America’s Cup price tag leads supes to hesitate

Until now, the concept of San Francisco hosting the America’s Cup sailing race has enjoyed widespread support among The City’s supervisors.

But after a budget analyst’s report indicated that San Francisco could lose money to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, some supervisors say they’ll be taking a harder look at the project before deciding whether to stay onboard or jump ship.

The America’s Cup was won by the team of billionaire Larry Ellison, on behalf of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Yacht Club, in February. Ellison’s team now has the privilege of deciding where the next race will take place and has stated the two sites it is currently deciding between include San Francisco Bay and a city they’ve refused to disclose in Italy.

In early October, the Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 for a non-binding resolution in support of a host city bid. But now they are considering a legally binding bid to be host city, which includes turning over some of The City’s waterfront property and promising future tax dollars, in exchange for an investment into the waterfront that is financially strapped and the draw of an international competition to the Bay Area.

Budget Analyst Harvey Rose last week revealed his analysis of the potential cost of a host city bid: While he said it would likely be profitable for the local economy — to the tune of more than $1 billion Bay Area-wide — The City’s coffers would likely lose money. The report estimated that the America’s Cup would bring in about $22 million in taxes, but would cost about $64 million — about $42 million loss in the short term, with possibly more losses over the next decades due to foregone taxes and lease revenue.

Those figures were not surprising to Board of Supervisors President David Chiu and has not shaken his support of the project, according to his aide Judson True. He said the costs about paralleled “back of the envelope” calculations that the Mayor’s Office had already done, but noted the overall economy could benefit so much it would be worth it.

But Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who has been very supportive of the project until now, said the Mayor’s Office will have to prove to him and his colleagues on the board that the America’s Cup won’t come at the expense of other priorities.
“We cannot compromise our ability to tackle everything from potholes to poverty,” he said. “The onus is on the America’s Cup organizers and the Mayor’s Office to answer those questions.”

Supervisor David Campos, who has also supported the plan in the past, said he was still reading the 50-page report and had not made a judgment yet on whether he supports the host city plan. However he said he’s not unconditionally giving his support for the project.

“I’m supportive of the concept but it has to be the right deal for The City,” he said.

kworth@sfexaminer.com

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