The city aroused : sexual politics and the transformation of San Francisco's urban landscape
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This dissertation examines the intersections of urban redevelopment and sexual politics in San Francisco from the first calls for a comprehensive land-use plan in the early 1940s to the highpoint of landscape destruction in the mid 1960s. During the war years, city leaders and prominent citizens compiled and prioritized a list of postwar planning projects that included improvements to the mass transit system, redevelopment of the downtown waterfront, and expansion of the city’s tourism and convention facilities. The footprint of these projects necessitated the destruction of significant elements of the built environment, including cable car lines, low rent hotels, industrial zones, and nighttime entertainment districts. After the war, civic leaders, elected officials, business interests and newspaper publishers attempted to rally support for these projects and searched for new ways to assert control over the urban landscape. San Franciscans, however, resisted significant components of the post-war civic improvement program by mobilizing against plans to replace cable cars with buses, by voting down schemes to redevelop the waterfront, and by blocking efforts to expand the freeway network. In this larger context, gays and lesbians in San Francisco in the early 1960s organized as a response to displacement from the low-rent hotel and bar districts on the edge of an expanding downtown. Specific examples of the loss of gay social spaces due to redevelopment pressures include the destruction of a popular gay bar to make way for a new airline bus terminal; the acquisition and razing of several businesses on the waterfront that hosted a thriving gay subculture; and the closure of a gay-oriented movie house after it aroused the ire of neighborhood activists in the Haight Ashbury district. This dissertation builds on previous work that examines the cultural politics of urban landscape change, as well as literature on the formation of urban sexuality-base subcultures to argue that the material transformation of urban space played a fundamental role in the emergence of contemporary notions of sexual difference.