Appealing The Impact Of The America’s Cup In San FranciscoJanuary 23, 2012
Certified by San Francisco’s Planning Commission in December, tomorrow San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors will hear an appeal of the Environmental Impact Report for the venue work necessary to host the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco.
The appeal was filed on behalf of San Francisco Tomorrow, Golden Gate Audubon Society, Waterfront Watch, Telegraph Hill Dwellers and the San Francisco Group of the Sierra Club.
A successful appeal, which we’d bet against, would cause a bit of both planning and political upheaval.
Comments from Plugged-In Readers
The #1 complaint in this appeal seems to be that long term development rights are being granted after this ephemeral two year contest and those developments are not yet defined. I’d expect those developments to also go through CEQA as well though.
From my view the main problem is that the city is granting long term rights to prime real estate with very little in return. It seems like a ripoff of the current and future citizens of this city. Though I’m not sure whether CEQA is the way to address this boondoggle.
I get the feeling that the Americas Cup organization is less of a guardian of the sport and more of a real estate development corporation.
I agree with your thinking on the Americas Cup organization, but we might also view it as a quasi non-governmental redevelopment agency. Didn’t the state just eliminate the governmental version in California?
At a recent Port hearing the estimates for getting the waterfront in shape for the event is over $100M. My guess is that the ACEA will then sell off the dev rights to try and recoup some (or all) of these costs. This should trigger additional CEQA actions, EIRs, lawsuits, etc.
Most of these properties are either deteriorating or derelict, so having someone on the hook with incentive to make them productive should be a good long-term outcome.
My specific issues with the America’s Cup proposal are twofold. One, that the city of San Francisco taxpayers are going to be de-facto sponsors of this event. This is discussed somewhat in this article, where the first $12 million fundraising deadline was met only via an internal transaction, “The Event Authority paid the Organizing Committee an undisclosed sum of money for its set of rights.” This does not give me a good feeling about the AC’s ability to cover its costs by selling sponsorships. The article also talks about how the city might raise fees and taxes to cover the AC costs:
My second issue is giving the AC exclusive use of prime waterfront parkland for 3 months of 2013. I did read the EIR sections dedicated to this, and the response to these concerns was farcical, largely along the lines of (paraphrasing) “we think that any use of parkland short of constructing a permanent building is acceptable, and besides, sitting on your butt watching a race is a recreational activity and thus compatible with the parks’ mission.” (never mind the parks’ mission is to promote MIXED recreational used).
If the EIR’s response to the appellants’ issues is as weak as for the park-users’ issues, then this appeal may well have merit.
An open suggestion to America’s Cup: dial it back. You don’t need 3 months to resolve a contest among six boats (max). Ask the city and NPS for two weeks of land use, not 3 months, and cram your high-profile contests into those two weeks. The summer olympics resolves 10 whole classes of sailboat racing within 15 days. Why can’t you do this with just one class and fewer contestants?
“Most of these properties are either deteriorating or derelict…”
Then why not just seek competitive bids for redevelopment instead of the no-bid situation with AC? If the goal is to put those properties to use then that could be accomplished without a giveaway to a single selected developer.
And some of the properties are just fine the way that they are. Take the proposed marina to the southeast of Pier 14 and just off of Rincon Park. It serves people much better as an unobstructed view across the bay towards Yerba Buena and Treasure islands. But if this deal goes through we’ll be looking at the blight of a parking lot for boats.
Ok, so I read the appeal doc. For those who can’t be bothered, the gyst of it seems to be that the EIR is adequate as a program review, but it is illegally being posed as a project review. They go on to state that project EIRs are considered final, and essentially cut off further public input. They go on to point out that since under the city host agreement we do not even know conclusively which piers will be involved it is not reasonable to call this a project EIR.
I have read enough of the EIR and the 1400 page response to comments to know there are many, many instances of “we’ll figure that out later” wording. They may have a case, that the program EIR is being used to try to prevent future (even post-event) review of the development process.
@TMoD the use of the Pier 14 area for mooring was the one consistent complaint raised against the DEIR (hey, me too) and it’s been addressed by scaling it back, moving what’s left closer to Pier 20 (temporary, to be removed after next summer), adding additional yacht mooring near Piers 30-32, and giving permanent post-AC34 marina development rights near Piers 50-54.
Piers 30-32 is now an almost condemned parking lot. The main tenants evicted from around Piers 27 were Bauer Limousine (parking lot) and storage of Chinese New Years floats (parking lot). I think the waterfront should be used for some sort of maritime use, not as parking lots.
As to opening up for competitive bids, there’s lots of other decaying piers along the waterfront – the Port would love to hear your proposal. This is the first project I’ve seen that has both a proposal and a check book in a long time.
The appeal was denied, with the proviso that there will be supplemental EIRs. I don’t know how much this addresses the ambiguity and structural deficiency of the EIR–perhaps they should split it into a program EIR and a project EIR for those projects that are known to-date.
Key other points that were made included that the mitigation funding was based on an expected attendee size of X, whereas later impact analysis assumed 0.2X. No resolution was reached on who will pick up the tab if mitigation funding predictions turn out to be optimistic. The ACEA voluntarily backed down on the floating jumbotron in the aquatic park, and there was much rejoicing amongst the aquatic park users.
Watching THD lose always puts a smile on my face.
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