SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Filmmaker George Lucas is considering Treasure Island as a possible San Francisco location for his Museum of Narrative Art — a years-long project first proposed as a landmark attraction for the S.F. Presidio before local resistance caused the Star Wars creator to set his sights on the Chicago waterfront. Lately, legal and political challenges in the Windy City have prompted the mogul to turn his gaze back to the City by the Bay where mayor Ed Lee, with support from supervisors Jane Kim and Aaron Peskin, has begun serious negotiations with Lucas.
On Sunday, supervisor Peskin spoke with KPIX 5’s Phil Matier about the controversial project and why Peskin, who has opposed other development projects on Treasure Island, is backing this one. Here is a transcript of that interview.
Phil Matier: Why Treasure Island?
Aaron Peskin: Treasure Island actually has been lacking a lot of what I call the “special sauce.” What it’s been lacking is a ferry service — remember, it’s an island in the middle of the bay and it’s got a congested bridge. If we could actually have an attraction on Treasure Island it might be able to sustain a ferry service and if we could sustain that we could make the entire island work. You know, I sued over that project for a number of years as the City walked away from a deal that would reduce the amount of affordable housing and reduce the amount of ferry service. Perhaps the Lucas museum could be the special sauce.
Phil Matier: So that special sauce could be in effect like the Giants’ ballpark was for the south of Market.
Aaron Peskin: Precisely. As a matter of fact the Giants led the way. They had the ferry terminal, they —
Phil Matier: This would be attracting millions of people a year. How are they gonna get on the island?
Aaron Peskin: Well, we would have a ferry that left from the northern waterfront of San Francisco, the same way that millions of people go to Alcatraz every year. We could reduce congestion on the bridge and actually make a — have a heart there on Treasure Island.
Phil Matier: Why do you think Lucas pulled away from San Francisco? Was it the rejection (of his proposed museum site) at the Presidio or other factors?
Aaron Peskin: Listen, I think the first project, with all respect, got off to the wrong start. It was in the wrong place. I think that Nancy Bechtel and the Presidio Trust did the right thing for that national resource. But now we have an opportunity and I think Treasure Island may be the right spot.
Phil Matier: San Francisco is notorious for saying no. And if we don’t say no then these various state commissions and such say no. What makes you think that building a museum of this magnitude on Treasure Island is going to be any easier than any place else?
Aaron Peskin: Well, if Ed Lee and Jane Kim and Aaron Peskin are on the same page, that’s a pretty good start!
Phil Matier: Do you think there’ll be resistance, let’s say, from the bay conservation or BCDC (S.F. Bay Conservation & Development Commission) or state lands or any of those?
Aaron Peskin: Treasure Island is rather unique — it’s a unique creature under the law and there’s less state oversight over Treasure Island. I think it could be done.
Phil Matier: You’ve been involved in these talks. Tell us a little bit about how they happened.
Aaron Peskin: I think they’re in their very preliminary stages. There’s gonna be more talks this week and I’m hopeful that, at a high conceptual level, we do get on the same page, quickly.
Phil Matier: This would be an interesting situation for a city that has notoriously had trouble dealing with big projects like this.
Aaron Peskin: Well, let’s think about our successes. The Exploratorium went very smoothly, that was well over a $100 million project. Think of all the things we’ve done in the civic center that have gone very smoothly. Yes, there are instances where we’ve had bad fits and those are projects that have been fought. But are instances where we’ve embraced things with open arms and we’ve got ’em done.
Phil Matier: OK, to play on the Star Wars metaphor, for years you were thought of as the Darth Vader of San Francisco, the guy who would come in (slashing) and say “no, no, no!” What’s got you saying yes this time?
Aaron Peskin: I think when people look at my political history in San Francisco over the last couple of decades, they like to focus on those little things. They forget that I was the supervisor that presided over the board that rezoned 22 percent of the city; that I was the supervisor who helped greenlight the ten thousand units of housing that are now being built in San Francisco shipyard.
Phil Matier: OK, so now you’re going to go from Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker. Whatever the case, this is really gonna be interesting, I gotta say.