Hi there! Senior tech reporter Kylie Robison here filling in for David. This week, San Francisco is expecting a bit of rain and about 20,000 foreign dignitaries.

The APEC summit has descended upon the city, creating an extensive security perimeter around the Moscone event center and prompting the shutdown of multiple city blocks in anticipation of the imminent arrival of nearly two dozen global leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and China’s President Xi Jinping. There’s also a lineup of tech executives in attendance, including Elon Musk, Marc Benioff, Sam Altman, Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai, and many more.

APEC, short for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, serves as a stage for fostering trade, investment, and economic development among nations encircling the Pacific Ocean. The group consists of 21 “economies,” including China, Russia, Japan, the U.S., and Australia, representing nearly 40% of the global population and almost half of the world’s trade.

Amidst the star-studded spectacle, tech leaders have been quick to highlight the remarkable cleanliness San Francisco achieved just ahead of the event.

“Does seem crazy that the zombie apocalypse can be cleaned up for an important visitor, but not for those who live there and pay for everything!” Musk tweeted on Monday.

“San Francisco can be the cleanest, safest, most beautiful, and incredible city in the world instantly.  It happened for Dreamforce and it’s happening again for APEC,” Benioff posted.

It’s not exactly groundbreaking for a bustling city to tidy up before a significant event like this. Take Paris, for instance, which is undertaking a $1.5 billion project to cleanse the Seine in anticipation of the 2024 Olympic Games, a river that Parisians have been forbidden to swim in for a century because it was just that gross. For San Francisco’s part, the city has swept homeless encampments, confiscated carts from street food vendors lacking proper permits, and temporarily shuttered select restaurants in Chinatown due to health code infractions, according to SFGate.

“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,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a press conference. “But it’s also true [that], for months and months and months prior to APEC, we’ve been having different conversations. And we’ve raised the bar of expectation between the city, the county, and the state, and our federal partners as well that we all have to do more and do better.” 

The “beautification” isn’t exactly perfect, either. SFGate also reported that the city couldn’t afford special shelters for APEC, raising concerns about where displaced people will go (but they have opened a 30-spot nighttime shelter for winter and are trying to make existing shelters bigger).

While officials scramble to clean up the streets of the world’s “number one AI city,” the APEC summit offers a platform for showcasing the strides made by some of the nation’s biggest tech companies. There’s a panel featuring OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, and Google and Meta executives, moderated by Laurene Powell Jobs, likely to boast the city’s role in the ongoing AI revolution, the SF Standard reported, and an interview between Benioff and Musk on “the future.”

None of us, the tax-paying residents Musk points at, are oblivious to the exceptional nature of this week’s events. It’s yet to be seen if the city is able to keep up with the sparkly facade it created this week, and more importantly, support its growing homeless population, all while deftly capitalizing on the opportunities the AI boom presents.

As the rain falls and the dignitaries descend, I’ll be staying home. With all the problems these billionaires complain about, they’ve created more traffic than I care to navigate.

Kylie Robison

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