America’s Cup deal coming to a head 

click to enlarge City officials and promoters are at loggerheads over race-related development. - SF EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • SF Examiner file photo
  • City officials and promoters are at loggerheads over race-related development.

Battle lines solidified Wednesday over the vast development deal between The City and event planners trying to bring the America’s Cup yacht race to San Francisco over the next two years.

As currently structured, the pact would require race officials to finance repairs to some of San Francisco’s long-crumbling piers in exchange for prime property to build condominiums, plus lucrative 66-year waterfront development and lease rights to publicly owned land.

But at a Budget and Finance Committee hearing on the matter, several supervisors said they won’t support the current version of development agreement and cited a litany of reasons, including the risks and unclear benefits of including certain piers and that The City stands to lose too much in repaying the America’s Cup investments.

Negotiations between The City, the Port of San Francisco and the America’s Cup Event Authority — the business arm of the race — have been moving forward for the past 13 months, but now appear to have arrived at a rocky crossroads.

Supervisor David Chiu flatly said he would vote the deal down if Pier 29 — a prime property at the foot of Telegraph Hill — remains part of the equation.

Chiu seemed miffed that race officials had not done enough to reach out to local residents about plans for the pier and said that aspect of the proposal has “absolutely zero support.”

Supervisors John Avalos and Jane Kim joined Chiu and Supervisor David Campos in saying they support changes to the deal that were suggested last week by Budget Analyst Harvey Rose. His report recommends the Port receive a portion of funds from real estate transfer taxes and future lease agreements, and that The City should cap the amount of pier investment undertaken by the Event Authority, which will be paid back by San Francisco with a high 11 percent interest rate.

Although the Event Authority remains open to negotiation, its Chief Operating Officer Stephen Barclay has said that major changes at this stage could jeopardize the deal.

Barclay said the America’s Cup has already made concessions on the deal, including a December pier swap to appease concerns about the Port’s financial future.

“We already have a deal,” Barclay said Tuesday. “If people want to change it, they put the event at risk.”

Campos said Oracle CEO Larry Ellison — one of the world’s richest men, whose racing team is defending the cup — should want what’s best for San Francisco.

“I have no experience negotiating with billionaires,” Campos said. “But I want to make sure the city and county of San Francisco can get a deal Mr. Ellison would want for himself.”

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Dan Schreiber

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