William Issel on Catholic politics in San Francisco

For a great review of Bill Issel’s new book, nose on over to Chris Carlsson’s Nowtowpian blog…

San Francisco’s much touted reputation as a bastion of liberal tolerance has an unexpected foundation in of all things, the Catholic Church! It’s a complicated tale involving the emergence of a liberal cross-class majority in favor of economic growth and individual rights that has important issel book coverroots in Catholic doctrine. By the last quarter of the 20th century the same liberalism that had prevailed as a manifestation of a “vital political center” had sown the seeds of its own demise. The dominance of Catholic morality over politicians, police, business, and labor leaders began eroding under the pressure of the post-war demographic changes in San Francisco. By the time the Soviet Union finally dissolved in 1991, liberalism had already lost its defining purpose (anti-communism combined with a capitalist-friendly regime of limited labor and human rights), while in San Francisco, the liberals had long become fused with elite business interests in their pursuit of a growth economy based on white-collar finance, real estate, medicine, tourism, and technology.

William Issel does a wonderful job of revealing and analyzing this history in his 2013 book Church and State in the City: Catholics and Politics in Twentieth-Century San Francisco (Temple University Press). Rooted in the early 20th century’s labor movement, then dominated by Irish Catholics (and to a much lesser extent Italian and Latin American Catholics), “native sons” of San Francisco’s Mission District born between 1890 and 1930 played an extraordinarily influential role in the political and social development of San Francisco up to the 1970s.

Read the rest here….

The Death of the City? Reports of San Francisco’s Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

By Rachel Brahinsky

As part of the Boom California summer 2014 issue, I have a new essay on SF, looking at the tech boom and its effects in a new way. Here’s an excerpt:

You may have heard that the wave of gentrification that’s crashing through San Francisco these days has brought “the end of San Francisco.” You may have heard that the cool city of fog and freaks is over and done with, run over by Google buses filled with techies who have no sense of community or history. At the risk of being very unpopular, I’m going to tell you this isn’t quite true. The “Google bus,” which is what people in the Bay Area call the mass of private, tech commuter buses that fill the rush-hour streets, is not essentially the problem. In fact, it may be the seed of the solution.¹

The San Francisco Bay Area is undergoing a period of rapid transformation. In many ways, we’ve seen this boom before. Yet the unsettled atmosphere of the current moment—in which the middle class fears eviction alongside the most vulnerable—has refueled another familiar Bay Area process in the fight against displacement. The San Francisco you love exists because, as capitalism’s “creative destruction” tears through the urban landscape, community advocates fighting for what I call an “ethical city” try to reshape that destruction²—and sometimes they win.

This latest wave of advocacy has been centered around tech wealth and motivated by the great, white shuttle buses. Defended as a way to keep the tech industry “green,” even as it blocks public transit and weighs heavily on city streets, the Google bus has become a metaphor for life in an age of seemingly warp-speed urban change. Neither gentrification nor real estate flipping—in which investors buy and resell property for quick profit—were invented in San Francisco, and neither of them are new. See New York’s SoHo and Lower East Side in the 1980s and 1990s, and see cities around the globe, which have produced enough variants on the theme that academics have created an advanced taxonomy of gentrification.³ Even so, the rumble of urban change has been deeply jarring on many levels ….. Follow this link for the rest of my essay, available for free on JStor

Read the rest of the Summer 2014 issue of BOOM: What’s the Matter with San Francisco?

Support Shaping and Found San Francisco!!!

Many of us have found the resources on Found San Francisco to be invaluable. For a wide public, it’s an undeniable portal into understanding the urban environment. Or how many instructors have turned to Found S.F. when preparing a class? …Relied on them for photos and maps? …Sent our students on a research mission with their pages as a foundation? So many!

And many others have attended incredible lectures as part of Shaping S.F.‘s marvelous programming. Countless have learned from bike tours, conversations, and books. …All of this pretty much for free—or maybe for a donation or a book purchase here or there!! But NOW, at a time of increasing economic pressures, is the time to help Chris and Lisa. They have put in so many years of work into these twin operations and we can pay them back by contributing to what they call the 3% solution.

