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America's Cup Moves Forward: Supervisors Unanimously Approve Environmental Impact Report

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The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the America's Cup environmental impact report Tuesday, effectively bringing the international sailing race one step closer to the Bay this summer.

A handful of local community organizations filed an appeal to block the approval of the report late last year, claiming it drastically underestimated the implications the event would have on the city's environmental quality. Among heir concerns were reduced air quality from ship emissions and the impact a giant floating jumbotron, slated to be erected in the middle of the Aquatic Park, would have on the surrounding habitat.

The report “is not procedurally or substantively adequate, accurate or objective,” attorney Keith Wagner said on behalf of the groups, which include the Sierra Club, the Telegraph Hill Dwellers and the Golden Gate Audubon Society.

But race organizers claim many of the coalitions' concerns have been addressed. Mary Murphy, an attorney representing the America's Cup Event Authority, told the SF Appeal that the plan to place the jumbotron inside the water has been axed in favor of exploring land-based solutions. "We have heard the concerns of the community," she said.

Floating television screens aside, activists continue to voice a bevy of concerns about how the race will affect the city. The Bay Citizen reported last week that environmentalists have raised their eyebrows at recently-revised air pollution estimates. Authorities originally predicted the number of spectator boats in the bay during the event would reach the thousands; new figures hover between 330 and 800.

Mayor Ed Lee remains a champion of the America's Cup project, touting its potential to create jobs and boost San Francisco's tourism economy. “I applaud the Board of Supervisors for unanimously moving the environmental impact report for the 34th America’s Cup events and our new James R. Herman Cruise Terminal forward," he said in a statement following Tuesday's vote. "We can now begin the work of implementing these projects so that San Francisco can realize thousands of new jobs and more than a billion dollars in economic impact."

Other local leaders aren't shy in remaining hesitant, however. Former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin cautioned that the affair has major boondoggle potential should organizers fail to address specific concerns. "If they don't make some serious changes, Larry Ellison and the America's Cup is going to take San Francisco to the cleaners," he told SFGate.

The race is slated to begin with a series of events this coming summer and culminate in the finals during 2013.

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Filed by Carly Schwartz