Help inches closer for street artists, vendors affected by Super Bowl 50

The Super Bowl may be long over, but in San Francisco officials appear likely to be arguing over the costs and benefits of hosting the celebrations for months to come.

The Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Finance Committee Wednesday voted to forward to the full board legislation by Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Jane Kim that would appropriate $100,000 for the reimbursement of street artists and vendors displaced by Super Bowl events. The legislation was forwarded without recommendation.

When the city closed streets around Justin Herman Plaza and Market Street for nearly three weeks for Super Bowl City, a free fan village, it displaced 116 spaces reserved for street artists to sell their wares as well as other vendors with permits for carts and kiosks, Peskin said Wednesday.

Many of those artists and vendors suffered significant losses of income they could ill afford, Peskin said:

“I think we have a moral obligation to help them.”

Street artists and vendors lined up to testify to the impact the street closure had on them, with many saying they had little notice until shortly before the event and suffered significant losses.

Jewelry designer Jeremy Randall said:

“We were unable to use our selling area for three weeks, we were unable to make a living for three weeks. … Think about what it would be like if you lost three weeks of income for someone to have a party in your area.”

While today’s resolution targeted only those directly displaced by Super Bowl City, other small business people also came forward today to testify about the impacts the Super Bowl had on their business. Several merchants from the Ferry Building, adjacent to Super Bowl City, said they had seen a sharp drop in business and increased costs due to shoplifting and other issues during the event.

The Super Bowl has been a politically contentious topic in San Francisco, with Peskin, Kim and Supervisor John Avalos questioning the cost of related events to the city, currently estimated at more than $5 million.

Kim has repeatedly said the city should not subsidize “private corporate events,” an argument she repeated today.

Backers have said the event will pay for itself in increased hotel and sales tax revenues, and have cited promising initial figures, but final numbers will not be available until later in the spring.

Supervisor Mark Farrell, a vocal supporter of the city’s Super Bowl bid and the committee’s chair, called the reimbursement proposal the “height of hypocrisy,” noting that critics had first argued the city was spending too much money and now wanted to spend more.

Farrell accused critics of the event of:

“… bashing our city on national media and really causing a black eye on the city of San Francisco. … It is fair to question policies but to take advantage of the situation for some political coverage I think was completely unwarranted.”

Farrell added that he thought his colleagues should apologize if it turns out The City makes money.