Synopses & Reviews
During the Sixties the nation turned its eyes to San Francisco as the cityand#39;s police force clashed with movements for free speech, civil rights, and sexual liberation.and#160;These conflicts on the street forced Americans to reconsider the role of the police officer in a democracy. In The Streets of San Francisco
Christopher Lowen Agee explores the surprising and influential ways in which San Francisco liberals answered that question, ultimately turning to the police as partners, and reshaping understandings of crime, policing, and democracy.
The Streets of San Francisco uncovers the seldom-reported, street-level interactions between police officers and San Francisco residents and finds that police discretion was the defining feature of mid-century law enforcement.and#160;Postwar police officers enjoyed great autonomyand#160;when dealing with North Beach beats, African American gang leaders,and#160;gay and lesbian bar owners, Haight-Ashbury hippies, artists who created sexually explicit works, Chinese American entrepreneurs, and a wide range of other San Franciscans. Unexpectedly, this police independence grew into a source of both concern and inspiration for the thousands of young professionals streaming into the cityand#39;s growing financial district.and#160;These young professionals ultimately used the issue of police discretion to forge a new cosmopolitan liberal coalition that incorporated both marginalized San Franciscans and rank-and-file police officers. The success of this model in San Francisco resulted in the rise of cosmopolitan liberal coalitions throughout the country, and today, liberal cities across America ground themselves in similar understandings of democracy, emphasizing both broad diversity and strong policing.
andquot;Ageeand#39;s nuanced perspective on city policing and on the evolving new political agenda of San Franciscoandrsquo;s political leadership fills a gap in our understanding of these years, and makes The Streets of San Francisco well worth reading.andquot;
and#8220;Few historians have fully appreciated or analyzed the complicated role that the police have played in the making and unmaking of great American cities.and#160; But in this impressively researched and clearly written account, which takes into careful consideration both the discretion officers had and the pressures they faced, Agee shows convincingly how intertwined police practices and urban liberalism were in postwar San Francisco.and#160; From the Bay to the Breakers, the 1940s to the 1970s, he has ably documented how new notions of democratic citizenship and proper government emerged in response to street clashes between police officers and the diverse communities they served.and#160; The Streets of San Francisco represents a major contribution to the history of policing and politics in modern America.and#8221;
and#8220;This is an insightful and bracingly original study of law enforcement and municipal politics.and#160; Agee tells a gripping, often surprising story of how San Francisco became the city it is today, and in the process he sheds new light on the ways that battles over policing influenced and reflected broader transformations of American urban life in the second half of the twentieth century.and#8221;
and#8220;Agee's powerful and innovative book demonstrates that urban liberalism played as vital a role as law-and-order conservatism in the transformation of policing and crime politics in modern America.and#160; In postwar San Francisco, police officers made public policy at the street level through corrupt and discretionary enforcement against stigmatized groups and cultural nonconformists such as bare-footed bohemians, gay bar patrons, provocative artists, antiwar hippies, youth gangs, and African American and#8216;vagrants.and#8217;and#160; By embracing the and#8216;harm principle,and#8217; white liberal reformers decriminalized cultural and sexual expression and restrained police discretion in majority-white enclaves while simultaneously institutionalizing stop-and-frisk tactics and repressive crime-fighting policies in black neighborhoods.and#8221;
and#8220;The Streets of San Francisco offers a revealing look at the contradictory policing impulses of urban liberals in the second half of the twentieth-century. Caught between law and order on one side and emerging demands for racial and sexual pluralism on the other, liberals struggled to manage the complex apparatus of big-city police departments. With San Francisco as his focus, Agee tells this story in his unique and insightful voice.and#8221;
andquot;A fascinating study. . . It provides an interesting and under-examined insight into the cultural dynamics of the andlsquo;60s and andlsquo;70s, revealing that the police were not just an enemy of social change, but were often as much a part of it as the social movements they faced down in the streets.andquot;
andldquo;The history that Agee recounts offers important lessons for the current movement to rein in Americaand#39;s hyper-aggressive, overmilitarized police departments. In designing solutions, reformers must grapple not only with formal laws and policies, but also, and perhaps more importantly, with the welter of personal motives and workplace grievances that drive individual officersand#39; day-to-day decisions.andrdquo;
andldquo;The Streets of San Francisco is an interesting addition to the Historical Studies in Urban America Series . . . full of good discussions on big city policing. . . . andnbsp;Ageeandrsquo;s excellent discussion of the preeminent influence of the media and his linking of social issues and growth politics are his most important contributions.andrdquo;
Between the early 1900s and the late 1950s, the attitudes of white Californians toward their Asian American neighbors evolved from outright hostility to relative acceptance. Charlotte Brooks examines this transformation through the lens of Californiaandrsquo;s urban housing markets, arguing that the perceived foreignness of Asian Americans, which initially stranded them in segregated areas, eventually facilitated their integration into neighborhoods that rejected other minorities.
