A few weeks ago, I came across an article about the opening of the Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio being pushed back to October 2009. A Disney where?? I had never even heard that planners were considering putting a Disney museum in the Presidio. I suppose it snuck in under the radar; for the past few years, there has been a huge fight to keep a proposed 100,000 sq. ft. art museum out of the park. As it stands, the art museum proposal was recently withdrawn, and the smaller Disney Museum is apparently almost ready to open. As someone who watched Fisherman’s Wharf become T-shirt Wharf, the news felt like another small stab in the heart. Cultural erosion, like the fog, comes in on little cat’s feet.
When the Presidio was decommissioned in 1994, the Park Service presented the Congress with a management plan and asked for funding for clean-up and conversion. However, the Republican-lead Congress claimed that costs were prohibitive and, in 1996, passed an act mandating that the Presidio become self-sustaining by 2013, or essentially face sale. (To date, the Presidio is the only national park with such a mandate.) The act also created a 7-person governing body, the Presidio Trust, which is currently dominated by real estate developers. The pressure to privatize has been tremendous and constant. Over time, concessions have been made.
Enter Diane Disney Miller, Walt’s only surviving daughter. According to a recent NY Times article, Miller has long harbored frustration with public perception of her father, which she says was tainted after the 1994 book “Walt Disney: Hollywood’s Dark Prince” painted him as a bigot. Building a museum dedicated to her father’s life and legacy seemed to her like a good way to recast him in the public eye.