The lights at San Francisco City Hall change color almost daily to celebrate everything from San Francisco Giants victories to — to take one recent example — World Lymphoma Awareness Day.
On Wednesday night, they were supposed to be green, white and red in honor of Mexican National Day, according to the schedule posted on the city web site.
Instead, anyone walking by City Hall after dark would have seen the word “Snowflake” and a snowflake symbol emblazoned across the famous golden dome.
Given the times, the slogan could have been political commentary, but the truth turned out to be rather more prosaic: Snowflake, a San Mateo-based company that describes itself as a “cloud-based data-warehousing startup,” was celebrating its IPO by projecting its logo on to San Francisco City Hall.
The company posted an image of the display on its Twitter page with the words “SF City Hall celebrating today’s #SnowDay #SnowflakeIPO $SNOW.”
The corporate light show drew attention on social media, including from San Francisco Examiner columnist Broke-Ass Stuart, and prompted some speculation as to whether The City had started renting out its buildings as billboards.
But city officials said that wasn’t the case. According to Bill Barnes, a spokesman for the City Administrator’s Office, no one obtained any permits for the use of City Hall or Civic Center.
“It was unauthorized,” Barnes said.
When contacted, Snowflake spokesman Eszter Szikora said another company, National Experiential, had made the arrangements and obtained permissions.
“The vendor responsible for the light show managed City permissions and this was arranged for us by NYSE for our IPO Day,” Szikora said. “I’m happy to put you in touch with them if you would like to speak with them.”
When told that city agencies did not appear to have been contacted by anyone about the event, Sziroka said Snowflake was not in touch with the company and that she was reaching out to the NYSE for more information on the vendor.
National Experiential had not responded to a message as of Thursday night.
It’s not clear that the company broke any laws, but it may have given some people the wrong idea.
“We don’t put corporate advertising on the top of City Hall,” Barnes said. “That’s not what we do.”
What is Snowflake and why are they projecting it on City Hall? pic.twitter.com/hGa4ZSeCBW
— (((BrokeAssStuart))) (@BrokeAssStuart) September 17, 2020