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City for Sale

City for Sale: The Transformation of San Francisco, Revised and Updated Edition

with Sarah Carnochan
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: 1
Pages: 501
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  • Book Info
    City for Sale
    Book Description:

    San Francisco is perhaps the most exhilarating of all American cities--its beauty, cultural and political avant-gardism, and history are legendary, while its idiosyncrasies make front-page news. In this revised edition of his highly regarded study of San Francisco's economic and political development since the mid-1950s, Chester Hartman gives a detailed account of how the city has been transformed by the expansion--outward and upward--of its downtown. His story is fueled by a wide range of players and an astonishing array of events, from police storming the International Hotel to citizens forcing the midair termination of a freeway. Throughout, Hartman raises a troubling question: can San Francisco's unique qualities survive the changes that have altered the city's skyline, neighborhoods, and economy? Hartman was directly involved in many of the events he chronicles and thus had access to sources that might otherwise have been unavailable. A former activist with the National Housing Law Project, San Franciscans for Affordable Housing, and other neighborhood organizations, he explains how corporate San Francisco obtained the necessary cooperation of city and federal governments in undertaking massive redevelopment. He illustrates the rationale that produced BART, a subway system that serves upper-income suburbs but few of the city's poor neighborhoods, and cites the environmental effects of unrestrained highrise development, such as powerful wind tunnels and lack of sunshine. In describing the struggle to keep housing affordable in San Francisco and the seemingly intractable problem of homelessness, Hartman reveals the human face of the city's economic transformation.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91490-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiii)
  4. Map 1
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  5. Map 2
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. 1 The Larger Forces
    (pp. 1-14)

    San Francisco is perhaps the most unique and exhilarating of the nation’s cities. A typical valentine, this from veteranNew York Timesreporter R.W. Apple Jr., sings the theme: “More than any other, this is the city that Americans fantasize about. No one leaves his heart in Salt Lake City.”¹* The city’s location, views, cultural and political avant-gardism, lifestyle, beauty, weather, topography, and history have given it the slightly hyperbolic label of “everyone’s favorite city,” if not to live in, at least to visit.Condé Nast Travelermagazine has three times declared San Francisco the world’s most desirable tourist destination....

  7. 2 Superagency and the Redevelopment Booster Club
    (pp. 15-43)

    Ben Swig’s dream and corporate San Francisco’s plans needed the official backing of the City and the federal government. Financing and assembling land for massive downtown redevelopment is an enormous undertaking, and unguided individual developers might create a patchwork of small projects, more a hindrance than a help in changing the face of the city. The task required government to step in, take land by eminent domain, furnish central direction and guidelines, and provide the financial incentives to guarantee appropriate investment by private developers.

    As the body shaped to achieve these ends, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) is far...

  8. 3 The Assault on South of Market
    (pp. 44-55)

    In 1961, with Justin Herman firmly in the saddle, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency began the official assault on South of Market by filing for a federal urban renewal survey and planning grant. While outlining a redevelopment study area slightly larger than that in Ben Swig’s 1955 plan, the application moved the site closer to Market Street and also omitted the segment the City Planning Department had identified as the most blighted blocks. Changing the project area boundaries was neither capricious nor scientific: The agency determined and gerrymandered the boundaries in response to real estate values and the demands of...

  9. 4 The Neighborhood Fights Back
    (pp. 56-75)

    One of the greatest injustices in South of Market redevelopment has been the callous obliteration of the neighborhood’s past. The name chosen by the Redevelopment Agency to dignify its project, “Yerba Buena” (Spanish for “good grass” or “good herb”), was the name of the original Spanish settlement that in 1847 became San Francisco. While preserving the old pioneering name serves public relations, in reality the project represents the destruction and eviction of a human past not regarded as worth acknowledging, much less honoring. The irony here is compounded by the fact that the original settlement was wrested from Mexican Californians...

  10. 5 Into the Courts
    (pp. 76-102)

    HUD’s unwillingness to provide administrative relief to Yerba Buena relocatees gave the South of Market residents no choice but to turn to litigation. On November 5, 1969, represented by a half-dozen named individuals and TOOR, they filed a complaint in federal district court against both HUD and the Redevelopment Agency, contending that the agency had not located decent, safe, and sanitary housing for displacees according to rights set forth in the 1949 Housing Act.

    The decision to bring suit against the YBC project was inspired by a partly successful action the year before, which the San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance...

  11. 6 The Redevelopment Agency Flounders
    (pp. 103-133)

    Delays caused by TOOR’s successful lawsuit and Justin Herman’s obvious intransigence in the face of this legal obstacle began to implant grave doubts at city hall about the Redevelopment Agency’s handling of the YBC project, doubts furthered by Thomas Mellon, the City’s chief administrative officer (CAO). In early 1971, Mellon suddenly announced possible illegalities and conflicts of interest in the agency’s proposed public facilities financing plan and serious defects in the convention center design. What ensued was a struggle that in a few months removed power over the YBC public facilities development from the agency and placed it in the...

