""San Francisco has been for most of its 150-year existence both a refuge and an anomaly. Soon it will be neither. Gentrification is transforming the city by driving out the poor... [and] those who have chosen to give their lives over to unlucrative pursuits such as art, activism, social experimentation, and social service."" So begins this impassioned cry to save the soul of Baghdad by the Bay (and any American cities under siege by ill-planned overdevelopment). A San Francisco resident who lives in a rent-controlled apartment, Solnit (Wanderlust: A History of Walking) presents a lively mix of research, personal anecdotes, photos and art to show how the industrious development of high-end condos, hotel/office space and dot-com businesses over the past decade has increased the city's economic base at the expense of many of its long-term residents, not to mention its character. Between 1996 and 1997, rental prices went up 37%; last year, some neighborhoods faced a 20% increase within six months. Evictions happen at the rate of five per day, and ""70% of those evicted leave the city,"" leading to the attrition not only of the poor but of the middle class, as well as independent and small businesses. Charting the history of the vibrant San Francisco arts and activist scenesDfrom the early days of literary bohemia in the 1870s to the 1950s beatniks to the famed political theater of the San Francisco Mime TroupeDSolnit methodically shows how difficult it will be for them to remain viable under the city's new managers. Passionate, potent and to the point, Solnit's polemic embodies American political and social writing at its best. Readers who share her outlook will find it richly satisfying. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/15/2001 Release date: 01/01/2001 Genre: Nonfiction
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