Predictably, the city is stepping up efforts to clear people off the streets in and around the security zone being set for the APEC leaders summit next week, and some of those being told to move are being told it's because of the summit.
While San Francisco still has to abide by a federal injunction that has prevented the clearing of encampments without offers of alternative shelter, the city's homeless outreach teams and Public Works employees appear to be very busy getting downtown to look more sanitized ahead of the APEC summit, which officially kicks off Saturday.
"They said 21 world leaders are coming to the city, but they didn’t say where they were going to be," says one homeless man, Mike Reynolds, speaking to the Chronicle. "They just said we had to go."
Says another person, Aly Gatton, who was told to move, "The cops told us there was some kind of convention coming and we can’t hang out around there — or here."
The city is reportedly opening a new 30-bed overnight winter shelter this week at Natoma and Eighth streets, but that likely isn't going to put much of a dent in the shelter deficit. There is also, per the Chronicle, an effort to open 300 new beds in other shelters "in the coming months," but it's unclear if any of those are going to be ready by this weekend.
As we learned earlier this week, the city has bought up some hotel rooms to house homeless people as well, and those have been offered to at least one group of campers who were at 13th and Harrison streets.
The APEC security zone, as we learned three weeks ago, extends through a 12-block zone of SoMa around the Moscone Center. Muni buses are being re-routed around the zone, and the T-Third train won't even be allowed to travel through into the Central Subway — though anyone wanting to take it to Chinatown can ride the train one stop from Powell/Union Square, and it will be running as a shuttle like that all week.
Those who live inside the security zone will have to show ID at entrance gates and face security screening.
The Chronicle reports that people camped on streets on a number of blocks in the Tenderloin, including at the intersections of Van Ness Avenue and California Street, Hyde and Eddy streets, Taylor and Ellis streets, have just been cleared in recent days, and the area is looking "emptier" than usual.
The efforts underway are an echo of what happened in the winter of 2015/2016, as the city prepared to host Super Bowl 50. The KPIX report below from late 2015 shows that the homeless issue around the Embarcadero was pretty similar to what it is in 2023, and the city was making efforts then to clean things up for the cameras.
As the Chronicle notes, those efforts didn't exactly succeed, and national news coverage still included "long, lingering footage of the sprawling encampments along Division Street — the biggest the city has ever had — and time after time the problem was presented as a major civic black eye."
It's not like there's going to be a ton of national news coverage of the APEC summit — more people care about a Super Bowl, obviously — but there will be some. And it's probably more the international coverage that is of concern. The city wants Asian tourists to return to the city in large numbers, and images of a clean and safe San Francisco will help that.
No doubt having heard of the city's woes, some camera crews will go out in search of homeless tents anyway. The latest efforts are just ensuring that they will have to walk many more blocks outside the security zone to do so, or head to the Mission or elsewhere.
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