America’s Cup development's potential after-effects scrutinized 

Bay regulators will consider letting organizers of the America’s Cup moor yachts and other fancy boats close to shore during the event, but they want a clear distinction between such temporary accommodations and billionaire Larry Ellison’s future in the Bay.

For a map detailing four open-water basins in S.F. that may be used to moor vessels related to the race, click on the photo to the right.

On Thursday, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission told its staff to modify an existing waterfront protection plan to allow temporary docking of boats in four open-water basins during the upcoming yacht race. A public hearing is scheduled for Jan. 5.

The commission’s step forward came with trepidation, as many commissioners and community members made it clear that any long-term accommodations will have to be negotiated separately.

“The long-term impacts are really triggered by the short term — I don’t want to end up with any long-term impacts that are accidental,” said Deb Self, executive director of San Francisco Baykeeper, a pollution watchdog group.

The America’s Cup Event Authority, created by Ellison to put on the competition, wants to moor large private yachts, competition vessels and other boats in four open-water basins — a use that is inconsistent with the regulatory agency’s existing Waterfront Special Area Plan.

The plan will need to be amended to allow such usage on a temporary basis. The commission’s staff proposes limiting where boats could be docked, specifically by keeping them away from Rincon Park, a popular public access point.

Any changes to the plan would only permit short-term use of the open basins and piers for the 2013 competition. But the agreement between the America’s Cup Event Authority and The City includes a provision allowing the authority to negotiate long-term use of those areas as marinas.

All the commissioners and community members who spoke at Thursday’s meeting expressed concern that short-term rules changes not open the floodgates for long-term development.

“We really have to keep our eye on what happens when it’s over,” said Commissioner Tom Bates, the Berkeley mayor.

Bates and other commissioners opposed to the idea of marinas in the open basins urged the commission’s staff to see to it that an agreement to use the basins for the event does not also grant future use.

“This is an event being put on by the ultra-rich for the ultra-rich,” Bates said. “I don’t think we should be giving these people anything.”

Bates quipped that the Occupy San Francisco protesters camped near the commission’s Ferry Building headquarters should relocate to the yachts.

sgantz@sfexaminer.com

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Sarah Gantz

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