My gut response to the America’s Cup was always like this: I love a party. I love a big party, and a party that brings lots of visitors and money into San Francisco is a great thing. But you have to remember that at some point the party will be over, and somebody’s got to clean up the mess and pay for the damage.
And right now, in San Francisco, when the party’s over, the big winner will be a multibillionaire named Larry Ellison, and the rest of us will be paying for it.
That said, the party’s going to happen. There may be a little bluster about the Environmental Impact Report, but the 34th America’s Cup race will take place in the waters of the San Francisco Bay, and a whole lot of people will be coming into town to see it.
So we better be ready, and I’m not sure we are.
I read the draft EIR section dealing with transportation and traffic, and it’s kind of crazy. The planners are projecting about 25,000 new vehicle trips a day — and that’s just into San Francisco. Sausalito and the East Bay cities will have their own issues. There are pictures of projected parking areas along the waterfront, including Crissy Field. There are plans to close the Embarcadero, but only the northbound lanes.
Additional Muni service will be able to handle about 1,200 riders a day. That’s way less than five percent of the number of people who are projected to be getting around by car.
So maybe San Francisco should try something radical that would last way beyond the sailing event. Why don’t we see what it would look like if we banned cars from the entire waterfront, closed all the streets and created a real transit-first city — at a time when the whole world will be watching?
No cars at all. Buses for seniors and people with disabilities. Everyone else walks, bikes, or takes a pedicab (that’s a whole lot of jobs, by the way, particularly for young people who can pedal). Could one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the world pull that off? It’s worth a try.