Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Retail & Industry
Published on December 29, 2020
Moscone Center says it needs city funds to survive, city says take a number and waitRafael G. via Yelp

The last we heard from the convention destination Moscone Center, it was when Street Sheet broke an April story of the nightmarishly inadequate conditions when it was converted into a COVID-19 homeless shelter. That’s ironic, because homelessness is blamed for Moscone Center’s supposed drop in business in a recent civil grand jury report (or as the city report puts it, “homeless/mentally ill/drug affected people in the area of the convention center”).

That report calls for millions in subsidies and more police presence around the center, as Moscone is seen as generating 20% of San Francisco’s normal-year $10 billion travel and tourism industry. But the SF Examiner reports that City Hall is ignoring those recommendations for now, given the city’s budget deficit that is currently pegged at $650 million.

The SF Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution at their December 15 meeting turning down the request. The board said that “the City is unable to commit additional General Fund [money] given the City’s future fiscal uncertainty due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.” 

They also rejected the idea that homelessness was causing a dip in business there. “Moscone Center remains one of the highest in-demand destinations among the nation’s first-tier venues for conventions and visitors before the pandemic despite street behaviors and cleanliness,” the board said, “because conventioneers consider a variety of factors to determine the overall value of hosting events in the City.”

Mayor Breed also separately rejected the request in a November 30 letter. “Prior to the pandemic, San Francisco did not face challenges booking the convention facilities,” Breed’s letter stated.

The days of huge Dreamforce conferences are not coming back in the immediate future, so these issues seem moot to those of us who do not work in the tourism or hospitality sector. The grand jury recommendations ask for $2.5 million in city money to make Moscone safer and more affordable. Budget-strapped City Hall is betting that when conventions do return, the center will not face any sort of existential crisis, and developers' conferences will still be lining up to book the place.