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Santa Clara won’t pay for Super Bowl 50, but San Francisco will

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The City is set to spend more than $4 million on events related to Super Bowl 50, while Santa Clara will be reimbursed for its costs. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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San Francisco’s taxpayers will foot the bill to host a weeklong celebration leading up to Super Bowl 50, but Santa Clara’s costs are fully covered, according to a budget analyst report released Friday.

A debate has been ongoing among city officials over whether San Francisco should be covering the costs associated with hosting a weeklong event leading up to Super Bowl 50.

As late as last month, members of the Board of Supervisors even had difficulty obtaining the costs from department heads. Last week, Mayor Ed Lee’s office provided a memo totaling costs to city departments at $4 million. His office defended the expense, stating revenues from the event would more than offset the cost, and The City has covered such expenses for other large events in past.

Since the memo, however, cost estimates have continued to climb. On Monday, the cost to Muni increased from $1.7 million to $2.3 million.

And Friday, a new report released by Budget Analyst Harvey Rose, at the request of Supervisor John Avalos, estimates the total cost at $4.8 million.

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The report also says that Santa Clara, the city hosting the actual Super Bowl, has reached an agreement with the cost committee to cover similar costs to city services. The finding bolsters the position held by some supervisors, like Avalos, that San Francisco should have negotiated a similar arrangement.

“According to the assistant city manager, the city of Santa Clara has reached an agreement with the Host Committee to reimburse all city expenses associated with hosting Super Bowl 50, including public safety services, fire, and emergency medical services,” the report stated. “The reimbursement from the Host Committee to Santa Clara is expected to be $3,597,300 to cover all additional public safety and other government services.”

But those defending The City’s cost also said that in their bid to host the event, it was stipulated the city services would be covered.

The report, however, casts doubt upon that promise. “City staff interviewed by the Budget and Legislative Analyst believe that the bid outlined city services to be provided to support Super Bowl 50 events and outlined terms of reimbursement for these services. However, none of these staff had reviewed the bid document or were able to furnish to the Budget and Legislative Analyst with such a bid document,” the report said.

Rose recommended that “the Board of Supervisors request the mayor to immediately enter into a formal agreement, subject to Board of Supervisors approval, with the Host Committee that provides for full reimbursement of the City’s estimated General Fund expenditures of $4,881,625, as the City of Santa Clara has done.”

Avalos agreed with Rose’s recommendation. “The City got a real bad deal. It is a huge subsidy for the NFL. Santa Clara got a good deal. They were smart. They called for economic impact before going into agreement with the NFL,” Avalos said. “We should get reimbursed by the NFL. It looks like the NFL was given a pass or the Mayor’s Office failed miserably in negotiating a good deal.”

Mayor Ed Lee’s spokeswoman Christine Falvey would not commit to renegotiate. “The report does a good job of tallying costs without calculating any benefits,” Falvey said in an email. “Mayor Lee was part of bringing the Super Bowl to the Bay Area because he sees a huge financial win for The City.” Falvey said that “we do this for all kinds of events, from Fleet Week, to Pride Parade to Chinese New Year” and that “we made sure that the benefits to San Francisco taxpayers would far outweigh the costs.”

Supervisor Jane Kim is among the most outspoken critics of use of public dollars for Super Bowl 50. “I’ve said it from the beginning and this report confirms my fears: taxpayers are being sacked to pay for a party for billionaires and special interests. The NFL is a multi-billion dollar corporation and can pay for its own marketing and should absolutely reimburse San Franciscans for every single cent,” Kim said in a statement.

Speaking for the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee, Nathan Ballard addressed why Santa Clara’s costs are being covered, but not San Francisco’s. “Because of Measure J that was passed in Santa Clara when Levi’s Stadium was constructed, no Santa Clara General Fund money can legally be used on stadium activities,” Ballard said. “Therefore, to produce a competitive bid for the game that would benefit the whole region, the Host Committee is reimbursing Santa Clara for public safety and transportation costs related to the game.”

Ballard said that when The City bid to host the Super Bowl there was an understanding San Francisco would pay for the cost to its city services and “recoup” those costs “through local hotel and sales taxes, state and federal support.”

Beginning Jan. 30, Justin Herman Plaza will host what’s being called Super Bowl City, a free public event organized by the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee in partnership with the NFL.

Between Jan. 23 and Feb. 12, a variety of streets will close for Super Bowl City and a related event being called the NFL Experience at the Moscone Center, which requires a ticket to get in.

At Super Bowl City in front of the Ferry Building, the following streets will be closed to motor vehicles and bicycle traffic:

• The Embarcadero southbound, from Washington Street to Don Chee Way (the Ferry Plaza)

• Market Street east of Beale/Davis streets

• Steuart Street from Market to Don Chee Way

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