Barely a month after a smash-and-grab theft at the Christian Dior store near San Francisco’s Union Square, Mayor London Breed stood before the towering Macy’s holiday tree and announced the opening of a safe and vibrant holiday shopping season.
Joined by Police Chief Bill Scott, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins and members of the Union Square Alliance, a downtown association dedicated to enhancing Union Square, Breed detailed the city’s strategy to secure the area.
Plans include additional uniformed and plainclothes police officers, downtown ambassadors, street closures and the installation of 400 new automated license plate readers throughout the city.
“You will see increased presence not only in Union Square, but in all our shopping corridors,” said Scott. “You won’t see the plainclothes officers that are out here getting the job done and arresting people because they’re watching crimes as they occur.”
Regarding the Dior store incident, Scott said, “We were right there. Unfortunately, we couldn’t prevent it. But we captured the people that did it and they were prosecuted.”
Closer to the goal
The city received a $17 million state grant in September to combat organized retail theft, which has gone toward police overtime, dedicated prosecutors and the new public cameras.
“Are we where we want to be? Not completely,” Breed said. “But are we going to get there? I believe we are.”
In a follow up statement, Breed said over the last 15 months, 27 new businesses have opened and signed deals in the Union Square area, and visitor activity increased more than 15 percent from January to September in comparison to the same time in 2022.
“We may not have an FAO Schwartz any longer, but we do have a Toys R Us and a Macy’s, and I believe the price points are a lot better,” she said.
Security will be supercharged Nov. 11-17 when thousands of people come to the South of Market area to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. Twenty-one heads of state, including President Joe Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping, will make appearances to speak about regional economics, trade and infrastructure.
“San Francisco hasn’t hosted an international event of this magnitude since 1945, when the United Nations was established right here,” Breed said.
“We do anticipate that there will be protests for a variety of reasons,” Scott said. “It is our goal to facilitate First Amendment activity, but also do everything possible and necessary to make sure that any First Amendment activity remains peaceful. We will not tolerate violence. We will not tolerate property destruction.”
Ready for the crowds
The influx of holiday shoppers and APEC attendees will bring a lot of pedestrian activity to downtown, but the commercial community is ready for it.
Marisa Rodriguez of the Union Square Alliance said that Stockton Street will be closed and covered in turf from Dec. 15-24 to accommodate Winter Walk, a temporary holiday public space.
“You’re going to see food trucks and performances and Santa Claus and snowmen and penguins and polar bears, all of it!” Rodriguez said. “It is an opportunity to wander the district and explore things like the Sugar Castle, skating rink and other attractions.”
Macy’s store manager John Sparks said the holiday tree lighting is this Thursday, Nov. 9, and Santa will be taking visitors at Macy’s at a new location this year overlooking Union Square. Puppies and other pets will be on view in the store’s windows for an adoption program by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Holiday street closures will run from Nov. 25-Jan. 5. They will extend from Sutter to O’Farrell streets and from Kearny to Mason streets. Some of them will be closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
During the APEC event Nov. 13-19, streets and freeway ramps around the Moscone Center will be closed, and garage and on-street parking will be limited. Specific streets and closures are listed on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency website.