Lawsuit filed over key America's Cup environmental report

Negotiations between The City and the America’s Cup yacht race are already in choppy waters, and now there could be a storm on the horizon.

A lawsuit filed against race organizers and The City over recent environmental approvals could slow preparations for the regatta or even doom fast-approaching construction deadlines, according to the America’s Cup Event Authority.

A group called Waterfront Watch — with former Board of Supervisors president and vehement America’s Cup critic Aaron Peskin listed as a petitioner — brought the suit forward Thursday. It alleges general inadequacy of the race’s environmental impact report that was cleared by the Planning Commission, Port Commission and Board of Supervisors under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The legal action comes just days before supervisors are set to consider a separate development agreement that would have The City give up waterfront property and desirable 66-year waterfront leases to race officials if they agree to finance expensive fixes to long-crumbling piers. Current plans have race officials paying $111 million for repairs, requiring repayment by The City and an 11-percent interest rate for spending beyond $55 million.

Peskin declined to go into further detail about the impact report’s problems, given that a detailed brief has not yet been filed in the case. But he said the suit over the environmental aspects of the race could be dropped if America’s Cup officials succumb to concerns brought by various supervisors over the development pact, which he regards as a dismal deal for The City.

“I remain guardedly optimistic that the parties will come together to assign solutions,” Peskin said.

During a six-hour Board of Supervisors committee hearing on the development pact Wednesday, Supervisor John Avalos introduced a series of amendments to make approval of the deal contingent on race officials agreeing to adhere to local hiring standards and giving The City more of a cut in future condo sales on the waterfront property.

The amendments failed when Supervisor Jane Kim — who initially had major concerns about the deal — voted against them, along with Supervisor Carmen Chu.

Steven Barclay, the chief operating officer for the America’s Cup Event Authority, said during the hearing that race officials had done enough to satisfy The City’s financial concerns and weren’t willing to go further.

Barclay said he’ll focus on the lawsuit after a development deal is inked, but he expressed disappointment over the discord and said if race infrastructure construction is delayed as a result, it could be the end of the America’s Cup in San Francisco.

“That would effectively kill the construction project,” Barclay said. “That would materially threaten the event we’re trying to hold.”

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