America’s Cup could turn into a transit nightmare for San Francisco 

With more than 500,000 spectators expected to converge on San Francisco during peak race days in 2013, the America’s Cup will lead to jammed intersections and BART and Muni lines will not be able to handle the spike in ridership, according to a 1,600-page draft report released Monday on the environmental impact of the event. 

The City hopes to limit traffic nightmares associated with hosting the world-famous yacht-racing event by working with BART, Muni and other transit agencies to increase service, operating shuttles and staging satellite parking areas.

But a group of environmentalists has advocated for more-aggressive traffic measures, including charging drivers a fee if they head into the event area to not only discourage drivers, but also raise revenue. 

Under the California Environmental Quality Act, studies must be done to identify impacts a project will have and to recommend ways to reduce them. The City was selected as the host in December and must fast-track the environmental review process. Officials hope to finalize the environmental report by the end of the year.

“This is moving at lightning speed,” said Bruce Reznik, executive director of the Planning and Conservation League, which is part of a broad coalition of environmental groups working on shaping the event. “Oftentimes, environmental documents like this take a year, 18 months, two years.”

The voluminous report also addresses potential issues surrounding noise, warns about dangers to the snowy plovers and the need to protect bat roosts, and lays out the protocol if a shipwreck is found. And it suggests restricting spectator boats that could pollute or harm marine life.

“I don’t see anything in here out of the ordinary,” said Gabriel Metcalf, director of the public policy think tank San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. The report shows the event will not result in “significant environmental damage” and that “it’s a good fit,” he said.

Mayor Ed Lee called the draft report a “major milestone.”

The report is now the subject of a 45-day public review period. The Planning Commission will hold an Aug. 11 hearing on the study.

Dealing with the issues

Concerns and potential solutions pointed out in the environmental report:


  • Impacts: Directly impact traffic flow at numerous intersections around The City, including many on or near The Embarcadero
  • Response: Satellite parking, increased public transit, marketing campaign to encourage transit


  • Impacts: Construction of America’s Cup facilities and event itself could result in excessive noise
  • Response: Event speakers pointed out toward Bay, point person to handle noise complaints, use of noise-reduction construction equipment


  • Impacts: Overuse of parks might result in “physical deterioration”
  • Response: Crowd-control monitors, adequate restroom and trash service, facilities repaired by project sponsor after event


  • Impacts: Impacts on bat roosts, snowy plovers, Mission blue butterflies, seals and sea lions, humpback whales
  • Response: Trail closure, signage, fencing, hire bat biologist, keep helicopters 1,000 feet above water surface when whales, seals or sea lions present

Source: San Francisco Planning Department

Setting sail

San Francisco is the host city for the 34th America’s Cup. Races will begin in summer 2012 with the America’s Cup World Series. The main event will take place in 2013.

50 Race days for America’s Cup challenger/cup finals in 2013

5.46 million Visitors expected for 2013 races

500K Visitors expected for “super” peak days

8,800 Jobs created by hosting event

$1.4B Economic boost to The City and Bay Area

Source: Mayor’s Office

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