In order to cover San Francisco’s bill for hosting the America’s Cup, well-heeled donors may be able to affix their names to Port of San Francisco properties used during the race in exchange for a contribution, Mayor Ed Lee said Tuesday.
The cost to The City for this year’s regatta was originally estimated at more than $32 million, a price that may soon be reduced. When officials supported hosting the race in San Francisco — the venue of choice for Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, whose team is the defending champ — it was promised that private capital, not public tax dollars, would foot the bill.
But fundraisers have thus far raised about $9 million, with another $5 million promised by race organizers, America’s Cup Organizing Committee Chairman Mark Buell said. That could leave San Francisco footing the rest of the bill, adding to the $100 million budget deficit for the coming fiscal year.
In a bid to avoid that hit, Lee has for six weeks been courting “very successful corporate entities” to entice them to help bankroll the yacht race, he said Tuesday. “Ongoing legacies,” including naming rights on Port of San Francisco properties, are among the perks The City has to offer in return for writing a check, the mayor said.
“We have a very attractive package for them,” the mayor said.
The mayor said he also will enlist the political and fundraising clout of the most powerful San Franciscans: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose husband, Richard Blum, is a wealthy financier; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who during his term as mayor welcomed Ellison’s race to The City.
Details of exactly what Port properties are available for naming rights and at what cost were still emerging Tuesday. Port officials did not return a call for comment.
Iconic properties such as the Ferry Building would “certainly” be off-limits, Buell said.
“These are naming rights on the pier where the races are hosted, on the America’s Cup tent, something like that,” he said.
The mayor also said The City’s price tag for the event is likely to be lower since crowd estimates have been dramatically downsized from initial promises. Lee said Tuesday that hosting three race teams instead of the originally promised 12 will allow city departments such as police, Muni and Public Works to cut their estimated costs — which is small consolation to some.
“We’re at risk of great losses to subsidize an event for some of the most wealthy people in the world,” said Supervisor John Avalos, who on Tuesday called for a hearing into the fundraising. “We all bought into the pledge. … I think we’ve been taken.”