San Francisco Appears to Be Only America's Cup Bidder
[Source: The Bay Citizen] Officials have failed to identify any competitors to host sailing event.
San Francisco officials have been unable to identify any other cities or ports that are competing to host the next America’s Cup, despite an expensive and high-profile campaign to attract the sailing regatta to the Bay Area.
“We can’t find any other bidders,” said San Francisco Budget Analyst Harvey Rose, whose office plans to release a report Monday analyzing the city’s proposed bid to host the next race. “That doesn’t mean that there isn’t one.”
An absence of other potential hosts suggests that San Francisco is a near certainty to host the next Cup, which officials say could attract up to 500,000 people a day to the city’s shorelines. But it also raises questions about an effort to secure the event by trading away valuable public assets, including prime waterfront development rights.
City officials have maintained that the concessions were necessary to beat back global competition, including bids from Valencia, Spain, and an unidentified port in Italy. The competition with other high-profile bidders has been the subject of media reports for weeks.
Larry Ellison’s BMW Oracle racing team won this year’s America’s Cup, giving it the right to select the next host city. The team's home is San Francisco’s Golden Gate Yacht Club.
During negotiations, Ellison’s team said that cities in Italy and Spain had offered €340 million — roughly $465 million — to host the next event, lead San Francisco negotiator Mark Buell said.
The bidding city in Spain was identified as Valencia, which hosted the last two events, but Valencia sports official Juan Pardo told The Bay Citizen that the city never made any such offer.
“It's not true that Valencia has made any offer to host [the] America's Cup,” Pardo said in an e-mail. “The situation is not the same [as] the last two editions because we understand that Oracle is a team that is hosted at San Francisco and, in the history, the winner should compete the next edition at home.”
Valencia has been “open” to listening to the BMW Oracle team’s proposals, Pardo said, “but we have never made any economic offer.”
Ellison’s team has never identified the Italian city that is supposedly bidding to host the cup.
Rose said the budget office has been unable to identify the Italian bidder. He described the reluctance of Ellison's team to identify the competing Italian port as “very curious.”
The Bay Citizen was also unable to identify an Italian port that has bid to host the event.
If San Francisco is selected as the host, the event will be held in San Francisco Bay over approximately 40 days of racing staggered from 2011 to 2013.
Representatives of Ellison's team declined to be interviewed, saying they have chosen not to comment while bids are being prepared.
A proposed San Francisco host city agreement released earlier this week shows that the team would be granted long-term development rights along the waterfront in exchange for a commitment to hold the event on the bay and spend $150 million upgrading deteriorating piers and associated infrastructure.
Under the proposed agreement, Ellison’s team would be provided with a 66-year lease of San Francisco’s conjoined piers 30 and 32, which are just south of the Bay Bridge and are currently used for parking. The plan requires the approval of the Board of Supervisors.
Seawall Lot 330, which is a swath of land used for parking on the other side of the Embarcadero, would be leased to the team for free for at least 75 years.
Pier 50, which juts out at the end of Mission Rock Street in the South Beach neighborhood, would be leased to Ellison’s team for at least 66 years.
“The parties do not yet have any particular plans for development of any of Piers 30-32, Pier 50 and Seawall Lot 330,” the agreement states.
The City would also temporarily evict tenants from scores of its waterfront facilities to make room for race organizers.
The event would depend upon a massive sponsorship drive, with $270 million needed, according to the agreement. The race could be scaled back if that sum is not raised.
The deal would transfer public assets to a billionaire, but it would also provide an opportunity to quickly develop waterfront land that has fallen into disrepair because of a lack of public funds.
Kyri McClellan, who is leading efforts in Mayor Gavin Newsom’s economic development office to cement a deal with Ellison’s team, said it doesn’t matter whether the Italian and Spanish bids were real or not.
“I never felt they were phantom and the reality is that, irrespective of them, we had to put San Francisco’s best foot forward," McClellan said. “It’s never been about us competing against other offers, it’s been about us putting our best offer on the table.”
Outgoing Supervisor Chris Daly, whose district includes the affected stretch of waterfront, said Newsom’s administration is trying to rush approval of the agreement on the incorrect assumption that other cities are bidding against the city.
"The Newsom administration has the full court press on the Board of Supervisors to approve a bid," Daly said. “The reason we have to do it is because of the other bids, which don’t exist."
Daly is one of two board members to oppose the agreement. He says it will impact poor residents in his district to benefit the wealthy.
Daly says approval of the agreement by the Board of Supervisors would violate California’s Environmental Quality Act unless a detailed environmental impact report is prepared beforehand.
The proposed agreement is planned to be presented to Port of San Francisco commissioners on Nov. 30, according to McClellan. It's expected to be heard by the Board of Supervisors' Budget and Finance Committee on Dec. 1, with the first full board vote scheduled for Dec. 7, she said. Those hearing dates could change.
The mayor could sign the agreeement after the board has voted to approve it at two consecutive weekly meetings.
Ellison's team has said it plans to select a host city by Dec. 31.