Cost of relay passes $1.25 million

The Olympic torch switcheroo has a bottom line that keeps growing — now The City says police staffing costs are estimated at nearly $505,000.

The new estimate for San Francisco police overtime costs brings the known torch cost to more than $1.25 million, but $610,000 of that is expected to be paid off by private donations.

Mayor Gavin Newsom said he expected to have harder numbers on the pricey torch visit to The City next week. Nearly $400,00 has been raised by fundraisers, Newom recently said.

According to police data received by The Examiner, 800 officers worked on the torch relay April 9, when the controversial Olympic flame, making its only North American stop before heading to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics, was expected to make its way along The Embarcadero.

Data received by The Examiner show police costs of $504,896.75, with as many as 5,000 overtime hours incurred. However, the estimate on staffing costs does not include a 3 percent inclusion of specialized pay nor any on-duty related costs.

On Tuesday, torch cost estimates for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency came out, and the cash-strapped agency spent $149,516 on the one-day event. Parking officers helped secure the route, substitute buses ran in place of the cable cars and station agents assisted visitors.

The $610,000 amount paid for media relations, ceremonies and torchbearer costs, but that cost will be borne by private and corporate sponsors, city officials have said.

Thousands of pro-China supporters and those protesting what they see as China’s human-rights abuses lined the proposed route expecting to see the torch pass by, but breached safety perimeters and several volatile situations along the proposed route, including one in which a bus was surrounded and vandalized, had officials considering a reroute or even cancellation.

The torch was eventually taken to Van Ness Avenue, away from the bulk of protesters and supporters, and passed down into the Marina district before ending its relay on Doyle Drive.

Mayor Gavin Newsom defended the torch route and any cost estimates, saying that having the relay run down The Embarcadero would have been much more costly than taking the flame down Van Ness.

“If we had arrested 200 people, which easily could’ve happened, the costs would’ve been exponential,” Newsom said. Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said Newsom and police Chief Heather Fong could have saved money by not hoodwinking the public.

“Given that we didn’t have a torch run, we could’ve been honest with the public and not wasted their time and disappointed their kids,” Peskin said.

dsmith@examiner.com

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