After a major medical association decided to move its annual convention to another city over safety concerns, San Francisco is being forced to reckon with the real financial cost of its dirty, dangerous streets, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Joe D'Alessandro, president and CEO of the city's convention bureau, said this is the first time a group has canceled an event because of the rampant homelessness and drug use on San Francisco's streets.
"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 told the Chronicle.
What's the problem?
A medical association (which D'Alessandro wouldn't name in hopes of bringing the group back in the future) told the city that even though it enjoyed having its annual convention in San Francisco, members didn't feel safe walking the streets because of the homeless, drug-addicted, and mentally ill people they would frequently encounter.
In what may have been the tipping point for the group's decision, a board member was reportedly assaulted last year. The organization, which must book conventions at least five years in advance, said it would commit to 2018 and 2023 before moving on, possibly to Los Angeles.
Why is it a big deal to SF?
Tourism is the lifeblood of the city — a $9 billion industry that employs about 80,000 people. Conventions bring in nearly 20 percent of all the city's tourism revenue, making it imperative that this first cancellation doesn't turn into a trend.
And it may already be too late. D'Alessandro told the Chronicle that local tech companies and other organizations have already expressed discontent.
"A number of groups are concerned about the streets of San Francisco," Alessandro told KPIX-TV. "They say 'we don't know if the streets are safe, we don't know if we want to meet here.'"
And despite a large investment in housing and homeless programs, the problem continues to get worse.
"We are not going to be able to accept bad behavior going forward," Alessandro said. "We have to be compassionate about people in need — but if people are breaking the law ... we just need a lot more."