  12. 7 Resolving the Convention Center Deadlock
    (pp. 134-154)

    The year 1975 marked a major transition in San Francisco politics. As noted previously, Joseph Alioto was legally unable to run for a third term. The stirrings of a movement to challenge downtown’s dominance of the city were clearly being felt. And the Redevelopment Agency’s Yerba Buena Center project was in deep trouble as a result of the various lawsuits challenging its financing.

    The 1975 mayoral election featured three principal candidates, who covered the range of the city’s dominant politics: on the right, realtor John Barbagelata, a six-year veteran of the Board of Supervisors, who represented the older white neighborhoods...

  13. 8 South of Market Conquered
    (pp. 155-190)

    While opening the Moscone Convention Center (named after the city’s assassinated mayor—see chapter 11) marked a monumental step in the transformation of the South of Market area, development forces had not dallied in incorporating this part of the city into the financial district. Particularly to the east of Yerba Buena Center, directly across Market Street from the financial district, office construction had been proceeding at a furious rate since the 1970s. Nearly three-fifths of the total office space constructed in downtown San Francisco in the 1972–82 period was built South of Market.¹ And despite massive delays in developing...

  14. 9 Moscone Center Doings
    (pp. 191-212)

    When Moscone Center opened in December 1981, it got rave architectural reviews. An exuberant Allan Temko, theChronicle’s highly respected urban design critic, announced: “In the unprecedented exhibition hall of Moscone Center—a column-free underground space nearly 880 feet long, nearly 300 feet wide, and 37 feet high—San Francisco has another structural wonder of the world. . . . Moscone Center is not only a technological feat, worthy of a place in the empyrean of engineering with the great bridges spanning the Bay, but also a work of art.”¹

    But convention centers must be judged in more functional terms...

  15. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  16. 10 Yerba Buena Gardens, TODCO’s Housing, and the South of Market Neighborhood
    (pp. 213-226)

    Building the underground convention center was one piece of work. What was to go on top of it was a whole other story. The first significant step toward developing the Central Blocks atop Moscone Center was taken in April 1984, at a splashy luncheon presentation for seven hundred people, to announce tentative agreement on a land disposition plan for the aboveground development, now named Yerba Buena Gardens. The process of creating a multicultural space on these two dozen acres was not an easy one, either in concept or execution. And the fall of Olympia & York as developers of this complex...

  17. 11 City Hall
    (pp. 227-288)

    As has been demonstrated on many occasions, the city’s governing Board of Supervisors gave virtually reflexive approval to the various steps in the Yerba Buena project whenever required. More generally, the board reflected its members’ economic and social ties to downtown interests, through their business dealings, campaign finances, social relationships, and class alliances.

    Starting in 1900, the eleven-person board was elected on a citywide, or “at-large,” basis, a system requiring in recent years enormous financial support to mount election campaigns—as much as $250,000 to run successfully for an office that until the early 1980s paid an annual salary of...

  18. 12 High-Rises and the Antihigh-Rise Movement
    (pp. 289-324)

    The transformation of San Francisco over the past four decades finds its concrete expression in the height and bulk of the new buildings that have replaced the old. One sometimes forgets how recent this change has been: From 1930 to 1958, only one major office building was constructed in San Francisco, and the city’s first modern high-rise, the Crown Zellerbach building on Market Street, was built in 1959. But as aCalifornia Magazinearticle puts it, “This city, once mythologized as Baghdad by the Bay, might now be better christened Houston by the Pacific.”¹

    Arguments and data regarding the impact...

  19. 13 The Housing Crisis and the Housing Movement
    (pp. 325-391)

    San Francisco’s housing costs are among the highest, if not the highest, of any of the nation’s large cities. The Planning Department’s annual report indicated that the median monthly rent in 1999 for a two-bedroom apartment was $2,500.¹ An early 2001Chroniclefeature reports that the average rent for an apartment of this size is $2,752.² What is astounding is not only the high rents—in a city where some two-thirds of the residents are tenants—but also the staggering rapidity with which rents have risen in just the past couple of years. The 1997 median figure for a two-bedroom...

  20. 14 The Lessons of San Francisco
    (pp. 392-402)

    San Francisco’s development history in the post–World War II period has been overwhelmingly dominated by business interests, by those in the position to reap the largest profits from this development. They have by and large controlled and peopled the city’s government at all levels. They have established their own planning and watchdog mechanisms and agencies, and funded others, to ensure the kind of future they want. The connections between the business community and public policy run the gamut from massive plans to intimate personal ties. At one end of the scale are the strategies and manipulations of the Bay...

  21. Notes
    (pp. 403-464)
  22. Index
    (pp. 465-488)