Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Great Ports Make Great Cities

As I’ve alluded to more than once, the City of San Francisco is not losing time in checking off the boxes when it comes to the infrastructure work that’s required to put on an America’s Cup event in 2013. It’s well recorded by former AC cities (Perth, Auckland, Valencia) that the Cup leaves behind a legacy that continues to be enjoyed - and continues to provide financial benefit - for everyone. The City is proving to be the rock amongst the ever changing tides of Cup chaos (who really knows how many teams will show come Judgment Day?) but then it’s really never been any different. And, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that there’s still two years to go…

At the Port of San Francisco, Jonathan Stern, Asst. Deputy Director, Waterfront Development
, filled SailBlast in on what's happening in his domain. Most of that which he and his team are focusing on right now is related to the entitlement process (the People Plan is the public part of that) and working on drafting the EIR to get the environmental clearance. Stern says there’s a lot of technical analysis that has to be done about the event and understanding better what the event is. He’s also working with the America’s Cup Environmental Coalition - a local stakeholder group which has been following the Cup and generally has a stake in the waterfront, being concerned with waterfront development and other related issues.

Stern says that the Port continues to communicate with tenants so that they know as much as the Port does about plans for the Cup and when things will happen etc. According to Stern, some tenants remain concerned about how they are going to fit into the City or the waterfront in the long term. “We’re doing as much as we can to communicate with those people, let them know what our plans are,” Stern said. “Anyone who is interested in proactively looking for a new space, we’re working with them. It’s going pretty well, I can’t say everyone is perfectly happy to move their businesses because they’ve been there for a long time but I think everyone recognizes it’s kind of an evolution along the waterfront.”

The Port is working with America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) to understand what their plans are vis a vis using the facilities. “We have an obligation to work with them to understand how they’re going to use the airspace, the waterways - we’re working with the FAA and the Coast Guard - most of these administrative things that are happening are things that have to happen to get an event like this organized. It’s not new territory - it’s amazing how much precedence there is for this actually - like maritime events of national significance like Fleet Week - there’s a structure already in place with the “rules” covered and most of the challenges we’re finding fall under those rules. I’ve been very pleased with the way we’ve been able to work through these issues.”

The new cruise ship terminal plans are well underway, with the Port currently finishing up the schematic design; the next phase is design development. For the Port, the cruise ship terminal project is probably the most complicated part related to the America’s Cup development as it’s the only building they’re responsible for constructing for the Cup. The other two big public works projects that are associated with the Cup that require facilities for the event are the Brannan Street Wharf which is a project the Port’s already working on, and Piers 30-32 on which ACEA is require do some structural repair.

Much has to happen on the cruise ship site other than the entitlement process. The new terminal is being built in the footprint of one of the cruise terminals right now - the Pier 27 shed, which is about 220, 000 square feet. “It’s very big - the first thing that has to happen is that shed has to be demolished which is particularly challenging because it’s physically connected to Pier 29 shed which is a historic shed. So, to do the demolition you have to have plans in place for the improvements you’re going to make to Pier 29, that’s complicated. It’s an old building so there are normal concerns about the paint and asbestos etc.,” Stern described.

The demolition of Pier 27 shed is an obligation of ACEA, who then hand over that cleared site to a city team led by the Port and the Dept. Public Works to start construction of the Cruise Terminal. Stern said that should all happen in early 2012. “We then have an obligation to hand it back to ACEA in early 2013. It will be a constructed building, what we call “core and shell” - it won’t yet be a cruise terminal, it won’t have the maritime structure like bumpers, gangways etc. which is good because the initial thing that’s going to happen there is preparation for the America’s Cup.”

But first things first - look forward to a public draft EIR on the street this summer.

* Check out the Port's website - lots of good Cup info that's regularly updated.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Peter Albert Hustles The AC "People Plan"

San Francisco’s South Beach Yacht Club is another of the enviable San Francisco clubs that will have front row seats to AC34 action, located as it is adjacent to Pier 40 and just a few blocks south of where the Teams will be based at Piers 30-32. At the club’s membership meeting last Friday night, David Perry (David Perry and Associates), who is assisting with community relations for the 34th America's Cup on behalf of the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development facilitated an evening on the “People Plan”, with Peter Albert, Manager, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), Urban Planning Initiatives.

