The America's Cup would transform San Francisco's waterfront -- but is it a good deal for the city?
The Budget & Legislative Analyst's study predicts that the ACEA could opt to build a 250-unit condo high-rise on Seawall Lot 330, deemed the most lucrative use. Under the Host City Agreement, the city would be obligated to remove Tidelands Trust provisions from Seawall Lot 330, which guarantee under state law that waterfront property is used for maritime functions or public benefit. Tweaking the law for a single deal would require approval from the State Lands Commission, but Newsom, in his new capacity as lieutenant governor, would cast one of the three votes on that body.
The combination of construction, demolition, lost rent revenue, police and transit, environmental analysis, and other event costs would hit the city with a bill totaling around $64 million, according to the Budget & Legislative Analyst study. Since city government would recoup around $22 million in revenue from hosting the Cup, the net impact would be around $42 million. That doesn't include the potential $32 million assistance from ACOC.
At the same time, the city would stand to lose another $86.2 million by granting long-term development rights to 35 acres of Port property for 66 to 75 years without charging rent, bringing the total cost to $128 million. OEWD representatives played down that loss in potential revenue, saying past attempts to redevelop piers hadn't been successful because none could handle the upfront investment to revitalize the crumbling piers.
The Host City Agreement has raised skepticism among Port staff and the Budget Analyst that tempered initial enthusiasm for the event. "The terms of the Host City Agreement will require significant city capital investment and will result in substantial lost revenue to the Port," a Port study determined. Faith in that plan seems to be eroding and it may be scrapped for an alternative plan that's cheaper for the city.
The Northern Waterfront alternative substitutes Piers 19-29 as the primary location for the event and eliminates the Mission Bay piers from the equation. Under this scenario, ACEA would invest an estimated $55 million, instead of $150 million. In exchange, it would receive long-term development rights to Piers 30-32 and Seawall 330 on "commercially reasonable terms," according to a Port staff report.
Board of Supervisors President David Chiu requested that the Port explore that second option more fully, and the Port report notes that it would reduce the strain on Port revenue. The Northern Waterfront plan would cost the Port a total of $15.8 million, instead of $43 million, the report notes. Port staff recommended in its report that both the original agreement and the alternative be forwarded to the full board for consideration.
Under the competition's official protocol, Ellison, as defender of the Cup, has unilateral power to decide where the next regatta will be held. Race organizers have said it's a toss-up between San Francisco and an unnamed port in Italy — though it's anyone's guess how seriously a European site is being considered by a team headquartered at the Golden Gate Yacht Club, a stone's throw from the Golden Gate Bridge.
According to a San Francisco Chronicle article published in early September, Newsom issued a memo stating that San Francisco was competing against Spain and Italy to become the chosen venue. Valencia was said to be offering a "generous financial bid," and a group in Rome was rumored to have offered some $645 million to bring the Cup to Italian shores, the memo noted. It was a call for the city to present Ellison with the most attractive deal possible to compel him to pick San Francisco.
Speaking at an Oct. 4 Land Use Committee hearing, OEWD director Jennifer Matz told supervisors: "San Francisco was designated the only city under consideration back in July. Now we are competing against the prime minister of Italy and the king of Spain."