With Dreamforce last week, some San Francisco residents got a taste of what's to come in mid-November, when world leaders and representatives from 21 member economies in the Asia-Pacific region — along with a bevy of journalists — descend on the city for a major summit.
San Francisco won the bid to host APEC, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders's Summit, last year, after Mayor London Breed personally entreated Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to nominate SF.
"Our economic recovery is ongoing, but our footprint is strong with over 34,000 hotel rooms, a newly renovated Moscone Center, iconic sites and cultural experiences, and a world-class culinary scene," Breed said in a statement at the time. "This is an exciting opportunity for our City, its residents, workers, and visitors."
But now it's crunch time, and Breed is surely feeling the heat, with the stakes pretty high and the possibilities of snafus being many.
As Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin puts it to the Chronicle, "All it takes is to have one crazy person yelling on a sidewalk — which, by the way, existed before COVID and existed before London Breed — and you’re like, 'Wow, that was a pretty unpleasant and uncomfortable experience.'"
Police and street ambassadors seemed to do a good job of clearing the routes between the Moscone Center and Union Square hotels last week for Dreamforce — with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff proclaiming, "This is probably the cleanest I've ever seen San Francisco." — and they will likely be doing that tenfold for APEC.
Founded in 1989, APEC is an intergovernmental forum that brings together 21 member economies to help promote free trade throughout the Asia-Pacific region. There is actually an entire year's worth of meetings on the organization's calendar, and the U.S has been the host nation all year, starting with meetings that happened in February in Palm Springs. But the San Francisco part of the calendar is the biggest set of meetings that wrap up the year, with year-end conventions of senior officials, finance ministers, and economic leaders.
The summit runs from November 11 to 17, and there is an affiliated CEO conference happening at the same time that will bring in CEOs from General Motors, Pfizer, Citi, Mastercard, FedEx, ExxonMobil, and other big corporations. In total, around 30,000 people are expected to attend.
This is all terrific news for fine-dining restaurants, especially those that are close to downtown — and all of them could use the boost. And it's also good news for downtown hotels, which remain at about 60% of their capacity.
Maryam Muduroglu, Mayor Breed’s chief of protocol, has been put in charge of giving the international visitors the red-carpet treatment, which will include gala events for dignitaries and journalists alike.
The city has set aside $10 million to pay for the event, and it is still looking to raise $20 million in private funds. Sponsoring companies include Ripple, Autodesk, Salesforce, and Sutter Health, and around $11.5 million has been raised to date, according to the event website.
President Joe Biden is expected to attend, along with Vice President Kamala Harris — Harris attended APEC in Bangkok last year. And leaders will be coming from China, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam and a dozen other countries and "economies" — including Russia.
"APEC is an opportunity for San Francisco to feel good about itself," says Peskin, comparing it, hopefully, to the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exhibition — the world's fair that brought us the Palace of Fine Arts and which showed off to the world how the city had recovered after the 1906 Great Earthquake and fire.
The event is also being compared to the United Nations founding convention in 1945, which was the last time that San Francisco played host to so many world leaders at once.
Hopefully the event won't lend itself to viral videos of people being robbed or accosted. So long as no one does too much "exploring" outside the highest-trafficked areas, we should be fine. That being said, curious journalists are bound to be curious, and who knows what they'll find.
Also, Senator Dianne Feinstein is part of the host committee, but hopefully they'll just have her wave from the stage and call it a day.
Photo: Andrew Whitmore