San Francisco Supervisor Pushes for Super Bowl Event Reimbursement

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On Tuesday, San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim will introduce emergency legislation to force the city to renegotiate its deal with the NFL over the cost of hosting Super Bowl events.

A recently commissioned city budget and legislative analysis estimates the cost of San Francisco's nine days of fan festivities at nearly $5 million.

The move comes less than two weeks before the big game comes to Santa Clara on Feb. 7. While the city has been on board with hosting the festivities for years, some supervisors have complained that the mayor's office and the local group in charge of raising money for Bay Area events -- the Super Bowl Host Committee -- largely negotiated in secret.

The Embarcadero around the Ferry Building is transforming into Super Bowl City.
The Embarcadero around the Ferry Building is transforming into Super Bowl City. (Alan Toth/KQED)

Kim says the Board of Supervisors approved this year's city budget of just $307,843 in Super Bowl-related expenses for two departments, the Fire Department and Department of Emergency Management.

Although San Francisco often provides such services to support city events, like Gay Pride or Chinese New Year, Kim says the Super Bowl events -- which she calls "corporate private parties" -- don't count as a "civic celebration."

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Super Bowl Host Committee spokesman P.J. Johnston disagrees.

"Every city that has ever hosted a Super Bowl has wanted to do it again," says Johnston.

Johnston says the city will more than recoup its expenses from the increase in sales and hotel tax revenues. He notes that local Bay Area businesses have already signed $3 million in contracts related to the events, which also include a number of private ticketed gatherings and the league's "NFL Experience" and Media Center at the Moscone Center.

Johnston says San Francisco knew it was signing up to absorb security, transportation and other costs for events because it's "always part of the puzzle ... and what every city does."

Not so, says Supervisor Kim. She points to Santa Clara, which is poised to get reimbursed for all Super Bowl-related city costs from the Host Committee -- something she says San Francisco's Board of Supervisors just learned about last week.

On Monday, Kim and fellow supervisor Mark Farrell joined KQED's Forum to discuss the deal.

"Santa Clara cut a better deal than San Francisco did, and I think we should acknowledge that we got it wrong, and let's try to fix it," says Kim.

Opponents of a new deal say Santa Clara's and San Francisco's situation don't compare. They note that Santa Clara cannot legally spend public dollars on the events as a condition of its taxpayer-funded new stadium.

So far, Mayor Ed Lee's office has stood by his deal with the Host Committee as the best possible agreement for the city, although Lee suggested last week that extra security now planned for events may be "grounds for further discussion" with the NFL.