Peskin Point

“If” lead negotiator Stephen Barclay and his America’s Cup cohorts were a trifle naïve regarding San Francisco politics when they first blew into town, trumpeting the splendors to come, an 11th hour lawsuit filed last week by former President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and still-local chairman of the Democratic Party Aaron Peskin should complete their education. This is a blood sport, and you don’t have to be certifiably sane to play.

I remain on-message, however. Relax. The America’s Cup is going to be fine.
Unless it’s the San Francisco waterfront you care about. Then you might worry. There’s still no Plan B.

One day ahead of the deadline for challenging the environmental review approved by the Board of Supervisors and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, after the Mayor’s team, the Port and the Event Authority had spent a year working through agency after agency (Photo © Robin Schwartz)
after agency, Peskin filed on behalf of a mysterious outfit called Waterfront Watch.

Google Waterfront Watch and you reach a site that says, basically, Peskin ain’t us and we ain’t Peskin; “Google has failed you”.

Peskin’s complaint, Waterfront Watch vs. San Francisco Port Commission et al, alleges “procedural and substantive violations” in the process of developing and achieving approvals of the environmental impact report. Over 100 persons or entities are named in the suit, including even, ahem, Alinghi.

Hey, Ernesto, you’re out of the game, but, somehow, it’s your fault!

To enrich the irony, all the challenging teams have representatives in town right now taking meetings and looking for accommodations for hundreds of team members. Remember the financial windfall angle?

The fact is, AC34 is a complicated deal, with Barclay remaining “optimistic” about reaching an agreement with the city. There are lots of moving parts, and Joe Public (little old me) is never going to sort the intricacies of compensating the America’s Cup Event Authority for huge dollar outlays—to restore rotting piers—via one leaseback mechanism or another. My city representatives have been on the case for more than a year, working on a deal that comes to something around $111 million. That money comes from the Event Authority (software alchemist Larry Ellison being the enabler in the background) to redevelop needy segments of the Embarcadero that have no other suitor. These are piers that have been available for years, but every other developer who studied them turned and ran. Quoting a source I will leave anonymous, “If development on the Port were so lucrative, I assume the Port would already be fully developed, and we would not be able to host such a spectacular event.”

As a San Francisco taxpayer, I don’t want the city to give away the store. Thank you to those who are looking out for my interests—including striking a deal. Here we have a well-capitalized partner eager to invest according to the lend-lease model that succeeded in restoring the Ferry Building and creating the no-longer-controversial (!) ballpark.

What if you were to ring +1 510 747-4701 and ask for Marie Gilmore, Mayor of Alameda. Ask if the city of Alameda might be willing to host a few America’s Cup boats. What if you were to ring +1 510 412-2070 and ask for Gayle McLaughlin, Mayor of Richmond. Ask her if Kersey’s 2010 renderings of a Cup Village on the Richmond waterfront are still good to go.

With the breeze, the backdrops, the amphitheater, San Francisco remains key to Oracle Racing CEO Russell Coutts’ vision of transforming America’s Cup competition. The America’s Cup is not leaving.

So what’s going to happen?

Mostly likely, the City and the Event Authority will finalize a viable deal, and the Board of Supervisors will approve it 9-2 or 8-3 in their meeting on Tuesday, February 28, Room 250, San Francisco City Hall. Six votes will be enough. Most likely, a means will be found to pull the shades and get an answer to the question, OK Aaron, what do you really want? and the Cup will go forward as-envisioned on the Embarcadero of San Francisco. This is what should happen, and probably will.

I’m betting the effect of “Waterfront Watch” will prove as ephemeral as its existence.

But time is running out. What should have been a one-year construction project (remember jobs?) is now a nine-month project, and this can’t be strung out indefinitely for the sake of one politico who’s trying desperately to attract a constituency to lead.

So, the doomsday scenario:

If the deal fails, then, most likely, the Cup does not go to Richmond, does not go to Alameda, and does not leave San Francisco. There is ample space at Pier 80, foot of Cezar Chavez Street, to host the teams for America’s Cup 34. The Oracle Racing base is already in full gear at Pier 80, and that will be the base site for America’s Cup World Series racing coming to the Bay in either August or September. (Those dates are in flux, depending upon whether or not a second East Coast event is added to the 2012 calendar.) Either way, existing plans for a tent-city America’s Cup Village on the Marina Green and Crissy Field will go forward in 2012 and 2013. But as for the Embarcadero, suddenly the 2013 locus would no longer be within walking distance of Pier 39 and other tourist hotspots. Suddenly, many of the small businesses that have been expecting an upturn will be dimming the lights.

Cancel the order for pedicabs; invest in tacowagons.


You are invited to join me in the newly-forming Committee for Perpetual Stagnation. We will have a small fund-raising arm, but we won’t be hitting your pocketbook hard. Our efforts will be limited to keeping an eye on Piers 30-32 until they complete their transmogrification into a pile of rubble, and then we will post a sign:



Suns New Jerseys