All of those bankers who flocked to San Francisco this past week for the JP Morgan Health Care Conference were met with an unexpected - and wildly unappreciated - surprise.
While it's reputation as the epicenter of Silicon Valley evinces images of untold wealth and riches, San Francisco's ultra-liberal policing agenda protects those who commit petty drug and nuisance offenses. This has transformed the city - which, with its burgeoning homeless population, is in the midst of a crisis - has been transformed into a feces-covered "slum" on par with Mumbai or Manila.
As the head of one pharmaceutical association told Bloomberg, visitors complaints about the overpriced hotel rooms and street-side squalor get worse every year.
"It comes up with our members every year," said Steve Ubl, chief executive officer of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which represents the world’s largest drugmakers. "It gets worse and worse in terms of concentration and cost. It’s outrageous."
The health-care industry's marquee event for the year, where dealmakers meet and hobnob with other industry luminaries, also highlights the uncomfortable wealth disparity in the city.
The health-care industry’s premier event, a celebration of innovation and money to be made, also highlights San Francisco’s vast wealth disparities as well-to-do attendees hobnob at parties while stepping around people living in cardboard boxes. This year’s confab comes as the city is grappling with heightened attention on its troubles, with its homeless crisis worsening, tech companies facing backlash and President Donald Trump lashing out at California’s policies.
In a blow to the city's booming conference industry, Oracle recently said it would move its annual OpenWorld conference to Las Vegas after too many attendees complained about the pricey hotel rooms in SF.
And in a blow to the area’s reputation as a corporate destination, Oracle Corp. last month said it would hold its OpenWorld conference in Las Vegas after more than 20 years in San Francisco because of the city’s pricey hotels and street conditions. The move is estimated to cost $64 million in lost revenue.
"San Francisco has squandered its place in the sun," said John Price, CEO of Greffex Inc., an Aurora, Colorado-based genetic engineering company, who traveled to the conference fresh off a business trip to Asia. "San Francisco is the Bill Clinton of cities. It squandered itself with its flaws."
Attendees have been complaining about the JPM conference - which usually attracts about 10,000 people - for years, flooding social media with stories about the city's high prices and squalor.
The JPMorgan gathering at the Westin St. Francis, which attracts about 10,000 people, has long drawn the ire of some attendees. Conference-goers have taken to Twitter and blog posts to express concerns about the homeless situation and watching city officials clean up human feces, all while spending thousands of dollars on hotel rooms and resorting to holding meetings in bathrooms.
JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon weighed in during an interview with Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business that aired Tuesday. When asked about complaints about the conference’s location, he said it’s "not quite that bad."
Attendees "know where they’re going, they plan for it the same time of the year," he said, pointing out the city’s Chase Center venue as a new location for functions. Still, he said San Francisco has been hurt by bad policy and the bank is going to become “deeply involved” in the city.
One woman who regularly attends the conference said the homeless situation has gotten "much worse" in the city over the past five years, and added that she doesn't feel safe walking around the city at night.
"I’ve been coming to JPM for five years, and the homeless situation has gotten much worse," Selin Kurnaz, co-founder and CEO of New York-based Massive Bio, said at a party Monday night in the Tenderloin. "I feel unsafe walking around at night, especially as a young woman."
For anybody traveling to SF in the near future, here's a tip. In addition to looking up which restaurants and attractions you want to visit, it might not be a bad idea to take a look at the shit map.
After all, nobody enjoys stepping in feces.