Finance and pharma bros are running up restaurant and bar tabs and sending late-night Uber prices surging as San Francisco plays host to this week’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference.
Meanwhile, city officials have been rolling out the red carpet in an attempt to keep up momentum from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November, which featured noticeably cleaner streets and a reduced number of homeless encampments.
But apparently the city has not done enough to satisfy the tastes of Jamie Dimon, the CEO and chairman of J.P. Morgan Chase, who took a swipe at San Francisco in a Fox News interview with Maria Bartiromo. Dimon was asked if New York City was facing similar concerns to San Francisco when it comes to housing, homelessness and public safety—and the head of the world’s largest bank didn’t flinch.
“San Francisco is in far worse shape than New York,” Dimon said.
Officials in the office of Mayor London Breed expressed surprise over Dimon’s comments, which apparently are not reflective of the feedback they’ve received from other J.P. Morgan officials. Parisa Safarzadeh, a spokesperson for the mayor, said that no meetings were scheduled between Breed and Dimon.
“The mayor has worked aggressively to ramp up and expand the city's public safety efforts over the last few years, including prioritizing a recovering economy and workforce,” Safarzadeh said. “These efforts have yielded significant progress and milestones.”
Safarzadeh noted that San Francisco’s homelessness rate has dropped to a level not seen since 2017 and the number of encampments in the city fell by 17% in the last half of 2023. Meanwhile, a ramp-up in drug enforcement led to twice as many arrests in 2023 compared with 2022.
J.P. Morgan’s annual event is the largest health care industry gathering of the year and a major economic boon to the city, filling hotels and restaurants by bringing together more than 8,000 investors, industry professionals and senior government officials, as well as 550 global health care companies, according to conference organizers. The conference was canceled in 2022, instead being held online, before returning to San Francisco last year.
In years past, conference attendees have complained about the condition of the city’s streets amid a perennial social media campaign to #MoveJPM to another venue. But Dimon has remained largely resolute in his pledge to remain in the city.
On Monday, one of J.P. Morgan's top executives was quoted in a San Francisco Travel Association press release touting the city and the Bay Area as “dynamic and innovative business centers.”
Peter Kelley, a J.P. Morgan spokesperson, clarified Dimon’s comments and said the CEO was talking about San Francisco’s economy falling behind New York due to a lack of diversity.
“San Francisco has always been a dynamic place to do business,” Kelley said. “It’s important to see the city thrive, and we’re collaborating with our local peers to ensure the region grows as one of the world's leading centers for innovation.”
Dimon met with several top CEOs in San Francisco this week and raised his concerns about issues the city is facing, according to a source with knowledge of the meeting. He cited a need for more collaboration and organization among corporate leaders.
J.P. Morgan has grown its presence in San Francisco significantly since the acquisition of First Republic Bank last year. The bank also spent more than $300 million for the naming rights on Chase Center, the Golden State Warriors’ home stadium.
“I think every city, like every country, should be thinking about what is it that makes an attractive city,” Dimon told Fox. “It's parks, it's art—but it's definitely safety. You know, it's jobs, it's job creation, it's the ability to have affordable housing—it's all those things. So it's not any one thing. But, you know, any city who doesn't do a good job, it will lose its population.”
The comment seems to reference San Francisco losing 7.5% of its population—more than 65,000 people—between 2020 and 2022. San Francisco led all large U.S. counties in terms of its rate of population decline during the pandemic.
More recently, however, that trend has started to reverse. San Francisco has again started to attract new residents, experiencing the highest population growth from net migration among the state’s 58 counties between July 2022 and July 2023.
Dimon seemed to suggest in his Fox interview that a key issue in the exodus of businesses from San Francisco was high tax burdens and—in a bit of confusing logic—a lack of affordable housing for high-paid employees.
“Government’s got to listen to business and some of these great companies here,” Dimon said. “You know, if they can grow jobs, it is great for the city, but they need housing. If they can’t get the permits to build affordable housing, they can’t build a new building here when they bring in high-paid employees.”
Bartiromo turned the discussion to New York City, which she noted had some of the same issues as San Francisco. Dimon suggested that Eric Adams, the mayor of New York, was doing an admirable job of combating issues of crime and helping businesses before taking the dig at San Francisco.
“I think this mayor's actively engaged,” Dimon said. “I mean, [Adams] reaches out. We've had lunch a couple of times. I think he's doing some of the right stuff on crime, and he's got some tough problems, but he's getting a lot of support. San Francisco is in far worse shape than New York.”