Organizers of the America’s Cup yacht regatta are near the finish line of San Francisco’s complicated political obstacle course, but there’s still a pending lawsuit — which if not settled could delay plans to build race facilities on the waterfront.
The City’s Port Commission voted Tuesday to settle the suit, which was brought against The City and the Port by a group called Waterfront Watch, for what it saw as inadequacy in the America’s Cup project’s environmental analysis. Just days after the lawsuit was filed, race organizers — led by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison — scrapped a sweeping plan to fix The City’s ailing waterfront piers in exchange for lucrative long-term development rights.
The draft settlement, which now moves to the Board of Supervisors for approval, requires The City to provide $150,000 for the U.S. Geological Survey to do a multi-year bird study and $75,000 for Waterfront Watch attorneys’ fees. In exchange, a consortium of groups including the Sierra Club, the Golden Gate Audubon Society and the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, will not be allowed to further challenge race preparations, including the America’s Cup Village at the northeast waterfront’s Pier 27, which is slated to eventually become The City’s primary cruise ship terminal.
Plaintiff and former Supervisor Aaron Peskin said the tumultuous unraveling of a deal for race organizers to invest more than $100 million in piers in exchange for 66-year rights to develop nearby parcels ended up creating a better deal for race organizers and for The City. The settlement also involves the official elimination of a large waterborne “jumbotron” that was in the original plans for the regatta’s finals, which are coming to San Francisco in the late summer of 2013.
“The parties have worked well in the settlement to improve the event and make it better,” Peskin said.