San Francisco paid $482K for America's Cup CEQA bill 

  • Justin Sullivan/Getty Image file photo

The City doled out a non-reimbursable $482,295 to attorneys and planners to satisfy California environmental law in preparation for a much bigger America's Cup regatta than the event that ended up materializing this summer, city documents show.

Under the terms of the 2010 agreement that brought yacht racing to the waterfront, The City was on the hook for any work done to satisfy strict California Environmental Quality Act standards. The bill, given to The City last August by the America's Cup Event Authority and paid out last October, included $281,860 to global consulting giant AECOM, $172,214 to law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, and $28,221 to law firm Hanson Bridgett LLP, according to documents on file with the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

The work was performed in 2011 and early 2012, when estimates — from crowd sizes to costs — for the America's Cup were much bigger.

"Those were the costs associated with putting on a large event," said Mark Buell, chairman of the America's Cup Organizing Committee, which is currently fundraising to pay off the rest of the costs to The City.

This summer's racing has drawn smaller crowds and fewer teams competing than anticipated.

"Had we known it wasn't going to be as big of an event, [the CEQA review] would have been cheaper," Buell said.

Cup organizers are in the middle of a fundraising campaign to defray some of The City's additional costs for hosting the event, which in March were estimated to be $22 million.

A total of $16 million has been raised to date, said organizing committee CEO Kyri McClellan, adding that if fundraising falls short then additional tax revenue generated by the event will "make The City whole."

The much-ballyhooed yacht race has suffered a series of black eyes — from a tragic death to cheating allegations leveled on defending champs Team Oracle USA (the team funded by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison) to drastically reduced estimates of crowds and revenue. That has led to bad press domestically and internationally, with coverage in recent months bashing the America's Cup as an economic and sporting failure.

But Buell held out hope that the fall racing will still excite attendees.

However, Supervisor John Avalos, a consistent critic of the event, blasted the CEQA bill as "more of the corporate welfare The City shelled out for Larry Ellison and the America's Cup Event Authority."

Bills to pay

Estimated cost to city: $22M

Funds raised to cover city costs: $16M

Bill to city to cover CEQA requirements: $482,000

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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