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

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  125 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
Reporting from the front lines of gentrification in San Francisco, Rebecca Solnit and Susan Schwartzenberg sound a warning bell to all urban residents. Wealth is just as capable of ravaging cities as poverty.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published September 17th 2002 by Verso (first published January 2001)
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May 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 This work is now 15 years out of date but nonetheless on point as it addresses the way San Francisco changed as it underwent a wave of redevelopment in the late 1990s.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
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
Feb 11, 2007 rated it did not like it
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 04, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Sep 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
May 22, 2012 rated it liked it
I'm sorry, Rebecca Solnit, but Romeo Void was not a punk band and burritos are in fact Mexican food.
Elizabeth Greenfield
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.
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Jay Z
Aug 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Shelves: home-library, art
borrowed it from arwen and so began my journey with solnit
Jul 06, 2009 rated it liked it
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.
Jan 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
If you live in SF, you should read this book.
rated it it was amazing
Jul 04, 2013
Benito Jr.
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Aug 20, 2011
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Apr 17, 2011
rated it it was ok
Nov 15, 2008
rated it it was ok
May 07, 2008
rated it really liked it
Feb 03, 2013
rated it liked it
Apr 26, 2010
Jon Bate
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Dec 23, 2015
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Dec 10, 2014
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Apr 30, 2015
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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.

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