San Francisco city supervisor responds to San Fran GP cancellation

by Mark Zalewski

A San Francisco City supervisor has accused the organisers of the San Francisco Grand Prix of "looking for an easy way out" in blaming city politics for the cancellation of the 2006 edition of the race. That's "the reality" of the situation, according to San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin.

Peskin told Cyclingnews that he had initially supported the race, even so far as to push legislation through to make it financially viable to organiser San Francisco Cycling, LLC -- something that Peskin says has never been offered to an event promoter before. "I'm uniquely positioned because I got them the legislation that got them the race. They have been more than fairly treated. No other institution has gotten this kind of a deal."

In a statement issued by San Francisco Cycling, managing partner David Chauner said, "There is considerable uncertainty regarding the amounts we will be billed after each year's race, making it impossible to accurately forecast budgets or question charges beforehand. On top of that, the periodic, emotionally charged Board of Supervisors' debates over the value of the event make potential sponsors very nervous. Few companies will sponsor a politically charged event and, when sponsors back out or can't be replaced, we have to cut important elements of the race, like eliminating the very popular women's event this year."

In response to this Peskin replied, "They got a massive subsidy -- well over one million over five years. They were the only ones to get that, and we welcomed them with open arms. But the fact is they paid their bills between eight and fourteen months late. One year they were subsidised 100 percent!" Peskin went on to cite numerous other events which have been successful for many years without subsidies or waivers from the city. "The marathon pays 100 cents on the dollar, and AEG is coming in with the Tour of California and paying for it all."

One of the main points of contention between San Francisco Cycling and the city is the payment of fees for city services such as police and public works staff for the race. San Francisco Cycling partner Jerry Casale said, "Since 2001, San Francisco Cycling has paid City of San Francisco agencies and police a total $1,564,634 to stage the race. This is a staggering amount, but we paid it in order to make this a world class event in a world class city."

San Francisco Cycling's statement went on to say that the accusations of late or non-payment by San Francisco Cycling by Peskin and other board members were misleading. "We were faxed the final and adjusted SFPD bill for $89,924 for the first time on November 10, 2005, just one working day prior to that meeting, all other city charges had been paid before we got our ISCOTT permit for the 2005 race, it wouldn't have been issued otherwise," said Casale "And then they said we were late and purposely avoiding payment. That's simply not true."

"In the intervening year, the police department sent four invoices," Peskin replied. "If you get a Visa bill for $1,000 and you only owe $500, you make arrangements. You don't sit there for a year and not saying anything! The city law is really clear that they would get a reimbursement [for overpayment.]" The statement was unclear whether the new remaining balance for the 2004 race would be paid. "They still haven't fully paid for the 2004 race," said Peskin. "They have said that they will but I will believe it when I see it.

When asked if he would ever allow San Francisco Cycling to hold a race again, Peskin replied, "I'm not going to support a subsidised race. If they want to come back and pay for what it costs, sure. San Francisco Cycling, LLC are some of the richest people in America! Cities are in the business of providing services for their citizens. I'm not sure if it's a sign that cycling hasn't fully arrived here in the US or if it was the operator's error."

Related stories

November 23 - San Fran GP may move to San Jose
November 22 - San Francisco city supervisor responds to San Fran GP cancellation
November 22 - "No-win situation" for San Fran GP
November 21 - San Francisco GP cancelled
November 16 - San Fran Grand Prix in hot water with city

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