguided public policy.

  9. joshua,
    I hear what you are saying about the Presidio, but I think SoMa would be ideal for any kind of new museum. That’s how I would like SoMa to grow up as, a walkable collection of great museums.
    I’m sure a lot of people would spend time there, even on lunch breaks.

  10. I don’t know how misguided the CAMP people were, a lot of the bus lines in and out of the presidio are standing room only on clear weekends all ready– there are valid concerns about the traffic levels that can be sustained by the predisidio. I think there is a lot to be said for trying to find a venue for the Fisher collection in other parts of town in need of cultural attractions and where a modern structure would fit better. While people are quick to criticize CAMP and others as amateur urban planners, Fisher was also in the same boat presuming to choose the best site for his museum… if he had been open to other sites, given people a sense of control, he might be building a museum in the presidio right now. I think as somebody who knows this city, Fisher could have been savvier in the way he presented his gift.

  11. @ joe
    You take offense at Fisher’s supposed “presumption”. Are you kidding? Is human skin so thin?
    What about gratitude to the Fishers???
    This man (and his family) have built vast wealth through their hard work and ingenuity. Then, they spent a fortune collecting an important art collection, supporting cultural institutions and artists. Now they’re interested in donating a wonderful gift to the citizens of their hometown, and the millions of visitors who come here and help support our economy.
    I don’t know the Fishers, nor do I have any connection to their company. However, their intended actions are hugely generous. Many, many other cities would bend over backward to make life easy for people attempting such a civically minded project.
    Where is the gratitude?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

  12. ^So Joshua, are you suggesting putting it in Point Reyes? The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a gigantic swath of land and the Presidio is one VERY small part of it.

  13. @ anon
    Does one travel through the Presidio to get to Pt. Reyes? For most people, yes.
    And again, snarky comments are quaint, but the point about gratitude to the Fishers is obviously lost on some.

  14. So driving on a freeway through the Presidio has the same impact as driving on local streets and parking there? Weird logic.
    I don’t particularly see why someone should be given carte blanche to build something just because they’re donating something. Perhaps the entire process could have been handled better – but I would say that for BOTH sides. Fisher has lived here a long time. He should have known that people wouldn’t take kindly to having something shoved down their throats, regardless of the gift he was proposing.
    As far as the “other cities” comment. I think that many other cities that are urban, rich, and dense would have been nearly as unaccomodating as SF if they were only given ONE choice of location and a “take it or I’ll force it on you” approach. You can’t tell me that Boston, NYC, dozens of smaller cities, and nearly every city in Europe would have just said “Sure, do whatever you want! Thanks a bundle!” The fact that some cities would have fallen all over themselves to accommodate Fisher no matter what his demands were says something about those cities – “We’re desperate for anything that would raise our national and global standing.”

  15. Let’s simplify:
    Huge numbers of people already visit the Presidio each year. They come to enjoy Crissy Field, view the GG bridge, enjoy the waterfront, etc. The new Disney Foundation museum will likely increase this number. People are already in the Presidio. Lots of people, and that’s great. The Presidio belongs to the people.
    The old saying about robbing banks b/c that’s where the money is applies here. Build a museum where people already go.
    Finally, why is it so difficult to acknowledge that Fisher is trying to do something very nice for this city?

  16. Just because Fisher is donating his collection doesn’t mean he can build whatever he wants, wherever he wants.
    Remeber, the Presidio was originally built as an army base, and as such, access to and from the Main Post due to security reasons. Traffic is already pretty bad – try hanging out around the Lombard Gate during rush hour. There are a lot of other locations in SF that make more sense for Fisher’s museum.

  17. @ anon
    Only if you plan on building high-density of offices, housing and freeways in the Presidio…
    What doesn’t make sense about these comments is that the Presidio belongs to the people. It’s for their enjoyment. Saying that you don’t want any traffic, crowded buses, etc. must mean you don’t want people to enjoy the public land that they own. Makes zero sense.

  18. No Joshua, it makes absolute sense. The Presidio doesn’t have the transit infrastructure that 3rd and Howard does. SOMA is an ideal location as it’s close to freeways, mass transit and hotels.

  19. I’m fine with people. I’m fine with crowded buses. I’m not fine with the number of vehicles that exist at the corner of 3rd and Howard during rush hour. Since the MAJORITY of people get to downtown by transit, it means that we wouldn’t need anywhere NEAR the density to attract the same number of cars to the Presidio, since there isn’t a subway or dozens of surface transit routes to get there. Build a heavy rail connection to the Presidio and we can talk.
    For the people also means working with the people, not saying “He’s giving us a gift! Give him whatever he wants! Please!”

