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San Francisco Year Zero

Political Upheaval, Punk Rock and a Third-Place Baseball Team

Lincoln A. Mitchell (author)

ISBN: 9781978807341

Publication Date: Nov 2019

Format: Hardback

San Francisco is a city of contradictions. Socially liberal, but with some of America's worst income inequality. The playground of tech millionaires, yet it also supports vibrant alternative and avant-garde scenes. So how did the city get this way? Lincoln Mitchell traces the roots of the current situation back to 1978.

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San Francisco is a city of contradictions. It is one of the most socially liberal cities in America, but it also has some of the nation's worst income inequality. It is a playground for tech millionaires, with an outrageously high cost of living, yet it also supports vibrant alternative and avant-garde scenes. So how did the city get this way?
In San Francisco Year Zero, San Francisco native Lincoln Mitchell traces the roots of the current situation back to 1978, when three key events occurred: the assassination of George Moscone and Harvey Milk occurring fewer than two weeks after the massacre of Peoples Temple members in Jonestown, Guyana, the explosion of the city's punk rock scene, and a breakthrough season for the San Francisco Giants. Through these three strands, Mitchell explores the rifts between the city's pro-business and progressive-left politicians, the emergence of Dianne Feinstein as a political powerhouse, the increasing prominence of the city's LGBT community, punk's reinvigoration of the Bay Area's radical cultural politics, and the ways that the Giants helped unify one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in the nation.
Written from a unique insider's perspective, San Francisco Year Zero deftly weaves together the personal and the political, putting a human face on the social upheavals that transformed a city.


Lincoln Mitchell presents a new and brilliant understanding of San Francisco, America's most progressive city, by describing and interpreting its culture through the extraordinary prism of politics, baseball, and the punk rock scene in the seventies. The reader learns how and why San Francisco, frequently chided derisively by President Trump and other right wing politicians for our ‘San Francisco values,' developed those values that eventually become an indelible part of American values everywhere."

"San Francisco Year Zero parses the year 1978--the annus horribilis and nadir--of San Francisco's 'time of troubles.' Mitchell's brilliant political analysis has, as a counterpoint,an analysis of the 1978 Giants season. This creative mixture makes San Francisco Year Zero an extraordinarily important contribution to the historiography of San Francisco."

"Mitchell's comprehensive portrayal of the zeitgeist of 1978 San Francisco is illuminated by a prism sided by the unlikely trio of baseball, punk, and our city's political traumas. His writing manifests the passion of a participant with the certainty of a historian. He has perfectly captured that dark uncertain moment when San Francisco was seen in black and white, between the psychedelic era of hippies and the city's reemergence as a diverse cultural Mecca."

"The 1978 Giants were a truly special, exciting and fun team. Mitchell does a wonderful job telling the story of that team, but what makes this book truly compelling is that he shows why baseball and the Giants were so important to the extraordinary period in San Francisco that 1978 was. By doing that, Mitchell provides an indispensable perspective and resource not only for baseball fans, but for anybody who wants to understand how San Francisco got to be the city it is today. Mitchell has woven a tale of politics, murder, cults, punk rock and baseball together to provide an entertaining, powerful, cohesive and holistic picture of San Francisco during the year that changed everything in our city."

"From the perspective of an adolescent growing up in post-hippie San Francisco, Lincoln Mitchell brings a totally new and riveting perspective to every facet of San Francisco in 1978 from Major League Baseball, to the early days of punk rock to the tragic, tumultuous and violent politics. San Francisco Year Zero sheds new light on how the events of that pivotal year shaped politics in San Francisco and the rest of our country for the next four decades and to this day. And it's a gentle reminder that it's still not too late for us to once again chart the progressive political course that was cut short by the political assassinations and messianic violence that rocked San Francisco and America 40 years ago."

"The book is both rigorous political science that would be very useful to scholars of urban politics generally and San Francisco more specifically, but is also a highly readable and fun book that gives a deeper perspective into San Francisco in 1978. Mitchell captures both the larger political issues that defined the city then and continue to impact it now as well as the feel of what it meant to be growing up in San Francisco at the time."

"1978 was a year that shook and reshaped San Francisco just as brutally and profoundly as 1906 had, though the changes it wrought were due to cultural, social and political upheaval instead of shifting tectonic plates. In San Francisco Year Zero, Lincoln Mitchell paints a cinematic and insightful portrait of a year in which such disparate characters as Harvey Milk, Jim Jones, Johnny Rotten, Jello Biafra, Jerry Garcia, Bill Graham, Dianne Feinstein, Penelope Houston, Vida Blue and Jack Clark all left lasting marks on The City By The Bay. If you love San Francisco, urban history, baseball and/or punk rock, this is an essential read.
Illustrations 31 color photographs, 2 tables
Pages 360
Dimensions 229 x 152
Date Published 30 Nov 2019
Publisher Rutgers University Press
Subject/s Regional & national history   History of the Americas   Theory of music & musicology   Population & demography   Political control & freedoms   Constitution: government & the state  
Lincoln A. Mitchell is an adjunct associate professor of Political Science at Columbia University, where he also serves as an associate scholar in the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. He has authored many books on the former Soviet states, democracy, and baseball, including Baseball Goes West: How the Giants and Dodgers Shaped the Major Leagues (2018). He has also written extensively about San Francisco�s history in Instant City, Roads and Kingdoms, Parts Unknown and the New York Observer.

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