Super Bowl City, pictured in a rendering, will be the focal point of a nine-day celebration in San Francisco leading up to Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Feb. 7. (Courtesy of Super Bowl 50 Host Committee)

Taxpayers to foot bill for San Francisco’s Super Bowl 50 celebration

With less than two months before San Francisco’s nine­-day celebration leading up to Super Bowl 50, concerns mount over use of taxpayer dollars.

Just exactly what the dayslong event will cost San Francisco’s taxpayers remains uncertain, despite Monday’s Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee hearing on the issue.

“Our taxpayers expect that we use those funds to pay for affordable housing, to pay for homeless services, to pay for mental health services, to pay for Muni — not for an event that is primarily marketing and promoting a corporate event and institution,” said Supervisor Jane Kim.

The City will incur transit costs with Muni planning to run alternate and increased service to accommodate the event and the closure of Market Street near The Embarcadero for the celebration.

Beginning Jan. 30, Justin Herman Plaza will play host to Super Bowl City, a free event open to the public organized by the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee in partnership with the NFL. Private events will occur throughout San Francisco during the week, directly related to the game or otherwise. The Dave Matthews Band, for example, just announced a concert at Pier 70 for Feb. 4.

The Super Bowl takes place Feb. 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara and is expected to bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the region and create jobs.

Expressing some frustration, committee chair Supervisor Malia Cohen noted that departments were asked to provide cost estimates for the hearing. But both Peter Albert, a transit planner with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and San Francisco Police Capt. Tim Falvey were unable to provide cost estimates. They said those estimates are still being worked on.

Todd Rufo, director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, supported the use of department spending.

Rufo said The City has a long history of providing transit and public safety services for large “free and open events for the public,” noting Pride Parade and Fleet Week, “to ensure that these events are successful.”

Rufo said city departments have already assumed the costs of the event in San Francisco’s already approved budget.

But the cost to taxpayers is not sitting well with several board members who have signaled the desire to have the host committee figure out how to foot the bill.

Supervisor John Avalos has directed the board’s budget analyst to examine what funding city departments have earmarked for the event. “It’s important for The City to go into this with our eyes wide open about what the costs are going to be,” Avalos said.

He added, “Over and over again, we go like moths attracted to the light to these big events that will bring in lots of tourist dollars,” but the money doesn’t end up benefiting neighborhoods and only “gets recycled back” to pay for the events.

Amid concerns about the cost to taxpayers, those putting on the event emphasized the economic benefit during the hearing.

Daniel Lurie, chair of the host committee, noted that as part of the event the committee has provided $5 million in grants, including $1.5 million to 26 groups in San Francisco, and plan to provide $5 million more. “We will not only be the most charitable Super Bowl ever, but we will have set a new bar in professional sports and entertainment events,” Lurie said.

Keith Bruce, CEO of Super Bowl 50 Host Committee, said, “Truly, the eyes of the world will be on San Francisco for that entire nine-day celebratory period. You simply cannot buy that type of exposure.”

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