The biggest fish - Page 6

The America's Cup would transform San Francisco's waterfront -- but is it a good deal for the city?

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The next world-famous sailing match could be held in San Francisco in 2013
PHOTO BY JEAN-BAPTISTE DANIEL

At the same time, other small business would be negatively affected, particularly those among the 87 Port tenants who would be forced to relocate to make way for the America's Cup. The Budget Analyst's report also notes that retail businesses in the area whose services had no appeal to race-goers might suffer from reduced access to their stores, since crowding and street closures would shut out their customers.

The sailing community has rallied in support of the Cup, and Newsom has received hundreds of e-mails from yachting enthusiasts from as far away as Hawaii and Florida promising to travel to San Francisco with all their sailing friends to watch the world-famous vessels compete.

Ariane Paul, commodore of a classic wooden boat club called the Master Mariners Benevolent Association, told the Guardian that she was excited about the opportunity for the America's Cup to showcase sailing on the bay. "In the long term, it's a win-win," Paul said. "It would be great to have that boost." As for the financial terms of the deal, she remained confident, saying, "I don't think that the city is going to let Larry Ellison walk all over them."

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi is often politically aligned with Daly, but not when it comes to the issue of the America's Cup. As a kid growing up on the island of Jamestown, a tiny blue-collar community located off the coast of Rhode Island, Mirkarimi learned to sail and occasionally spent summers working as a deckhand. Every few years, the America's Cup would come to nearby Newport, transforming the area into a bustling hub and bringing the locals into contact with famous sailors. It left an everlasting impression. When the BMW Oracle Racing Team secured the 33rd Cup off the coast of Valencia, Mirkarimi did a double-take when he saw a photograph of the winning team — his childhood friend from Rhode Island was on the crew.

Mirkarimi told the Guardian he supports bringing the Cup to San Francisco because of the economic boost the area will receive — if the Cup continues to return to San Francisco as it did for 53 years in Newport, he said, the city could look forward to a free gift in improved revenue associated with the event, and that could help quiet the tired annual debates over painful budget cuts.

At the same time, he acknowledged that the Budget Analyst report had prompted what he called healthy skepticism. "I think the onus is on the city and Cup organizers to make sure the benefits far, far outweigh the investment," Mirkarimi said. "This effort is not just about making one of the wealthiest men in the United States that much more wealthy ... That can't be the case," he said. "It has to be about what will the Cup do in order to be a win-win for the people of San Francisco." Mirkarimi said he expected scrutiny of the details of the agreement at the Dec. 8 Budget and Finance Committee hearing: "Naturally, in this time of economic downturn ... people want to know, what's the outlay of cost, and what are we going to get in return?"