America’s Cup fate rests with green report

AP file photoSeaTurtles.org might consider legal action if an America’s Cup environmental report indicates a negative impact.

With less than two years to go before tens of thousands of visitors flood The City’s waterfront for a glimpse at the America’s Cup yacht race, organizers have a lot to get done in just a short time. The next month will be pivotal.

The event’s final environmental impact report will be published on Thursday and go to the Planning Commission on Dec. 15. Organizers will be waiting nervously to see if opponents file a lawsuit over the report, which could delay the event’s development projects, said spokeswoman Jane E. Sullivan of The City’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

Dozens of permit applications and special requests needed for the event and its related development projects can’t move forward until the Planning Commission certifies that environmental review. The Board of Supervisors and related city agencies also must weigh in, Sullivan said.

“Nothing can happen without a certified EIR,” Sullivan said. “That is it for right now. The EIR has to be certified for this to continue.”

Assuming the commission certifies that report, community members may appeal any such decision to the Board of Supervisors. If that body denies the appeal, opponents can take the issue to state court, which could take a while to resolve.

Lawsuits over environmental review findings can take months or even years to resolve, according to Joy Navarrete, the city planner assigned to the America’s Cup EIR.

Judges typically decide on a case-by-case basis which parts of a project — if any — can proceed while the court investigates complaints against its environmental review, Navarrete said.

Teri Shore, program director for SeaTurtles.org, could not say yet whether her organization, which has concerns about the event’s environmental impact, would seek legal action if they don’t like what they read. “It depends on what’s in that EIR,” Shore said. “It’s kind of a, ‘How bad is it?’”

Shore’s environmental group, previously known as Turtle Island Restoration Network, is concerned about pollution from cruise ships that will run on fuel while docked, rather than hooking up to The City’s energy supply.

“We’ll just have to wait and see — do we throw in the towel or press through other options?” Shore said. Even if the report does not meet the group’s expectations, Shore said she would prefer to resolve the problem without costly legal action.

Sailing ahead

Countdown to America’s Cup:

Dec. 31, 2010: San Francisco confirmed as location for 34th America’s Cup in 2013
July 11, 2011: Draft EIR for America’s Cup released
Dec. 1, 2011: Final EIR expected to be released
Dec. 15, 2011: Planning Commission expected to consider EIR for certification
Sept. 7-21, 2013: Tentative dates for 34th America’s Cup

sgantz@sfexaminer.com

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