Rincon Point Yacht Births as Proposed

From John King with respect to the proposed America’s Cup berthing facilities for mega motor yachts between Piers 14 and 22½:

Known officially as Rincon Point Open Water Basin, the quarter-mile stretch of bay between piers 14 and 22.5 was created in the 1980s by removing decrepit finger piers no longer needed by the port. Rincon Park followed with a grassy hillock crowned by the controversial but eye-catching Cupid’s Span sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

In daytime, the broad views are wondrous. At night, there’s a hypnotic beauty, as anyone can testify who has paused after a Giants game to absorb the illuminated sweep of the Bay Bridge above rippling darkness.

The importance of the space is spelled out in the Bay Plan of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, which describes basins as essential to “enhance the ecological health of the Bay and … provide new and substantial Bay views.” The importance of the open water along Rincon Park is reaffirmed in the draft environmental impact report for the America’s Cup that was released by the city last month – it is the only one of 18 race-related locations ranked “very high” in terms of visual quality and sensitivity.

The draft report also offers the only details released so far of the changes desired by the America’s Cup Event Authority, the operational and development arm of the regatta.

The proposal would add a 1,300-foot-long, 12-foot-wide floating dock to the “open water basin venue,” reached by gangplanks at either end. A diagram shows 26 vessels moored to the dock, none shorter than 100 feet and 10 with hulls extending 265 feet from stem to stern.

King’s big concern, whether the temporary berths could become permanent view-blocking fixtures as “long-term development rights in the Rincon basin are triggered if the temporary berths require dredging” according to the development agreement.

54 thoughts on “A Temporary Site That Could Become A Permanent Fixture”
  1. Uh, no. You put them at Hunter’s Point so the toxic waste finally gets cleaned up and someone besides rich people benefit from the A-Cup.

  2. This even doesn’t have anything to do with toxic waste at Hunters Point. The strategy of linking issues together has been one of the keys to making the Middle East what it is today. We might be able to come up with something better for the waterfront if we try.
    There does seem to be an issue here, but the main argument seems to be that if this is put in place then it will never be removed. There should be some way of deciding what happens afterward explicitly in the open. At worst a voter referendum could do the trick.

  3. Marinaboy, this last remaining open stretch of waterfront already has a great, unique, only in san francisco look. Your RVs are no more welcome here than they are in the front yards of most neighborhoods.
    If I recall correctly the AC45 deal with the city still requires BoS approval. Still some room for negotiation here, now that the details of the Dec 31 deal are starting to leak.

  4. I’m not sure this discussion is just about “ruining the view”, or whether this marina can ever be removed.
    I sense there is a strong dislike of wealthy people with large boats. That may be the real issue. And no, this is not the “last, remaining stretch of open waterfront..”.
    And this has nothing to do with toxic waste at Hunter’s Point. Let’s also address the enormous parking lot on that paved pier just south of the bridge. Let’s complain about that. Let’s complain about all the piers out to Fishermans Wharf that contain car parking right on the waterfront. Those appear to be “blocking views” and perhaps not the best and highest use of major waterfront.
    I support developing our waterfronts carefully, with marinas, hotels, open spaces and housing. Look at how successful parts of the waterfront are in Vancouver and Boston, to name a few great cities.

  5. Funny. People go to places like the south of France to look at the mega yachts, which are inherently quite beautiful and interesting. Every time I am in Seattle and see all the boats and marinas, I rue that our Bay and waterfront is so empty of boats.
    In my view, the view of the Bay would be enhanced, not by permanent mooring of these huge yachts which will only be here for a very short time, but by the mooring of smaller boats providing the foreground to the magnificent background views.
    If only SFcans were not so afraid of change, and so jealous of wealth.

  6. Jim, exactly!
    Normal people of the world enjoy checking out yachts in Portofino, Marbella, Dubai, etc.
    And really, I can’t see long-term yacht mooring in the bay. It is just too freakin cold here most of the time for serious yachting. Not to mention it is way too remote from other destinations. No one would take their Yacht on a tour to Eureka and Fort Bragg. The carribean or the mediterranean is far superior for yachts.