While the usual kind of AC chaos continues to whip around, like the latest news that Mascalzone Latino, Challenger of Record, is defecting due to lack of financial wherewithal, one thing that continues to impress me is the integrity and smarts behind those whom the City has put in place to make AC34 happen. Peter Albert is no exception.

Peter is the guy charged with the job of figuring out how to move people around the city during the next few years of Cup events. David Perry has been organizing many opportunities to get Peter and Mike Martin (Manger, Special Projects for America’s Cup at the City) in front of the public to share the People Plan and keep the public regularly informed of what’s happening.

Peter gave SBYC members an update on the People Plan - the directive that will guide how the City will manage the massive influx of people to San Francisco for the months during next year’s World Cup events on the Bay, and specifically, the Louis Vuitton Cup and the America’s Cup events between July and September 2013. While the details of the parking, transit and bike network are preliminary and important to those who live/work near the areas that will be most affected, the Plan is to be applauded more for the way in which it has been quickly and efficiently pulled together by the City and the specific attention that is being given to how the legacy effect will continue to benefit the City long after the Cup.

Peter, who turned 50 in March loves his new job. Working 12 hours plus a day doesn’t bother him although it may do his wife Libby who is a child nutrition expert with the USDA. They have two grown kids and have lived in San Francisco for 27 years.

SailBlast: What makes you qualified for this (huge) job?

Peter: I’m an architect but very interested in city planning. I quickly realized that transportation is what makes a city great. Before this position, I worked in the planning department and the transportation authority, and with BART for 7 years helping the region with transit oriented development. I’ve worked on projects like the shipyard at Hunter’s Point and Treasure Island - big projects that could either be terrible or we could use transportation to mitigate any negative affects with clearing up those areas. My associate Kyri McClellan asked me if I’d like to help me out with the America’s Cup. It’s very different from your typical development project but in a way it’s similar because we’re developing the waterfront. It’s all been happening so fast and I’ve really only been working on this since March but it needs someone who can navigate through the process, who can start an initiative with the community. I feel I can help do that.

SailBlast: How many people do you think will be required to execute the People Plan?

Peter Albert: We’ve got a huge and growing volunteer population who want to help with this. People are so excited about this event. I’m getting calls from people who say, “How can I submit my resume so I can be chosen to volunteer?” ACEA’s already getting volunteers with a variety of skills - sports business, traffic management, docents. This has really hit San Francisco on a particular nerve in a really positive way. We can’t charge those people with law enforcement or security, we need the fire department, police etc., so we don’t have a head count yet because it all has to be coordinated with the number of people that we expect the event will draw. But what we have is a good sense of numbers from Fleet Week, which is more intense but much a much shorter event than the Cup. These events have taught us a lot about what it takes to move people or close a lane on the Embarcadero and steer traffic away so it’s not a totally uneducated guess.

SailBlast: What commercial ventures may be associated with the People Plan?

Peter Albert: Transportation is a little limited from that perspective but I have small limited focus on commercial aspects. If we’re using real time information, and we're giving people smart information about parking, traffic, transit, bike availability - that’s also the kind of information that could be underwritten by people who may want to support it but they also get the opportunity to do public service announcements or advertisements - something like that. We are in the center of technology and it might be that we get vendors who just want to showcase their work and they may consider it pro bono. It could be Cisco, Google - people who just want to help out and not necessarily worry about making money but they just want exposure. I’ve met with a couple of people who market bikes - specialty bikes - and they want to be associated with a particular team so they may offer their bikes gratis just to have people use their bikes. They know it’s going to be a photogenic event and they know there’ll be a lot of media focus. We do want to manage ambush marketing and protect people who want to help and support us financially for the right to market.

SailBlast: Where’s the money coming from to pay for this?

Peter Albert: As is well documented, the City’s fundraising target is $32 million/$12 million a year. The budget for transportation plan might fall under those monies - at the end of the day I’ll know I’ll know how much it costs to run the transit service based on the modeling we can do. We’re still looking at how much will be absorbed by the fund-raising and how much we’ll look to leverage grants. For example, we may be able to borrow vehicles from other cities - light rail vehicles, buses, maintenance - clearly the fund-raising is a piece of it but it is supposed to leverage other fund-raising. If we have long-term programs like bike sharing - we want to bike sharing anyway and we already have a budget set aside for that - so we would use the America’s Cup money to help supplement our budget and expand. It’s cheaper than starting something from scratch.

