Sorting out the America's Cup re-do


I have to say this for Mayor Ed Lee: He's not so stubborn or egotistical. He's willing to listen. And when something really, really doesn't make sense, he's willing to let it slide.

Not like Gavin Newsom.

If Newsom were still the mayor (ick! gasp!), he'd be desperately trying to keep together the deal that gave five pieces of the waterfront to the sixth richest person on Earth for more than two-thirds of a century. He'd refuse to admit that maybe the promises of vast wealth accruing to the city from what's really an untested event might be a little lower than projected. He's be sucking up madly to Larry Ellison, promising him more and more city money if only His Larryness would bestow the greatness of his hotel, restaurant and condo manna upon us poor lowly San Franciscans.

The current mayor has a little more sense. But then, I don't think Ed Lee spends much time dreaming about the Oval Office.

So now that Ellison's team realized they weren't going to be guaranteed enough of a profit on waterfront development and Lee realized that giving away any more of the store, or rushing this through any faster, was bad for the city, we have a deal that's based on San Francisco hosting a sports event, not on extensive real-estate development on the waterfront. It's better than it was, and I give the mayor credit for that.

But a few things are worth remembering:

The proverbial devil is in the proverbial details, and right now they aren't so proverbial. There's the minor matter of about $15 million worth of upgrades and repairs to the waterfront that's needed for the race -- and the city's on the hook for it. Right now, it's not clear where that money's going to come from.

One option: The city could go back to giving Ellison some property or development rights. The Chron quotes Jennifer Matz, the mayor's economic development director, saying that the rights to Seawall Lot 330 are still on the table (bad, bad idea). Stephanie Martin, spokesperson for Ellison's operation, told me there are no long-term development plans included at all. Maybe the city will just pay cash from the General Fund to Ellison (seems unlikely; I'd love to watch that Budget and Finance Committee meeting.) Maybe the Port will sell revenue bonds and pay Ellison out of the projected new income from the event.

Or maybe some other deal that will be bad for the city and good for Larry will emerge, and we'll all have to fight that one.

I realize that, if the attendance figures are anywhere near what's projected, the city will still wind up millions of dollars to the good.

But I still don't understand: Why are we paying Ellison to hold his race here? Yeah, it will bring tourists to the city -- but as former Sup. Aaron Peskin points out, we don't pay the Navy to bring Fleet Week and the Blue Angels to town. If anything, we should be charging these folks for the right to use so much public property for their own commercial gain. (Yes, the America's Cup involves commercial gain. Ellison does it because he loves yacht racing and likes to win shit, but you don't think that giant Oracle logo in 80 million pictures in newspapers and on TV isn't worth a whole lot of money?)

Why isn't a guy who counts as one of this generation's great industrialists, with a fortune rivaling the Rockefellers and the Morgans and that gang, donating anything at all to San Francisco? Those old robber barons built libraries and museums and stuff for the benefit of the public. Come on, Larry -- step up and help out here. Do the race, defend your Cup, then give something back to the city instead of asking the taxpayers to cover your tab.

PS: I read Randy Shaw's attack (if that's what this odd little piece was) on Aaron Peskin, and I wonder -- what's wrong with being a maverick who works from the outside to try to defend the city's interests? I don't always agree with Peskin (see: Home Depot) but I can tell you: There are a lot of people inside City Hall who are really, really happy that he's out there doing what he's doing. If nobody on the outside was taking on the America's Cup deal, the city would absolutely be worse than it is. Peskin's trying to save the city money. Why is that a bad thing?

Here's what made me really laugh, though: Shaw criticizes Peskin for failing to support Malia Cohen and Jane Kim for supervisor, saying that he could have been mayor if he'd been working for candidates who ended up winning. Huh? Don't progessives usuall go after pols who sell out their principles for political gain? If Peskin thought that Debra Walker and Tony Kelly would be better supervisors than Cohen and Kim, shouldn't he be working for them instead of thinking about his own political future?

Odd where Randy Shaw is going these days.