New Girl On The Block: Inn At The Presidio In Golden Gate National Recreation Area

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The Inn at the Presidio./David and Kay Scott

The Inn at the Presidio is the newest of the nearly 100 lodges associated with our national parks. The inn offers 22-guest rooms in a renovated three-story barracks the U.S. Army used to house bachelor officers inside this nearly 1,500-acre former military post located at the south terminus of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

The Presidio served as a military post for more than 200 years subsequent to the 1776 establishment of an outpost here by the Spanish. The post fell under control of Mexico following its independence from Spain in 1821, and the United States from 1848 until the U.S. Army departed in the 1990s.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area was established in 1972 with the provision that the Presidio would be turned over to the National Park Service should the U.S. Army leave, which, to the surprise of the post commander, it did in 1994 following a Congressional decision to close the base in an effort to reduce federal spending.

Responsibility for the Presidio was subsequently split between the National Park Service and the Presidio Trust, with the NPS administering 300 acres of coastal area and the Trust administering the remainder. The two federal agencies work closely together and meet on a regular basis. The National Park Service has located its visitor center in the Main Post, an area administered by the Trust.

The Trust was established with the proviso that it receive government funding for a maximum of 15 years, at which time it should be financially self-sustaining, a goal it attained slightly ahead of schedule. The Trust now rents the former post’s numerous buildings to individuals and businesses at market-based rents.

One young woman told us she pays $1,000 per month to rent one bedroom in a ten-bedroom house. The house has three bathrooms, a common kitchen and dining room, and eight other occupants.

In some instances, renovations and construction were financed by the eventual occupants. This was the case for the Walt Disney Family Museum and the Letterman Digital Arts Center. Other buildings, including the Inn at the Presidio, are financed by the Trust. All the buildings in the Presidio continue to be owned by the government.

The Presidio Trust invested $11 million ($500,000 per room) over a two-year period remodeling the barracks that opened in 2012 as the Inn. The facility is operated under contract by a hotel management company. As with many other older buildings in the Bay Area, much of the cost of the renovation involved structural work. The motto: Better get it upgraded before the next “Big One.”

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One of the king suites./David and Kay Scott

Sixteen of the inn’s rooms are classified as King Suites, each of which has a large living area with a gas fireplace and separate large bedroom. Each room in the inn has a private bathroom. King Suites rent for $335 to $385, depending upon the floor, with third-floor rooms at the high end of the scale. Rooms not classified as suites are less expensive with Queen Standards renting for $220 per night. The inn also operates a nearby home with four bedrooms that can be rented individually or as a whole. The separate home has a common living area with a gas fireplace, a dining area and a service kitchen.

While perhaps a little expensive on a national scale, the room rates at the inn are a bargain in the San Francisco area, where everything except fog seems to fetch a high price. Consider that the inn offers a complimentary breakfast and a complimentary evening wine and cheese reception. The breakfast saves the cost of one meal, while the wine and cheese reception means a modest dinner should suffice. Another plus is the $7 per night cost of parking, a pittance compared to downtown parking that can run to $60 per night. Complimentary shuttles operate on two separate loops through the Presidio, and public transportation is available to the heart of the city.

The Presidio offers lots to do, with 24 miles of hiking trails and an 18-hole golf course. One of the best hiking trails begins near the rear entrance to the inn and leads to an overlook with spectacular views. Guests can walk or bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, an exciting and sometimes frigid experience. A bike rental business is at Crissy Field that is accessible via one of the free shuttles. Access to the Presidio YMCA is complimentary for guests of the Inn.