Alternative Becomes Plan

We’re half a step closer to settling San Francisco’s bid for America’s Cup 34.

That’s my takeaway from Wednesday’s hearing before the Budget and Finance Subcommittee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors—my eventual takeaway, I could say, from a meeting that started at 1100 and ran to 1711. Without a vote. Thus the season of torture continues. How many times can you go halfway there without getting there?

Yet, it had to be so.

The new-new iteration of the Northern Waterfront Alternative, as presented to the three members of Budget and Finance on Wednesday, with other Supervisors popping in, was “finalized” on Wednesday morning, barely winning the race to the meeting. Questions arose, and they’re questions that have to be cleaned up if there’s to be a favorable vote of the full Board on Tuesday, December 14.

I think we’ll get there. Supervisor David Campos showed a lack of understanding of the timeline, but when he drilled down to lawyerly details regarding arbitration proceedings and whether or not the language of the agreement left open the chance (however remote) that the city could be dragged into representing its interests in a foreign court, well, that’s going to require an answer. But I can’t see it as a dealbreaker.

Some of our city employees will be working over the weekend, I can just tell.

Kyri McClellan, AC project manager for the mayor’s office, noted that everything is happening “in real time; it’s the dynamic of a negotiation.”

One nugget that emerged: It was Australian sailor Iain Murray, now running the race management team, who came to San Francisco, studied the waterfront, and determined that the switch to catamarans makes it unnecessary to build new breakwaters; with that, talking to BCDC got a lot easier.

From the Port Commission staff: At Pier 27, envisioned as the public interaction space and a cruise ship terminal to be, the new terminal could be created either by knocking down and building from scratch, or by rehabbing the existing huge shed, but, “a new building would be much more functional.”

At the November 30 Port Commission hearing there were two points of pushback, not from the Commissioners, but from represented interests. First, there was pushback on the originally-planned makeover of Pier 50, imagined as the location of team bases but requiring the displacement of long-term tenants. Second, there was pushback from the maritime unions regarding intent to waive the Jones Act to enable foreign-flagged yachts to charter on San Francisco Bay.

Pushback number one has disappeared. The original Host City Agreement has been supplanted by the Northern Waterfront Alternative, an alternative no longer, and Pier 50 does not figure in the new plan.

Pushback number two has also disappeared. City Attorney Dennis Herrera on Monday hosted a meeting between the mayor’s representatives and the maritime unions and arrived at language that allows chartering to go on without fanning the slippery-slope fears first expressed by the unions. They sent a representative who spoke to that, and supported America’s Cup on San Francisco Bay.

It’s a huge shift on the part of the Event Authority to embrace what is now the northern waterfront plan. At times during the hearing, Supervisor Campos appeared to be creating difficulties, but I think his purpose is simply to arrive at a deal we can all live with, and bring America’s Cup 34 to San Francisco Bay. He repeatedly questioned the need for hurry. “What if we just backed up the vote to mid-January?” he asked. Which proves that he doesn’t live in my world, where would-be players are breathing through straws, and even the December 31 deadline for a venue announcement feels late late late.

And having all-too recently survived two years with the America’s Cup dragged through the courts—arguing points of the then-protocol—I wouldn’t expect the Defender to violate the following point of the Protocol for America’s Cup 34:

24.1 By 31 December 2010, GGYC will announce the venue(s) and dates of the Regatta.

Yep, city employees will be working over the weekend, and long hours at that. Chairman John Avalos recessed the hearing until 1300 on Monday, December 13, leaving at least 24 hours breathing space between Budget and Finance and the full Board.

Public comment is now closed.

Did I mention that we’re halfway there?

P.S. Apologies for a hasty post. Time to pack for a plane ride to Miami and the RC44 regatta. I hear Florida’s warming up just in time for my arrival. I feel so validated.

Suns New Jerseys