SailBlast: Do you see mopeds and the like being the transportation of choice during the AC events?

Peter Albert: There’s a limit to what you can do in a dense urban environment that’s motorized - even mopeds - particularly as environmental sustainability is one of our goals I’m getting a lot of questions such as, when you get new ferries are they going to be clean fuel ferries? That technology is still pretty rudimentary so I wouldn’t turn down a boat just because it wasn't 100% zero emission. I like the idea of mopeds and segways - they could both be part of the mix. It could be that someone like Vespa wants to come along and be the official scooter of the America’s Cup. The electric bike is something we’ve also been looking at.

SailBlast: Do you see the cost of public transportation for locals increasing due to AC34?

Peter Albert: I don’t see costs at all affected other than regular cost of living increases. None of these projects run in isolation - we’re building a new Transbay terminal, we’re building a new subway into Chinatown, we’re building a new Bay Bridge, we’re talking high speed rail, BART is extending to San Jose - it’s that goal of efficiency for the People Plan and knowing about these things that are coming on line and just coaxing a little more out of them. The high speed rail plan (between LA and San Francisco) will eventually get us better connections to the City and its transit hubs. I’m interested in whether there’s some way that we can borrow some money from the future high speed rail - it’s just one idea of leveraging bigger projects on the horizon.

SailBlast: What have been the main public concerns?

Peter Albert: Just like tonight, simple concerns about parking and traffic. It’s not like we’re hearing, “What are you doing in my neighborhood and how are you going to change it?” Instead, there’s enthusiasm and smart concern. People seem to grasp that this could be a good thing for San Francisco. They saw the battle, we almost didn’t get the Cup, maybe that was a good thing to have to go through.

SailBlast: What’s your biggest challenge in all this?

Peter Albert: Time, time and time. Not even so much the money.

SailBlast: The people at the City involved in the Cup seem incredibly dedicated to this project. Comment?

Peter Albert: Of all the jobs I’ve had - private sector, architecture, gas station jobs, cattle ranching - I’ve never enjoyed a job as much as I have working for the OEWD. It’s about the way this office was structured, to bring in people who have been in different departments and other bureaucracies but who love the opportunity to work in a very non bureaucratic, a very can-do environment, people who don’t mind working past 7pm because they love working for the City. The chemistry of this group makes it happen - it’s a tight group of people who love working with each other. These are people who when the day is done I want to go have a beer with. At the moment though, that day never gets done!

**Author’s note: To this last point, while chatting to Peter, Ann Weir, wife of SBYC’s vice commodore approached and said to Peter, “You were amazing - I was watching you and the way you were answering questions that I couldn’t even interpret - you fixed them and made it so everyone could understand. That is an amazing skill. I really enjoyed your presentation and it seems like you’re working with brilliant people. If they’re anything like you, well, you’re amazing.”

The credit is all Peter's...

On another note, former ORACLE Racing's USA 76, was due to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge this morning, not sure if it made it given the pouring rain and miserable weather as I write this. USA 76 will become part of the "America's Cup Academy", offering rides to the public on board this former America's Cup monohull. Stay posted for more info.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

John Craig on AC 45 Testing

The two week testing period for the AC 45s is almost over in Auckland, New Zealand. SailBlast caught up with John Craig, PRO, who had nothing but positive things to say about the progress made on the water over the past few days. While the weather has been variable as New Zealand slips into winter months, the breeze has held it's own. Said Craig, "We had a tornado come through yesterday - we got off the water before it got to us so we actually got a bunch of racing in - it was a great time for testing!"

SailBlast: It seems like the biggest bug to have come out of the past week’s testing is simply getting used to the equipment - your comments?

JC: It’s equipment that people aren’t used to. It’s a new way of doing things - communication through text and communication through radio comms. There are no flags or big clocks on the side of the committee boat like we’re used to, so some of the equipment here is very much in testing mode. An example is we originally had the display placed close to the helmsman but he had to look over his shoulder to see what the RC comms were doing for the penalties etc. That wasn’t working so we’ve since moved those forward in the boats so that the teams can have multiple eyes looking at them. That’s been an improvement.

The other thing has been the boundaries, which are virtual, so they’re using that (virtual) instrumentation to figure out where the boundary lays. It’s been pretty tough figuring it out so yesterday we attached kind of a strobe light forward of the boat so that when they were getting closer to the boundary, the strobe light would begin to speed up and the closer they got, the faster and faster it would go. Reviews on that are still out so we’ll see what happens there.