In a few words:

Sign up for our new monthly donor program, or just give us a one-time gift to say thank you for the photos and stories. If 1,200 people (3.3% of our 40,000 monthly users + event participants & online visitors) give $10/month, we can keep this resource going AND expanding.


Read more and please subscribehttp://www.foundsf.org/index.php?title=The_3%25_Solution

A few spots left! Graduate Program in Urban Affairs at the University of San Francisco

California Studies Colleagues: If you were inspired by the interdisciplinary approach of our California on Fire conference in April, please share this announcement with those who may be interested in a similar approach to learning and understanding the challenges facing California.
From CSA Chair Rachel Brahinsky comes this announcement about the Graduate Program in Urban Affairs at her university:
Greetings: We have room for just a few more fantastic students to join the Fall 2014 cohort of our MA program in Urban Affairs at the University of San Francisco. I’m writing to encourage you to share this email with aspiring urbanists who may be interested in diving in for further studies, now or in the future.
This is an interdisciplinary two-year program, with a strong emphasis on community-based research in the San Francisco Bay Area. The program combines rigorous academics with an internship and applied research. Community-engaged projects will contribute to and benefit from the vibrancy of the San Francisco Bay Area, while encouraging students to reflect on their role as global urban citizens.
Please follow this link to our website for more information.  And please encourage students to write me with any questions they may have (rbrahinsky (at) usfca.edu.
We will continue to review applications on a rolling basis until the cohort is full.  Thanks so much for spreading the word!


Bill Issel, Professor of History at Mills College, will discuss his new book on Catholic political thought and activism in San Francisco.  The talk, part of the UCB California Studies Dinner Seminar series, will be on Wednesday, May 15 from 7-9 p.m. at the UCB Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, 2521 Channing Way, Berkeley.  Admission (including dinner) is free.

RSVP to Myra Armstrong, zulu2@berkeley.edu

Laborfest Book Fair, San Francisco (Sat. July 19)

From Julia Stein, Santa Monica Junior College.

“Next July 19, 2008, I’ll be reading poetry at the San Francisco Labor Book Fair. The poets will read 3:30-5:00. All day fine authors will discuss their books and their will be book tables from diverse presses. The Book Fair is part of San Francisco Labor Festival: 50 events held from July 5 to 31 in San Francisco and the East Bay on labor including films, videos, talks, theater, concerts, panels, walks of historical labor sites.

1st Annual LaborFest BookFair & Poetry Reading
July 19 (Saturday) 2008
Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts – 2868 Mission St.,SF3:30 PM-5:00 PM

LaborFest Poetry Reading
With Jenifer Rae Vernon, Julia Stein, Alice Rogoff, Matthew Diaz, Benjamin Balthaser, James Tracy, and others

Schedule for Entire Day–

Main Gallery (Book Presentations)
9:30 AM-10:45 AM
Fernando Gapasin on: Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice.

11:00 AM-12:15 PM
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz on: Roots of Resistance: A History of Land Tenure in New Mexico.

1:15 PM – 2:30 PM
Lauren Coodley on: Putting Labor into California History

Theater 12:00 PM-1:30PM
Lincoln Cushing Presentation and Slide Show on: Art/Works – American Labor Graphic.

1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Bryan D. Palmer on: James P. Cannon and the Origins Of the American Revolutionary Left.

3:30 PM-5:00 PM
LaborFest Poetry Reading
With Jenifer Rae Vernon, Julia Stein, Alice Rogoff, Matthew Diaz, Benjamin Balthaser, James Tracy, and others.

Small Gallery
9:30 AM-12:00 Noon
The LaborFest Writers Workshop will conduct writing exercises inspired by the American Life Histories of the WPA Federal Writers’ Project’s Folklore Project. Main themes will be on the industrial and occupational lore of working class people and families. We will explore the customs, cultures, and regional traditions of our diverse backgrounds.

12:30 PM 1:45 PM
Dan Berman on: Death On The Job and the State Of Health And Safety. 

2:00 PM – 3:15 PM
Suzanne Gordon on: Safety In Numbers, Nurse-to-Patient Ratios and the Future of Health Care
Suzanne Gordon; John Buchanan; Tanya Bretherton

3:30 PM – 5:00 PM
Paul D. Blanc, MD on: How Everyday Products Make People Sick
Toxins at Home and in the Workplace