San Francisco has undertaken a significant effort to glam up streets ahead of a vital U.S.-China summit next week, including the removal of homeless camps around the city.
“I know folks are saying, ‘Oh they’re just cleaning up this place because all those fancy leaders are coming to town.’ That’s true, because it’s true — but it’s also true for months and months and months before APEC [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit], we’ve been having conversations,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday at the unveiling of a new program to plant trees in urban neighborhoods.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed said the conference could help the city with an anticipated $53 million injected into the economy, according to FOX affiliate KTVU, adding that “tourism is our business here in San Francisco.”
KTVU noted that the efforts to clean the city have created “noticeable” cleanliness to the streets but also far fewer homeless encampments on major thoroughfares.
Marc Savino, who works in the city, told KTVU that “you just naturally start to wonder about houseless folks being displaced.”
Emails obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle show that the city’s superintendent of Street Environmental Services Christopher McDaniels was “concerned about historical encampments that are close to priority areas.”
Those areas include seven intersections in two neighborhoods that have long been the “epicenter” of the homeless crisis, according to the Chronicle. Another official, Deputy Director of Operations DiJaida Durden, said that the city needed to “stay on top of the growing encampments,” then asked, “Do we have a plan?”
The Chronicle noted that the areas that Durden flagged have ended up “tent-free” just days ahead of the APEC summit.
President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jingping will meet next week during APEC in San Francisco for a much-anticipated face-to-face — the first since the two leaders met in Indonesia in November 2022.
The U.S. will hope to use the meeting to address growing tensions around Taiwan as well as dueling interests in Ukraine and the crisis in the Middle East, San Francisco will hope that the conference helps it shake loose of a sluggish post-pandemic recovery.
The combination of factors, including the rise of work-from-home and the upcoming implementation of a state-wide rise in minimum wage for fast food workers, has made it difficult for the city to reach its previous levels of activity. The loss of tech commuters in particular has hampered recovery efforts, according to the New York Times.
Aaron Peskin, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, noted that the conference presents a “huge opportunity” and that the city has been “planning this down to the gnat’s eyebrow.”
Peskin pointed to the influx of people and personnel during previous conferences at times of trouble for the city that helped kickstart economic activity, but to make that impression, the city has undertaken an incredible beautification project, which has included shifting the significant homeless population that has flooded into the city.
“They’ve cleared out the tents that were near the Moscone Center on Howard Street, which tells me the city had the capability to do this all along — instead they just do the bare minimum, community activist Ricci Lee Wynne told The New York Post.
“Once APEC is gone, police presence will start to simmer down again, the tents will return, and it will slowly flare up again,” Lee said. “What we need is a permanent solution.”