  20. @ Fishchum
    You say museums are ideally located near freeways, mass transit and hotels, such as 3rd and Howard.
    Therefore, you must have opposed locating the de Young and the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.

  21. ^Both of those museums were already there and had been there for a century, and were just rebuilt. I would have no problem with the Fisher museum if it was replacing a museum that had been there for 100 years, as traffic patterns would be already in place.

  22. Joshua, where did I say museums are ideally located near freeways, mass transits and hotels? Go back and re-read my post. I was comparing the two locations (Presidio and 3rd & Howard) and the obvious advantages 3rd & Howard has over the Presidio.

  23. @anon
    So again, you’re saying museums are fine in public parks so long as the public stays away.
    Do you think major renovations and expansions of the de Young and California Academy of Sciences might affect traffic patterns there? And if so, who cares? The traffic is people accessing their lovely new facilities. Wonderful!
    Again, museums need space in order to share their collections, educate the public, run programs for children, etc. Where is there available space in San Francisco? The Presidio provides immense space. (and clearly they allowed Lucas, some hedge funds and even a real estate company to move in. if traffic patterns are so important, let’s evict the the current tenants and get a museum!)

  24. Joshua, in most major cities of density, museums are not located in parks. Why must parkland be used for a museum when San Francisco has a sea of parking lots in SOMA? There is PLENTY of space in this city to build a museum without having to plop it in the center of the historic Presidio Parade in a very popular and beautiful landscape.
    My favorite museum is the Art Institute in Chicago which is located right on Michigan Avenue in the heart of the city, not out in some park.

  25. Sorry for my lack of gratitude to Mr. Fisher. First, he knew this city and he knew what he was getting into by trying to have every aspect of the museum his way. Second, I have not read how the collection will transfer to the museum, but these gifts are usually a flexible schedule of fractional transfer to allow the donor family to avoid taxes for a long, long time. It is not so much a gift, as Fisher’s decision that rather than pay taxes, he will pay us with a museum. They will get back almost every penny they put into this museum as a tax break.
    In any city building something new like this on parkland would be a big challenge… I cannot imagine this going smoothly in either Boston or New York.

  26. Joshua – Are you really this thick-headed or are you just trolling? Yes, SOMA is an ideal location because of it’s proximity to mass transit, freeways and hotels IN COMPARISON TO THE PRESIDIO. Sheesh. I didn’t mean that ALL museums need to be near these amenities. The museums in GG Park have been there for years – and are also fairly accessible as they have parking and are in a park that was designed to encourage visitors. The Presidio, on the other hand, was designed as an army base and access into and around the park was designed to be very limited for security reasons.

  27. Joshua, in most major cities of density, museums are not located in parks.
    Like The Met or The Smithsonian? Or perhaps you were thinking of The Louvre in Paris or The Versaille.
    There are plenty of museums in parks all around the world. The neighbors just don’t want to have to share their private backyard, a national park, with the rest of the world.

  28. NVJ – if the museum was going on the edge of a park adjacent to a heavy-rail subway stop (or several), as The Met, The Smithsonian, and The Louvre are, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The site was deep inside a park with terrible public transit and roadway connections (as Fischum said, because of its past as an Army base) that is just asking for mind boggling traffic congestion with the addition of a museum.

  29. NoeValleyJim makes a good point.
    In addition, think about this quote: “My favorite museum is the Art Institute in Chicago which is located right on Michigan Avenue in the heart of the city, not out in some park.”
    Actually, The Art Institute of Chicago is located on the border of Grant Park and adjacent to Millinium Park. Please check your facts before posting.
    See Google maps if you need a refresher…

  30. The Art Institute was built on what was a rail yard. The park was created around it. Millennium Park was built OVER rail yards and parking lots, IMAGINE(!), and has a huge underground parking structure underneath almost the entire park. THE TRAINS STILL RUN UNDER THE ART INSTITUTE! The Art Institute is on Chicago’s busiest street adjacent to about 100 of the tallest buildings in the world. The subway stop is directly underneath the intersection opposite the main staircase, while the Metra stop (similar to Caltrain) is directly next door to the Art Institute. I have no need for Google Maps since I live in Chicago and San Francisco.
    Everyone goes on and on about San Francisco desnsity, but you would be hard to find an area in San Francisco as highly developed as the areas adjacent to the Art Institute. 18 new residential towers, all over 60 stories, have been built adjacent or within two blocks of the museum in the last six years. (two over 80 stories)
    The Presidio is something Chicago does not have and could not build. WHY would you want to ruin what is one of the great unique features of San Francisco?

