Super Bowl stumbles into San Francisco's haves vs have-nots divide

Sun Jan 31, 2016 2:27pm EST
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By Rory Carroll

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - As San Francisco embarks on elaborate festivities for Super Bowl 50 this week, some in the city aren't in a mood to celebrate.

Activists on a range of economic and social issues see the opening of Super Bowl City, a multi-stage event space on the city's scenic Embarcadero, as a symbol of how San Francisco has lost its way. Known since the 1960s for its left-wing politics and bohemian bent, the city today, they say, is in danger of becoming just another playground for the rich.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca, director of counseling for the Housing Rights Committee, said he hates seeing San Francisco, which is already facing a $100 million budget shortfall, spending an estimated $5 million in taxpayer dollars to host events leading up to next Sunday's Super Bowl.

"The administration doesn't care about the poor and working class people and is only concerned about giving the rich somewhere to have a party," Avicolli Mecca said, noting that San Francisco rents have become unaffordable for many middle class people and that homelessness is rampant.

A spokesman for Mayor Edwin Lee did not return calls seeking comment, but his office has said the city will more than make up for its expenditures through hotel and other taxes. While the bowl will be played in Santa Clara in nearby Silicon Valley, the city will accommodate many visitors and most pre-game events.

Bob Linscheid, president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, acknowledged that affluence and poverty exist uncomfortably side-by-side in San Francisco, but said any blame cast on the Super Bowl is misplaced.

San Francisco is hosting the "most philanthropic Super Bowl in the game's history," he said, predicting that the city would more than recover its costs through spending by visitors at local businesses.

"This Super Bowl is a direct reflection on San Francisco's desire to give something back. We're a city with a heart," he said.   Continued...

General view of the press box roof during a field preparation press conference prior to Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports