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From Street Closures to Security Checks, What to Know About SF APEC 2023

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A figure in a blue shirt holds a long hose, cleaning a San Francisco street beside a Muni bus stop.
Street cleaning takes place during APEC, which is bringing street closures and traffic reroutes to San Francisco all this week. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

San Francisco downtown residents, business owners and commuters are bracing for significant road and transit disruptions, as the city hosts guests like President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 2023 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference — known as APEC.

From Nov. 11 to 19, San Francisco will be on the world stage as thousands of global heads of state and foreign dignitaries gather in the city for APEC. San Franciscans can consequently expect a flood of law enforcement officers downtown throughout the event, including local police and the U.S. Secret Service, who will operate high-security zones around Moscone Center, Nob Hill and the eastern waterfront. (And on top of that, an atmospheric river is forecast to potentially bring rain to the region in the middle of APEC.)

Whether you’re attending the conference, live or work in this area of San Francisco or just want to know how to avoid the disruptions and closures that APEC is bringing, KQED breaks down what you need to plan your week.

Jump straight to:

What is APEC, and when is it happening?

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation is an international economic forum that started in 1989 to promote trade and economic policy for the Asia-Pacific region.

Presidents and prime ministers from nearly two dozen countries will be at the event, as well as thousands of other government leaders, CEOs and journalists.

This year, APEC will be taking place in San Francisco over a period that started Saturday, Nov. 11 and will end on Sunday, Nov. 19. The conference itself is scheduled for Nov. 11-17, and the heaviest crowds are expected around Nov. 14-19.

APEC events will take place in different locations but will be concentrated at Moscone Center. Nob Hill and the waterfront are also expected to be impacted by events.

The total local economic impact is projected to be approximately $52.8 million, according to the San Francisco Travel Association, a marketing group intended to promote tourism in the region.

“APEC will be a major moment that will live in our City’s rich history. We will show the world San Francisco’s unique ability to create a world-class experience where people continue to want to live, work and visit,” Mayor London Breed said.

“We know there will be impacts due to the increased security, but we are working with our residents and businesses so that APEC is a successful and safe event,” Breed said.

What — and where — are the APEC high-security zones? Can I go in or out?

The Department of Homeland Security has designated APEC as a National Special Security Event, making the Secret Service the lead agency in designing and implementing a security plan.

So-called security zones are surrounding Moscone Center, part of Nob Hill and the northeastern waterfront at Embarcadero. Access is heavily restricted in the most restrictive red zones, and people coming in and out — including residents, business owners and employees who work within security zones — will be subject to a bag check. Cars will also have to be inspected.

Green zones are the security zones with lighter security, with inspections focused on vehicles.

A map of downtown San Francisco showing the red and green zones around Moscone Center
A map of downtown San Francisco showing the red and green zones around Moscone Center (SF.gov)

At a press conference on Nov. 10, Jeremy Brown, Secret Service assistant special agent in charge and overall national special security event coordinator for APEC 2023, confirmed the different levels of security in the zones:

‘Red zone’ security and transit:

  • Who can enter? This area is “restricted and not generally authorized to general public access,” Brown said. “Individuals seeking to enter this zone must usually be credentialed as an APEC leader, attendee, a worker of APEC or be frequenting a business establishment which is open to the public inside this perimeter,” he said.
  • Security checks? Yes: All people entering will be screened.
  • Vehicles permitted? No, this is a “vehicle exclusion” zone, Brown said.

‘Green zone’ security and transit:

  • Who can enter? As long as they’re on foot, anyone. But if you’re in a car, you “must have a valid reason to enter, such as being a resident, guest of a resident or business patron,” Brown said.
  • Security checks? Not for pedestrians — who can enter without any screening or ID check — but vehicles will be subject to inspection in the green zone.
  • Vehicles permitted? Only with “valid reason” and inspection. There’ll be no parking and no public transit in the green zone. The one exception is certain paratransit vehicles after inspection, Brown said.

In addition to the green zones around Moscone Center, Nob Hill and Embarcadero, there is a green zone in Lincoln Park by the Legion of Honor museum. Zoom in on the interactive map below to see the different zones around the city and the location of pedestrian and vehicle checkpoints:

Pedestrian checkpoints are located at:

  • Huntington Park
  • Folsom and 3rd streets
  • Howard and 5th streets
  • On Mission between 3rd and 4th streets.

Vehicle checkpoints are located on:

  • New Montgomery near Jessie Street
  • Mission and 5th streets
  • Folsom and 5th streets
  • California and Taylor streets
  • Clay and Powell streets.

See an online interactive map showing exactly where roads within these areas are closed and where security checkpoints are located.

I live in an APEC security zone. What will be affected?

People who live in an APEC security zone will go through a bag check upon entering. Postal services and trash pickup are scheduled to continue as usual. Street parking is not available.

Food delivery workers, like those delivering for companies including Uber Eats and Doordash, can enter the secure zone on foot, bicycle or non-motorized scooter.

Some public transportation lines will be rerouted. For more on this, see below.

Read SF.gov’s guide for residents living in an APEC security zone.


Do people who live or work in an APEC security zone have to show their IDs?

No. People accessing areas within the secured red zone perimeter are subject to a bag check. Security will not check for IDs, or proof of residence, citizenship, immigration status or employment.

