San Francisco officials preparing to hasten America’s Cup review 

San Franciscans are accustomed to fast sailboats on the Bay. But fast acceptance of a big development project? Not such a familiar occurrence in The City.

The City’s habit of slowly chewing over development projects will have to be broken in order for the America’s Cup to take place here. The project is on a tight timeline and things must go relatively smoothly because construction has to start early next year to prepare for the 2013 regatta.

San Francisco is already launching an environmental review of the project — a process that often takes 18 to 24 months, but in this case must be completed in half that time so The City’s waterfront can be ready to host the international yacht race in mid-2013.

Today, the Board of Supervisors is expected to vote to skip the normal competitive-bidding process to hire a consultant to do the environmental review. State law requires major projects to be reviewed for potential environmental impacts.

Details of the proposal will not be coming out until later this week, but in the broad strokes outlined in the agreement The City signed with the America’s Cup Event Authority on Dec. 31, the plans will tear down buildings on historic piers and replace them with new structures, bring a half-million people to the waterfront and transport them to locations to watch the event — some of which are environmentally sensitive parks and beaches, such as Crissy Field. Also, there are plans to construct a temporary helipad.

The project has widespread support among city environmental and neighborhood groups, but some say they still have concerns about potential impacts.

Jennifer Clary, the president of the environmental group San Francisco Tomorrow, said some activists are worried about the impact of the crowds and their trash on the Bay and on sensitive park areas, and about the effects on sea lion and other animal populations due to all the extra boats in the water.

“These are all questions that can be resolved, but it’s going to cost money,” Clary said. “The question is, if they’re in a big hurry, does that mean the public has to be in a big hurry to review the project?”

These same questions about shortcuts came up at a Board of Supervisors committee meeting last week. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said just because the bidding process is being eliminated, there should be no expectation “that somehow we’ve got to cut corners.”

“We hear that message loud and clear,” said Brad Benson, a special-projects manager for the Port of San Francisco.

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Katie Worth

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