Lucas Cultural Arts Museum 2016 Design

While George Lucas hasn’t yet abandoned all plans to build his $700 million Lucas Cultural Arts Museum in Chicago, Mayor Ed Lee has been lobbying behind the scenes for Lucas to set his sights on the west side of Treasure Island, facing San Francisco. And this week, the mayor is expected to formally invite Lucas to consider the island site. Even odds that “this is the site you’re looking for” appears somewhere in the text of Lee’s letter.

Having already been spurned and burned in San Francisco, which led his team out of the frying pan and into the great Chicago fire of 2015/2016, one of the City’s biggest challenges will be to convince Lucas that an attempt to build on Treasure Island won’t be déjà vu all over again.

And while it’s true that the redevelopment of Treasure Island is already underway with a certified Environmental Impact Report (EIR) in hand, and that the approved plans “allow for [the] construction of either a museum or community facilities on Treasure Island,” the magnitude of Lucas’ proposed project, in terms of the expected traffic it would generate, could easily cast doubts on the adequacy of the approved EIR should a challenge be mounted.

54 thoughts on “Mayor Lee to Lucas: This Is the Site You’re Looking For”
    1. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed by some HOV or bus only lanes. We’ll be riding our bicycles over from the East Bay.

  1. wait….I see boats…lot of cute little boats….going back and forth every 15 minutes…..a la Granville Island in B.C.

    1. Unless you’re referring to the general idea of water taxi service, I just don’t see any apt comparison possible.

      First, TI is much removed from the City compared to Granville and central Vancouver.

      More importantly, Granville Island grew organically over decades. It would be virtually impossible to replicate as a planned development. You’d more likely successfully reproduce an Italian citta in central San Jose.

        1. I saw an interview with Peskin who described the possibility of Lucas’ museum as “the secret sauce” to make ferry service to TI feasible. HUH? if anything, such ridership might threaten to overwhelm normal resident commute traffic.

          I don’t think there is any question ferry service between TI and the Ferry Building would be well patronized. And, why not? A short walk and 10 minute ride from the foot of Market Street /Embarcadero BART/MUNI positions you much better than Noe Valley, San Mateo, Albany or just about any place in the Bay Area.

          1. There is no ferry service to Treasure Island now because the traffic does not justify it. The museum will necessitate the service, and the service can further catalize the development of the island. At least, that is what Peskin is saying, I think.

          2. wouldn’t commuter and museum “ridership” be going in opposite directions at different times? ie to the museum either against or after the morning commute and back to the city likewise against the return home to TI.
            ferries would be filled both ways, not circling back relatively empty.
            seems that a tourist draw on the island would help to ferry service plan, not overwhelm it.

          3. I think ModernEdwardian is correct. A museum has prime hours on weekends and to a lesser degree afternoons during the week. That balances well with commute traffic, and probably helps make frequent all day service more feasible.

          4. There is going to be a very regular though limited capacity ferry service for residents. Service supporting a museum (and a large majority of visitors taking ferries is the only thing making sense) would have to be in addition to regular service. This is no situation like the Roosevelt Island tram and there are no plans to extend BART to the island.

          5. I like the idea of a gondola system; they have done some amazing things in South America to link different parts of cities in the Andes. I am sure there are practical reasons why it wouldn’t work, but conceptually it would be very cool.

  2. I never really accepted the idea that Lucas wasn’t going to build this thing in the Bay Area.

    I just would much rather see it built on the southern Embarcadero in the City proper as part of a development plan providing for the rehabilitation of Piers 30-32 for park/recreational use and the museum on the seawall lot. The new Whitney in Chelsea would be a great example and would well complement the Watermark on the same property. Would even allow enough room for a mid-rise luxe boutique hotel/residence.

    [Editor’s Note: The Seawall/Pier site was offered to Lucas in 2014.]

