San Francisco’s Transformation for APEC Summit: Homelessness, Security, and Beautification
From ‘City of Gold’ to Crisis and Back Again
Known historically as the ‘City of Gold,’ in recent years San Francisco has instead become a nexus for homelessness, crime, and filth. However, in preparation for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, focused efforts have significantly improved the city’s conditions.
The transformation of San Francisco, located near the tech capital Silicon Valley, has been prompted by both an economic boost and the closure of many businesses due to the pandemic. The resulting severe social crisis, characterized by rampant drug overdoses and increasing crime rates, has prompted the city to undergo a large-scale clean-up campaign ahead of the APEC forum.
Resettling the Homeless
Despite California authorities spending $17.5 billion between 2018 and 2022 to address homelessness, the issue persists, with California still having the highest growth rate of homelessness in the country. A staggering 170,000 individuals, which accounts for half of the United States’ homeless population, reside in California.
San Francisco officials informed Sputnik that they intend to provide shelter for the homeless living near the event venue during the summit. The city has also added an additional 300 beds to their shelters, though the exact number available for the forum is uncertain. “The daily allocation will vary throughout the conference. But we do everything possible to maximize the shelter capacity in our portfolio so that the community has access during APEC and beyond,” stated Emily Cohen, spokesperson for the Department of Homelessness. Local residents claim that the evacuation of tents shows that the city had the capacity to address the issue much earlier.
“Once APEC leaves, police presence will start to dwindle, the tents will return, and the situation will gradually worsen again. What we need is a permanent solution,” expressed Ricci Lee Wynne, a community activist, to The Post.
Fighting Drug Abuse
As part of the pre-summit clean-up, the city has taken measures to clear open-air drug markets, including the area around the Nancy Pelosi Federal Building. Due to safety concerns, federal employees were advised to work from home. This week, the area was fenced off, and dealers and addicts have been relocated to other parts of downtown, enabling federal employees to safely return to their offices.
Four months ago, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins launched an initiative called “All Hands on Deck” to arrest fentanyl dealers and clean up the open-air drug markets.
Enhancing Security Measures
In light of the homelessness crisis and potential protest threats, the city significantly strengthened security measures before the APEC summit. “Security and operational plans are being enhanced, minimizing the impact on the community as much as possible,” Police Chief William Scott announced, noting that any form of violence or property damage will not be tolerated.
According to a Sputnik correspondent, the city center now exhibits a strong presence of armed police units on bicycles and in motor vehicles, guarding intersections and squares. The main venue of the summit, the Moscone Centre, has received particularly fortified protection.
Moreover, protective barriers and concrete blocks have been erected to control movement and ensure safety around the summit’s vicinity.
Will the Beautification Persist Post-Summit?
Although the beautification of San Francisco commenced just before the summit, authorities claim the efforts will continue. On November 9, Mayor London Breed and California Governor Gavin Newsom inaugurated a project promising more jobs and city beautification. The governor highlighted the $1.2 billion Clean California program, which aims to create new job opportunities for veterans, students, artists, the homeless, and recently incarcerated individuals.
Ambitious as the efforts are, citizens and local activists hope that the attention to the city’s issues will not fade with the closing of the APEC summit but will instead be a turning point towards long-term improvement and sustainable solutions.