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San Francisco officials reportedly cleared out areas of the city occupied by homeless camps and public drug markets before top world leaders and CEOS, and tens of thousands of other attendees, arrived in the Bay Area for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC).
APEC, known as the “Super Bowl of World Economies,” is holding its 2023 leaders meeting in San Francisco this year between November 11 to 17. The summit includes leaders of 21 countries and regions, including President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“I know folks are saying, ‘Oh, they’re just cleaning up this place because all those fancy leaders are coming to town,'” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday, as reported by Fox News. “That’s true because it’s true — but it’s also true for months and months and months before APEC, we’ve been having conversations.”
As homeless encampments, open-air drug markets, and crime continue to sweep some areas of the city, internal emails obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle showed city officials were “concerned about historical encampments that are close to priority areas” and needed to format a plan to “stay on top of the growing encampments.”
Several videos circulating on social media appear to show various sidewalks cleared of homeless encampments and individuals, with some portions blocked off with barricades or covered with brand-new planters where tents had once stood.
San Francisco’s homeless population was entirely cleared out for Xi Jinping.
The government can easily fix our cities overnight. It just doesn’t want to.pic.twitter.com/tBGmWCbwtX
— End Wokeness (@EndWokeness) November 12, 2023
For Xi visit San Francisco cleared our homeless and put about 100 new planters.
It’s amazing what can happen if government wants to actually fix things. pic.twitter.com/Ea47CJtI8g
— I Meme Therefore I Am 🇺🇸 (@ImMeme0) November 12, 2023
A local Fox affiliate said areas of the city look noticeably cleaner, with far fewer homeless encampments.
City employee Marc Savino told the outlet, “You just naturally start to wonder about houseless folks being displaced.”
According to local media, a federal injunction requires the city to provide adequate shelter for homeless individuals after removing their tents from public areas. Although the city did not set up new shelters specifically for individuals impacted by the international summit, it opened a 30-spot overnight winter shelter and has been working on adding 300 beds to some of the existing shelters
“The daily allotment will vary throughout the conference,” Cohen told the Chronicle in an email. “But we are making every effort to maximize shelter capacity across our portfolio for the community to access during APEC and ongoing.”
The Chronicle reported that the city’s effort to clear the encampments is an attempt to avoid a repeat of 2016, when it hosted Superbowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Aside from airing the game, the outlet noted that TV broadcasts had focused on the city’s homeless crisis along Division Street, which presented “a major civic black eye” for the Bay Area.
San Francisco community activist Ricci Lee Wynne told The New York Post that city officials cleared out encampments near the Moscone Center on Howard Street, which she said signaled “the city had the capability to do this all along — instead, they just do the bare minimum.”
“Once APEC is gone, police presence will start to simmer down again, the tents will return, and it will slowly flare up again,” Lee said. “What we need is a permanent solution.”
A significant event during this year’s summit is a sideline meeting between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, which marks the first time the two have met since November 2022.
“Chinese officials will want to project to their domestic audience that Xi is received by Biden with dignity and respect,” director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institute Ryan Hass told the AP.
CBS News reported in late October that potential topics of discussion between Biden and Xi Jinping include increased Chinese aggression toward Taiwan and Xi Jinping’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, all topics that U.S. officials have expressed concern about in recent weeks.
San Francisco becomes the latest U.S. city to clean up its appearance before a scheduled visit from President Biden.
Earlier this year, illegal immigrants in El Paso, Texas, were arrested, their camps taken down, and some even sent back to Mexico in the week leading up to Biden’s first visit to the border during his term.
Ben Whitehead contributed to this report.