Spring 2014, Volume 16

Charity Vargas

The Presidio-
Image 1

Full Moon at Coast Head-quarters, 2006

Presidio- Image 3

The Bay School, 2006

Late Night at the Internet Archive, 2006

Garages at Kobbe, 2006


Cherry Blossoms
at Letterman, 2007

Tree Shadow on Building No. 1050, 2007

Before the Bottle Brush Blooms, 2006


About the Artist and her Inspiration:
Charity Vargas currently works and lives in one of the historic houses on the grounds of the Presidio of San Francisco. Her portfolio and blog about the Presidio are online at www.charityvargas.com.

About the Presidio of San Francisco
Since 1988 the Federal Government through its Base Realignment and Closure program (BRAC) closed 22 of California’s military installations, representing almost a quarter of all base closures nationwide. The government sold the land to municipalities and developers. Former bases have been redeveloped into suburban housing tracts, business parks, airports, and colleges; others sit vacant and polluted awaiting reuse.

Arguably the most successful of these transformations is the Presidio of San Francisco. A military post for over 200 years, it sits on 1480 acres of the most beautiful land in the Bay Area. Always an open base, it has “belonged” to the people of San Francisco since it’s founding.

In 1998 when the US Army deemed it excess to needs it was to be added to Golden Gate National Recreation Area as part of a 1972 law establishing the largest urban national park. But legislators in 1994 wanted to sell the land to developers. After a tough congressional battle, the Presidio was handed over to the National Park Service. But the deal meant that the park would receive limited federal funding and none at all after 2012 - it would have to fund itself through the lease of its historic buildings.

After years of planning and toxic clean up, the pace of transformation is accelerating. Since 2003 I have photographed this place and its changes. It is a complex landscape that feels familiar to me. I was raised in equal parts on an Air Force base near Canada, in the foothills of Sierra Nevada Mountains surrounded by old cedars and snow, and still later in the suburbs —surrounded by little.

The forests and military industrial architecture here do not seem at odds to me. Contrarily nature thrives alongside structures modified over many years for many uses. Some wait vacant on polluted grounds, yet still there is a resilience that permeates the land and these buildings. There is a feeling of tamed wildness about it, a secret garden in our city, in constant change, quiet, hopeful and continuing.