The Secret Service’s Jeremy Brown confirmed this approach, saying that “we have an obligation to follow laws and policies, but we’re not here to to check people’s status and why they’re here. We’re here to secure this event.”

What should I know about closures on the Bay Bridge during APEC?

The Secret Service’s designation of APEC as a National Special Security Event means that traffic in and out of the city will also be monitored. This means certain closures on and around the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge starting Tuesday, affecting several lanes of traffic, ramps, pedestrian walkways and bike lanes.

In a Nov. 6 update, Caltrans acknowledged that these “enhanced safety measures throughout our highway systems” around the region “may cause temporary inconvenience” and recommended that if you live or work around the city, you should “allow extra time for your commute, and consider using alternative routes or public transportation during this period.”

Caltrans says that “to ensure the safety and security of all attendees and residents,” the agency will be implementing the following closures in and around the Bay Bridge:

Closure: 4th Street off-ramp from Eastbound I-80 and 5th Street off-ramp from Westbound I-80

These off-ramp closures are in effect from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day from Wednesday, Nov. 15 through Friday, Nov. 17

Closure: The Bay Bridge #1 (left) lane on Eastbound I-80 and #5 (right) lane on Westbound I-80

This four-day closure begins at 5 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14 and ends at 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17. There will be “controlled access” to the Bay Bridge pedestrian and bike paths. Caltrans says there are no impacts to transit bus services, and the Treasure Island on-/off-ramps and the Fremont Street off-ramp will remain open.

Closure: NB U.S. 101 Dana Bowers Vista Point off-ramp

This five-day closure is in effect Tuesday, Nov. 14, through Saturday, Nov. 18. There’ll be no access to Dana Bowers Vista Point for vehicles, bicycles, or pedestrians. The Golden Gate Bridge Pedestrian Path will be closed at the north end of the bridge, and there will be no pedestrian access from Marin County. The bicycle path on the west side of the Bay Bridge will remain open between Marin County and San Francisco.

Resources to see closures and monitor local traffic during APEC:

How will APEC impact public transit in San Francisco?

BART and Caltrain schedules will remain the same during APEC. However, expect significant disruptions to road traffic, including closures and delays, as well as reroutes starting Monday for Muni bus and train lines, including the Central Subway.

There will be no Muni Metro service provided to 4th & Brannan or Yerba Buena-Moscone Stations.

A colorful public transit map illustrating changes to SF Muni routes
A map showing changes to SF Muni routes during APEC (Via sfmta.com)

A Muni Metro shuttle train will operate every five minutes between Chinatown-Rose Pak Station and Union Square-Market Street Station to maintain access to Chinatown and areas north of downtown. Transfer at the Powell Street Station to Union Square-Market Street Station to access the temporary shuttle.

Streets and freeway ramps in SoMa will be closed from Tuesday, Nov. 14 – Sunday, Nov. 19. This is expected to cause significant traffic congestion and increased ridership on BART and Muni lines.

T Third and K Ingleside Muni Metro stops from Balboa Park to Embarcadero to Sunnydale will be served by a temporary KT Ingleside-Third Muni Metro from Nov. 14 – 19. This includes Embarcadero at Folsom and Brannan and King at 2nd and 4th streets.

SFMTA provides detailed maps of impacted transit lines and road closures.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency issued the following list of Muni lines that will be impacted:

  • T Third Muni Metro
  • T Third Bus
  • 1 California outbound
  • 5 Fulton Owl
  • 8 Bayshore, 8AX Bayshore Express A and 8BX Bayshore Express B
  • 12 Folsom inbound
  • 14 Mission and 14R Mission Rapid
  • 15 Bayview Hunter’s Point Express
  • 30 Stockton
  • 45 Union-Stockton
  • 91 Owl
  • 714 BART Early Morning Shuttle
  • California Cable Car
  • Powell/Mason Cable Car
  • Powell/Hyde Cable Car
  • 18 46th Avenue (single-day reroute)
  • F Market and Wharves (single-day reroute)

I run a business in an APEC security zone. Can I stay open?

Yes. Businesses within or outside the security zone can remain open during APEC.

Due to increased security during the event, however, employees may need to plan for additional time to get to their workplace. Some streets will be closed to vehicle traffic.

Additionally, people must go through a bag check to pass certain security perimeters designated by the Secret Service. Those high-security areas near Moscone Center are marked in red on the Secret Service’s interactive map.

There are no planned service disruptions for trash pickup.

Mechanical street sweeping will be paused in the hardened security zone between Nov. 9 and Nov. 19, according to the city’s Department of Public Works. There will be a limited number of street cleaners in the area during that period as well.

All commercial vehicles entering the security zone must go through a Secret Service security check at Pier 27, which will operate as a screening site from Nov. 14 to 18.

Read the City of San Francisco’s complete guide for business owners about APEC disruptions.

Tell us: What else do you need information about?

At KQED News, we know that it can sometimes be hard to track down the answers to navigate life in the Bay Area in 2023. We’ve published clear, practical explainers and guides about COVID, how to cope with intense winter weather, and how to exercise your right to protest safely.

So tell us: What do you need to know more about? Tell us, and you could see your question answered online or on social media. What you submit will make our reporting stronger, and help us decide what to cover here on our site and on KQED Public Radio, too.

KQED’s Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí contributed to this reporting. A version of this story was originally published on Nov. 9.


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