A Negotiated Landscape: Planning, Regulation, and the Transformation of San Francisco's Waterfront , 1950 to the Present

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rubin, m jasper
Christian, Charles
This is a study of a landscape, in particular, San Francisco's urban waterfront landscape. Landscape is taken to be both the physical, visible aspects of an area and the often invisible processes that shape it; landscapes both reflect and shape forces of transformation. The analysis is rooted in an historical treatment of the waterfront, covering the period from 1950, when the Port of San Francisco began to experience pressures that would cause a serious and lasting decline in shipping activity, to the present, which is witness to a waterfront very different from early visions for its revitalization. The discussion is placed in the "top-down" and "bottom-up" framework sometimes used to characterize forces that effect change. Because this simple dichotomy is not always satisfactory, the study proposes a modified version that better captures the complexity of the interplay of forces, how their relationship changes over time, and the dual roles that some actors and agencies play. Much research has focused on the effect of larger, external forces on places. This study argues that while such forces have affected the waterfront, especially its decline, local forces evolved that strongly influenced the pace and nature of its transformation. One of the most important ways that local, or bottom-up, power is wielded is through the control of land use. This is a case study, then, of how the evolution of land use policy and regulation, and generally the planning process, has affected this physically and symbolically important part of San Francisco. In presenting a history, the study reveals that the relationship between planning and waterfront transformation moved through four stages. The stages progress from a period characterized by an absence of plans wherein modernist proposals for massive development were proffered, to the current stage characterized by a mature set of policy documents that have encouraged development that is more respectful of the public domain. Each stage is characterized by different aspects of the interplay among top-down and bottom-up forces with different results for the waterfront's morphology. This study concludes that various forces, mediated through a maturing planning process, have produced a negotiated landscape.