monkey wrench

monkey wrench

From our cup-crazy friend, who calls himself "SF Treat"

The future of AC34 coming to San Francisco has been in the news in both the Chron and the Examiner lately, and we all knew that the planning stage was going to be like this. Anyone that has dealt with the typical bureaucracy found in our country, and especially in California, knows the bullshittery that can decelerate or even stop something cool from happening. As feared, several of the usual enviro monkey-wrenchers have stepped up to give AC34 in San Francisco a hard time. San Francisco public radio station KQED held a forum on the prospects of holding the AC 34 in SF, and several influential bay area sailors, a representative from the Mayors office, and an advocate from the Sierra Club showed up to let their views be known to the public. You can listen to the entire show online. 

The main issue at this point is that SF is seeking an exemption for state environmental reviews in order to basically rebuild a couple of crumbling, red-tagged piers. An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was completed for Piers 31/32 not that long ago for use as a cruise ship terminal/ office and retail space, and it is believed that the AC 34 will be even less of an impact.  The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that state and local governments analyze and disclose any potential environmental impacts of certain projects to the public, and due to an incident with another CEQA exemption that happened in Los Angeles, the Sierra Club is wary and has it’s fists up ready to fight.

I would argue that, we as sailors are generally more eco-conscious than those in the general populous. We spend hours out in the open air enjoying our favorite body of water, and I can’t name one sailor that I know that condones polluting the area that they love. In fact most of the sailors that I know will sail out of their way to pluck a wayward plastic bag from the sea, for example. It seems ironic that in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world like San Francisco, household chemicals, industrial chemicals, plastic debris, the dust from millions of brakes and billions of drips of oil from cars probably take exponentially more of a daily toll on The Bay environment than the rebuilding of a couple of decrepit piers will. Of course the plans should be reviewed, but it sure does seem that there’s instant opposition from the usual suspects, which is unfortunate.     

And before the AP even goes down, Michael Endicott an advocate for the Sierra Club and self proclaimed “Bay Sailor” let’s the truth fly, “…already my local chapter has voted against the project based on what they first heard.” During the entire discussion, Mr. Endicott used language that creates an “us vs. them” scenario, with a tone of desiring to create hardship for any forward movement…just because they can. From my perspective, having paid into the coffers of the Sierra Club in the past, this is truly maddening and my feelings are echoed by Richard, a caller to the KQED show from San Mateo, “…this should be a one-time exception…This is just basic power-politics, that’s what it comes down to. They want to be invited to the dance…let’s just let this one event go through.” Let’s hope that their dance doesn’t step on the toes and trip the AC34, before it even starts.  

Not like there aren’t other hurdles to clear as the planning for the AC34 moves forward even without the Sierra Club butting in. As stated by Kyri McClellan, America’s Cup project manager at the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, a representative of Mayor Newsom’s office, “there are vast amounts of permitting, and I’m not going to go through all of the acronyms…There’s a lot of process ahead of us.”  McClellan also pointed out during the interview that even without a CEQA review, there will be plenty of other pathways for assessment and public input, and it’s not like a CEQA exemption will allow a developer to run roughshod over the community as eluded by Endicott. So, lots of bureaucratic wrangling, but the optimistic stance of the Mayor’s office really does seem sincere and in complete support of the AC34-in-SF movement. Definitely a great first step!

And as self proclaimed “Bay Sailor” Endicott shows his nautical knowledge with statements like this, “…some of the stuff that you use when you’re painting and shredding, shaving the boats can actually be pollutants…” I think it’s our duty as sailors to educate the CA chapter of the Sierra Club about nautical issues with a good ‘ol fashioned SA field trip, so here’s whole list of their contacts.  As long as you’re in the mood for a field trip, might as well contact Mayor Newsom and tell him that you’re in support of AC 34 in SF, and heck, it probably wouldn’t hurt to talk to the Governator too to get him on board.

To end on the good, Peter Stoneberg, Rear Commodore of the StFYC, nailed it, “…the natural amphitheater has potential to have people line the City Front, and the bridge and the Marin Headlands to see the racing itself.”  Thousands of tourists staying in The City, thousands of new jobs, SF on the front of the world sailing stage, minimal environmental impact, a rejuvenated pier and waterfront, what’s not to like? McClellan followed through, “We’re going to showcase the Presidio by lining Crissy Field with spectators for the 34th America’s Cup on the San Francisco Bay…Mayor Newsom has a bold vision for showcasing The Bay to the entire world”

Break out the beer and popcorn, this is going to get good. It will even be better if the Sierra Club, Planning and Conservation League other enviro-orgs, vying for their name in print, lay off the hard lining on this one.

As of today, the City claims to be moving to another process to permit the Cup to come to town, and that they will help build consensus to make it all happen.  But one Sierra Club lawsuit could bring everything to a screeching halt, and the Cup to a far off land.  Sardinia?  Maybe not. But somewhere out there…