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On the eve of Xi’s visit, San Francisco gets a makeover

Is Gavin Newsom (third from right) finally getting his hands dirty? Credit: Getty

November 13, 2023 - 3:10pm

California

In the face of mounting challenges related to drug addiction, homelessness, and urban deterioration in San Francisco, municipal authorities are cleaning up the city’s streets. This is in anticipation of the impending Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit, which is expected to draw over 20,000 attendees, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, President Joe Biden, and Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

The ongoing cleanup also sheds light on decades of progressive Democratic policies, now characterised by open-air drug markets, car smash-and-grabs, organised retail crime, and tragic deaths of despair.

Preparations for Apec include the clearance of locations known for open drug use, such as the Nancy Pelosi Federal Building — a city block that has recorded nearly 30 deaths and over 150 suspected overdoses in the first half of this year. But are these measures actually solving the problem, or moving them to other parts of the city?

San Francisco’s strategy encompasses the relocation of homeless encampments, an augmented law enforcement presence, and systematic dismantling of tents in specific neighbourhoods, particularly those in proximity to Apec venues. 

The practice of displacing encampments in preparation for major events in California mirrors past occurrences, such as during the Oscars and Super Bowl, underscoring a recurrent pattern wherein political leaders seek to present a positive global image by addressing visible social issues. According to a January 2022 report by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, California’s homelessness crisis constitutes 30% of the nation’s homeless population, a disproportionately high figure considering the state’s share of slightly less than 12% of the total US population.

Stringent security measures are currently in place for the upcoming Apec event, with both local and federal authorities implementing restrictions on unhoused residents within a designated “secure zone”, overseen by the US Secret Service. This secured area, demarcated by imposing gated fences evoking certain dystopian imagery, will be subject to federal charges for any infractions occurring within or near the Apec event zone. Law enforcement agencies — including the SFPD, Highway Patrol, National Guard, FBI, and CIA — express unequivocal commitment to maintaining order and security, departing from the customary leniency observed in San Francisco prosecutions.

There is a prevailing sentiment among San Franciscans that the city is fostering an illusion of progress while circumventing the fundamental causes underpinning homelessness and drug addiction. Questions have been raised over the timing of this cleanup initiative and its precedence, given that the Apec conference comes hot on the heels Newsom’s recent “climate-focused tour” in China. 

Ironically, this visit has prompted scrutiny of leaders’ commitment to addressing the root causes of homelessness. Fentanyl-related overdoses persist as a significant issue in San Francisco, with the city poised for a record-breaking number of fatalities this year. In 2022, California led the nation in total deaths from fentanyl (6,453) followed by Florida (5,083) and New York (4,950). It is unclear whether Biden or Newsom will have the courage to press Xi on the topic this week. China, after all, is the world’s primary source of the precursors of illicit fentanyl — responsible for more than 90% of the drug in the United States. 

The cleanup effort is nothing more than a hasty attempt to save face and conceal the adverse effects of Democratic progressive policies. Still, the speed at which the downtown area has been cleared up shows that when there is impetus, it can be done. It is a shame, then, to see that politicians like Newsom only seem to act when it is politically expedient to do so.

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Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
8 months ago

It is a shame, then, to see that politicians like Newsom only seem to act when it is politically expedient to do so.
Apparently, it is politically expedient to provide basic civic services when a Chinese dignitary visits, but not expedient to do so for one’s own constituency. Really demonstrates upon which side the bread is buttered.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
8 months ago

APEC is a lot more countries (21 in total) than just China. It’s not unusual to dress up a city for a big event like this. Some say it’s the biggest international meeting here since the signing in 1945 of the documents creating the United Nations.
San Francisco has its problems, and people like mayor London Breed (the woman in the middle in the photo above) and governor Gavin Newsom deserve criticism for their policies that made those problems worse. I’m no fan of either of them. Indeed, I’m a strong critic.
But their efforts to clean up the city have been going on for a while. This is not just a flash in the pan. I had to pick my wife up at the international terminal at SFO airport today, and there were a lot of police officers where there normally are none. But otherwise, there was no sign of any makeover. Just basic civic services, as always.

Last edited 8 months ago by Carlos Danger
R M
R M
7 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Its not the fact of them cleaning up the city which is at issue. This is as you say pretty normal for any city hosting a major international event.
The problem is that the mess they are cleaning up is the product of the very policies which they (and other progressives) have long advocated for with the promise that they would have the exact opposite effect.
Who knew that essentially legalising open drug taking would lead to whole communities blighted by shambling zombie addicts? Well, lots of people did, but they were shouted down and ignored in favour of one of the political left’s favourite bits of magical thinking.

R M
R M
8 months ago

Surely Progressives are falling over themselves to show the World how successful long sought after policies like legalising drugs are?

All those drooling, doubled-over people stood motionless at the side of the road aren’t fentanyl addicts. They’re just overcome with joy at how great life is now that they are no longer stigmatised as illegal drug users.

Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
8 months ago

Never was it truer: in California, the only thing that matters is how you look. Facts can be ignored. Just strike a pose.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Gerald Arcuri

Marketing triumphs over real action yet again.

Wyatt W
Wyatt W
8 months ago

It looks like they’ve never touched a shovel in their lives in that photo.

Last edited 8 months ago by Wyatt W
Waffles
Waffles
8 months ago

So they are setting up a Green Zone, like they did in Iraq, Afghanistan and other failed states.

What will it take to open the eyes of progressives? Their de-gentifrying policies are a national embarrassment.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
8 months ago

The Potemkin village designed to fool the naive foreigner that the Soviet system delivered prosperity and happy citizens is now being reproduced by the new Democratic Soviets in Potemkin Cities or more accurately a Potemkin neighbourhood as they can’t manage a city.

James S.
James S.
8 months ago

Potemkin Village 2023

Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
7 months ago

The photo lead to this article clearly depicts California’s political leaders doing what they do best: shoveling manure with golden shovels. Each participant was chosen based on a rigorous DEI algorithm. Meanwhile, homelessness and illegal immigration are destroying California.