San Francisco Tries New Tack in Preparations for America’s Cup


By Ian Sherr

San Francisco hoped hosting the 34th America’s Cup next year would revitalize parts of its aging waterfront. Now it will have to settle for just keeping things afloat.

The regatta had looked like a prime opportunity for the city to fix up some of its piers—particularly Piers 30 and 32, which sit between the Bay Bridge and AT&T Park and are now being used in a limited manner. An initial estimate by the event organizers for making the repairs totaled about $55 million, which was to be borne by the America’s Cup and eventually earned back by renting out the renovated area.

But further evaluations concluded that more work needed to be done, and the piers’ estimated repair costs ballooned to roughly $90 million. That spurred wrangling between the city and America’s Cup as it became clear the Cup wouldn’t easily recoup the money it would spend, and the deal fell apart.

Instead, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in March approved a plan for the city to spend about $10 million to make more modest upgrades that will prevent the piers from being closed and make them usable for the America’s Cup in September 2013.

The events that led to the scaled-back project highlight the rough seas of mixing city redevelopment with the needs of a world-class sporting event.

“This got too complicated, I think,” says Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.


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(Published April 25, 2012, in The Wall Street Journal.)