Castro district merchants are sounding the alarm, fearing the upcoming Super Bowl City downtown will hurt their bottom lines.
The Super Bowl City, a festival downtown event celebrating the 50th Super Bowl, will interrupt the historic streetcar line, the F-Market & Wharves.
Without the streetcars (and the plentiful tourists they ferry), business may drop like a stone during the Super Bowl, the merchants say. Worst of all, The City hasn’t until now reached out to businesses to work on a plan to mitigate the loss of tourists.
The Castro Merchants group laid out their concerns at a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Citizens Advisory Council meeting last week.
“The point is, the F-Line historic cars are an iconic transit mode in San Francisco,” said Richard Magary, from the Castro Merchants, to the council. “They bring large numbers of locals and tourists, and their substantial spending, which is why I’m here, to the mostly small independent often LGBT businesses in the Castro.”
The Castro Merchants has about 300 members, 50 percent of merchants in the Castro, the group said. Many of those merchants may lose business in the Super Bowl transit disruption. The F-line carries more than 20,000 riders a day, according to the Market Street Railway.
“This is about our livelihoods,” Magary said, “We stand to lose lots of money, because that iconic railway isn’t there.”
Nathan Ballard, a Super Bowl 50 Committee spokesman, said the committee is “confident” there will be more visitors to the Castro during the Super Bowl than a similar February week. Ultimately, he said, “We can’t bring a big train through a large crowd of people.”
In the video above, Richard Magary of the Castro Merchants tells an SFMTA citizen advisory council that Castro businesses may take a hit without the F-Market & Wharves.
Though the Super Bowl City event is scheduled for Jan. 30 to Feb. 7, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said previously transit may be disrupted before and after the event. Peter Albert, planning manager at SFMTA, outlined these changes at several public meetings over the past week. He said to expect transit disruptions from Jan. 23 to Feb. 12.
The F-Line in particular will run streetcars from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Ferry Building, and stop at the Super Bowl City — which itself may block the tracks. From that point on, the normal route will be carried out by buses, Albert said, which will ferry passengers to the Castro district.
That’s not good enough, the Castro Merchants said.
“The F-Line brings us incredible amounts of people, every day in the week,” he said. “It’s not the same when you do bus-titutes. They won’t ride the metro. They either get to ride the cute little trolley cars or they won’t do it.”
The Office of Economic Workforce and Development were scheduled to meet with Daniel Bergerac, president of the Castro Merchants on Wednesday to plan possible mitigation for Castro businesses. The results of that meeting were not known at press time. In his email to supervisors, Bergerac discussed possible financial reparations for Castro businesses.
But Bergerac told the San Francisco Examiner that The City has had few answers up until now. “They didn’t reach out to Market Street Railway and they didn’t reach out to us,” he said.
Supervisor Scott Wiener said there’s discussion of focused advertising to draw tourists to the Castro, to “market the Castro corridor.” This is in line with what the Office of Economic Workforce and Development suggested at a Monday committee meeting.
“I’d certainly prefer for the F-car to be fully functional,” he said. “But given the situation we’re facing, we’re doing the best we can.”
As the Examiner previously reported, the SFMTA said they may not seek reimbursement from the Super Bowl 50 Committee, or the NFL, for transit-related costs during the Super Bowl City.