California Governor Gavin Newsom acknowledged the timing of the clean-up during the launch of an urban tree-planting initiative on Friday. "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," he stated.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed sees the summit as a potential economic boon for the city, with an estimated $53 million expected to be injected into the local economy, as reported by FOX affiliate KTVU. "Tourism is our business here in San Francisco," she said.
The city's efforts have resulted in a noticeable improvement in street cleanliness and a significant reduction in homeless encampments on major thoroughfares, according to KTVU. However, Marc Savino, a city worker, expressed concern about the displacement of homeless individuals.
The San Francisco Chronicle obtained emails revealing that the city's superintendent of Street Environmental Services, Christopher McDaniels, was "concerned about historical encampments that are close to priority areas." These areas encompass seven intersections in two neighborhoods that have been at the heart of the city's homeless crisis. DiJaida Durden, Deputy Director of Operations, emphasized the need to manage the growing encampments and questioned, "Do we have a plan?"
The Chronicle reported that the areas identified by Durden are now devoid of tents, just days before the APEC summit.
The summit will see President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jingping meet face-to-face for the first time since their meeting in Indonesia in November 2022. While the U.S. aims to address escalating tensions around Taiwan, conflicting interests in Ukraine, and the Middle East crisis, San Francisco hopes the conference will stimulate its sluggish post-pandemic recovery.
The city's recovery has been hampered by several factors, including the rise of remote work and the impending statewide increase in minimum wage for fast food workers, according to the New York Times.
Aaron Peskin, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, believes the conference presents a "huge opportunity" for the city. He noted that previous conferences have spurred economic activity during challenging times. However, to make a lasting impression, the city has undertaken an extensive beautification project, which has involved relocating the city's significant homeless population.
Community activist Ricci Lee Wynne told The New York Post, "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."
Wynne expressed concern about the temporary nature of these efforts. "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."