Skip to Content
Installation of Iconic Visions, a project of Ancestral Futurism, at Outpost plaza.

Making Presidio Tunnel Tops

Learn how the community imagined and shaped the park’s new gateway.

Presidio Tunnel Tops is the new gateway to the park, created after nearly a decade of planning and designed with input from the community.

The Presidio became a park in a nationwide effort to bring national park experiences closer to where most people live – in cities. But for many years, the Presidio didn’t have a welcoming “front door.” And the park lacked things visitors need –  like picnic areas, restrooms, and activities for kids.

When the outdated Doyle Drive highway through the Presidio needed to be replaced, there was a big opportunity to imagine a new starting point for Presidio adventures. Thousands of community members and organizations shaped what would become Presidio Tunnel Tops.

A Welcoming Place by the Community, for the Community

Presidio Tunnel Tops is a lively park destination located where an outdated highway once stood. Learn how the Presidio’s new gateway was created with ideas from the community.

Doyle Drive Highway

A black and white image of the Doyle Drive highway in the Presidio, circa 1960.
Photo courtesy OpenSFHistory / wnp27.5972.jpg.

The Presidio Tunnel Tops space used to be occupied by Doyle Drive, an elevated highway built in 1937 that connected San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge by cutting through the Presidio. After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, it was clear that Doyle Drive was seismically unsafe and needed to be replaced. The need became more urgent when the Army closed its military post and the Presidio became a national park site in the mid-1990s.

A New, Graceful Presidio Parkway

Several people watch as the Doyle Drive highway is demolished.

After years of planning, it was decided that Doyle Drive would be replaced by the Presidio Parkway, a graceful roadway that would fit into the national park setting by putting big sections of the road out of sight in tunnels. In 2015, the old highway was demolished.

Imagining Presidio Tunnel Tops

A brochure of the "Imagine Phase" of Presidio Tunnel Tops planning.

With the highway underground, there was an exciting opportunity to create a new open space for visitors right on top of the tunnels. To make sure the new destination would be welcoming, accessible, and fun, the Partnership for the Presidio asked the public to “imagine what Presidio Tunnel Tops could be. We also launched an international design competition to find a team to work with the community to design Presidio Tunnel Tops.

Thousands of People Share their Ideas

A group of people who participated in a Presidio Tunnel Tops planning tour standing on a lawn.

People from all over shared their ideas. Thousands dropped off comment cards in our “design lab,” went on a walking tour, or submitted an idea on the website. Many more shared their input at 14 public workshops held in San Francisco neighborhoods and in the Presidio. In total, more than 10,000 people participated. With this feedback, Presidio Tunnel Tops was designed and built, fueled by support from the Presidio Tunnel Tops campaign.

Opening Presidio Tunnel Tops

A crowd gathers at Presidio Tunnel Tops on opening day, with the Palace of Fine Arts in the background.
Photo by Myleen Hollero.

After three years of construction, Presidio Tunnel Tops opened to all in July 2022. In its first year, it hosted nearly two million visits. It’s the welcoming “jumping off” point to begin Presidio adventures.

Engaging the Community

We want to make sure the Presidio is an inclusive, equitable, and relevant national park site for all. We’re engaging with communities, especially those that have been historically underrepresented in national parks.

A group photo of the Activator Council, which supports community engagement in the Presidio.