sf-americas-cup.jpgIn his first official act as San Francisco’s mayor, Ed Lee today affirmed that one of his top priorities is preparing the city to host the 2013 America’s Cup sailing race.

City officials expect the race to inject $1.4 billion into the local and regional economies and create about 9,000 new jobs.

“This was a very high priority for me,” Lee said at a news conference at Pier 27 along a stretch of the bay waterfront that will be the hub of the America’s Cup activity.

Lee compared the 34th America’s Cup race, which will include sailing events beginning in 2012 and the finals in late 2013, to “several World Series events, several Super Bowls put together, strung together, for a period of time.”

Lee, the former city administrator who was appointed interim mayor a week ago, today announced a steering committee of various city agencies to coordinate the city’s efforts to host the race and “make sure everybody is on the same page.”

He said event organizers and race groups are already making preparations.

“They’re beginning to come now,” he said. In the meantime, the city still needs to finalize regulatory and land use approvals, work out event logistics and public transportation, begin promoting local businesses, and do community outreach in affected neighborhoods.

Also, a private local group is committed to raising about $30 million to offset city costs, and the Cup’s Event Authority needs to raise $270 million.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s BMW Oracle Racing team won the previous America’s Cup in 2010 on behalf of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Yacht Club, and got to choose the host city for the next race. After months of consideration, including several days of tense negotiations, the team announced on Dec. 31 that it had selected San Francisco.

Against the sparkling blue backdrop of the San Francisco Bay, Lee said this morning that San Francisco will provide one of the most beautiful race venues in the Cup’s history.

“I can’t but say that not only did we make the right decision, the world made the right decision,” he said.

Though the exact race route has not yet been determined, competitors will sail from the start line at Pier 27 north of the Bay Bridge, circle around Alcatraz, then travel past Sausalito and the Golden Gate Bridge and return to the finish line at Pier 27.

Thousands are expected to flock to viewing sites between the northern waterfront and the Golden Gate Bridge.

“Never before in the history of the Cup have people been able to watch this race from the shore,” Event Authority CEO Craig Thompson said.

The sprawling warehouse that currently sits atop Piers 27/29, occupied by tenants Teatro Zinzanni, Bauer Limousine and SF Soccer, and which is also storing the floats for the Chinese New Year parade, will be demolished to create a Race Village that will be open to the public, Port of San Francisco officials said.

After the race, the location will be converted to a new cruise ship terminal.

Piers 19 and 23 will host the regatta operations and a media center for the race. Sites for spectators to moor and watch the race will be located south of there.

South of the Bay Bridge, Piers 26 and 28 will be used for event support operations, and Piers 30/32 for the team bases.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who was one of the earliest supervisors to throw his support behind bringing the race to San Francisco, noted today that the deal agreed to by the city and Ellison’s team was “the strongest…that we possibly could devise.”

But Mirkarimi added that the “massaging” of some of its terms in the final days of negotiations “still need a proper vetting,” as well as the displacement and possible relocation of some 80 businesses located along the affected piers. He said the Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing on those issues at an undetermined later date.

Under the terms of the deal, Ellison’s group will invest between $55 million and $80 million for repairs at the aging piers in exchange for long-term development rights there.

Lee and other city officials today stressed that the city will do all it can to relocate as many of the displaced business tenants as possible.

Lee leaves for Washington, D.C., early Wednesday to attend a state dinner with President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, to whom Lee said he hoped to pitch San Francisco as an economic “hub” for Chinese businesses.

Ari Burack, Bay City News

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