Crouching on the entrance of San Francisco City Hall, Jason Jacobs brushed gold paint onto the ornate doorway of the Beaux-Arts constructing.
“Whether I paint the gates or not, they’re gonna get their breath taken away,” stated Jacobs, a San Francisco native who typically marvels on the beautiful structure.
Fresh paint. Street cleanings. Homeless sweeps. Colorful artwork. Workers like Jacobs beautified the town, days earlier than politicians, executives and journalists from across the world descend on San Francisco for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation convention. From Saturday to Nov. 17, the worldwide occasion is predicted to carry greater than 20,000 individuals to the town and appeal to hundreds of protesters.
APEC is made up of 21 member economies, together with the U.S., China, Japan, Russia and Canada. The members account for almost 50% of world commerce and 40% of the worldwide inhabitants, giving the U.S. a giant platform to advertise insurance policies that advance free and open commerce within the Asia-Pacific area.
A extremely anticipated assembly between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping throughout the summit might additionally assist ease tensions between the 2 nations.
Though the wide-ranging assembly just isn’t anticipated to provide any main breakthroughs, White House officers say it’ll cowl a number of financial and safety points underlying U.S.-Chinese tensions, together with commerce, expertise exports, human rights and Chinese aggression within the South China Sea and close to Taiwan, the self-governing island that Beijing claims as its personal. The president may also elevate areas of cooperation — together with local weather change and countering narcotics trafficking — in addition to Beijing’s function within the Israel-Hamas battle and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The stakes are excessive for the U.S. but additionally for San Francisco, which is internet hosting the APEC summit for the primary time. It’s the largest gathering of world leaders in San Francisco since 1945, when representatives from 50 nations signed a constitution that established the United Nations.
The world focus will shine on a metropolis crammed with stark contrasts — dwelling to billion-dollar tech firms and streets lined with homeless encampments.
“You can go to the deepest, darkest parts of the Tenderloin or you can go to the top of the Hyatt Regency,” stated Jacobs, a painter at City Hall.
Blocks away from the Moscone Center, the place the summit’s principal occasions will probably be held, Christie Palominos sorted by her belongings. Palominos stated she’s making an attempt to determine what she desires to maintain earlier than she strikes into everlasting housing. Piles of clothes, a buying cart, luggage, coloring books and a spread of objects encompass her.
Palominos, 47, didn’t know world leaders can be on the town, however she stated one of her homeless mates has been requested by the identical police officer to maneuver a number of occasions.
“They’re clearing out the homeless people because they don’t want them to see this,” she stated.
Grappling with household points, drug habit and psychological well being issues, Palominos stated she’s been hopping amongst San Francisco homeless shelters for greater than a yr. It’s not simple for homeless individuals to discover a spot in a shelter.
“Usually I stay as long as I can, but it’s kind of hard because there are certain people who pick on you. They think they’re better than you,” stated Palominos, who has a bruise underneath her eye and a bandage wrapped round a bloody finger.
On the streets, Palominos stated she’s seen traumatic acts of violence like a taking pictures and stabbing. Struggling with habit to crystal meth, Palominos stated she’s been clear for 5 days.
“Walk a day in my shoes,” she stated. “I guarantee that some of these rich people who walk around in these high-rises wouldn’t survive.”
Jennifer Friedenbach, government director of the Coalition for Homelessness, stated her group has been listening to about extra homeless encampment sweeps forward of the worldwide convention. With shelters seeing areas already filling up or limiting openings, Friedenbach stated it’s “really frustrating” as a result of the town is simply displacing teams of homeless individuals once they’re moved round. Instead, advocacy teams had been hoping for extra momentary housing for the homeless throughout the convention.
“They want to clean up the city’s image and use this conference as a way to draw back tourism,” she stated. “These efforts never work because folks don’t have disappearing power. People are out there because there’s not enough housing. There’s not enough shelter.”
In 2022, 7,754 individuals skilled homelessness in San Francisco. About 43% or 3,357 had been staying in shelters, in keeping with metropolis information.
