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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

America's Cup: Rancor Over Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Easier than Real Analysis

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 2:15 PM

click to enlarge Tough luck, Bob. But there's still work on Piers 27, 29, and 80.
  • Tough luck, Bob. But there's still work on Piers 27, 29, and 80.

With the pricey former America's Cup deal now residing in the vicinity of Davy Jones' Locker, it's high time for the types of folks who comment frequently on the SFGate webpage to decry San Francisco blowing a "golden opportunity" for some "economic revitalization."

Supervisor Mark Farrell -- also, interestingly, a member of the America's Cup Organizing Committee -- is in many ways the corporeal embodiment of an SFGate commenter. Other than, you know, he actually lives in this city and was born and raised here.

That detail aside, Farrell certainly hit the familiar talking points when he chided his colleagues yesterday for not rapidly acquiescing to the terms dictated by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, leading the yachting billionaire to pull the plug on a massive waterfront deal that could have cost San Francisco $136 million -- and kept the city reimbursing Ellison's America's Cup Event Authority into the 22nd century.

Farrell's view is one way of seeing things -- just like believing the Earth was created 6,000 years ago and fossils embedded within its crust are God's way of testing our faith is one way of seeing things. There are other ways. Farrell's view costs San Francisco an awful lot of money, however -- and would have us spend an awful lot of money to fix up things we didn't really want to fix up. And then we'd give them away.

But first, let's talk about jobs, jobs, jobs.

Being as a major construction element was removed from the America's Cup deal, it follows that fewer construction workers will be getting jobs. During his oration yesterday, Farrell lamented the dissolution of "hundreds and hundreds of building trade jobs."

That is unfortunate. But it warrants mentioning that the America's Cup wasn't exactly the WPA of creating construction jobs. Per the Environmental Impact Report for the Cup/Cruise Ship Terminal, the project would lead to an estimated 600 construction jobs. That's a few -- but it would "only represent a 0.4 percent reduction in the total unemployed population of the five-county region."

What's more, since work continues at Piers 27, 29, and 80, many of those jobs haven't been lost at all. Finally, it's nice to put industrious people to work -- but it isn't necessarily an end worthy of a $136 million investment that would call for up to 85 years of rent-free livin' for the Event Authority on the waterfront. The cost per job here for the city is up over $200,000 -- three to four times the rate an on-the-ball construction manager would shoot for.

click to enlarge Supervisor Mark Farrell
  • Supervisor Mark Farrell
Fixing up Piers 30-32 has, in fact, never been all that high on the port's to-do list -- which is why it would have been somewhat odd for the city to reimburse Ellison's people some $91.5 million to rehab it, having them set up shop there, rent-free, until Farrell's kids are septuagenarians.

That kind of money, however, could be put to use fixing up waterfront properties that would then become revenue-generators for the port. Rather than bartering off Seawall Lot 330 -- as, SF Weekly is told, is a matter that is very much potentially still on the table -- why not simply auction it off to the highest bidder? With the money generated, you could do a lot of work on Piers 26 and 28 (Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!), or simply pay off the Event Authority for other construction work (money for Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!).

By Friday, or perhaps next week, terms of the forthcoming, stripped-down America's Cup deal should be made public -- in writing. Until that time, waiting to see what comes next is a full-time job, job, job of its own.

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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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