In a move that is alarming San Francisco’s biggest industry, a major medical association is pulling its annual convention out of the city — saying its members no longer feel safe.
“It’s the first time that we have had an out-and-out cancellation over the issue, and this is a group that has been coming here every three or four years since the 1980s,” said Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of S.F. Travel, the city’s convention bureau.
D’Alessandro declined to name the medical association, saying the bureau still hopes to bring the group back in the future.
As a rule, major conventions book their visits at least five years in advance. So when D’Alessandro and members of the hospitality industry hadn’t heard from the doctors about re-upping, they flew to the organization’s Chicago headquarters for a face-to-face meeting with its executive board.
And with good reason: The group’s annual five-day trade show draws 15,000 attendees and pumps about $40 million into the local economy.
“They said that they are committed to this year and to 2023, but nothing in between or nothing thereafter,” D’Alessandro said. “After that, they told us they are planning to go elsewhere — I believe it’s Los Angeles.”
The doctors group told the San Francisco delegation that while they loved the city, postconvention surveys showed their members were afraid to walk amid the open drug use, threatening behavior and mental illness that are common on the streets.
It didn’t help that one board member had been assaulted near Moscone Center last year.