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San Francisco lawmakers urge mayor to relieve APEC pressures on city

Signage along the Embarcadero promotes the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders summit in San Francisco, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023. A $4 million marketing campaign touting San Francisco's resilience, innovation and moxie launches Thursday, Oct. 19, as the embattled city prepares to host a high-profile APEC leaders' summit next month that could boost its image or pile on to its woes. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Signage along the Embarcadero promotes the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders summit in San Francisco. | Source: Eric Risberg

San Francisco lawmakers are urging the city to mitigate the impacts of next month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit on the day-to-day operations of local government.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday as residents, business owners and activists unhappy with security zones created for the event packed the public comment portion of the meeting ahead of the vote. 

Supervisor Connie Chan, the resolution’s primary sponsor, told colleagues before the vote that it was about “supporting our most vulnerable San Franciscans, especially our seniors, our tenants with disabilities, that will end up being trapped by the exclusion zone.” 

While the resolution is nonbinding, it’s a symbolic statement of how supervisors want to spend the $10 million in reserve funds set aside for the conference during the budget process. 

RELATED: APEC Anxiety Sweeps Chinatown as San Francisco Inspects, Shuts Down Restaurants

The APEC summit, which takes place in San Francisco in mid-November, is expected to significantly disrupt streets around Moscone Center. Many visiting dignitaries, including major heads of state with security details, are expected to stay in Nob Hill hotels. 

Four square blocks of Downtown around Moscone Center, the main nerve center of the event, will be locked down. Air traffic over the city will be limited, and some streets and transit lines will be blocked. Commercial deliveries within the zones will be limited to certain hours and undergo security screening. People who work and live within the zones may have to as well. 

In addition to concerns over street closures and other security measures, increased code enforcement against restaurants caused a panic in Chinatown, where several restaurants were temporarily closed. Other businesses inside planned security zones in the SoMa neighborhood are worried about loss of business, and clients of services located within the zones, such as senior centers, are also concerned. 

Chad Piini, who co-owns Freshroll, one of several restaurants remaining in the Metreon on Fourth Street between Mission and Howard streets, told supervisors that “APEC will more than likely necessitate a shutdown” of his business because the security cordon will make it tough to stock up, make deliveries and give customers access. 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks at City Hall on Tuesday about the upcoming APEC summit. | Source: Michaela Vatcheva for The Standard

Others cited a lack of transparency and language support in the information about the security measures, or made ideological arguments against the event. 

Kim Tavaglione, executive director of the San Francisco Labor Council, told supervisors, “it’s going to hurt more San Franciscans than it will help, and we’ll wind up with a nasty trade deal similar to NAFTA. … It’s all aimed at the corporations making a lot of money at this thing at the expense of the citizens of San Francisco.” 

Mike Casey, Labor Council president, described APEC as “billionaires, corporations and their political minions coming to San Francisco to divide up the spoils of the Pacific region.” 

READ MORE: Golden Gate Park’s Ferris Wheel Heads To This San Francisco Neighborhood for APEC

The resolution also noted free speech concerns, as significant protests of the summit are expected, along with increased presence of federal law enforcement. Plans to mobilize 911 dispatchers to work 60-hour shifts during the summit were met with pushback from the dispatchers’ union, which Supervisor Ahsha Safaí highlighted.

“This is a precedent-setting request on the part of the Department of Emergency Management,” Safaí said. “We have to have a real and fair compensation package and approach for our 911 call operators and the importance of the role they will play in the coming weeks.” 

“We’re in uncharted waters because this is a National Special Security Event along the lines of an inauguration,” Supervisor Matt Dorsey said. “I don’t know that we have had something like this. I think the resolution provides assurance that the Board of Supervisors is going to be there looking after our communities.”

At a Tuesday press conference with California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Mayor London Breed characterized concerns reflected in the resolution as overblown. 

“I think we’re jumping to the wrong conclusions too fast,” Breed said. “Usually, a convention allows for an opportunity for those same businesses in the perimeter to thrive. People pass by a lot of these businesses for a quick bite. I think we have to see what happens, … but we are definitely open to working things out to support our various businesses in the area.”

Later at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Breed noted that the city Office of Economic and Workforce Development was performing door-to-door outreach to residents and small businesses in the zones, “especially with many of the seniors who live in the area to ensure that they have access to paratransit vehicles and other resources.”

APEC, which will host meetings of government officials from 21 economies along with business leaders from around the Pacific Rim, is also expected to have bilateral meetings with significant implications. 

Vice President Kamala Harris is this year’s APEC summit chair, and President Joe Biden is hoping to meet with China’s President Xi Jinping, who last visited the U.S. in 2017, at the conference. The visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi with Secretary of State Antony Blinken later this week in Washington, D.C., may pave the way for the meeting. 

Breed and much of the city’s business community hope the conference will provide San Francisco with a much-needed reputation boost. The APEC Host Committee has raised more than $20 million to support the event and has mounted a promotional campaign

Also present at Tuesday’s press conference was Greg Sarris, tribal chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, whose North Bay casino donated $4.6 million to the effort.