  7. Modernqueen, would you please identify any other open stretches of waterfront?
    …and lay off the straw men.

  8. Good points Jim. I agree completely.
    Many SF residents are afraid of ANY kind of change, be it housing, commercial development, and improving our waterfront.
    There is this (false) prog/liberal thinking that detests wealth, success and change in any form or fashion. And yet, these whiny, bleeding heart liberals quietly get into their Acuras, or Lexuses or BMW’s, etc and drive home to their home or condo which they own (and worked hard to get thru their own money and achievements).
    A great city needs wealth, success and leaders to keep the city growing, changing and evolving.
    This marina project would be one more positive change for the SF waterfront.
    As for other open stretches of our waterfront, just wander down from the Bay Bridge clear to The Ramp and beyond. Tons of open areas, underdeveloped and still lined with rotting, empty pier buildings.

  9. Will this be the new location of the floating homes of Rincon?
    The Port of SF should charge high berth rent to make it worth while before, during A-Cup, and after.

  10. “Looks great, build it”
    Just what exactly are you “looking” at? Cause all I see that is any different than what is there now is a bunch of boats parked. I guess if we can have cars parked on a pier in the bay we can have boats parked in a pier in the bay. But there’s nothing to “look” at. Am I missing something?

  11. @sf: no, you’re not missing anything.
    The discussion, for the most part, appears to not be about cars parked on a pier, or boats docked in the water.
    It’s about hating the rich.

  12. It’s not about hating the rich, it’s about giving away too much to the rich– in this case, giving away permanent development rights to a marina being given away to Ellison’s Amerca’s Cup gang. In exchange for what? Dredging that needs to be done only so some mega-yachts get a close-in view of the race? If dredging needs to be done, that should be paid for by the owners of the mega-yachts, not by giving away development rights.

  13. Bringing this back on topic:
    Should the AC45 be permitted to take place in San Francisco if the price requires giving away the waterfront between pier 14 and the bay bridge for a private marina? And if so, why wasn’t this disclosed when the deal was done Dec 31st?

  14. Modernqueen, is this about hating the rich?
    Probably not. There’s a prevailing belief that our city leaders are incompetent. Add to that the suspicion that some of those same leaders are dishonest.
    In such a situation, stealing from SF would be child’s play for someone believed to be as conniving as Larry Ellison. As to whether or not this is actually happening, I don’t know.
    I have to admit, I am rather attached to that view along Embarcadero. On a clear night with the moon shining over the water, with a straight line view to the bridge, it’s a sight to behold. Note the photographers with tripods in that spot. If that view were ruined due to political incompetence or deceit, I’d sure as hell be pissed.
    Distrust and fear. That’s what it’s all about here.

  15. It’s rare to find in any forum such a spirited defense of the excesses of the rich, especially when the expression of their largess is the ostentatious display of their playthings.
    The outright appropriation of public resouces by private interests to satisfy the whims of one exceptionally well-heeled oligarch, regardless how pretty the boats are, is particularly loathesome.

  16. AC34, not AC45. acronym overload.
    The EIR documents make no mention of a permanent marina here, indeed saying the opposite:
    from page 4-14:
    Rincon Point Open Water Basin. No new berthing facilities are permitted in this location except
    for limited numbers of mooring dolphins or buoys for non‐commercial, transient boating. The proposed use of the Rincon Point Open Water Basin for AC34 temporary berthing for spectator
    boats would conflict with current SAP policies. As described in Chapter 3, Project Description,
    ACEA and the Port have proposed SAP amendments to permit the temporary berthing within
    this Open Water Basin for the 2012 and 2013 AC34 race events only. The effects of temporary
    berthing in the Rincon Point Open Water Basin are addressed in this EIR, in Section 5.2 Land Use,
    Section 5.3 Aesthetics, and Section 5.14 Biological Resources.
    from page 5.3-5:
    The Rincon Point Open Water Basin at Piers 14 to 22½ provides waterfront views from The
    Embarcadero promenade to the Bay Bridge, Yerba Buena Island and the Oakland Hills. This
    Open Water Basin was created through systematic removal of old non‐historic structures,
    including Piers 16, 18, 20 and 22 from the waterfront over the last 25 years. With the old piers removed, present day views have become available, particularly from Pier 14, a pedestrian‐only pier (see Figure 5.3‐2, Photo D) that provides public access out over the Bay. Visual sensitivity to change is rated as high. Policy 3 for Open Water Basins describes BCDC’s intent for this area:
    iii) in the Rincon Point Open Water Basin, lay berthing is only permitted for fireboats at
    Pier 22½. There should be no new berthing facilities except for limited numbers of mooring
    dolphins or buoys for non‐commercial, transient boating, which may be permitted if it is
    determined that they would add interest to and improve Bay views in this Basin.

