San Francisco city officials and organizers of the America’s Cup sailing race announced today the downsizing of plans to rebuild the city’s waterfront in preparation for the regatta in 2013.
Piers 30 and 32, previously planned as the home base for the teams participating in the races, will no longer be part of the agreement between the city and race organizers, who are rebuilding various pieces of waterfront property in exchange for long-term development rights.
All team operations will now be based at Pier 80 in the city’s Dogpatch neighborhood, where Mayor Ed Lee and other officials made today’s announcement.
Lee said the scaling back of plans for the event, which include preliminary races this August and culminating in the America’s Cup Finals in September 2013, come after more than a year of negotiations, which continued through this weekend.
San Francisco was named the host city for the race and signed an initial agreement in December 2010 after negotiations with Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who won the previous America’s Cup that year, giving him the right to choose the location of the next contest.
Stephen Barclay, a board member with the America’s Cup Event Authority who has been leading the race organizers’ negotiations with the city, said the decision to remove Piers 30 and 32 came after both sides “looked at where we were at, and collectively came to a discussion that maybe this was the best way.”
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors was set on Tuesday to vote on the agreement between the city and race organizers, but this latest development will push the vote back for a few weeks while the changes are incorporated into the documents, board president David Chiu said.
The costs to renovate Piers 30 and 32 totaled about $80 million, which would require the city to relinquish real estate rights for more properties along the waterfront than they will now, Chiu said.
He said the changes will make it “easier for us to come to an agreement” and could also help the city come to a settlement with a group called Waterfront Watch that sued the city last week over the certification of the project’s environmental impact report, alleging the report was insufficient.
Race organizers said at a board committee meeting last week that construction schedules required the board to approve the agreement no later than Tuesday, but Barclay said today that deadline was mainly tied to the work at Piers 30 and 32.
“Now that that’s been removed, the immediacy of that board vote happening (Tuesday) is removed,” he said.
Barclay said the America’s Cup Event Authority is still committed to its other planned renovations along the waterfront, which include a racing village at Piers 27 and 29 that will later be converted into a cruise ship terminal.
He said the only difference now is if a spectator wanted to go from the racing village to the team bases, they will now have to take public transportation instead of walking there.
Barclay said four teams have signed up for the race so far and organizers hope to add two to four more teams before a deadline set for this June.
City officials estimate that the race will bring in more than $1 billion to the city and create thousands of jobs. Critics of the plan have said those estimates are inflated and that race attendance projections are too high.
Lee acknowledged today that the removal of Piers 30 and 32 from the agreement will reduce the number of jobs created by the races.
However, he said the event is still going to be a positive for the city, calling it “one of the best, most interesting and dynamic international races that this country has seen.”
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News