America's Cup waterfront development rights still under debate 

Negotiations over San Francisco's waterfront development areas could get choppy. - SF EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • SF Examiner file photo
  • Negotiations over San Francisco's waterfront development areas could get choppy.

It has been mostly smooth sailing in recent weeks for plans surrounding the America’s Cup yacht race, but negotiations over The City’s most prized waterfront development properties could bring choppier waters.

At stake are the terms of shoreline development rights the America’s Cup Event Authority — the private company behind the race — would receive in exchange for financing pier improvements, including a world-class cruise ship terminal. That would allow America’s Cup officials, including billionaire Larry Ellison, control over the construction of condominiums and retail along the coveted Bay-front.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the primary environmental planning document for the race Tuesday night, but several board members said The City and Port of San Francisco might be getting a raw deal on the development rights. The fiscal concerns will likely come to the forefront of public debate next month when the board is expected to decide on the event’s development agreement.

Supervisor David Campos said although he wants to see the America’s Cup come to San Francisco, he’d be unwilling to approve the agreement as it stands. Campos said he’d be more interested in a deal that allows a 1 percent cut of condominium sales for the Port, and he expressed concern over 11 percent interest attached to The City’s repayment of loans for pier improvements.

“We don’t want to give away the store,” Campos said. “We want to make sure our interests are protected.”

The development agreement arose from the original “host and venue” agreement negotiated by former Mayor Gavin Newsom in December 2010. At the time, a big selling point for the deal was that The City’s budget would not be impacted as a result of the event. Supervisor John Avalos now says he’s not so sure that will be the case.

“I’m concerned about the hit to the general fund, I’m concerned about the hit to the Port,” Avalos said.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu said Pier 29 — on the edge of the planned new cruise ship terminal — should be removed from the deal and that he also has “concerns” about the real estate aspects of the agreement, which have been the subject of negotiations for months now.

In a statement, event authority board member Stephen Barclay said steps have already been taken to mitigate financial risks for the Port and he doesn’t feel that big changes are appropriate for the development agreement.

“We face an urgent deadline to get construction under way, so any additional changes would detrimentally affect the balance of the bargain,” Barclay said.

The America’s Cup World Series event happens in August. The finals, which officials expect to draw hundreds of thousands of spectators, take place in September 2013.

Setting sail

Here are the promoter’s expectations for the yacht race:

  • August 2012 America’s Cup World Series event in San Francisco to feature 45-foot catamarans
  • September 2013 Main event America’s Cup finals held in San Francisco with 72-foot catamarans
  • $1.4 billion Regional economic activity generated by America’s Cup in San Francisco
  • 8,000 Jobs the America’s Cup regatta is expected to create
  • 500,000 Maximum number of spectators estimated for the America’s Cup peak days

Source: America’s Cup Event Authority

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