sf-americas-cup.jpgDozens of people came to a San Francisco Planning Commission hearing Thursday on plans for the America’s Cup sailing race to say that the city’s environmental review of the project is inadequate.

The hearing at City Hall Thursday afternoon was on the draft environmental impact report for the plans for the race, which will transform much of San Francisco’s northern waterfront for several weeks in 2012 and 2013.

The California Environmental Quality Act requires a report to be prepared that assesses the environmental impacts of the project, from marine biology in the Bay to the issues of transportation and historic resources in the city.

During public comment at today’s hearing, a standing-room only crowd of environmental and recreational groups and stakeholders along the waterfront urged the city to make improvements to the environmental review document.

An official from the Ferry Building said she worried that the proposed closure of The Embarcadero’s northbound side during the races will negatively impact merchants there, who rely on vehicle access to deliver their products.

Several members of the Dolphin Club, an athletic organization that organizes swims in the city’s Aquatic Park, also spoke, saying the race activity would prevent them from their normal activity.

“The report is not acceptable as it stands now,” Ken Coren, the club’s vice president, said following the meeting.

Coren said his and other groups had been trying since early this year to give input about the potential impacts that the race activity would have on the city and in the Bay, but were disappointed that the document did not include most of their suggestions.

“We were ignored,” he said, adding that he was thankful that many of the planning commissioners today acknowledged that the environmental review still needs some work.

Commission Vice President Ron Miguel said at the close of the hearing that the report was not yet adequate and complete, and said that, as a swimmer in Aquatic Park years ago, he sympathized with the Dolphin Club’s concerns.

Miguel said the idea in the report that the swimmers could use Ocean Beach as an alternate location is “ludicrous … that’s not a swimming venue.”

Commissioner Michael Antonini said, “I think it’s a great project, and has tremendous benefits for San Francisco, but I think we have some more work to do.”

Deb Self, executive director of the environmental group San Francisco Baykeeper, said she is “optimistic the city is going to do the right thing, and put some meat on the bones” of the report, particularly when it comes to pollution and the impact on marine wildlife.

“We’re trying to help the city get it right so we don’t get in trouble down the road,” Self said.

However, some members of the commission said they have somewhat limited jurisdiction over the planning for the event, much of which will take place on federal park space or on the ports.

Commission President Christina Olague said the commission would “not be having much jurisdiction over the final product, and it’s important for the public to be informed of our ultimate role as it relates to the America’s Cup.”

Olague and other commissioners encouraged the groups to attend some or all of three meetings that the National Park Service is holding on the America’s Cup, the first of which is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Bay Model Visitor Center in Sausalito.

San Francisco was named the host of the prestigious international sailing race after Oracle CEO Larry Ellison won the previous America’s Cup in 2010 on behalf of the city’s Golden Gate Yacht Club and got to choose the host city for the next race.

After months of consideration, the team announced in December that San Francisco would host the event, which includes America’s Cup World Series races and the Louis Vuitton Cup in 2012, the America’s Cup Challenger Series from July 13 to Sept. 1, 2013, and the America’s Cup Finals from Sept. 7 to Sept. 22, 2013.

The environmental impact report for San Francisco’s part of the project is available on the city’s Environmental Planning website at http://www.sf-planning.org/index.aspx?recordid=45&page=2719.

For more information about the federal portion of the project, visit www.americascupnepa.org.

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