City coffers feeling heat from torch relay

The total cost for hosting the Olympic torch run in San Francisco is being revealed in pieces, with The City’s transportation and parking agency reporting it spent nearly $150,000 on the one-day event.

The Olympic torch, headed ultimately to Beijing, passed through San Francisco on April 9, the only North American stop on the Olympic symbol’s 22-city tour.

Since its lighting in Greece on March 24, the torch had been a magnet for controversy with protesters at scheduled worldwide relay stops attemtping to extinguish the flame to protest China’s human-rights abuses.

During it’s run through San Francisco, thousands of protesters and supporters lined the Embarcadero, part of The City’s announced torch route.

City officials said safety concerns led to a last-minute decision to change the route — and fail to publicize the change — by way of Van Ness Avenue and down into the Marina district, away from the majority of people who gathered to see the flame.

Muni was one of several city agencies involved in the torch relay. Parking officers worked as security along the proposed torch route, substitute buses ran in place of cable cars and station agents assisted travelers throughout the day, according to officials with the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency.

The $149,516 cost to the SFMTA is separate from a $610,000 torch cost expected to be borne by private and corporate sponsors. The $610,000 tab paid for ceremony costs, shuttles for torchbearers and media relations costs. Mayor Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that fundraisers had raised close to $400,000 toward that total.

The SFMTA costs covered the 175 Muni and Department of Parking and Traffic staff working the torch relay, including 68 parking control officers and three operating staff who were in communication with the San Francisco Police Department and course officials throughout the day, according to SFMTA figures.

“For the MTA, the event was similar to any other special event we have in The City,” said SFMTA spokesman Judson True.

Costs for the hundreds of police officers providing security at the torch event have not yet been released by the SFPD.

The mayor said The City budgeted for the Muni, police and other additional costs related to the torch.

Newsom said his office has not yet received a list of the total costs related to the torch relay from all city departments involved, adding that his focus is on The City’s projected $338 million deficit.

“Frankly, [torch costs are] the last thing that’s been on our mind,” Newsom said.

dsmith@examiner.com

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