“Death and Transfiguration: Remaking Postwar San Francisco for Postindustrial Capitalism.”

Richard Walker and Destin Jenkins
Date and Time: 
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 4:30pm

Stanford Humanities Center Boardroom


Professor Richard Walker (Geography, UC Berkeley)
San Francisco, like all modern cities, has had to be repeatedly torn up and put back together to fit the ever-changing needs of capitalism; the postwar era of urban renewal is a dramatic case in point. These wrenching transformations are about more than moving concrete; they are about reconfiguring the social order of the city. They have certain people and activities as their targets. But such people don't come and go without a fight. Other than Paris or New York, what city has seen fiercer turf battles and class/race struggles than San Francisco?"

Imagining the “Wall Street of the West”: San Francisco Urban Development, 1955-1962
Destin Jenkins (PhD Candidate, History, Stanford)

In the years between 1955 and 1962 San Francisco city planners responded to mass suburbanization, capital flight, and the nascent transition to a producer services economy by reconfiguring the ideological contours of “downtown” to become synonymous with the “Wall Street of the West.” Under the guise of urban renewal, these planners extended its spatial reach into the adjacent waterfront area. This paper examines the intellectual history of post-industrial space. Indeed, the construction of high-rise office buildings anchoring financial and business services was not the product of “natural” market forces. I show how ideas about work, class, and family were deeply embedded in the construction of land and real estate markets. Before constructing high-rises, city planners identified a nearby wholesale produce market as guilty of “obsolescence.” My story forces us to ask, which industries count when historians discuss deindustrialization? Is the process about the type of work being displaced? The kind of worker being expelled? The physical structures being deposed?


Richard Walker (Geography, UC Berkeley) and Destin Jenkins (PhD Candidate, History, Stanford University)