Online petition asks Larry Ellison to pay for SF's America's Cup costs 

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An online petition is asking billionaire Larry Ellison to pay for all The City’s costs of hosting the America’s Cup race this fall.

New figures emerged last week that show The City’s costs for hosting the event lower than in previous estimates. But underperforming fundraising also makes it possible that hoped-for tax revenue from the regatta could be used to offset expenses instead of flowing into San Francisco’s coffers.

A petition was posted on the website Causes asking Ellison to help cover the event costs. “We are calling on you, Larry Ellison, to pay the difference in the fundraising shortcomings,” the petition reads. As of Friday afternoon, almost 1,000 people had signed the petition.

The billionaire Ellison owns Oracle Team USA, which won the cup in 2010. Under the regatta’s rules, the reigning champion gets to decide where the next event will be held. After some go-round, the America’s Cup Event Authority selected San Francisco Bay.

In pitching the event, organizers cited a study that indicated the race could garner as much as $1.4 billion in economic benefits to The City. Nearly $24 million was projected to flow to The City in taxes.

Yet due to a scaling back of the event, including a reduction in event-related waterfront development and a reduction of participating sailing teams to just four, The City’s projected economic benefits have been reduced to about $900 million. Expected tax income is now just about $13 million, and with event fundraising falling short, nearly all of that income may be needed to cover The City’s costs.

That does not sit well with some local lawmakers, including Supervisor John Avalos, who held a Board of Supervisors budget committee hearing last week during which he questioned those in charge of the fundraising.

“That was not what the original intent was,” Avalos said of using the tax money to cover The City’s costs.

Supervisor Mark Farrell responded that officials may have to agree to disagree about how to cover the costs of the race. He said that using the tax money to bring the race here will help spur economic benefits to businesses in The City.

Mayor Ed Lee, who is actively fundraising along with politicians such as Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, said Tuesday the money has been a big issue for him.

“I do know that I have been working on, and my focus has been, raising the money from the private sector to cover our costs,” Lee said Tuesday.

mbillings@sfexaminer.com

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Mike Billings

Mike Billings

Bio:
Mike Billings is the editor in chief of The S.F. Examiner.
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