  3. No one said anything about replicating Granville. TI will also grow over decades. Yes it is a greater distance of water. When major development comes to TI, and it will, you need either a new bridge to the island (not gonna happen) or major new water-taxi service. Forget about the already-saturated Bay Bridge.

  4. The art collection is lightweight and relatively insignificant. That is why no museum has really tried to get it. Lucas made great contribution to our pop culture , perhaps, so go see his movies again. But this is a misguided monument to himself personally, and it seems everyone but him can see this.

    If an investment this size gets turned down in Chicago, it must have major flaws.

    The visitation to this would be very light. Maybe treasure island is a good spot because very few people will go there. !

    It probably just shouldn’t be built.

    1. Totally agree with you. Lucas has an ego the size of the Death Star. All he really wants to do is show off his toys and sell more merchandise. It’s not even close to being anything of “museum quality”.

      As I’ve said before, let him buy a private piece of land and put up ALL of his money and then do what he wants.

      1. So short-sighted to involve personalities in this. I have virtually zero interest in the subject matter (never saw a single “Star Wars” movie), but I understand Lucas has been a major collector of 20th Century illustrative art such that his is a serious exhibit in the genre. Add his personal fame and popularity of his works and you have a huge attraction which would be a great addition to the southern Embarcadero and would support a reclaimed Piers 30-32 complex which is otherwise going to have to be removed at considerable cost to the Port.

      2. Every time I visit this museum with my family, the knowledge that you consider it beneath “museum quality” will only add to my enjoyment.

  5. It’s important to note that the City of San Francisco has no authority over The Presidio and therefore was not in a position to reject George Lucas’s proposed museum there. Indeed, many San Francisco politicians favored the Lucas proposal and lobbied for it, but were powerless to approve it. The Presidio Trust, which oversees the Presidio for the Department of the Interior, a federal agency, rejected the museum. I believed at the time and continue to believe that this was the right decision. As for the merits of building the museum on Treasure Island: More information needed.

    1. And one could point out the obvious fact that since the Presidio already has a Disney Museum there, they ‘re not adverse to “(pop) cultural” museums, per se, just to enormously overscaled ego statements. So if Mr. Lucas had been able to squeeze his concept into the existing building stock he might have ended up on the parade ground as well.

  6. I’ve got a hunch that Lucas may reject the TI location as well. It would be a great anchor attraction on the island though. Visitors would be encouraged to spend the afternoon on the island. A few hours in the museum and the rest of the time exploring whatever else the island has to offer.

  7. Traffic issues make this problematic – the TI Lennar development is supposed to have 4000 plus units. A potential population of 8K or 9K on the island. Couple that with large museum traffic on weekends and especially during tourist season and a transportation nightmare could result.

    Lucas and his team realize this – I don’t see him going for Lee’s bait.

    The museum would make a for a perfect year round anchor to Coliseum City. Sadly I doubt Lucas would even consider Oakland.

      1. I agree. Asking BART passengers from Walnut Creek to transfer trains in Oakland would simply be asking too much.

    1. Hopefully, the thing will be built on the southern Embarcadero and the issue mooted, but, if Lucas should go for the TI offer, transportation will be primarily by ferry and very successfully so.

      And no, he’s not going to build in Oakland when he has an opportunity to put it in SF.

  8. YES – ONLY IF zero public dollars for any remediation related to sea level rise is part of the deal. I don’t think anything should be built on TI for this reason, but hey, if Lucas wants to have his vanity trophy for a few decades, great. It will be gone by the end of this century, and nobody alive will care about Star Wars.

    1. Any sea level rise that impacts the southern end if TI where development is planned will also have a massive impact on other already built up parts of the bay. So even disregarding development of TI, the region will be motivated to mitigate impacts.

      Hopefully that mitigation comes in the form of continued greenhouse gas reduction though you would not be able to tell from the billions Caltrans has designated to increase freeway capacity.

      We might end up putting a cork in the Golden Gate.

      1. Sigh, you’re probably right. Probably inevitable we have seawalls around all major US coastal cities. Well, the entire national tax rates, design, etc will be very, very different in a few decades anyway.

