SAN FRANCISCO
09/01/2011 07:27 pm ET Updated Nov 01, 2011

America's Cup Navigates Backlash From SFBCDC

Any plan that costs hundreds of millions of dollars and brings 5 million people into San Francisco is bound to cause a few headaches.

But the battle over America's Cup 2013 has officially become a migraine.

America's Cup — the 160-year-old international yachting race, widely considered the most presigeous in the world — is coming to San Francisco in 2013, thanks to an aggressive campaign by Oracle founder and 2010 America's Cup champion Larry Ellison. While the event is expected to create 8,00 jobs and pump an estimated $1.4 billion into the Bay Area, many city locals and environmentalists are more than a little wary about opening San Francisco's doors to a billionaire playboy race of Olympic-sized proportions.

Last month, the San Francisco Planning Department released a behemoth 1400-page beast of an Environmental Impact Report, giving environmentalist a month to comment.

On Thursday, SFGate reported that the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (SFBCDC) wrote back with a firm letter of complaints. The letter specifically highlighted plans for the Rincon Park waterfront — a public waterfront space that Oracle plans to convert into a superyacht lagoon to host the boats that won't fit in the city's existing marinas. According to the SFBCDC's letter, "Filling this basin with large yachts […] would significantly impact the public's ability to enjoy the bay."

SFBCDC Executive Director Will Travis spoke with The Huffington Post, explaining that, though the commission's letter was firm, the SFBCDC is hardly out to spoil everyone's fun. "The thing to remember is that we voted unanimously to bring America's Cup to the city," he said. "So we really, really want this for our city."

According to Travis, the commission is in full support of the event, but insists that environmental and social impacts not be overlooked in its execution. "It doesn't need be either or," he said. "The biggest word at the commission is 'and': profitable for the city and conscientious of impact." Travis emphasized that the impact isn't just environmental. According to the current plan, large portions of the waterfront will be fenced off for the event for more than 50 days. "We care deeply about America's Cup, but there are a lot of people who don't — they just want to enjoy the waterfront. And there should be a place for them, too."

What's more, as part of the deal with the city, Oracle (Ellison's company that is footing much of the bill) will have permanent development rights to much of the park. "Understandably so, as they are paying for so much of the development," said Travis. "But we have to be careful when we are talking about permanent changes to the waterfront."

Nevertheless, the SFBCDC comments will likely mean the Planning Department will need to get creative — and fast.