Environmentalists: America's Cup not green enough

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A preliminary planning document for the America's Cup doesn't go far enough to protect San Francisco's natural environment, a coalition of environmental organizations has said.

The Environmental Council -- made up of a group of nonprofits including the Sierra Club, San Francisco Baykeeper, Turtle Island Restoration Network, the Dolphin Swimming and Boating Club, and others closely tracking planning for the America's Cup -- were gearing up to offer feedback to the San Francisco Planning Commission Aug. 11 on a hefty draft environmental impact review (DEIR) of the prestigious yachting event's impacts on marine life, air quality, and parklands.

The draft EIR "does not go far enough to protect San Francisco's air, water, and marine life," said Teri Shore of the Turtle Island Restoration Network. She advocated for requiring vessels to use the cleanest possible fuels and to travel at slow speeds so as not to collide with dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, or whales once outside the Golden Gate.

Ken Coren, Vice President of the Dolphin and Swimming Club, voiced concerns about the effects the race would have on swimming and recreational boating. "The bay would be sealed off -- it would only be spectator viewing," he said. Activities like swimming around Aquatic Park or entering the bay on rowboats "would be prevented if you were going to take the EIR as it stands today at its word."

Jon Golinger, president of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, said the report "dramatically underestimates the impact" to individual San Francisco neighborhoods.

Jon Golinger speaks at a press conference on the steps of City Hall. Video by Rebecca Bowe

Jennifer Clary, of San Francisco Tomorrow, said the groups' concerns centered on three key areas: Impacts to the water, such as the potential for oil spills or degraded water quality; impacts that huge crowds would have on surrounding lands, especially in protected areas such as the Presidio; and neighborhood impacts. "You have already busy locations, and they're going to packing more people in," she said.

While they raised concerns, the nonprofit representatives also made it clear that they were not opposed to the America's Cup, and only wanted to see the city strengthen environmental protections during the event. David Anderson, Conservation Committee Chair with the Golden Gate Audubon Society, noted that the world-famous regatta would result in a major economic boon. "Certainly the city can afford some mitigation to make it right," he said.

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