Ready or not, San Francisco’s moment in the spotlight starts this weekend as the APEC Summit begins Saturday, and the highly visible issue of encampments in public view has City Hall officials fretting over how that’s all going to play out.
With global dignitaries, business leaders, and journalists from around the world about to converge on San Francisco for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders's Summit (APEC), the question on your mind may be… When does APEC begin? The answer to that is a little confusing. The high-profile APEC Leaders' Meeting is scheduled to start November 12. The APEC CEO Summit lists its start date as November 14. But the official APEC schedule lists the first events as starting on November 11, which — yikes! — is this coming Saturday.
And much like in the lead-up to the 2016 Super Bowl here, San Francisco officials are keen to hide the scope of the city’s multiple-thousand people homeless population. So the Chronicle has the story today of how SF is approaching encampment-clearing with APEC just about to get underway.
Obviously, there will be zero tolerance for any tents inside the reddish-pink “security zone” area around Moscone Center, seen in the image above. Only APEC attendees and people who live in that area will be allowed within the security zone perimeter. So we know that any tents or unhoused people will be cleared from there, and advocates for the homeless population aren’t happy.
“As far as I know, they’re not evicting the housed people out of the (security) zone, but they will be evicting the unhoused people out of the zone,” Coalition on Homelessness executive director Jennifer Friedenbach told the Chronicle. “That’s a very unequal treatment of people.”
But encampment-clearing is going to be trickier outside that security zone, given a federal judge’s order to halt encampment sweeps while the Coalition on Homelessness’ lawsuit against the city makes its way through the courts. But Mayor London Breed thinks a recent Appeals Court motion on that halt gives the city more power to clear encampments, power the city is likely to use over the next two weeks.
City Hall did not have the budget to open a specialized shelter just for during APEC, according to the Chron. But that paper reports the city will be opening a “30-spot nighttime shelter” on Friday at Natoma and Eighth streets, not far from Moscone Center, and clearly just in time for APEC. Still, 30 beds is nowhere near enough shelter for the magnitude of homelessness in South of Market.
The Chronicle also adds that the Departments of Homelessness and Supportive Housing has an “existing plan to add about 300 beds between now and early next year.” Those are better numbers, but probably not enough to be a difference-maker with APEC starting in less than six days.
And it also appears SF is reviving an old pandemic-era strategy for making its unhoused population disappear, the shelter-in-place hotels.While there is no shelter-in-place order, the city has reportedly bought at least some hotel rooms to keep the unhoused population off the streets and less visible. The Chronicle’s reporting found several people cleared from the encampment at 13th and Harrison streets had been offered hotel rooms, for an undisclosed length of time
“I’m very happy about that,” one person from that encampment told the Chronicle.
Image: Joe Kukura, SFist