  17. Here:
    “The Host Agreement identifies both the Rincon Point and Brannan Street Wharf Open Water Basins as locations for temporary berthing and, if the Event Authority pays to dredge the Basins, this would trigger long‐term development rights for construction of a marina in each location… development of long term marinas within the Rincon Point or Brannan Street Wharf Open Water Basins would be considered a significant and unavoidable impact.”

  18. It is all about hating rich people. If instead of yachts there were floating organic hemp LEED platinum giant sculptures from Burning Man, this would pass with flying colors.
    SF is the most jealous and hating city I have ever been to anywhere in the world. That is beyond loathsome.

  19. If this were a dog park or bike parking on a gi-normous pier, this would be loved and supported by many.
    San Francisco does not like success, wealth and change.
    I do.

  20. Is this really about jealousy or is it about giving away prime property to people who could easily pay for it?

  21. I say yes, but only if the boats moored there are 100% electric requiring no noisy and polluting gas or diesel engines.

  22. that looks completely lame. the green space there is one of the few places along the embarcadero with a clear view of the bay. putting a bunch of boats in front simply sucks.

  23. My comment to Delancey, lurker and steve at 3:13 PM is just to note that everybody should have seen something similar to this coming way back on January 5:

    …last minute negotiations to secure the right for San Francisco to host the 2013 America’s Cup included additional revenue concessions and the potential…
    Four of the last minute changes…
    While the changes were not explicitly approved by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, apparently the agreement which the Board of Supervisors had previously approved provided the mayor “wiggle room to keep negotiating as long as The City wouldn’t have to spend any extra money” but didn’t prohibit negotiating away potential revenue.

    You don’t even need to go back and read the details, they were about other aspects of the deal. The point is that when negotiations start grinding down to a deadline and provisions start changing at the last minute, a crack team of a billionaire’s well-compensated lawyers are going to rip the face off a small group of overworked bureaucrats every time (this includes Gavin Newsom), and thus we should have expected something like this to come out, and I expect even more egregious one-sided aspects to the agreement to surface in the months ahead.
    John King should have been writing about this ten months ago, but of course that would have required doing some real reporting instead of being another vapid Monday-morning quarterback.

  24. Bad Idea. Permanent or temporary (which is de-facto permanent).
    There are alternate places to park mega-yachts – especially if one is willing to pay for dredging, building piers, etc. Try Treasure Island.
    And for all you who can’t wait to check out the yachts up close a-la portofino, etc. Go buy some binoculars. There will be tight security where these piers come to shore.
    Unless these cheesy billionares (and yes, Ellison is nothing if not cheesy) are personally dumping their billions into the local economy (not including sponsoring the event since this is a trade for future development rights), they shouldn’t have the right to obstruct open public views so normal people can’t enjoy the races.

  25. A few years ago the city screwed up by allowing two restaurants to be built along the waterfront in this very same area.

  26. they could do this along Treasure Island instead– same view (possibly better) and could be part of that redevelopment.

  27. Hmmm. and so how did the city “screw up” by allowing 2 restaurants to be built in the open space along this area? The restaurants are very popular, highly rated, great places to come and even just have a drink and view the bay.
    They are low scale, and to my mind do not hurt or detract at all from the enjoyment of the waterfront.
    Again, to me, a lot of this discussion sounds like jealousy and envy, and intense dislike of anyone of means.

  28. Modern Queen this is nothing about hating the rich. Get off of it. As has been stated repeatedly, this is about protecting a very special view. This view was only recently created by tearing down some decaying wharf buildings, and has been celebrated by the design of parkland at Rincon Point.
    I don’t object to something temporary here. I’m excited to see these mega yachts. But permanent….no….it sounds to me like Ellison et al pulled a fast one.

