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Rotting food, disruptions: San Franciscans say APEC has upended their lives

A woman stands behind a cash register at a restaurant counter.
Sammi Wen, an employee at Bimi Poke, says the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit has negatively affected business. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

People who live and work near the location of San Francisco’s APEC summit say they’re struggling to continue with their everyday lives due to increased security measures. 

The U.S. Secret Service is restricting access to a 12-square-block radius in SoMa around the Moscone Center, the main venue for a gathering of world leaders that runs until Friday. 

While, according to business owners, the increased security presence and masses of black fencing have resulted in an immediate drop in property crime, local merchants also said their sales have dropped demonstrably. 

A large black fence on a city street corner.
Pedestrians walk through and around mental barricades at the corner of Fourth and Mission Street in San Francisco on Wednesday. | Source: Justin Katigbak/The Standard

Some business owners by the security zone told The Standard they’re sending workers home and watching food go bad due to a lack of business. 

Sammi Wen, owner of Bimi Poke in the Metreon mall, said she stocked up on food because they were expecting an influx of foot traffic. Instead, Wen said she’s been unable to accept delivery orders and the 10- to 12-foot-tall security perimeter has put off her usual customers.

By noon on Wednesday, Wen said the restaurant had served just two customers and she was worried the food would go bad. 

“Oh my God, it’s been so slow,” Wen said. “We were expecting 20,000 people coming.”

A restaurant worker behind an empty counter texts on her phone.
An employee of Bimi Poke uses her phone. Business at the restaurant is slow due to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

At Cole Hardware on Fourth Street, the usual shoplifters have disappeared, but so have the customers, according to store manager Renato Geslani. He said by mid-morning Wednesday, he had already sent two employees home due to a lack of business. He suspects people may not know the store is open because it is on the edge of the security zone.

Geslani noted the store stocked up on megaphones and cardboard, anticipating an influx of protestors. But even the local revolutionaries don’t seem to know it’s open. 

“I don’t think people realize they can come to our store,” he said. 

A man in a black T-shirt stands in front of a mural on the street.
Renato Geslani Jr., manager of Cole Hardware, says the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit has negatively affected business at his SoMa store. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

Geslani said the alley next to the hardware store was cleared of encampments by Monday morning, but he’s expecting them to return once APEC is over. He said he witnessed a similar cleanup effort by the city during the Dreamforce conference in September.

“The cleanup is nice, but it’s just like during Salesforce,” Geslani said. “They cleaned it up, then it all went back to crap.” 

For those living nearby, particularly those with disabilities, the maze of fences has severely complicated their daily lives. A trip to a store or restaurant across the street may take 30 minutes longer than it used to.

A man in a wheelchair in a Target store.
Ron Devino, a San Francisco resident, says blockades around the streets near Moscone Center for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit have made it difficult for him to get around in his wheelchair. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

Ron Devino, who said he lives on Howard Street two blocks from the security zone and was shopping at Target on Wednesday, said the fencing is difficult for him to navigate in his wheelchair. 

“It’s hampering people who are dependent on these devices,” Devino said. “I’m trying to get through these gates, but they don’t have enough room. My wheelchair gets all twisted.” 

America Lopez, a receptionist at Massage Envy on Mission Street, said they’ve booked just one-quarter of the usual amount of reservations this week. She joined others in wondering where all the visiting dignitaries were shopping, eating and getting their massages. 

“This is the safest it’s felt,” Lopez said. “But also, no one really wants to come in.”

David Sjostedt can be reached at