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.”

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.

San Francisco Supervisor Pushes for Super Bowl Event Reimbursement 27 January,2016Sara Hossaini

  • peripus

    I think Mark Farrell pretty much devastated her arguments on Forum this morning – I’d listen to that program before passing judgment.

    • redroverover

      I heard the opposite as he tried to hide behind the budget process in a way contradicted by the budget analyst’s report. Then, for all the touting he did on the benefits, the economist also called him and the NFL out, and Sup. Farrell cowered and hedged that we have to “wait until the dust settles” and “the ink dries” because he obviously didn’t want to be wrong when we have another America’s Cup debacle.

      • peripus

        Farrell pointed out the key flaw in Kim’s argument: she maintains that the Host Committee events, which are the main cause of the city’s expenses, are private NFL events that benefit “rich individuals” when they are in fact nonprofit community events for the general public, and the Host Committee is also granting millions of dollars to local nonprofits. Her argument would apply to Santa Clara, as Farrell pointed out repeatedly – not to SF. The economist said “we *would* have to wait until the ink dries, I’m glad Farrell said that,” because sometimes Super Bowl tourism results in a net gain in local tax revenue, and sometimes it doesn’t. Does it enhance the overall ‘brand’ of the city in the long term? No one knows for sure but given how much SF benefits from tourism, it is certainly very plausible that the brand value of the event being broadcast to hundreds of millions of people is worth $5 million.

        • redroverover

          “Super Bowl City” and associated marketing efforts are hardly “nonprofit community events”. They all serve to promote and elevate the Super Bowl brand, which is an asset of the NFL. Her point remains true that taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill to subsidize the costs of these for-profit endeavors.

          As for the donations, the economist also acutely pointed out that the companies could have planned to donate those dollars anyway, except they did so through the Host Committee because then they could basically get some Super Bowl benefits too.

          I agree that the benefits (both tax/revenue and brand) are very speculative and questionable, but not so far as to say our city’s brand getting better is “very plausible”. The NFL is banking on our brand value (not the other way around), and will be deteriorating it by broadcasting not our city’s culture or scenic views, but by putting their logo in the forefront and showing to a sophisticated tourist how we were stupid enough to put ourselves up for sale.

          • peripus

            I think your position is reasonable, but as far as “the NFL is banking on our brand value (not the other way around), and will be deteriorating it” for “sophisticated” travelers – the SB is already the top media event nationally every year, they hardly need the SF brand, and the millions of “less sophisticated” travelers now descending on the city no doubt recognize the cultural snobbery underlying much of the SB backlash and be less likely to want to come back.

          • redroverover

            “SB is already the top media event *nationally* every year, ” — exactly this is the point. The NFL is trying to boost their *international* audience, and San Francisco is one of the few world-renowned cities that have clout for them to ride on. They are using the San Francisco brand, and we still have to pay for getting screwed over.

  • John Trasvina

    This is not a lawsuit that Supervisor Kim wants to file. It’s sending our officials back to the table to seek from the NFL reimbursement of city costs that were not sought before. It matters and she should have our support.

  • Robert

    Well forget about getting the super bowl or heck any big event again if we push for this!

  • dieselox

    To claim the costs will be more than made up by benefits to businesses in the City amounts to a give away of public funds to private companies, likely highly illegal (City can’t just write a check from the general fund for a gift to a random hotel, for example). Any business that benefits should have to chip in to reimburse tje City. Or get the NFL to. Not like they can’t afford it.

  • Default

    Tell SF to get some money from the high ass rent they charge … The landlords have tons of money! Get it from them. Hahaha…. Stupid.

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Sara Hossaini

Sara Hossaini comes to general assignment reporting at KQED after two winters reporting at Wyoming Public Radio. She holds a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her radio romance began after a bitter breakup with documentary film (Ok, maybe it’s still complicated). Her first simultaneous jobs in San Francisco were as Associate Producer on a PBS film series through the Center for Asian American Media and as a butler. She likes to trot, plot and make things with her hands.

Email: shossaini@kqed.org

Twitter: @sarastrummer

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