City clerk gives seal of disapproval

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Just a mouse click away from The City’s official Web site, T-shirts, coffee cups, canvas bags and other products advertising Mayor Gavin Newsom’s programs are being sold on a site that illegally displays the city seal, the city clerk told the mayor late Tuesday.

On The City’s official Web site — www.sfgov.org — a link can take a user to another Web site registered to the address of City Hall celebrating Newsom’s Sunday street closure events. There, a link takes users to Zazzle.com — a Web site allowing anyone to sell customized goods. Products are sold there that advertise Newsom’s Embarcadero street closure along with the Shape Up San Francisco initiative. The site and some products bear the city seal.

Use of the city seal for commercial purposes requires approval from the Board of Supervisors, which was not given.

The city clerk on Tuesday sent a memo to Newsom alerting him of the unauthorized use of the city seal. “Your prompt attention to this matter would be appreciated,” the memo said.

After The Examiner made inquires about the use of the city seal, the link to Zazzle was removed Tuesday evening.

“It is a secular, sacred symbol that has great value and you can’t go handing it out to outfits just because maybe they throw a few bucks into some pot where the mayor wants money to do something,” Supervisor Jake McGoldrick said.

Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard said, “The mayor does not support or condone unauthorized use of the city seal.” Ballard could not say who linked the Web sites or who set up the site on Zazzle to sell the products. “We are going to find out who did this and ask them to apply for the proper permission from the city clerk,” he said.

Zazzle earns money when a product is sold. It receives the bulk of the product cost, while the seller receives a percentage of the royalties. For example, a basic white T-shirt costs $15.95 with $14.36 going to Zazzle upon sale and $1.59 to the seller.

Also on the Zazzle Web site is a page that sells “Newsom 2010” T-shirts and other products related to his potential run for governor. The page is titled “Gavin for governor: a better California.” It displays a picture of a smiling Newsom next to a blue image of the state.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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