The other piece is that what we’ve essentially created is an arena or a sand-box with this virtual boundary to keep the guys back in the middle of the course. The spectators will line up probably 50 to 75 yards outside of that which will create a corridor which will hopefully give a bit more definition to this virtual boundary for the teams. We’ll run the coach boats, media boats, teams boats and all that will run up and down that corridor. Hopefully that will give a harder definition or line to give the guys to figure out, “Here comes the spectator fleet; the virtual boundary is close by.”

SailBlast: Has this testing helped clarify what it may mean for the spectator fleet in San Francisco?

JC: Yes, it’s definitely put some shoulders around what it’ll look like. We’re experimenting with all different types of courses - we’re looking forward to the next three days as we’re not anywhere close to having anything locked down to what the course will look like. Once that gets firmed up, then we should have a better idea of what the spectator fleet boundaries will look like and then what the virtual boundaries will look like from that.

SailBlast: The 45s stop and start pretty quickly - how much can they handle in the start, and what will the start sequence be?

JC: I was kind of skeptical. In all honesty I thought, “It’s going to be catamarans match racing. It’s not going to be like it has been." But, it’s been amazing. The first day they just fully locked up and got at it and started chasing each other - it’s been really, really good. The quality of what these guys are able to do and how quickly the boats can stop and start lends itself really well for match racing. Right now, it’s a 5-minute sequence, the starboard end is coming in at 3 minutes and the port end comes in at 2:50. They’re fully locking up and it’s very cool to watch.

How will you adapt what you’ve learned this week to the World Series?

We’ll basically take what we've learned here with the feedback from the teams and then refine what that is. Stan (Honey) will do his magic and make the equipment more robust and user friendly - all the things the teams are looking for. Leading up to Cascais we’ll definitely look for race committee opportunities to further test the equipment and to put it through its paces. The umpires will be doing the same, looking to try and make sure that the software is doing what we want it to do.

SailBlast: What will the racecourse in Cascais look like?

JC: We should have a pretty good idea by the end of this testing because we're bound to protocol - we have to have the sailing instructions out 30 days prior to the event in Cascais.

SailBlast: What’s your safety plan on the water?

JC: We’ve got two, jet-driven purpose built medic boats which will each have a medic team on board. Additionally, the teams have really taken it on as a concern. We’re finding that a lot of the team boats are much better equipped to deal with medical emergencies than previously, for example, Team NZ had a medic on their RIB yesterday. Teams are wearing life jackets, helmets in some situations and we see that developing more as the racing heats up. It’s something we have a concern about and trying to address with as many resources as we can put at it.

SailBlast: Will extra wings be easily accessible to teams in the event of crashes?

JC: It’d be pretty tough because the race period is going to be fairly small. We don’t see racing more than three or four hours and for a team to recoup from a blown up wing, get back in and get a new one, then get back out, isn’t going to happen. What we do see is that when they do damage the wings they are able to be back on the water the next day - they’re doing that very effectively. It’s been a pleasant surprise to see how quickly the teams can reapply the film that wraps over the wing - initially it was taking them a long time to apply that stuff but now the teams are getting pretty good at it!

SailBlast: If a 72 flips on the Bay mid-race, will it be a case of race over?

JC: In a match race or a fleet race, if a boat flips, they’re going to need a tow boat to right that so they’ll be receiving outside assistance so that’ll be their race for them. We have a feeling that if the crash is slow that they may be able to right the boat with no damage to the wing. If the crash is violent, or if its wavy, it seems that the waves on the wing with powerboat wash etc., sometimes cause damage.

SailBlast: You’ve been on board for a while now - how’s it feeling to be involved in something so revolutionary?

JC: (LOL) - it’s been very cool. It’s been really busy and we’ve been learning tons as the stuff unfolds. Because it’s so new and experimental, things are changing daily. Everybody’s been really good. The teams are working together well as a group. We’re all in the same base and so we’re all sharing the same stuff. Everybody’s tripping over everybody but it’s been good that way. The guys from ACRM have got really good skills with the wings etc., and they’re chipping in wherever they can, there’s a lot of back and forth between the teams so right now it’s very family, cooperation, “let’s go out and figure this out together”, which I think is unusual for this kind of event. I am sure as we get further down that the camps will become a little tighter.

Photos: Gilles Martin-Raget