  29. MQ, you’ve convinced me. I no longer believe that this is about blocked views but instead agree with you that it is about hating rich people. Because I could find no instances where anyone in SF complained about losing a view unless that view was being blocked by a rich person. Further I can find no instances where anyone complained about something being built for poor people as without fail all NIMBY’s in SF was restricted soley to complaints about rich people. Indeed, the bleeding heart liberals are the only people in SF that complain about real estate related matters.

  30. A number of years ago I demanded that this area be converted to a swimming pool/wash basin for the city’s homeless. At the time, people openly mocked the proposal, nothing happened, and the homeless remained deprived of water recreational facilities. And now, surprise, surprise, the ultra-rich have discovered this oasis and suddenly all the interest and a talked about conversion to a MARINA!
    Unbelievable. You people have no shame.

  31. Aside from discussions about wealth or poverty, all of this is actually a discussion about access to views to the greater number.
    For instance, it there any public area in Pacific Heights where you can get an unobstructed 180-degree view over the Bay?
    Now we have this great view of the bridge, the water, all accessible to millions. Will it be given permanently to a few 100s? This is still a democracy, right? If something is public and benefits the immense majority of voters, said voters should be allowed to say whether they want to make a gift to a tiny minority.
    Plus, I have been to Saint-Tropez. Watching fat hairy 70-Y-olds BBQ-ing in their Speedos gets tired very fast. Better watch the fun crowd of gawking Parisians from Senequier.

  32. Here we go with the crazy notion, again, with putting every single public issue to the public VOTE.
    Waste of time. Can’t wait to see some of the awesome mega-yachts up close.

  33. I’ve been a Cup supporter from the beginning, but I’m not in favor of this idea. That stretch of the Embarcadero is beautiful and can be enjoyed by an enormous amount of people. It makes no sense to allow yacht owners to moor their yachts here and obstruct views when they have options elsewhere.
    If we were guaranteed that this would temporary, then that’s one thing – As someone else mentioned, I can’t imagine a marina of the size being used year round – yachts such as these are usually found in the Caribbean or the Med. But I worry that once this is put in, it’ll be there for good.
    If you want to gawk at yachts, go to a boat show.

  34. Yea, and think of all the views the Bay Bridge has ended up blocking.
    Damn, if they build that bridge, it’s gonna be there for good.
    jeezus..save us all from change.

  35. Hmmm… Lets compare the benefit provided by the Bay Bridge versus this proposed marina. One of them seems to have a little bit more influence on daily commerce, not sure which.
    I like the Treasure Island alternative that James proposed. It provides the same AC benefit and ties in with the development of TI. And Fishchum rugby matches might gain additional audience.

  36. There is no cogent argument for this as a long-term benefit to offset the loss of a gorgeous piece of view and water-front.
    Claiming class warfare is not an argument. Just silly static from the commentariat.
    Given the wait-list at bay-area marinas, any new commercial marinas in TI, Alameda, Pier 70, etc. would do just fine without degradation to the public realm.

  37. MoD, think about the trickle-down benefits. The paparazzi will flock to SF and we’ll all enjoy billions of $$$ in increased hotel and restaurant revenue.
    I say these yacht owners should get a tax cut for being so nice to us. Take it from education/retirement/healthcare funding, like everything else.
    Seriously, in addition to the net loss to the public, this would seriously cheapen the view.
    Pretty much like the visual pollution of tabloid press at the supermarket check-out.

  38. This should be made into a bathing area for the homeless like wrath said so that it can be consistent with other city policies in costing us money.

