San Francisco will be under tight security in mid-November akin to safety measures at the White House when dignitaries and world leaders come to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, federal officials said at a press conference Wednesday.
Details of the security for the event were announced Wednesday by the U.S. Secret Service and will include a locked-down, four-square-block section of Downtown around the Moscone Center; closed streets; and shutdown transit lines—including the Central Subway—as well as limited air traffic over San Francisco.
Nob Hill will also be a restricted zone, and part of the Embarcadero will be closed Nov. 15.
“An impact to the normal daily lives of San Franciscans and visitors is unavoidable,” U.S. Secret Service Special Agent-in-Charge Jeremy Brown said at the press conference. “We have absolute confidence in this plan.”
The summit is an unprecedented international event for the city that’s expected to bring 30,000 visitors and world leaders from 21 countries. It will include numerous other events and run from Nov. 15 to 18.
The fact that the federal government declared APEC a National Special Security Event underlines the potential for a terrorist attack or major civil disruption and means the U.S. Secret Service is heading up security planning for the event.
While the general scope of security measures had already been laid out, Wednesday’s press conference nailed down details, including which transit lines would be affected and which streets will be shut down by security perimeters, as well as the impacts on residents and businesses.
The security perimeter around Moscone Center—the central site for the conference—will include the area bordered by Market, Harrison, Second and Fifth streets.
There will be layers of security within the protected zone. Pedestrians will be allowed in the outer belt of the perimeter, but the central area around Moscone and Yerba Buena Gardens will require authorized passes.
Inside the perimeter’s “exclusion zone,” road access will be limited to government vehicles. Meanwhile, flight patterns overhead will be adjusted. The U.S. Coast Guard will also step up patrols on San Francisco Bay, and security staffing in and around the area will be beefed up.
A separate security perimeter will be put in place around the Nob Hill hotel where U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to stay for the event, leading to additional traffic and mass transit disruptions.
A third security zone will run along the Embarcadero on Nov. 15 from Battery Street to Broadway.
Aside from the measures announced Wednesday, an augmented police presence will include outside law enforcement coming to the city for the summit, according to the San Francisco Police Department.
SFPD Chief Bill Scott said all his officers will be working during the event, and numerous other agencies are coming into San Francisco to aid security.
“Our city is ready to meet this moment,” Scott said at the press conference.
Transit impacts will include rerouting Muni lines along Mission and Harrison and within the security zones along Second and Fifth streets.
The Central Subway will not allow passengers along the section that rolls under the Moscone Center, effectively cutting the route in half and blocking its link between Chinatown and the Caltrain station.
“For security reasons, the Yerba Buena station and Fourth and Brannan station of the Central Subway will need to be closed for the duration of the event,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, head of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
Two cable car routes that run along California and Powell streets will also be limited, or shut down in the case of the California line, Tumlin said. The Mason and Hyde streets line will also be impacted.
All the major closures around Moscone Center and on Nob Hill will last from Nov. 15 to 18.
Commercial and other deliveries will be allowed in the early morning and late night and hours from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and will be required to first check in at Pier 27, where they will be screened before they can access certain security zones, Brown said.
Business owners and residents impacted by security zones may be required to go through a security screening.
Scott said there will be no homeless sweeps, but some areas will be barred to anyone without authorized clearance.
“There will be places where we won’t allow access, and we are prepared to deal with that if we have unhoused people displaced,” Scott said.
No specific “free speech zone” will be created, as there will only be areas with restricted access and normal areas of access.
The security announcements have worried local business owners, who fear disruptions would impact their bottom lines, and activists, who argue the limited area set aside for protests flies in the face of the nation’s founding ideas of free speech.
There have already been some disruptions to the operations of local nonprofits and businesses from APEC.
Kelley Coe, president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Golden Gate, said the organization’s annual National Philanthropy Day awards ceremony was required to be rescheduled from November to January because of the security perimeter surrounding the Yerba Buena Gardens, the venue for the event.
The annual event is the main fundraising opportunity for the organization, which represents professionals in philanthropy. The schedule change means holding both 2023 and 2024 iterations of the event in the same year, which could lead to budget issues for the organization and potential sponsorship challenges.
“This is the fundraising event we put all of our energy behind, and it’s a big shift for the team,” Coe said. “It means that we’re going into 2024 starting behind the starting line with a completely imbalanced budget."
Coe said due to the lack of communication from the city, the organization was only alerted to the change of plans after reading a story in The Standard and confirming the issue with the venue.
“If the city is going to shut down one of the busiest parts of the neighborhood, we’d hope to get a heads-up when it is decided,” Coe said. “It’s kind of been like swimming in the dark.”
The No to APEC Coalition has called on Mayor London Breed to push back on what they have called a militarization of the city that will effectively prevent real civil protests.
“The Secret Service is creating a protest exclusion zone around the Moscone Center, where the event will take place, which threatens to prevent the public from exercising its First Amendment right to protest within sight and sound of the APEC and CEO summit delegates,” the coalition said in a statement.
The first APEC was in 1989, and it has since become a recurring gathering focused on international trade. Member countries are mostly Pacific Rim nations, including the United States, Japan, China, Australia and South Korea. The main APEC event is known as Leaders Week, a gathering of heads of state and other government officials.
Overlapping with that event is the CEO Summit from Nov. 14 to 16 at Moscone Center West, which attracts top executives from major international firms.
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org