Political Notes: San Francisco readies for conference with Asian leaders

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Friday November 10, 2023
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San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, left, state Senator Scott Wiener, and Assemblymember Evan Low are co-hosting an LGBTQ-themed "GAYPEC!" event during next week's APEC summit. Photos: Courtesy the subjects
San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, left, state Senator Scott Wiener, and Assemblymember Evan Low are co-hosting an LGBTQ-themed "GAYPEC!" event during next week's APEC summit. Photos: Courtesy the subjects

The biggest international gathering in decades will descend on San Francisco this weekend and bring with it a week of global attention and traffic chaos. Along with the glad-handing by political and economic leaders from 21 Pacific Rim countries will be road closures downtown and various protests near the city's Moscone conference center South of Market.

But there will also be a fair bit of frivolity at events being held by LGBTQ leaders tied into the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, summit taking place in the city November 11 through 17. The inter-governmental forum promotes free trade throughout the Asia-Pacific region, according to its website.

Its members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam. Neither Russian President Vladimir Putin nor Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will be in attendance at this year's APEC.

Among the world leaders who are expected to attend the conference being held at Moscone Center are Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chile President Gabriel Boric. President Joe Biden is set to arrive November 14 to take part in the gathering and is expected to have a bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is also expected to attend. He was just in the U.S. last month for a state visit with Biden in Washington, D.C. at which the two leaders spoke about the APEC gathering.

"Throughout the U.S. host year of APEC, we continue to advance a free, fair, and open economic policy agenda that empowers our workers and benefits all our people. We look forward to a successful APEC Economic Leaders' Week next month in San Francisco, which will make further progress towards a more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable future for us all," said Biden and Albanese in a joint statement they released.

While LGBTQ issues are not a focus of the conference, several out Bay Area elected leaders are hosting an event November 15 in the city's LGBTQ Castro district during APEC to highlight and celebrate queer Asian Pacific Islander culture and history in San Francisco. They are dubbing it "GAYPEC!" and holding it at queer-owned nightlife venue Beaux.

"With more than 30,000 people expected to visit San Francisco for APEC, we wanted to provide an opportunity for APEC attendees to meet our local LGBTQ+ community in the very best gayborhood in the world," stated gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who represents the Castro neighborhood. "The Castro has long been a place of refuge for queer people — somewhere where we can find community, express our authentic selves, and build political power. GAYPEC will afford attendees and locals a venue to come together, make new friends, and build community across borders."

Joining Mandelman as co-hosts are gay state legislators Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino), as well as San Francisco Mayor London Breed. GAPA, the GLBTQ+ Asian Pacific Alliance, and LGBTQ statewide advocacy organization Equality California have also signed on to co-host the event.

It will feature drag performances and remarks from a number of local API leaders. According to Mandelman's office, the event will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. and anyone is welcome to attend.

After the APEC confab wraps up next week, gay District 4 Supervisor Joel Engardio Friday, November 17, will be hosting a "Summit to the Sea" bike ride to show off his oceanside district. As the Bay Area Reporter's News Briefs column in the November 9 issue noted, the event will include happy hour followed by a sunset viewing at the beach.

Prepare for traffic snarls

Meanwhile, faced by an avalanche of complaints about the safety precautions being taken to protect the world leaders and delegates coming for APEC, city leaders have been scrambling to address the concerns voiced by residents and business owners in and near SOMA, as well as Nob Hill, who will find a number of streets blocked off and a large security presence in their neighborhood all week.

In particular, federal officials have designated the confab a "National Special Security Event" on the days of November 15 through 18, meaning they can take whatever safety measures they deem necessary. According to the mayor's office it is the first time such an event is being held in San Francisco.

In addition to the areas near the Fairmont Hotel, where Biden will reportedly be staying, and Moscone Center, special safety measures will also be in place Wednesday, November 15, around the Exploratorium and along the Embarcadero on the city's northern waterfront, as well as on Thursday, November 16, around the Legion of Honor museum in the Outer Richmond.

Both the BART and Muni transit agencies, as well as Caltrain and the ferry system on the bay, are planning to be "fully operating" during the course of the confab, according to city leaders, though a number of buses running downtown will be re-routed because of APEC.

"We know with an event of this magnitude that there will be impacts for our residents," stated Breed. "We have been working hard to make sure everyone has the information they need to understand what's planned for next week, and we will continue to communicate about street closures and any other impacts that arise. But this is a major moment for San Francisco to shine on the world stage and we are excited and ready."

More specific information about the impacts from the security measures during APEC can be found online here.

For additional information about APEC, call the city's 311 center or visit the dedicated webpage for the conference at SF.gov/apec.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBTQ political news by following the Political Notebook on Threads @ https://www.threads.net/@matthewbajko.

Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the Political Notes column will return Monday, December 4.

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