  39. I’m with curmudgeon on this one. I keep waiting for the proponents of handing over this resource to a group that will build a permanent marina to present an actual argument.
    Saying over and over again that everybody not in favor of this handover of property is just suffering from “jealousy and envy, and intense dislike of anyone of means” isn’t an argument; it’s an attempt to cut off criticism by attempting to shame the other side into silence so an actual argument doesn’t have to be presented; I guess this technique was popularized if not pioneered by rappers who call everybody who isn’t a fan “haters”.
    Try posting your actual argument so we can discuss THAT. Just accept as a starting point that you aren’t Matt Damon’s character from the movie Hereafter or an empath from the planet Betazed and you can’t read the minds of other people and hence can’t know the motivations of people who are opposed to this handover and whether or not they like or dislike or hate or are envious of billionaires who enjoy displaying their Veblen goods in their leisure time.
    If we allow this, is S.F. going to turn into Monaco overnight? I’d note that the Monaco Grand Prix is held yearly and isn’t a one-time event, so the amortization of capital improvements costs is held to a different standard.
    Lol’s comment at 10:26am was sarcastic but at least there was the kernel of an argument there: allowing the marina will generate increased revenue for the Hospitality sector, a non-trival contributor to the local economy, by increasing demand from a segment of consumers highly able to spend on discretionary goods and services.
    Or you might be a bit more specific and say that the amount spent on the dredging, which the City would have to one day pay for anyway (questionable), is going to swamp the amount of utility derived by the public at large by having an unobstructed view of the Bay from that vantage point, so the marginal benefit of the handover of long-term development rights is greater than the marginal cost of the view loss and therefore residents of The City are better off having struck this deal.
    These are just off the top of my head; I’m sure there are other, better ones so go ahead and post. But saying that all those opposed have an intense dislike of anyone of means doesn’t take the place of a substantive argument.

  40. I don’t see the economic benefit of this thing. There’s absolutely no benefit to the public neither. This is a resource grab.
    also, I love marinas. I love looking at boats. But as I said earlier I do not wish to look at 70-y-olds in Speedos like in Saint Tropez or Portofino whose last excitement in life is this.
    Cheap, tacky, tasteless. Please stay in Dubai.

  41. The more I think about the core issues raised in the column, the more it doesn’t make sense just on a logical level. I think I might be missing something here. Help me out.
    Socrates: Why does San Francisco need to give up the unobstructed views from this vantage point?
    Phaedrus: Well, it was part of the agreement that if the America’s Cup Event Authority pays for any needed dredging, then in exchange, they get long-term development rights in the Rincon basin.
    Socrates: Okay, that seems fair…we don’t want The City to have to pay for any needed dredging. But why would any dredging be required in the first place?
    Phaedrus: In order to provide temporary berths for the presumably large yachts that might show up locally when rich people want to view the race. Yacht races tend to attract wealthy people who own yachts.
    Socrates: So if the spectator’s large yachts do show up, and birth in the the Rincon basin, the view will be blocked for the race from the perspective of the spectators not on the wealthy people’s yachts, true?
    Phaedrus: Yes, that’s right.
    Socrates: So it seems San Francisco needs to do the dredging in order to facilitate the temporary blocking of the views (for the general public) and in order to pay for the dredging in order to facilitate that temporary relinquishment of the viewshed, we need to give up permanent access to the unobstructed view, is that right?
    Phaedrus: Um, Yes.
    Socrates: Isn’t that some kind of a circular argument? If we don’t accept as a premise the necessity of the large yachts in that location and the concomitant temporary relinquishment of the viewshed, then the dredging cost issue is moot and we don’t need a justification for the long-term relinquishment of the viewshed.
    Phaedrus: You are just a hater. You’re jealous and you’re envious of Larry Ellison and his friend’s yachting prowess because you can never be as great a man as they all are. Why aren’t you complaining about all the other blocked views on the waterfront unless you just have an unseemly fixation on what wealthy people and what they do with their money?
    Socrates: Thanks for explaining that to me. I understand now.

  42. Brahma, very very good one.
    If they succeed, I’ll call the city right away.
    I will sweep the curb space in front of my house in exchange of free unlimited parking on that very same space.

  43. Brahma – Bravo! Modernqueen – any rebuttal to Brahma’s post? Or are you just going to keep calling the rest of us “haters” and tell us how jealous we are of the rich?

  44. Oh, gosh. I’m going to keep calling the rest (well, most) of you haters and how jealous you are of the rich.

  45. The counter-class warfare is a Straw Man’s argument.
    What matters here is private vs public. Private can gain from public resources only if they provide something in return of same or higher value (more so if this resource is irreplaceable)
    What benefit do we get with this? Are they building a new bridge? A hospital? A school? A road? Shoring up the deficit? Nope. They bring a race most of San Franciscans couldn’t care less about.

