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City for Sale

The Transformation of San Francisco

Chester Hartman

Publication Year: 2002

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.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Other Works by the Author, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-8


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiii

For a city as politically fascinating and world renowned as San Francisco, it is surprising how little exists in the way of book-length scholarly literature focused solely on the city’s recent history. Fred Wirt’s 1974 Power in the City: Decision Making in San Francisco, Allan Jacobs’s 1978 Making City Planning Work, ...

Map 1

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pp. xiv-16

Map 2

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pp. xv-xvi

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1. The Larger Forces

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pp. 1-14

San Francisco is perhaps the most unique and exhilarating of the nation’s cities. A typical valentine, this from veteran New York Times reporter 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* ...

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2. Superagency and the Redevelopment Booster Club

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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. ...

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3. The Assault on South of Market

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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 ...

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4. The Neighborhood Fights Back

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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. ...

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5. Into the Courts

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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, ...

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6. The Redevelopment Agency Flounders

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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). ...

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7. Resolving the Convention Center Deadlock

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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 ...

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8. South of Market Conquered

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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. ...

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9. Moscone Center Doings

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pp. 191-212

When Moscone Center opened in December 1981, it got rave architectural reviews. An exuberant Allan Temko, the Chronicle’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— ...

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10. Yerba Buena Gardens, Todco’s Housing, and the South of Market Neighborhood

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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, ...

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11. City Hall

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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, ...

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12. High-rises and the Antihigh-rise Movement

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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, ...

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13. The Housing Crisis and the Housing Movement

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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 2001 Chronicle feature reports that the average rent for an apartment of this size is $2,752.2 ...

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14. The Lessons of San Francisco

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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. ...


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pp. 403-464


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pp. 465-488

Image Plates

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pp. 507-516

E-ISBN-13: 9780520914902
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520086050

Page Count: 501
Publication Year: 2002