San Francisco found itself deeply under water on New Year's Eve to the surprise of Mayor London Breed and other city officials, who said they were expecting less than an inch of rain.
But a day after parts of the Mission, SoMa and other neighborhoods flooded with several feet of water, Breed flew to Las Vegas to watch the San Francisco 49ers play the Raiders from a private luxury box with rapper E-40. Two days later, Breed blamed the National Weather Service for the city’s failure to adequately prepare for the storm.
E-40, the celebrated Bay Area hip-hop entertainer and entrepreneur, posted an Instagram reel Tuesday that shows Breed with him and others in a midfield luxury box at the Raiders' Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nevada.
Breed’s trip to Vegas took place just hours after she attended a lavish New Year’s Eve party in San Francisco with some of the city’s most powerful elected officials—as well as a convicted felon involved in the corruption scandal that has rocked City Hall for the last three years.
Photos posted of the “Glitterati” party on social media by a mayoral staffer show guests drinking champagne, dancing to a live band, watching acrobats take flight and even taking in a burlesque show. The party took place at Saint Joseph’s Arts Society.
The mayor’s revelry took place less than a day after the city was caught off guard by a historic storm. As an atmospheric river over the holiday weekend dropped more than 5 inches of rain, New Year’s Eve marked the second-highest recorded day of rainfall in San Francisco history. Breed’s exploits echo those of another big city mayor, New York City's Eric Adams, who was found sunbathing in the British Virgin Islands over the holidays as an East Coast “bomb cyclone” upended transportation and holiday plans for thousands.
City agencies in San Francisco were unprepared for the weekend storm as multiple neighborhoods were flooded, and low-lying parts of the Mission District were hit particularly hard. More storms are expected in the days to come.
A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office told The Standard in an email that Mayor Breed paid $200 for a ticket to the New Year’s Eve party. Officials said they did not know who paid to host the party.
Breed’s staff also said she paid for her flights and ticket to the 49ers-Raiders game. The cost of that ticket is unclear, but a private suite at a Raiders game can cost anywhere between $12,000 and $102,000, according to the website My Suite Tickets. Breed’s premium seat appears to be in the lower section near the 50-yard line.
“She traveled to Las Vegas that morning to go to the San Francisco 49er game and returned right after the game,” a spokesperson said. “This was a planned personal trip, and she paid for it with personal funds. Throughout the day, she remained available to city staff and in contact about issues impacting the city.”
Supervisor Catherine Stefani served as acting mayor Sunday, with the mayor's itinerary noting she would be out of town from 9 a.m. and returning by 7:40 p.m.
Breed didn’t appear in public to address the flooding until Tuesday—two days after the flooding—when she held an emergency press conference and slammed the National Weather Service’s forecast.
“We were under the impression that we could anticipate not even an inch of rain,” Breed said at the press conference. “The information we had was not sufficient in helping us prepare in the capacity we needed to respond to this issue.”
But according to communications shared with The Standard, the NWS alerted local officials and media as far back as Dec. 21 of “a significant rain event that would bring high impacts and hazardous conditions.”
Susan Buchanan, a spokesperson for the National Weather Service, said that forecasters emailed daily briefings to Breed’s office and attended a citywide planning meeting for New Year’s Eve on Dec. 28. The next day, NWS officials raised the threat level for heavy rain on New Year’s Eve in San Francisco to “high,” forecasting 2 to 3 inches of rain with the potential for 6 inches in surrounding areas.
City officials on Wednesday walked back the mayor’s criticism of the National Weather Service, calling the agency “an important and valued partner.”
The Mayor’s Office said that Breed spoke with the director of the National Weather Service on Thursday “to ensure they know she did not intend to blame the NWS in any way and to maintain the good working relationship we’ve had with the NWS.”
Officials added that Breed “was in full control of the city’s response to the New Year’s Eve storm” despite attending a party later that evening. While the Mayor’s Office said Breed was not involved in hosting the party, Tyra Fennell—a host listed on an Eventbrite listing for the party—currently serves as the mayor’s director of commissions and community relations liaison.
Mayor Breed wore a sparkly purple, turquoise and gold dress accented by a blue boa to ring in the new year. She was joined by District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, City Attorney David Chiu, former Mayor Willie Brown and other notable figures in the city, including Victor Makras, a real estate agent who was convicted of bank fraud for his part in the corruption scandal involving former Public Works head Mohammed Nuru.
Makras was convicted in U.S. District Court last year in a case built on the same federal corruption probe that toppled powerful players in city politics, including Nuru and former Public Utility Commission head Harlan Kelly. Makras was sentenced to three years probation and fined $15,200 for his part in the corruption scandal.
Josh Koehn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org