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America's Cup: Mayor Lee Still Insists It Will Benefit S.F. 

Wednesday, Sep 5 2012

The recently concluded America's Cup World Series races were a good time: big boats, big crowds, great weather, and lots of dogs. Even Aaron Peskin showed up and enjoyed himself.

What's less entertaining is that the public is still being doused with false statements by its elected leaders — not nearly as fun as the champagne dousing members of victorious Team Oracle USA gave one another.

Mayor Ed Lee seems to reserve his most ingratiating grin for matters pertaining to the America's Cup. It'd be less bothersome if he could knock it off when repeating — as he did on television during the races — that the Cup will create around 8,000 jobs.

This is not so. City officials have known this for years, and SF Weekly has reported on it, repeatedly. That's because the cited economic impact reports did not actually estimate how many jobs would be created, but how much work would be generated. Much of that work will be done by existing employees, toiling that much harder. "It's important to note," read a report from the city's Budget Analyst in 2010, that the so-called jobs "would not result in the hiring of 8,160 workers." If it's important to note it, perhaps it's important to stop saying the opposite.

At a press conference earlier this year, Lee opined, "We expect 500,000 people on a daily basis to come in here." That would be 12.5 times the crowd that showed up on the last day of the recent races, on par with the Pride Parade or Fleet Week.

The latest Budget Analyst's report estimates a humbler 3.6 million attending over 55 race days. Those crowds would average 65,500 — still 160 percent the recent Sunday racing crowd — every day.

The cost of putting on this event isn't negligible, even though the city no longer stands to give away vast swaths of the waterfront. Numbers bandied about in March indicate the port stands to take a $21.8 million hit and the city will pay out $40.2 million. The independent America's Cup Organizing Committee, meanwhile, will "endeavor" to raise $32 million.

Some of the city costs can be scaled down if attendance flags (but, then, the $1 billion Lee touts partially as a result of tourism will flag, too). And some of the port costs are for projects that were ostensibly desired regardless of the race. But what has never been adequately explained is the mayor's contention that the masses — largely indifferent to sailing — would flock to an event merely because the boats are bigger and faster, and the sailing set says it's important.

If they did, they'd certainly have fun. It will be a good time. And, for attendees, it'll be free. Sort of.

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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