wave.jpgSan Francisco is close to securing a deal that would make us the host of the next America’s Cup – sailing’s premiere regatta. According to the Chronicle, it’s down to two cities, SF and an undisclosed port in Italy.

In order to show the organizers that SF is serious, Mayor Newsom introduced legislation to the Board of Supes on Tuesday that creates a binding host agreement if San Francisco is picked.

The last winners of America’s Cup were the BMW Oracle Racing team, backed by local software billionaire Larry Ellison, and sponsored by our very own Golden Gate Yacht Club. As the previous winners, they get to select the site for the next race. The host agreement introduced on Tuesday would grant the BMW Oracle team long-term development rights on Pier 30-32, the adjacent parcel Seawall lot 3300 and Pier 50. In exchange, the event authority (created by the team to handle the commercial side), will pay about $150 million to fix up the piers, dredge around them and install new breakwaters and utility lines.

Other stipulations of the agreement include promoting local hiring practices, guaranteeing high environmental standards during construction, and securing contract agreements for public oversight agencies. This agreement adds on to a term sheet that the Board of Supervisors voted in favor of 9-2 in early October. The city pledged in the term sheet to help raise $270 million from corporate sponsors to offset the costs of staging the race.

Hosting the event would generate tons of economic development for the city in a short period of time, officials say. It is estimated that 9,000 jobs and $1.4 billion of new economic activity could be generated.

Sounds great, right? Well, not everyone thinks so. Some supervisors, most vocally D6’s Chris Daly, question whether the potential costs incurred in hosting weeks of races, stretching over two years is worth the economic benefit.

Daly thinks the projections of jobs and economic boom are overly optimistic. “Whenever there’s an economic forecast to promote these events, they never pan out,” said Daly, pointing to the Olympics as prime examples. He also wonders what effect this will have on the low income residents of the city.

Race organizers will announce their decision at the end of the year. In the meantime, Newsom is fervently pushing for the passage of the most recent legislation. Since elected Lieutenant Governor, he is scheduled to resign in January, and has made securing this event one of his final goals.

“You’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollar in economic activity, and there will be a price to pay for that; let’s be candid,” Newsom said. “But it’s a small price in terms of the reward, which is huge. It’s incalculable.”

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