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Hollow City: The Siege of San Francisco and the Crisis of American Urbanism

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  153 ratings  ·  23 reviews
Reporting from the frontlines of gentrification in San Francisco's Mission District, Rebecca Solnit and Susan Schwartzenberg deplore the skyrocketing rents and corporate buyouts that may be coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

In a letter to the San Francisco Bay Guardian's sex column 'Ask Isadora' a masochist wrote in to ask whether he really had to obey his dominatrix

Paperback, 192 pages
Published November 6th 2018 by Verso (first published January 2001)
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3.73  · 
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 ·  153 ratings  ·  23 reviews

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Feb 11, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was a thoughtful birthday present given my interests, but unfortunately outside of the photographs and anecdotes it is merely a piece of intellectualized drivel about the dot com gentrification in San Francisco.

The writer places much too much importance upon the role of artists as our potential saviours from the placelessness generated by globalized economic forces. I think she is sorely myopic within her intellectual/artist circle that I know so well in San Francisco. She is actually
May 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was only recently, after a friend who lived in San Francisco for decades had to move to Oakland because he could no longer afford San Francisco, did I think to ask what was happening. This work is now 15 years out of date but nonetheless on point as it addresses the way San Francisco changed as it underwent a wave of redevelopment in the late 1990s.

To me, the core of the author's story is that redevelopment of a city drives out the poor, the artists, and the social activists while attracting
Apr 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a newcomer to San Francisco, I thought this book was very insightful and brought me to a new understanding about this fair city. I think everyone who lives here should read the history of gentrification here. Solnit writes about aspects of dot com culture that I've noticed, but never been able to articulate as the problem. At the same time, she acknowledges that we can't simply indict this industry; landlords and other people who benefit from dot commers' salaries are more than willing to tur ...more
Not sure why I bought this book, it was probably the half-price sticker on it as the local independent book store was going out of business. But I bought it and have finally read it and it is a tad whiny and the author could have said what she said in half the pages and I get the point. But that is how things are in post-Reagan Amerika. Everything has been commodified; we might as well learn to live with it because it is not going to change. It has been close to 30 years since I visited SF and t ...more
Apr 06, 2019 rated it really liked it

“Despite the utopian rhetoric of Silicone Valley boosters…it’s clear that Silicon Valley is developing into a two-tier society: those who have caught the technological wave and those who are being left behind. This is not simply a phenomenon of class or race or age or the distribution of wealth-although those are important factors.”

The term ‘gentrification’ was coined by the German born, British sociologist, Ruth Glass back in 1964, but of course it is a process that has been going on for centur
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Must-read for all San Franciscans and everyone else who's interested in urban life. This tells the story of the urban planning and gentrification of San Francisco, mostly from the point of view of artists, up to 2000. Of course it's gotten worse since then. Definitely a biased book, so if you work in the dot com industry, be warned that it hates you. Just kidding. Not really. In the end, the author shows that she has an open mind and lists the benefits of the internet, yet she follows it with ", ...more
The book lost its appeal early on when authors ran out of ways to say "gentrification is bad; monocultures are bad." The book would have worked better as a magazine piece. One of the authors mentioned she lives in a rent controlled unit, and I wish they offered more solutions about how to ease the impacts of gentrification. It also would have benefited from more stories about the displaced residents.

I did appreciate the sections about the history of gentrification and its roots in 19th century P
Jul 01, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's still interesting to read this book ~15 years after its publication, as many of the issues are pretty similar now as then. However, the tone of the book is that change is bad, which is fine, but there is a nostalgic yearning for some time that SF was perfect (perhaps during the author's childhood), when I am sure there were still similar concerns as well.
May 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm sorry, Rebecca Solnit, but Romeo Void was not a punk band and burritos are in fact Mexican food.
Jul 06, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
A pretty interesting read, but I was majorly annoyed at the author's whiny tone and the pretentiousness she seemed to have. Photographs were pretty good, too.
May 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: college
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
this is mostly about artist displacement, but the bigger themes of homogenization of urban spaces and privatization of public spaces have now infected most cities in the country.
Utrillo Kushner
Mar 27, 2019 rated it liked it
I would love to read an updated edition.
Chelsea Martinez
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book at the end of 2016, every type of gentrification and displacement Solnit describes is still happening (presumably fewer/different places, 14 years later). Helped me to understand what has been lost (I have arrived too late to appreciate some unique San Francisco things that are now harder to see), become familiar with some local artists and SF history. I really enjoyed the mixture of prose and photography.
Sep 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first, I thought this book was going to be a whiny diatribe about how artists are some of the victims of gentrification. Although the book did share a number of complaints, it emphasized what we lose with gentrification. Gentrification isn't just about race and poverty; it's about vitality of thought. Creativity matters. It prevents environments from being sterile. I do not know a lot about San Francisco, but I do feel the city is falling off the map on the arts front. The "brand" of SF is th ...more
Apr 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really incredible book. If you love cities, you should read it. If you ponder the role artists have or don't have in gentrification, you should read it. If you wonder how government policy, sometimes even at the federal level, creates local neighborhood wars, you should read it. If you're interested in materialist critiques of art, you should read it. If you live in San Francisco, you must read it. It is the history of how San Francisco got to be a bohemian mecca, and how the destructi ...more
Jan 27, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The issue of gentrification in San Francisco is an ongoing topic and one that requires quite a bit of balancing a wide variety of interests. But I honestly believe that this author does not have a realistic nor a healthy attitude towards gentrification. As oppressive as increasing rents can be, even more oppressive are others who think they can tell everyone else how much less they think they *should* pay for rents, all the while completely ignoring any and all economic, business, and political ...more
Lauren DeLong
Dec 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of it was a bit dated (not surprising, considering it was published over a decade ago) but overall still incredibly applicable and angry and inspiring. The metaphor in which wealthy professionals were pedophiles, and the artists/activists they follow around, neighborhood to neighborhood, teenage girls made an especial impression on me.
Jaina Bee
Dec 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: activists, people watchers
Recommended to Jaina Bee by: Professor Sweatshirt
Painful to read, having lived through this whole ordeal, but such an excellent report of the scene, from the trenches. I couldn't finish the book because my sweetie had borrowed it from the library and had it clutched to his bosom until it was time to return it (yay for libraries, by the way), so I'll plan to finish this later. The story ain't over yet.
Jay Z
Aug 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Required reading for the smug shitbats of San Francisco, constantly simmering in a self-congratulatory stew over how diverse and racially inclusive San Francisco is. Ugh. This city makes me crazy and I want to hide in Rebecca Solnit's pocket.
Jul 29, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, home-library
borrowed it from arwen and so began my journey with solnit
Jan 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you live in SF, you should read this book.
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Jan 14, 2019
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Jul 04, 2013
Benito Jr.
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Aug 20, 2011
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Apr 17, 2011
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Nov 15, 2008
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May 07, 2008
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Dec 29, 2017
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Rebecca Solnit is an American author who often writes on the environment, politics, place, and art. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications in print and online, including the Guardian newspaper and Harper's Magazine, where she is the first woman to regularly write the Easy Chair column founded in 1851. She is also a regular contributor to the political blog TomDispatch and to LitHub.