Gavin Newsom cleans up San Francisco for President Xi as businesses struggle

In advance of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in San Francisco, whose attendees include President Joe Biden and Chinese president Xi Jinping, Governor Gavin Newsom drove a rapid cleanup of the city’s downtown, including the removal of encampments and beautification via the addition of decorative planters and murals. These changes drew sharp rebuke from leaders who wondered why Newsom was only choosing to act now if he and San Francisco leaders always had the ability to make these changes.

"I know folks say, 'Oh, they're just cleaning up this place because all those fancy leaders are coming into town.' That's true because it's true," Newsom said in a press conference when asked about cleaning up the city.

In the weeks before the summit, San Francisco added hundreds of homeless shelter beds. Emails secured by the San Francisco Chronicle show city staff requested additional facilities come online and operate for the conference, with a priority for cleanups placed on high-profile areas near APEC meetings.

“Gavin Newsom couldn’t clean up SF for *years* for Americans here at home, yet manages to do it instantly for Xi Jinping. Funny how that works,” said Vivek Ramasawmy, entrepreneur and Republican presidential candidate on X.

San Francisco ranked worst among 62 cities for post-pandemic downtown recoveries based on cell phone use as proxy for business activity, leading many to suggest the city is in a “doom loop” where declining expectations drive declining positive activity in a self-fulfilling cycle.

Within the APEC security zone, where metal barricades have been erected, business owners note that while the city’s rampant property crime has decreased, customers are not walking in and patronizing their stores.

“This is the safest it’s felt,” said massage receptionist America Lopez to the San Francisco Standard. “But also, no one really wants to come in.”

San Francisco also experienced a significant cleanup before Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference earlier this year. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff celebrated the city’s work to improve conditions for his conference, but also wondered why the city was unable to act sooner.

“San Francisco has been incredibly clean, beautiful, and safe for the last 3 days of Dreamforce, and it is great that the city is able to put its best foot forward for this major event that brings in 40K people from around the world, and $80M to the economy. It is important to ask why the city cannot be this clean and safe every single day,” said Benioff.

Soon after Dreamforce ended, many conditions in the city returned to normal, though San Francisco Mayor London Breed has announced dual measures for voters to adopt on expanding and reforming the city’s police force, and requiring beneficiaries of county and city cash welfare to be screened for substance abuse and be mandated to receive and successfully engage in treatment to continue receiving money.


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