Left Coast City
Progressive Politics in San Francisco, 1975-1991
Studies in Government and Public Policy
Sales Date: September 23, 1992
256 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: September 1992
When Art Agnos campaigned for mayor of San Francisco in 1987, he articulated and defended the "left" isms—liberalism, environmentalism, and populism. He won.
Seeing Agnos as a defender of slowgrowth vs. progrowth, the city’s progressives had high hopes. But to their disappointment, in the wake of the passage of Proposition M—the most restrictive growth control legislation of any large U.S. city—Agnos supported waterfront development and proposals to build a new baseball stadium in China Basin and a large residential and business development in Mission Bay. In 1991 Agnos ran for reelection. He lost.
Left Coast City provides insight into how San Francisco’s progressive coalition developed between 1975 and 1991, what stresses emerged to cause splintering within the coalition, and how the coalition fell apart in the 1991 mayoral campaign.
Focusing on San Francisco’s turbulent political history, non-conformist traditions, and ethnic and cultural diversity, political scientist Richard DeLeon analyzes the successes and failures of the progressive movement as it topples the business-dominated progrowth regime, imposes stringent controls on growth and development, and achieves political control of city hall.
Although the movement has achieved national recognition as a possible vanguard of social and political change in this country, DeLeon argues that a new progressive regime has not yet emerged to replace the defunct progrowth regime. Having helped to create chaos out of order, progressive leaders now face the task of creating order out of chaos.
“What the city has now is, at best, an antiregime, a transitional political order set up defensively to block the Lazarus-like re-emergence of the old progrowth regime,” DeLeon writes. “Such an order cannot last.” The key to survival of the progressive movement, he contends, is creation of a progressive urban regime, where public and private entities function together.
"Power brokers and citizens alike would do well to read this book."—San Francisco Examiner
"San Francisco has been labeled the capital of the progressive movement in the U.S., and DeLeon examines this evolution in a well-written and thoroughly documented account of the city’s transition from a community promoting physical development to one which now endorses human development."—Choice
"DeLeon has a gift for storytelling. He takes readers on a fascinating tour of San Francisco’s political world, from the idealistic administration of Mayor George Moscone to the downtown boom years of Dianne Feinstein’s 10-year mayoral tenure, to the triumph and subsequent downfall of slow-growth candidate Art Agnos."—San Francisco Daily Journal
"This keen study roughs out the contours and illuminates the shadows of The City’s political terrain between 1975 and 1991 to help solve the how-did-we-get-here-and-who-got-us-here? puzzle."—San Francisco Magazine
"An outstanding case study of big city electoral politics that perceptively analyzes the nuts and bolts of constructing a progressive governing coalition and illuminates the dynamics and contradictions of contemporary urban liberalism."—John Mollenkopf, author of The Contested City and A Phoenix in the Ashes
"First-rate. It’s a winner. DeLeon is a skillful writer. His work is clear and uncluttered by jargon. At the same time, he displays a remarkable ability to integrate seemingly diverse theoretical strands. . . . His analysis of coalition politics and of the referendum process shows him to be a master of the regime concept and to be acutely aware of the tensions within populist alliances. He sees the business community as composed of diverse sectors, not as a monolith. And he puts the mobility of capital into perspective, acknowledging its importance but showing its limits as well-particularly in an advantaged location of the kind San Francisco enjoys. This is a very sophisticated work."—Clarence Stone, author of Regime Politics: Governing Atlanta, 1946–1988
"DeLeon treats the process of regime formation as an open and contingent historical process—as it should be treated. He writes in a clear and lucid style. This book is a significant contribution to the literature on urban politics. Its audience will extend well beyond political scientists, encompassing urban sociologists, historians, geographers, political economists, and planners."—Michael Peter Smith, author of City, State, and Market: The Political Economy of Urban Society
List of Illustrations
1. The Capital of Progressivism
2. Economic Change and Social Diversity: The Local Culture of Progressivism
3. The Invention and Collapse of the Progrowth Regime
4. The Birth of the Slow-Growth Movement and the Battle for Proposition M
5. From Social Movement to Political Power: The Election of Mayor Art Agnos
6. Protecting Community from Capital: The Urban Antiregime
7. Save Our Giants: Political Hardball in China Basin
8. The Politics of Urban Deals: The Mission Bay Project and the Waterfront
9. Creating a Progressive Urban Regime: The Architecture of Complexity
10. Postscript: The 1991 Mayoral Election and Beyond
Appendix A: Data Sources
Appendix B: Empirical Evidence of the Three Lefts and Progressivism in San Francisco Voting Patterns
Appendix C: Regression Analyses