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.