    2. Sea levels are not rising. It’s a giant conspiracy made up by the enemies of Jesus.

  9. I fully support the Lucas museum on TI. It would be awesome to give people a good reason to visit an under-utilized space. As some have already pointed out, the museum would be another “piece of the TI development puzzle”. I would love to take a boat ride to TI and visit the place and I’m sure folks from out of town would too.

    If for some reason the few nimbys have their way and block TI, I also think the Palace of Fine Arts which sits empty now since the departure of the Exploratorium, would provide a cost-effective signature location with sufficient space for Lucas as well!

    1. TI will not be “underutilized” much longer as work is already underway creating a whole new SF neighborhood which is not going to require an “attraction,” and, no doubt, would be objecting to the museum’s placement if it already existed.

      1. Underutilized meaning having a destination attraction for non-residents. Key words here: “would be objecting to the museum’s placement if it already existed”. If it could somehow be built before the first residences are offered/occupied (or just approved for development as a future given), future residents likely wouldn’t have any issue knowing it would be part of the area.

      2. The craziest idea by City Hall PTB. Creating a whole new neighborhood which can’t be accessed easily – how many residents will have kids?

        The island should have been totally devoted to public use. But that old crony capitalism sneaks in. Goodle Lennar. look at the political connections.

        1. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly. I really believe we dropped the ball on TI. We had a chance to do something truly spectacular with that special piece of real estate and the best that we came up with is just another neighborhood?

          How about that hideous solitary 40-story tower (Sun Tower)? Has that actually been approved? Tall buildings like that belong downtown NOT on Treasure Island!!

    2. The Palace was suggested by Chron architecture critic John King while the various proposals were still under consideration before the Presidio commission and got no traction. I don’t recall ever seeing any reaction by Lucas and the alternative offer after the Feds shelved the whole Crissy Field idea was Piers 30-32 and the seawall lot immediately rejected out-of-hand. I remain convinced Lucas acted in a fit of pique and did not really think it through. I don’t understand why Lee has switched to the TI location. The thing belongs on the Embarcadero in a mid-rise building fashioned after the new Whitney.

      1. I also believe that Lucas was so upset after the Presidio snub that he disqualified any other suitable SF location regardless of its merit. Hopefully, after the Chicago debacle, he will be more open-minded and work with The City to get something done. I know he would like a sensational location and signature structure to house his collection. Piers 30-32 would be excellent and a win-win for SF and Lucas especially if the pier rehabilitation cost was covered as part of the museum construction he will subsidize.

        1. Yes, something along these lines (name link) would look great on the southern Embarcadero across from rehabbed Piers 30-32 full of park and recreational activities.

  10. Lucas could also save a lot of time and money by using the same design as the one proposed in Chicago.
    It would create an architectural landmark on the island. It also fits nicely with the new Bay Bridge. Both have soaring curvilinear design elements.

  11. John king is well meaning. But the historical challenges toward building a museum at the Palace that Lucas would remotely consider accepting would take decades to fight. It has only the square footage required, not the configuration or any technical resources. Historical regs and attitudes in this town pretty much consign the Palace to light, intermittent-use oblivion. Too bad.

    Bigger issue here, not to repeat, is the that the Lucas collection is lightweight, minor league, and not worth a major location that is in any manner public owned of supported. For those of you not art people, what Lucas wants to do is like building a major league stadium for a single- A (maybe double A) baseball team in a major league city, where their is already the art equivalent of the Giants or the Cubs. It just doesn’t make sense to many folks but him.

    Forget about this one, its not going anywhere.

    1. What you’re describing baseball-wise is Buffalo, NY though I do believe having such a museum is worthwhile as an attraction without being able to address your opinion as to its artistic merit. I have seen very different published opinions, however.

  12. Lucas should build his museum on a barge and travel from city to city. He wouldn’t have to worry about sea level rise. Whatever happened to that Google barge?

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