Against the backdrop of cold war efforts to win Asian hearts and minds, whites who saw little difference between Asians and Asian Americans increasingly advocated the latter groupandrsquo;s access to middle-class life and the residential areas that went with it. But as they transformed Asian Americans into a andldquo;model minority,andrdquo; whites purposefully ignored the long backstory of Chinese and Japanese Americansandrsquo; early and largely failed attempts to participate in public and private housing programs. As Brooks tells this multifaceted story, she draws on a broad range of sources in multiple languages, giving voice to an array of community leaders, journalists, activists, and homeownersandmdash;and insightfully conveying the complexity of racialized housing in a multiracial society.
During the 1950s and 1960s, San Francisco was transformed demographically, culturally, and politically. Navy shipbuilding and other waterfront work fueled the growth of many populations, including African Americans, gays, and lesbians. As a result, San Franciscoand#8217;s politics were likewise transformed. The old liberalism, grounded in notions of state welfare and business regulation, had been committed to ghettoizing black, gay, and bohemian populations; this gradually gave way to a more pluralistic form of and#147;modern liberalism,and#8221; as Agee calls it, which eventually came to define the city in the eyes of the world. In order to understand the evolving relationship between political elites and San Franciscoand#8217;s once-marginalized populations, Agee argues, we must take account of the government representatives with whom urban residents dealt the most: the police. Using oral histories and the personal papers of police officers, journalists, and everyday citizens to reveal the ways that individual personalities, values, and beliefs shaped community relations and politics, Agee explores how modern liberals and the police negotiated the concept of police discretion, developing a mutually beneficial relationship that shaped liberalism as we know it today.
For decades, the city of San Francisco has been nearly synonymous with the word and#147;liberal,and#8221; known for its diversity and acceptance, environmental activism, and thriving art scene. and#160;But this has not always been the case.and#160; Liberalism in San Francisco in the years right after World War II was mostly confined to notions of state welfare and business regulation. It wasnand#8217;t until the 1950s and 1960s, when new peoples and cultures poured into the city, that San Francisco produced a new liberal politics.
Christopher Lowen Agee details this fascinating transition inand#160;The Streets of San Francisco, focusing in particular on the crucial role the police played during this cultural and political shift.and#160; He partly attributes the creation and survival of cosmopolitan liberalism to the policeand#8217;s new authority to use their discretion when interacting with African American gang leaders, gay and lesbian bar owners, Haight-Ashbury hippies, artists who created sexually explicit works, Chinese American entrepreneurs, and a host of other postwar San Franciscans. In thus emboldening rank-and-file police officers, Agee shows, the city created partners in democratic governance. The success of this model in San Francisco resulted in the rise of cosmopolitan liberal coalitions throughout the country. Today, liberal cities across America ground themselves in similar understandings of democracy through an emphasis on both broad diversity and strong policing.
About the Author
Charlotte Brooks is associate professor of history at Baruch College, City University of New York. She is the author of Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends: Asian Americans, Housing, and the Transformation of Urban California also published by the University of Chicago Press.
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
Part I. Alien Neighbors
Chinatown, San Francisco: Americaand#8217;s First Segregated Neighborhood
Los Angeles: Americaand#8217;s and#8220;White Spotand#8221;
The New Dealand#8217;s Third Track: Asian American Citizenship and Public Housing in Depression-Era Los Angeles
and#8220;Housing Seems to Be the Problemand#8221;: Asian Americans and New Deal Housing Programs in San Francisco
The Subdivision and the War: From Jefferson Park to Internment
Part II. Foreign Friends
and#8220;Glorified and Mounted on a Pedestaland#8221;: San Francisco Chinatown at War
Equally Unequal: Asian Americans and the Fight for Housing Rights in Postwar California
and#8220;The Orientals Whose Friendship Is So Importantand#8221;: Asian Americans and the Values of Property in Cold War California