World leaders, CEOs, protesters and 1000’s of others will quickly descend on San Francisco for a worldwide commerce summit that would give the battered metropolis an opportunity to reverse its picture of an financial powerhouse now in decline.

The annual Asia-Pacific Financial Cooperation leaders’ summit will likely be San Francisco’s largest worldwide gathering since dignitaries gathered in 1945 to signal the constitution creating the United Nations.

The summit opens Saturday and runs by means of Friday, drawing an anticipated 20,000 individuals. Of specific notice this yr is a deliberate tete-a-tete between President Joe Biden and Chinese language counterpart Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the summit — their first direct engagement in a tension-filled yr between the world’s two largest financial powers.


As host, San Francisco and the town’s companions are sharpening sidewalks, scrubbing away graffiti and shifting homeless individuals to lodging indoors. Individually, Mayor London Breed has been selling pop-up outlets, new locations and eating places in a downtown struggling to regain foot visitors post-pandemic.

Breed has repeatedly stated she desires summit guests to return residence with recollections of a San Francisco that’s secure, vibrant and open for enterprise — not the picture of grime, crime and homelessness so usually mirrored in media protection.

“To not recommend that we don’t have challenges like every other main metropolis, however we predict that as a result of we’re anticipating 1000’s of press from world wide, that may give them an opportunity to expertise San Francisco,” she instructed The Related Press.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom joined Breed on Thursday in touting the state’s work to construct a tree nursery close to a homeless shelter and alongside Interstate 80. Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor, stated the undertaking reveals the town’s resilience.

Azalina Eusope seems to be out the entrance door on the surrounding Tenderloin district from her restaurant in San Francisco on Nov. 8, 2023. (AP Photograph/Eric Risberg)

“I’m so enthusiastic about displaying this off to 21 fancy overseas leaders from world wide -– tens of 1000’s of individuals which might be going to come back in and surprise what the hell Fox Information has been speaking about all these years,” he stated.

Because the summit looms, Chinese language state media has centered on talks like Thursday’s assembly right here between U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Chinese language Vice Premier He Lifeng.

However searches for San Francisco on Douyin — Tiktok’s authentic Chinese language model — confirmed dozens of movies of homeless individuals sleeping within the metropolis’s streets.

Moreover world leaders, APEC finance ministers and overseas press, the summit can be anticipated to attract an array of individuals protesting human rights abuses, authoritarian regimes, the Israel-Hamas struggle and the fossil gasoline business.

Some critics complain occasions like APEC prioritize company earnings over on a regular basis individuals. APEC is a regional financial discussion board established in 1989 and has 21 member nations.

“I feel it’s very cynical to be utilizing it like an Instagram second, principally to promote actual property within the metropolis,” stated Karl Kramer, marketing campaign co-director for the San Francisco Dwelling Wage Coalition.

The pandemic decimated the town’s most important financial drivers of tourism and tech. Main retailers closed downtown shops final summer season, leaving extra empty storefronts in a district that when bustled with vacationers and workplace staff. Companies complained of vandalism, shoplifting, break-ins and unresponsive police.

San Francisco boosters, nevertheless, say the “doom-loop” narrative just isn’t solely unfair however false.


San Francisco tech public relations agency LaunchSquad was employed with non-public summit funds to pitch journalists on tales setting the file straight. And a civic enterprise group co-headed by the president of the San Francisco Giants launched a $4 million advertising marketing campaign touting the town as a spot for inventive dreamers.

Kenya-based public relations CEO Gilbert Manirakiza was amongst interviews obtained by means of LaunchSquad to share his expertise within the metropolis throughout a convention final month. He stated an individual processing his visa warned him to watch out. However he beloved his go to, seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, strolling to Chinatown for late-night meals, and taking a robo-taxi again to his resort.

“The final theme there,” he stated, “was a way of ‘I can dream something and make it occur by some means.’”

San Francisco promoters level to furnishings big IKEA, which opened on a troubled downtown block in August, and to the town’s rising AI business. In addition they herald the arrival of Chotto Matte, a high-end world restaurant chain, now serving Japanese Peruvian meals from a surprising rooftop perch above a former Macy’s retailer.

Chotto Matte Founder Kurt Zdesar stated 3,000 reservation requests poured in throughout the first half hour of opening final month. “It reveals that San Francisco isn’t useless,” he stated, including he believes “there’s an urge for food for issues to vary” regardless of damaging media narratives.

However Azalina Eusope says no quantity of constructive press will fill her 32-seat Malaysian restaurant blocks away within the Tenderloin District, an space crammed with kids and immigrants like herself in addition to medicine and homelessness. She stated diners usually cancel reservations as soon as they discover out the placement.

Eusope, an entrepreneur additionally prompt by public relations agency LaunchSquad, opened Azalina’s final yr with hopes of serving to change the neighborhood. Moreover serving high-end, four-course dinners, she gives deeply backed meals to neighborhood kids and weekend cooking lessons.

However already she sees extra unfamiliar homeless residents camped out close to her restaurant when she arrives every day, doubtless pushed out of their common downtown spots forward of the summit.

“So already I’m just a little nervous. Folks simply come contained in the restaurant, we are able to’t lock the door, they throw a tantrum. One man had a knife. We known as 911 and so they didn’t present,” Eusope stated of police.

In the meantime, Jennifer Friedenbach, govt director of the Coalition on Homelessness, stated she fears a repeat of what occurred when San Francisco hosted the 2016 Tremendous Bowl. Then, individuals have been booted out of shelter traces to make manner for many who usually reside downtown and needed to be moved.

“It’s tough on the market,” she stated. “Of us need to get off the streets, however there’s not capability for everyone.”

The town just isn’t opening particular homeless shelters particularly for the summit. Nonetheless, a gaggle shelter opens Friday and roughly 300 new beds will likely be out there this month and subsequent, stated Emily Cohen with the town’s Division of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.


In the meantime, metropolis boosters see grounds for optimism.

This month, Air China resumed direct flights between San Francisco and Beijing after suspending flights simply earlier than the pandemic.

Tourism from Asia, and China specifically, fuels San Francisco’s Chinatown, says Malcolm Yeung, govt director of the Chinatown Neighborhood Growth Heart. He hopes the town will facilitate visits to the neighborhood and use the summit to declare that Chinatown is again, together with all the town’s different vibrant Asian American service provider communities.

“APEC actually is a second to say, ‘Hey, we’re open for enterprise, we’re open for enterprise, Asia,’” he stated.

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