Homelessness has been a contentious challenge in San Francisco. In December, a federal decide briefly blocked the town from clearing sure homeless encampments with out providing shelter. The courtroom order stemmed from a 2022 lawsuit the Coalition on Homelessness filed towards San Francisco, alleging that metropolis employees are attempting to drive homeless individuals out of city and are seizing and destroying their property “with the express purpose of removing visible signs of homelessness from San Francisco’s street.” The metropolis continues to be allowed to clear streets for emergencies, well being and security causes and to briefly clear.
Emily Cohen, deputy director for communications and legislative affairs on the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, stated in an e mail the town isn’t increasing shelter capability simply for the summit however did put aside funding so as to add roughly 300 shelter beds as winter approaches.
The Interfaith Winter Shelter, which has a website at Natoma and eighth streets, is scheduled to be open throughout the summit and the town is increasing shelter capability at three grownup congregate shelters, she stated.
“When our community hosts events, like APEC, we want to put our best foot forward,” she stated.
That hasn’t stopped Republicans from holding up San Francisco for example for what occurs when Democratic politicians are in cost. In June, Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, shot a marketing campaign advert that portrayed San Francisco as metropolis that has “collapsed because of leftist policies.”
“We came in here, and we saw people defecating on the street,” stated DeSantis, standing subsequent to a graffiti-sprayed buildings. “We saw people using heroin. We saw people smoking crack cocaine, and you look around, the city is not vibrant anymore. It’s really collapsed because of leftist policies.”
The metropolis has been struggling to recuperate from the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, when San Francisco grappled with workplace and enterprise closures partly as a result of government-mandated shutdowns that affected a vibrant downtown crammed with retailers, eating places and bars.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed stated in a press convention Thursday that the tattered city photographs individuals see on social media about San Francisco seize a snapshot in time in sure neighborhoods, ignoring the remainder of the picturesque metropolis.
“I see a lot of beauty all over San Francisco…,” she stated. “My hope is that people will have the opportunity to experience San Francisco for themselves and tell the whole story.”
Later within the day, Breed and Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a brand new plant nursery and training heart within the Soma neighborhood.
Newsom, who met China’s president final month, stated earlier than a giant occasion just like the APEC summit every thing’s acquired to “get dialed up” identical to when individuals clear up their home earlier than they’ve guests.
“This place is beloved and its best days are in front of it, not behind it,” he stated. “And all those doomsdayers. All those negative folks. You know what? They haven’t offered anything.”
Still, enterprise closings have additionally heightened fears concerning the future of downtown San Francisco. Major retailers together with Nordstrom, T-Mobile, Whole Foods and Anthropologie have left amid issues about much less foot visitors, sluggish gross sales and security. The pandemic additionally fueled extra on-line buying, which meant individuals didn’t really feel the necessity to go to shops as typically. Still, companies corresponding to Ikea, are additionally opening new shops in San Francisco and artificial-intelligence startups have been flocking to the town.
San Francisco Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rodney Fong stated cities are re-imagining what their city facilities really feel like as expertise adjustments the way in which individuals work. With APEC anticipated to generate $53 million for the native economic system, in keeping with the San Francisco Travel Assn., companies all through the town even have a chance to rope in additional gross sales.
“This is a really important moment for San Francisco and we’re really looking forward to showcasing all the innovations,” Fong stated.
Ahead of the convention, the Webster Street pedestrian bridge, which was as soon as mild grey, is now freshly painted pink in Japantown. Two new ornamental crosswalks had been being put in in Chinatown and North Beach. The inexperienced grime that when lined the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, positioned close to the convention, is gone.
On a sunny day earlier than the summit, employees washed the streets and positioned new grass on the Yerba Buena Gardens as a result of of heavy use over the summer time. A inexperienced fence, scheduled to be eliminated Tuesday, wrapped across the park with an indication that learn “Improvements in Progress.”
At the Moscone Center, some of the town’s most picturesque spots are on indicators concerning the occasion. The Palace of Fine Arts. City Hall. The Golden Gate Bridge, subsequent to blue water and a sandy seaside. “APEC is going to be EPIC,” one signal reads.
Longtime San Francisco natives like Jacobs can’t envision dwelling anyplace else.
Times employees author Courtney Subramanian contributed to this report.