SF’s appalling street life repels residents — now it’s driven away a convention

 

In a move that is alarming San Francisco’s biggest industry, a major medical association is pulling its annual convention out of the city — saying its members no longer feel safe.

“It’s the first time that we have had an out-and-out cancellation over the issue, and this is a group that has been coming here every three or four years since the 1980s,” said Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of S.F. Travel, the city’s convention bureau.

D’Alessandro declined to name the medical association, saying the bureau still hopes to bring the group back in the future.

As a rule, major conventions book their visits at least five years in advance. So when D’Alessandro and members of the hospitality industry hadn’t heard from the doctors about re-upping, they flew to the organization’s Chicago headquarters for a face-to-face meeting with its executive board.

And with good reason: The group’s annual five-day trade show draws 15,000 attendees and pumps about $40 million into the local economy.

“They said that they are committed to this year and to 2023, but nothing in between or nothing thereafter,” D’Alessandro said. “After that, they told us they are planning to go elsewhere — I believe it’s Los Angeles.”

The doctors group told the San Francisco delegation that while they loved the city, postconvention surveys showed their members were afraid to walk amid the open drug use, threatening behavior and mental illness that are common on the streets.

It didn’t help that one board member had been assaulted near Moscone Center last year.

“There was a time when the biggest obstacle to having a convention here was that it can be expensive, but now we have this new factor,” D’Alessandro said.

In recent years, conventions have hired uniformed off-duty police and private security officers to patrol around Moscone and the nearby hotels.

Tourism is San Francisco’s biggest industry, bringing in $9 billion a year, employing 80,000 people and generating more than $725 million in local taxes — conventions represent about $1.7 billion of the business.

“You may not know it, but tourists spend more money outside of the hotel than inside the hotel,” said Hotel Council Executive Director Kevin Carroll. “Everything from restaurants to shopping to taking taxis.”

Industry leaders have been meeting with Mayor-elect London Breed to urge her to increase police foot patrols and mental health services — and to enforce the quality of life laws currently on the books.

In the meanwhile, D’Alessandro said, the rumbling of discontent continues from a number of conventions — “even from local tech companies who hold some of our biggest annual events.”

Poll position: London Breed won less than 37 percent of first-place votes in last month’s ranked-choice mayoral race, but a new poll shows at least two-thirds of San Francisco voters have a favorable opinion of her.

The phone and online poll of 635 San Francisco voters found 65 percent of those surveyed viewed Breed favorably and 24 percent negatively — the remainder were undecided or had no opinion.

It’s also worth noting that 68 percent of men gave Breed a thumbs-up, compared with 61 percent of women.

“I think it shows Mayor-elect Breed has very strong support throughout the city, and voters are excited about her mayorship,” said pollster Ruth Bernstein of EMC Research.

How long Breed’s favorable rating will last remains to be seen. The same poll also found that nearly half those surveyed, or 49 percent, described the city as being on “the wrong track” — just 36 percent think it’s on “the right track.”

The poll was conducted in English and Chinese from June 17 to 20 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent. The findings were part of a larger poll done on behalf of unnamed business interests.

Leaning left: Former state Democratic Party Chairman John Burton is calling out local party progressives for taking $10,000 from a major landlord whose business practices were being challenged by Supervisor Jeff Sheehy — then using that money to help defeat Sheehy in last month’s election.

“It stinks,” Burton wrote in a June 26 letter to San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee chairman David Campos.

At issue is the $10,000 check that leaders of the DCCC accepted from Veritas Properties to pay for slate card mailers that featured Sheehy’s opponent for the District Eight seat, Rafael Mandelman.

While the party had made progressive candidate Mandelman its No. 1 pick on the mailers, it left out Sheehy, who also had the group’s endorsement.

Mandelman subsequently defeated Sheehy in the recent June special election.

Some say Burton is the last person who should be pointing fingers — given the state party’s history of taking money from corporations.

“As (former state) Sen. Burton himself showed us, the party can take money from people you disagree with and use that money to do what you think is right,” Campos said.

Sure, Burton said, but “we didn’t take money from slumlords. and we didn’t do it in the name of somebody else.”

Article by the San Francisco Chronicle