Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Presidio Tunnel Tops project?
Twenty-five years ago, visionary Bay Area leaders, urban planners, and citizens were faced with replacing the seismically unsafe Doyle Drive, a highway to the Golden Gate Bridge that divided the Presidio’s waterfront from its historic core. The community did not seek simply to rebuild a freeway – it dreamed of moving the road underground into tunnels so that a powerful new experience of the Presidio and San Francisco Bay could take shape above. Today, Doyle Drive has given way to the elegant
Presidio Parkway. Through the Presidio Tunnel Tops project, we’re poised to create a beautiful 14-acre green space atop the new roadway tunnels and in the surrounding landscapes – linking the Main Post to Crissy Field—and replacing a freeway with free play.
How will this project benefit the community?
The Presidio Tunnel Tops will be San Francisco’s great escape, a place where visitors will connect with nature and the outdoors, where kids will play and grow, and where all of us will be inspired by 360-degree views that were never before possible. The Presidio Tunnel Tops will be where everyone will have access to a refuge from the stresses of urban life without ever leaving the city we love. It will be a welcoming oasis where we can slow down, live in the moment, regain our sense of wellbeing, and re-connect. A new Youth Campus will allow kids to understand and enjoy the natural environment and the importance of its stewardship for the future. It will be the place where visitors can begin their day in the park, finding information and inspiration to explore all the Presidio has to offer.
Learn more about the design >>
Who is leading the effort?
The Presidio Tunnel Tops project is being brought to life through the collaboration of three organizations and with generous support from the community.
The Presidio Trust is the lead agency, directing the planning, design, and construction effort and managing community outreach and engagement. The
Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the non-profit partner to the Presidio Trust and the
National Park Service, serves as the philanthropic and community engagement partner and supports park restoration and enhancement, education, and visitor service projects and programs. The
National Park Service is engaged as the manager of the adjacent parklands at Crissy Field and as a partner in interpretation, visitor services, and programming.
Who is designing the Presidio Tunnel Tops?
The lead designer is
James Corner Field Operations (JCFO), a world-renowned landscape architecture design firm with headquarters in New York City and an office in San Francisco. JCFO is best known for the much-acclaimed
High Line, as well as Santa Monica’s
Tongva Park, Seattle’s
Central Waterfront, among other projects in the U.S. that seek to improve the lives of urbanites by turning derelict infrastructures in to green spaces for all to enjoy.
Learn more about James Corner and the entire design and construction team >>
Why is this project happening now?
This project is taking advantage of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reverse a decision – made for good reasons nearly 80 years ago – to build a freeway through the Presidio.
In 1936, Doyle Drive, the highway connecting San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge, was built through the Presidio. It was elevated above ground so that civilian vehicles would not interfere with Army operations in the military post. Unfortunately, the freeway blocked both the view and access to the northern waterfront from the heart of the Presidio.
When it came time to replace the seismically unsafe Doyle Drive in the 1990s, the Army was preparing to depart the Presidio. City leaders envisioned a less visually obtrusive roadway that would fit the Presidio’s future role as a national park. The solution was a roadway that follows the natural contour of the Presidio’s existing bluff, but creates beautiful new open space above the new tunnels - the elegant
Today, the Presidio Parkway is complete, and we are creating a new experience of the park on a spectacular 14-acre site. The Presidio Tunnel Tops will be where we can escape from the stresses of urban life without ever leaving the city we love.
Learn more about the design >>
What is the environmental and historic compliance process for this project?
As part of the process of transforming the Presidio Tunnel Tops site, the Presidio Trust is required to undertake environmental and historic preservation analysis to ensure that the effort considers any impacts to the Presidio’s rich natural and cultural resources. To that end, the Presidio Trust, in collaboration with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the National Park Service – Golden Gate National Recreation Area, has prepared an environmental assessment (EA) for the project under the National Environmental Policy Act and a Finding of Effect (FOE) under the National Historic Preservation Act. Consultation with key agencies on this effort is ongoing.
View the project documents >>
What phase is the project in currently?
The Tunnel Tops project kicked off in 2014 with the
Imagine phase, a community conversation that brought to light the public’s ideas and dreams. Simultaneously, the search for a design firm was begun, and James Corner Field Operations, the designers of New York City’s High Line were chosen. The
Design phase began in 2015 with extensive public input to help shape the look and feel of the project. The design for the 14 new acres of parkland and Youth Campus will be finalized in January 2019 and incorporated into the project’s construction documents for permitting and bidding by July 2019. The
Build phase begins later this year. The 14-acre site must be built up with fill, graded, and then topped with landscape-grade soil—a combined total of 65,000 cubic yards of dirt. 200,000 native plants are needed for the landscape. Half of the native plant palate (100,000) is Presidio indigenous species that are currently being grown in multiple nurseries by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy staff. The other half is ornamental species that have adapted to our climate and will be commercially sourced.
How can I learn more about the project, and share my ideas and feedback?
Since 2014, thousands of people helped shape the Presidio Tunnel Tops. As we plan for future programs and activities, we continue to invite your participation!
How much will the project cost and how is it being funded?
The project cost is $110 million dollars and is being funded largely with philanthropic contributions from generous community donors.
How can I contribute to the project?
For information about contributing to this significant civic effort, please contact Joy Shigaki, Director of Campaign and Fundraising Initiatives for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 561-3050.
Learn more about the campaign >>
Who in the community is supporting this effort?
Civic leaders representing all aspects of our diverse community are supporting this effort.
Read what they have to say about the Presidio Tunnel Tops >>
Is the site currently occupied by Sports Basement part of the project?
The site currently occupied by Sports Basement is not part of the Presidio Tunnel Tops project. Sports Basement is a long-term and valued tenant of the Presidio. Their lease will keep them in the Presidio at their current location for the foreseeable future, and we will work with them to keep them in the park as long as possible in the right location.
What public programs will be offered at the Presidio Tunnel Tops?
The Presidio currently offers a wide range of free events and programs for all ages, including musical events, talks, history and nature walks, kid-friendly crafts, outdoor festivals, and more. See the
calendar of current programs. A range of
volunteer opportunities are also offered.
The Presidio Tunnel Tops will create many new opportunities for small events, informal gathering, and learning. Our goal is to host events that welcome people from our diverse community, that serve kids and families, and that invite the public to experience views, nature, history, and the chance to relax, renew, and play.
What is the Youth Campus?
The project contains a major education component. An historic building at the bottom of the bluff will be renovated and turned into classrooms, and two new buildings will be built, one for an art and science lab and the other as a drop-in environmental education facility. The Outpost, a nature play and learning landscape, will provide a new kind of playground experience that allows children to discover, play and connect with the outdoors. Currently, the Presidio works with 64 schools and an additional 121 organizations that combined serve some 30,000 children. With the completion of the Tunnel Tops that number will more than triple to 100,000 per year.
When will the Presidio Tunnel Tops be open to the public?
The opening celebration is planned for 2021.
How much will it cost to visit the Presidio Tunnel Tops?
The Presidio Tunnel Tops will be open to all – for free.