Smooth Sailing

The America’s Cup is coming to San Francisco! There will be preliminary races in the summer and fall of 2012, and the final races in the summer and fall of 2013.

A financial report by the City’s budget analyst was presented to the Board of Supervisors in November 2010. It estimated that the event would produce $22 million in financial benefits to the City and incur $64.1 million in extra costs – for a net financial loss to the City of $42.1 million. The report also estimated that by granting long-term development rights at zero rent on certain port properties, the City would lose another $86.2 million over 75 years. Unless you are an avid sailor, you may be asking why we would want to do this. The answer is that it is estimated that the America’s Cup will generate $1.2 billion in new spending.

On Dec. 14, 2010, the Board of Supervisors approved the plan as submitted by the mayor. However, before Mayor Newsom set out for Sacramento, changes were made to the deal and the budget analyst has said that the deal signed by the mayor on Dec. 31 contained a series of changes that could have a material impact on revenues and costs. The deputy city attorney has stated that the wording of the supervisors’ version of the deal prohibited the mayor from negotiating to increase the City’s costs, but did not prohibit him from agreeing to lower profits. I guess that explains why we shouldn’t have lawyers in charge of our budgets.

So what does this all have to do with the Marina? Much of the activity will occur at piers along the Embarcadero, north and south of the Ferry Building. However, it is planned to use the Marina Green for:

• an America’s Cup operations center

• a hospitality area for corporate and private functions

• an area for public and corporate entertainment

• the sale of food and beverages

• retail, interactive displays, information booths, branding, and advertising

• bleachers for public viewing

• ancillary on-and off-street parking

The event organizers estimate the Marina Green will have up to:

• 2,000 people in the hospitality area

• 10,000 in public bleachers

• 100,000 workers/visitors on a single race day during the final event

The last census gave the total population of the 94123 zip code as under 23,000 people. The above estimates could increase the population of the area by fourfold for some days of the races. That increase will have a dramatic effect on the ability of the local residents to go on about their daily lives. Although the America’s Cup races may bring some advantages to San Francisco, the members of our community still have to be able to go on with their normal lives. People have to be able to go to work, take their children to school, and shop for necessities.

The Marina Green is approximately seven acres in size, or about 305,000 square feet. If it were to be occupied by the proposed 100,000 visitors, each person would have about 3 square feet of space. The Marina Community Association suggests that a much more detailed analysis is needed to justify the ability of the Marina Green to accommodate 100,000 people. We also suggest that it would be detrimental to the neighborhood to attempt to build vertical structures to accommodate more people and block the neighbors’ views of the bay. Those structures would also be in violation of several City planning codes.

The northern boundary of the Marina Green on which these 100,000 people will be standing is formed by the historic Fair’s Seawall. A 1991 study performed after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake concluded that a 7.9 earthquake (the magnitude of the 1906 earthquake) could move the Fair’s Seawall four to eight feet toward the Bay and the Marina Green would experience a settlement of up to one foot. The study concluded that if the seawall moved more than seven feet, it would probably be breached. With 100,000 people on the Marina Green, that might create a small problem.

In summary, the Marina Community Association believes the City’s plans must take into account the following:

• What is the maximum number of people that can safely be accommodated on the Marina Green?

• Will any structures erected on the Marina Green block the views of the local residents?

• How will those people be transported to and from the Marina Green?

• Will adequate use be made of water transportation to Fort Mason, the Marina Yacht Harbor and Crissy Field?

• Water transportation could minimize the traffic impact on neighborhood streets.

• How will the transportation plan comply with the San Francisco Police Code, which prohibits the use of private buses with more than eight passengers in the Marina?

• What will the economic impact be on the neighborhood?

• Will any of the local businesses benefit, or will outside vendors take business away?

• What are the plans for parking?

• What are the plans for additional street cleaning and garbage collection?

• Will emergency vehicles be able to operate?

• What will be done to reinforce the Fair’s Seawall?

• The city attorney should evaluate the liability of placing 100,000 visitors in an area known by the City to be especially vulnerable to earthquake damage.

• How will these plans interact with the Doyle Drive construction?


Alan Silverman is a Marina Community Association board member. The MCA is dedicated to protecting and improving the distinctive residential quality of the Marina District. You are eligible to join if you are over 18 and a resident or owner of a dwelling within the Marina. Visit for more information.