  31. @ anon2
    On one side, The Art Institute borders Michigan Avenue, while the other side opens to many square miles of park land and eventually the lakefront. The Art Institute provides an urban transition from density to tranquility. It’s quite stunning, and has evolved into its current form over many, many decades. Chicago planners were more intelligent than San Francisco planners because the rail yard was sunken, and multiple bridges crossed-over to the parks. Eventually, the tracks have been covered-up, with Mayor Daly providing critical leadership in continuing these efforts.
    On the downside, LSD does stand in the way before you actually get to the water, and there’s a yacht club there too. Somewhat similar to 101 blocking Crissy Field. Chicago chose to provide access over the rail yard, which the casual passerby might not even know exists. San Francisco might someday get with the program and bury 101 and Richardson. The Richardson project is trying to gain some momentum now, though I’m certain some folks will protest and call a highway off-ramp “historic”.
    Chicago has done a wonderful job of actually integrating a central area where workers and visitors congregate (along Michigan Ave, and those who drive straight from the the freeways often via Congress or sometimes LSD), along with many square miles of parks, recreation land, waterfront, etc. Chicago museums (Art Institute, Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium) and even Soldiers Field stretch along what is essentially one giant park along the waterfront.
    All of this is connected by a network of sidewalks, roadways, public transit, etc. Everything connects smoothly. Chicago is a wonderfully designed city. Thank you Daniel Burnham and many others.
    In contrast, San Francisco is a mash-up. The idea to place a Fisher museum at 3rd and Howard would be like placing the Chicago Art Institute somewhere in the middle of the Loop. A SoMa location would be more like Scott and Sedgwick. (inside joke, sorry SoMa fans)
    Is the Presidio unique and precious? Yes of course it is. Is the Presidio still an army base? No of course it is not. The question is how to best use a huge area of land that now exists for the peoples’ enjoyment.
    And again, millions and millions of people *already* visit this area every single year. So why not let the people enjoy a wonderful art museum on their visit? This idea much more closely matches our shared admiration of Chicago’s very successful use of public land.

  32. chicago 100 years is interesting but irrelevant to here and now.
    downtown sf is a great location for new museum, the number and diversity of visitors is overshelming larger than other parts of city, and transit is here. and could grow with HS rail.
    golden gate park is intersting point but also irrelevnet to this as it is not now nor ever will be on the table for new museum.
    the visitation at a downtown location will be at least 500,000 more per year ( and the revenues per visit will be higher). just do basic research on museum locns/ attendance and this will prove out.
    there are plenty of location for the fire station on folsom street, etc. people will whine or course it is san francisco, but there is an overshelming justfication here to support it.
    get something done before fisher decides to put it in another city. just like the 49rs right?

  33. On one side, The Art Institute borders Michigan Avenue, while the other side opens to many square miles of park land and eventually the lakefront
    How about 1st/Folsom for the firehouse?
    And no, Don Fisher’s enormous wealth and art collection does not entitle him to institutional deference, though I’m truly surprised to see someone not in his employ assert otherwise. If anything, his status could be a magnet for putting his mark anywhere. Why not down at the other end of the T?

  34. Joshua – so you’ve just answered your own question. The Presidio is nothing like the scene in Chicago that you’ve described. Outside of some paths and walkways around Crissy Field, the only transit that serves the Presidio is the PresidiGo Shuttle, which basically shuttles workers to and from the Financial District, and the 43 Masonic. Neither of which would adequately meet the demands of the number of visitors the museum would bring in.
    While it may no longer be an Army base, the indfastructure and access designed by the Army is still in place. Again, the point of the Army’s design was to make access in and around the base difficult for security reasons. The Presidio is also a National Historical Landmark, something the Chicago planners didn’t have to deal with (I assume). It’s one of the oldest Army bases on the West Coast, with some of the buildings dating back to the first Spanish fort, which was the very origins of San Francisco.

