“The way [Willie Brown] tells it, [neighborhood residents] were pulling every trick they could to stop the city from erecting a parking garage on Vallejo Street desired by North Beach and Chinatown merchants. So when all the approvals were lined up, Brown ordered demolition of the site’s existing structure to commence on Friday night and be done by Monday morning, when the group was certain to try to obtain a restraining order.
“It was with the demolition permit I outsmarted them,” Brown recounts proudly, claiming that as the critics rushed toward court, “someone shouted out to them that the building had disappeared over the weekend. They’ve never recovered from that little maneuver.”
I pass along this florid tale because it demonstrates “Basic Brown’s” basic insight into how San Francisco and other cities evolve. Things rarely happen by chance: Our landscape is shaped by competing visions of what a shared place should be. And more often than not, the winners are those who use the most brazen tactics.
Place: ‘Basic Brown’ reveals a brazen mayor [SFGate]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by badlydrawnbear

    That is how Mayor Daley (the second) of Chicago turned Meigs field (the lakefront airport) into a park … but bulldozing the runways int he middle of the night preventing landings and take offs and stranding dozens of planes.
    But he turned a loud airport into a bird sanctuary, pretty progressive of him if you ask me (although it did help him with his O’hare expansion fight too)
    It seems the only politician to have learned this lesson in SF is Chris Daly.

  2. Posted by zzzzzzzz

    Willie Brown understood that mayors are remembered for their legacies of bricks and mortar, and he delivered: restoration of City Hall, the Opera House, the Asian Art Museum, and the Ferry Building, not to mention his jump-starting the long-stalled Mission Bay redevelopment and the Giants stadium. While I wasn’t happy about the fact he expanded an already hugely bloated civil service, or about the political reaction that resulted from his pro-development policies, I think he left a far more memorable and important legacy than Newsom ever will.

  3. Posted by Jeffrey W. Baker

    The Asian: lame collection in place of beautiful old main library. Ferry Building: Port of San Francisco, not City of San Francisco. Telco Park: also Port of San Francisco. I’ll give you City Hall.
    Mayor Brown will be remembered to history as a criminal and little more.

  4. Posted by JohnK

    Love him or hate him, he is a man who new how to get things done in this politically messed up City. Newsome can’t even carry his jock.

  5. Posted by bgelldawg

    John King introduces the story in his article with, “The way Willie tells it . . .” then does nothing to determine if this is an accurate history of the events.
    He also presents Willie’s claim that the garage looks great and fits well into the neighborhood without giving his own view this or providing before and after photos for the viewer to see how true this is.
    Where is the reporting?

  6. Posted by natomahead

    “Ferry Building: Port of San Francisco, not City of San Francisco. Telco Park: also Port of San Francisco.”
    Mr. Baker, it may be “Port of”, but it was via the Mayor that those projects got done. Take today’s sorry state of the Port of SF, where they can’t get any of their port’s redeveloped because of an impotent mayor and an overreaching BoF that genuflects to ‘neighborhood’ groups. For better or worse, those ports would have been redeveloped if Brown was Mayer.
    “The Asian: lame collection in place of beautiful old main library.”, that’s your lack in taste. I like that building. But regardless, it was Brown how got that done. If Newsom and the current BoS was in charge then, you can bet that that building would be a boarded up, dilapidated, homeless haven instead of a world class museum.

  7. Posted by Dave

    Mayor Daly should have been jailed for illegally bulldozing Meigs Field, and politicians like Chris Daly should be booted out of office for attempting similar end-runs of the process. Thank God for term limits.

  8. Posted by Jeffrey W. Baker

    Sorry natomahead, but you should read the history of the Burton Act. The Port acts under its own authority and without city money. The mayor had nothing to do with successful Port redevelopments like the Ferry Building and Telco Park, except to appear as a figurehead at ribbon cuttings. And I’m not sure what you’re getting at with the regard to the Port’s “sorry state”. They are the only governmental entity I can think of who run a surplus and adhere to a successful multi-decade development master plan.

  9. Posted by zzzzzzz

    Say what you will about the port projects – but the jump-starting of Mission Bay was definitely Brown’s doing. Had Brown not been in power at the time, UCSF might well have built its new campus outside SF and Mission Bay would still be languishing as a decrepit industrial relic (not that the current crop of Supervisors would mind, of course).

  10. Posted by Jeffrey W. Baker

    And are we happy with Mission Bay? Last time I was down there I spent a long time staring at the giant parking block they built fronting 3rd, and the incredible walk from the street car to any location of interest.

  11. Posted by natomahead

    SF Port estimates that it will cost them 1.4 Billon to rehabilitate their piers. That’s the “sorry state” I mean. Most of it because of so many delays have allowed for increasing construction costs, plus legal and environmental “reviews’ being asked/debated by neighborhood groups and such. This is what the article talks about Mayor Brown being able to bypass.
    Burton Act or not, it *was* the mayor who fast tracked these SF Port projects. Unlike the present situation (i.e. the port near North Beach/Telegraph Hill), where the BoS is effectively blocking the Port from developing their ports.
    SF Port may act under it’s own authority, but they still have to go thru city politics as the commission is appointed by the Mayor and approved by the BoS.
    And again, just reference the current situation at the port near telegraph hill and to some extent the ports by giants stadium and along the eastern waterfront.
    there’s plenty of data on this, here’s a quick article: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/12/03/MNVKTKK1B.DTL

  12. Posted by Jeffrey W. Baker

    Well, I don’t want to get too geeky about the Port’s finances, but their $1.4b liability is intentional. Neglecting maintenance of underperforming property allows the Port to run their surplus and eventually the property falls into the bay, which will allow the Port to write it off and build something more valuable. The Port estimates that it will cost a large amount to fix the piers, but that’s a convenient fiction. In reality the Port does not intend to fix them.

  13. Posted by Mole Man

    Cleaning up the corupt mess Willie Brown left behind is the Newsom legacy.

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