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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

America's Cup: "Decrepit" Piers Could Be Resurrected After All

Posted By on Wed, Mar 14, 2012 at 1:30 PM

click to enlarge Is this new proposition a contender?
  • Is this new proposition a contender?

The classic film On the Waterfront involved plenty of fighting -- with both longshoreman's hooks and bare fists. The battles on San Francisco's own waterfront are far rougher. But, upon reflection, they resemble high-stakes -- and very grown-up -- versions of the Marshmallow Test.

Would San Francisco rather have yachting billionaire Larry Ellison pour $91.5 million into crumbling Piers 30-32 and then recoup his investment by keeping them, rent-free, for 66 or more years? Or would the city be better off putting $7 million or $8 million of its own money into partially revamping the piers -- and then retaining them as a revenue generator?

Well, the former is off the table. But Port of San Francisco staff at yesterday's Port Commission meeting floated the proposition to resurrect Piers 30-32 -- and at what passes for bargain basement prices in this game.

As much as those who were pushing the expensive America's Cup deal liked to point out that Piers 30-32 are decrepit and only getting more decrepit -- they still make the city money. Though "yellow-tagged" -- so you can't put heavy trucks on them or host the X-Games anymore -- parking money is still parking money. Per the port, the anticipated future revenue stream for the piers is $1,004,462 a year (you can see the numbers here on page 27 of this staff memo).

If the Port borrows money to sink some $8 million into partially revamping Piers 30-32, not only will it still be able to house the America's Cup teams on the spot (keeping a lively, foot-traffic friendly corridor between the area and the future America's Cup Village on Pier 27) -- it will extend the now not-decrepit piers' lifetime for another 30-odd years.

The site could continue serving as a parking lot, could berth surplus cruise ships -- or maybe more. "There could be interim uses, but it could, potentially, yield development that would benefit the area and the city," notes Port CFO Elaine Forbes.

This deal remains tentative -- and the fate of valuable Seawall Lot 330 has not yet been determined. Additionally, one could question why the Port alone appears to be on the hook to fund a fix that the America's Cup will benefit from. But, for those who questioned the prior America's Cup deal, this is looking better than the expensive, convoluted proposition the city seemed poised to commit to prior to Team Ellison backing out in the waning moments.

"Lo and behold, it turns out for a relatively small investment we can not only have the America's Cup at Piers 30-32, but the city can recoup its investment in a reasonable amount of time," says former Supervisor Aaron Peskin, a critic -- and litigant against -- the prior America's Cup plan. "This shows the insanity of what they were trying to foist upon the Port and people of San Francisco up until two weeks ago. It's more proof that we dodged a financial bullet."

Perhaps this deal can be a contender. When it comes to San Francisco's waterfront dealings, Peskin sounds like he's ready to quote from On the Waterfront: "I'm glad what I done to you, ya hear that? I'm glad what I done!"

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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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