SAN FRANCISCO - President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden hosted the official Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit Dinner in San Francisco on Thursday night, with trumpets and fanfare despite a sudden downpour of rain at the Palace of the Legion of Honor.
Along the streets, a child with an American flag waited for President Biden's motorcade.
San Francisco is rolling out the red carpet for the APEC delegations and lighting up local landmarks in the royal blue APEC color.
At City Hall on Thursday night, San Francisco Mayor London Breed hosted a reception in the rotunda for the 2,000 foreign and domestic journalists in town covering the event.
For the city, it is a chance to change the so-called doom narrative of the city's struggles with homeless encampments, drug deals and crime. Some journalists were skeptical. Others said they were pleasantly surprised by their experience so far.
"The first time for me in San Francisco and I feel good. I feel safe," said Sebastian Casas, a journalist visiting from Colombia.
"San Francisco Police have been doing a great job...we're optimistic this is the San Francisco we'll continue to live in," said Sarah Dennis Phillips, director of San Francisco's Office of Economic and Workforce Development.
City officials say they are hopeful APEC is helping the city turn a corner. San Francisco had to raise $20 million dollars to host the APEC Summit. Many investments were from big donors who are putting their bet on the City by the Bay.
"Deloitte and Salesforce and the city are sponsoring a program called ‘Yes SF’ to continue this momentum of positive influence and sustainability," said Paul Clemmons, partner at Deloitte in San Francisco.
Along the Embarcadero, the laser lights down Market Street drew people out onto the streets. Police patrols were clearly visible and sidewalks downtown were clear of tents and trash.
"During APEC week, of course, we have seen improvement, definitely issues, but at the same time, we think there are ways through investment through projects," said Alberto Acito, director of the Italian Innovation Center in San Francisco, who noted that their new office was in a location that had been impacted by the pandemic problems, but now they draw people in with regular programming to add vitality to the neighborhood.
On Thursday night, Acito and Consul General of Italy Sergio Strozzi hosted a gathering for the Honorable Mariangela Zappia, the Ambassador of Italy to the U.S. who arrived to celebrate Italy's recent investment in San Francisco with the opening of an incubator office for Italian startups.
"We thought of San Francisco because of the ecosystem, because of the university, because of the innovation that is done in this city," said Zappa.
For residents, all the changes are a welcome sign.
"I'm just kind of glad people are having conversations about it, because we really need to have discussions and improve the situation," said Steven Woo of San Francisco.
"Definitely looks a little different down more into the city. You can tell there's been more attention paid to the streets, so cleaner than they have been, but I love San Francisco," said Samuel Cusman of San Francisco, "It feels like we fell off a cliff after COVID, and maybe it's a little turning point."