  46. Looks like the BCDC took note and submitted a letter to AC:
    San Francisco — The agency that guards our bay has a message for America’s Cup organizers who want to park two dozen “superyachts” along Rincon Park on San Francisco’s waterfront in 2013: not so fast.
    “Filling this basin with large yachts … would significantly impact the public’s ability to enjoy the bay,” reads the official response by the state’s Bay Conservation and Development Commission to the draft environmental impact report for the fabled regatta. The comment period on the report closed on Aug. 25.
    The letter also describes “this special place along the San Francisco waterfront” as the only downtown stretch that combines “space for play, quiet contemplation, viewing the bay and other activities.”
    These are strong words from the agency with final say over an event expected to attract more than 200,000 people a day to watch catamarans slice across the bay. They’re also a powerful reason for city leaders and the organizers of the 34th America’s Cup to fine-tune the plans now in the works – before support for the entire event is threatened.
    The fate of the open water at Rincon Park has emerged as a flash point because the plan, as it now stands, sacrifices the park’s spacious vistas to create a sort of private lagoon for people on yachts ranging in size from 100 to 265 feet.
    These aren’t the vessels that would launch from the America’s Cup Village at Pier 27 on race days and be based at Piers 30-32 in between. Instead, the quarter-mile of open harbor between Piers 14 and 22 1/2 would be reserved for yachts too big to fit into existing city marinas.
    The result could be a floating white wall on non-race days during the 2013 America’s Cup; the docking plan in the draft environmental report shows the yachts berthed with their sterns facing shore. Since the largest superyachts can reach 40 feet in width and height, these are not diminutive derrieres.
    But wait, there’s more
    The agreement between the city and the America’s Cup Event Authority also gives the authority the right to develop the basin as a recreational marina if the temporary berths require dredging. The draft environment report takes dredging as a given, and estimates the now-open basin could hold 425 sailboat slips post-Cup.
    All this runs counter to a 2000 agreement between the BCDC and the Port of San Francisco regarding the waterfront from China Basin north to Pier 35. In it, the two agencies agree to designate four “open water basins” as part of overall public access to the bay. Rincon Point, part of the park between Piers 14 and 22 1/2, has the strongest protections of the four because its curved shoreline allows unique perspectives on both the skyline and the Bay Bridge.
    That was then. And now?
    The BCDC – which must approve any revisions to the 2000 agreement – states in its Aug. 25 letter that changes to the current rules hinge on Cup organizers “eliminating or reducing the number of private, spectator yachts in the Rincon Point Open Water Basin.” The agency then suggests other spots where big boats could be moored. The open basin at the foot of Broadway is one possibility, as is the area around the Agricultural Building north of Pier 14. A handful of yachts could berth along the north edge of Rincon Point basin, so long as they’re not directly in front of the park.
    All this is in addition to space the plan also earmarks for superyacht berths, such as one side of Pier 27 at America’s Cup Village. Regulators are comfortable with that location, since that’s where the action will be.
    True access for all
    In other words, the BCDC isn’t out to kill the fun. As its letter states, “The AC34 events are expected to be wonderful for people to see and enjoy.” Nor is this a class issue, as some event supporters suggest. If it was, the bid to host the Cup wouldn’t have won a unanimous vote of support from the city’s Board of Supervisors.
    The only comment from America’s Cup officials this week was a statement from chief operating officer Tom Huston that “we believe that the public process will make for a better event” and that the authority will use the 2,200 pages of comments (!) to the draft report in “working toward plans that respect our neighbors and mitigate our impact.”
    Let’s hope so, starting with the end of any push for a commercial marina at Rincon Point.
    Volume of comments aside, there’s a sense that all but the most ardent environmentalists and spiteful obstructionists want to see the Cup take place. The issue is balance.
    Even if America’s Cup is the city’s main attraction in the summer of 2013, it shouldn’t have the entire waterfront to itself. Many of us will be enjoying the spectacle. Other people will want to enjoy the bay without a fuss. They have that right, too.
    E-mail John King at jking@sfchronicle.com.
    Full article at:

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