  35. I think they should replace the eyesore that is One Rincon Hill with the fire station. Or they could put the fire station in ORH’s lobby and use the penthouse as the fire lookout tower as is common in our national forests.

  36. @ Fishchum
    You don’t understand the Chicago discussion.
    Once again: millions and millions of people already visit the Presidio each year.
    Give the people a world-class museum, to enjoy a world-class collection, in a world-class setting.

  37. Joshua, do you work for Don and Doris? Really?
    Why do you think art museums should be located in a spectacular natural setting? Since “millions and millions” of people visit the Presidio every year, why stop with museums? Why not ball parks, arenas and convention centers at the Presidio also?
    Why do you think the Presidio landscape needs to be “enhanced” with a new museum? I actually think something more like Cavallo Point would be more appropriate.

  38. I dont know if this is a serious discussion, but…
    –There are far more “millions and millions” of people visiting downtown than the predisio.
    –The seasonality of visitation is smoother.
    –The day to day within a week visitation is smoother.
    And the critical mass of cultural institutions is great downtown v non existent at the Pres.

  39. I have an idea Joshua is simply trolling at this point. By his logic, we should build it in Yosemite, because “millions and millions” of people visit Yosemite every year, and it’s a “world class location”. That seems to be the extent of his grasp on the debate, as he obviously doesn’t have a solution for the lack of transit infrastructure at the Presidio.

  40. Can’t tell if Joshua is a troll, works for the Fishers, or works for a company that is assured of contracts if the museum is in the Presidio. All we know is he sure wants a museum in the presidio, thinks that the presidio is the best place to put a museum of modern art, and spends hours a day here.
    At least once the tax implications of this “gift” have been pointed out, he’s stopped telling us we should be so darn thankful Fisher has found a way to avoid taxes and stroke his ego at the same time! The Rockefeller’s (MOMA), Guggenheim’s, Gardener’s, and Frick’s gave the land for their museums (and the Rockefeller’s donated the UN Parcel too). What is really offensive is the land grab in a national park when this rich man could buy a nice parcel or donate a stately home.

  41. I intended to sign-off with my last post, but the recent comments are amusing, so I’ll bite one last time…
    1. I very clearly said earlier that I have no ties whatsoever with the Fishers, their company or anything else related to this proposed project. No one else in this discussion has stated whether they have any personal vested interest in the project. Do you?
    2. A few posters should brush-up on their understanding of rhetorical devices. If you have an argument or rebuttal then make it, but don’t lamely resort to this tactic:
    3. According to the National Park Service, many millions visit the Presidio each year already. If we are to believe the Presidio lacks transportation infrastructure, how do these people arrive there? The Presidio might lack your personal or political preference for transportation (i.e. heavy rail), but people are already getting there.
    4. No one has offered a single piece of analysis regarding how traffic patterns might be altered, either in the Presidio or at any other sites.
    5. No one has justified why Lucas, Disney, hedge funds and realtors should be allowed to use the historically important Presidio, while a museum shouldn’t.
    6. The posting about tax implications shows a lack of understanding about charitable donations, especially in a museum context. I truly don’t mean to offend the posters on this topic, but you’re mistaken to think this is a potential bonanza for the Fishers. Rules on this type of giving have been greatly tightened. If someone wanted to avoid paying taxes, they’d be well advised to pursue different avenues.
    7. As NoeValleyJim said, “There are plenty of museums in parks all around the world. The neighbors just don’t want to have to share their private backyard, a national park, with the rest of the world.”
    8. I’m grateful to the Fishers for trying to make this happen.
    Ok I’ve said my piece. Please stop and take a breath before posting some cranky response. See you around SocketSite.

  42. What is really interesting about Joshua is that I’ve never seen him elsewhere on socketsite.
    What Fisher is trying to do is stroke his own ego and keep his collection together. If this were passed to his heirs, they would have to pay taxes on it at current appraised value… so his heirs probably don’t want it. Unlike donations of a single work of art, which have been tightened up on as Joshua has noted, donations of multiple works allows much more flexibility… A Calder and a Warhol a year can provide a lot of tax benefit.
    As for me, I have no local interest in this. I live nowhere near the presidio. But as a citizen and tax payer, I have good reason to be worried about a land grab in any national park. Part of the reason the opposition has been so well organized and supported is because this project would have implications for the national parks as a whole. If this went through, any middle-ultra-rich person with a collection of moderate importance would be able to make a land grab in the national parks. This is not just about Fisher, this is about protecting our national parks.
    The other issue with this collection and building a museum around it is whether the collection will still be important in fifty years. Nobody really knows that. Warhol, without the cultural context fresh in our minds, could very well earn a critical reappraisal as a mildly talented opportunist.

