Pando

Frustrated by San Francisco’s “Super Bowl City”? You're not alone

By Sarah Lacy , written on February 1, 2016

From The Disruption Desk

Perhaps I was just not paying attention, or I don’t get how Super Bowls work.

I assumed when the 49ers moved way down to Santa Clara and announced they’d be hosting the Super Bowl this year, that meant San Francisco would get the benefits of additional tourism and “woo hoo! we hosted a Super Bowl!” while Santa Clara got all the traffic, parties, costs, and mess of the whole thing.

Apparently not.

San Francisco has closed off all kinds of streets in its already congested mid-market and downtown to construct “Super Bowl City”.... an hour or so from where the game is being played. And this past weekend, at least, it was not ready for prime time.

My kids and I were trying to take BART to a museum downtown and came up the escalators to find ourselves in the middle of “Super Bowl City.” There were TVs lining Market Street and a marching band marching in place and playing for… about ten people.

We headed for a huge sign marked “exit” to get out of this “city”-within-a-city and were told we couldn’t exit there.

Me: “Why is there a sign that says exit right over your head?”

Volunteer: “I have no idea.”

He told me I had to go “back” through security to get out of Super Bowl City and back into, presumably, the City of San Francisco. But I never went through security. I just got on BART and got off in the middle of it.

It was all a bit Alice in Wonderland. As, apparently, is the deal the city struck with the NFL to construct this monstrosity.

Last Sunday, I was on Press:Here with long-time civic reporter Joe Eskenazi, currently with San Francisco Magazine. He’s examined stadium deals, Olympic bids any other sports related thing Bay Area cities have embarked on. He’s known for his great work at alternative weeklies like the Bay Area Guardian and SF Weekly-- two publications whose politics I frequently disagree with.

But Eskenazi knows his shit, and I’m a big fan of his work. Notice in the video, I mention this amazing SF Weekly cover describing why San Francisco is the Worst Run Big City in America as an example of what he’s talking about. Turns out he wrote it along with Benjamin Wachs. He was also the one who uncovered the details of the closed door meeting where Ron Conway pressured other city leaders not to support Aaron Peskin in the last election, that Paul wrote about here.

I imagine Eskenazi and I would disagree mightily on tech’s role in San Francisco and whether it is good or bad. But given the control and money and voting power it wields these days, I’m glad there are reporters like Eskenazi out there to keep “us” honest.

In this segment we discuss the Super Bowl. It isn’t just annoying for residents like me. (And seemingly wildly disorganized.) There are basic questions about why the city didn’t require the NFL repay the out of pocket costs and even more basic questions that have gone unanswered like who negotiated the deal.

Take a look:

Last week Fusion published an excellent story about San Francisco hiding its homeless population in anticipation of the event. For those of us living here it has been a night and day difference. Tent cities that have been on certain city blocks since I moved here were suddenly gone around the middle of last week and haven’t come back.

Sure that happens in lots of cities but that it is happening in San Francisco is astounding. Anytime the city proposes even modest legislation around the homeless, many of the city’s progressive voices fight them. Several years ago when legislation was proposed to ban homeless people from laying in front of doors of open store fronts during business hours the protests were so great that mattresses were set on fire in the Mission.

I asked Eskenazi why we weren’t seeing any protests this time. Is the allure of the Super Bowl so great? Eskenazi’s answer was one I didn’t expect: Those protests were years ago and those protesters have been priced out of the city.

We all know the city’s recent tech boom has been changing San Francisco. It’s richer and more white, which is ironic given how much the tech world likes to think of itself as a “meritocracy.” But if Eskenazi is right, the city might be on the precipice of changing a lot more in coming years...even after Super Bowl City is long gone.