  43. ^^^”If we are to believe the Presidio lacks transportation infrastructure, how do these people arrive there?”
    I will tell you how Joshua, a LOT of them arrive on foot or bicycles. The Crissy Field trails get thousands of bike riders, joggers and walkers every day, many from nearby neighborhoods. I myself have been a regular user who would jog all the way to tap the fence just beyond the fort under the Golden Gate Bridge and then back to my place in the Marina. The park is one of the reasons I chose to buy in the Marina, and is probably one of the most beautiful landscapes any large city in the U.S. currently has.
    I am amazed how many foreign tourists I have seen at the Warming Hut, walking along the shore and photographing the historic architecture of the parade. These visitors do not need to have some new “attraction” to draw them to enjoy the Presidio.
    What I like about the Presidio is that it is not Golden Gate Park. It has more room, less cars, and feels less manicured and more natural.

  44. I’ll 2nd jeff2’s point on how visitors visit the Presidio. I live right outside the Lombard Gate, and go jogging through the Presidio and down onto Crissy Field all the time.
    So for those of you who think visitors can just drive in, try hanging around the Lombard Gate between 4:00 and 6:00 PM on a weeknight – it’s already a nightmare.

  45. Joshua,
    Just wanted to be clear about tax implications. What the IRS cracked down on was fractional giving of art where the tax deductions were claimed while the art sat in the donor’s home. What the IRS had made clear is that the art must be in the possession of the museum for the tax deduction to be taken. So long as the art is not in the donor’s possession, the donor can still use the fractional donation approach to make his donations match his tax deduction needs over an extended period. Add to that the free land Fisher would take for his museum and it looks as if the tax payer is really the one we should be patting on the back for this “gift”.
    The other new projects in the Presidio made a strong effort to make their buildings fit within the architectural context and put their buildings near the edge of the presidio instead of in its heart. The other projects also provide revenue to the presidio allowing the remainder of the presidio to be better kept. It has not been clear that Mr. Fisher’s museum would provide any revenue for the maintenance of the presidio, is adequately endowed with cash money to sustain operations and maintain the building and the collection, and would not ultimately fall back on the park service and presidio trust for financial support and providing basic services. Sometimes it pays to look a gift horse in the mouth!
    And Joshua, none of this comes out of any resentment of Mr. Fisher’s success. My grandfather was one of his sources of capital and Mr. Fisher has served my family very well!
    Again, Mr. Fisher has been around the block. He is a sophisticated and experienced businessman who knows this town well. If he had taken an approach of proposing several possible sites, he might well be building a museum in the presidio right now. Even if there had been no local opposition, I can assure you opposition would have materialized from people whose ancestors served at the presidio and from parks preservationists. Unfortunately, Mr. Fisher let his ego get the best of him, drank his own Kool-Aid, and never really considered what an uphill battle he would face trying to grab a part of a national park for his museum– a museum that relates to neither the historic preservation nor the naturalist missions of the park service. I can assure you that if it had not been stopped at the local level, congress would have stepped into the issue. So, Joshua give it a rest, Mr. Fisher has just gotten a lesson in life– even us rich people can reach too far and get schooled sometimes. I am still trying to figure what he was thinking when he came up with this!

  46. I attended some of the public Presidio CAMP meetings, with their 2-minute spots for the public members to speak out. It was interesting to hear so many angles of opposition, well-spoken points of view, except it went on for hours. On the brink of leaving, I decided to have my say, and announced that I considered the whole series of public meetings a sham, that Don Fisher was too smart, rich and powerful to have ever thought he would win an illegal battle, and that all we, the unpaid schmucks at this meeting, had to do, was watch what the Fishers REALLY wanted to do – because that is what their game plan was from the get-go. The meetings were a red herring, and paid for by the taxpayers, as well. Don or his wife were not present, didn’t speak to us. Yawn!
    When I saw my parents’ house in the Excelsior the next day, I realized that the Fishers do have friends in the “art” biz: the first graffiti ever in the 53 years they’ve lived in that house: “FU!:” written on the garden wall.
    I say, ART is a wonderful thing. Thanks, Don and Doris and your hired thug. But no thanks…

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