Willie Brown (politician)

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Willie Brown (politician) : biography

March 20, 1934 –

In 1998, The Berkeley, California-based Bicycle Civil Liberties Union, produced a two hour documentary film in the muckraker journalism tradition, "July 25th: The Secret is Out," which gives evidence of Brown’s designs for the Transbay Terminal site.

Critical Mass

Since 1992, cyclists riding in San Francisco’s monthly Critical Mass bicycle rides had used the "corking" technique at street intersections to block rush-hour cross-traffic. In 1997, Brown approved San Francisco Police Department Chief Fred Lau’s plan to conduct a crackdown on the rides, calling them "a terrible demonstration of intolerance". and "an incredible display of arrogance." Brown said after arrests were made when a Critical Mass event became violent "I think we ought to confiscate their bicycles" and that "a little jail time" would teach Critical Mass riders a lesson. On the night of the July 25, 1997 ride 115 riders were arrested for unlawful assembly, jailed, and had their bicycles confiscated by the police. –> By 2002, Brown and the city’s relations with Critical Mass had changed. On the 10th anniversary of Critical Mass on September 27, 2002, the city officially closed down four blocks to automobile traffic for the annual Car-Free Day Street Fair. Brown remarked concerning the event: "I’m delighted. A new tradition has been born in our city."

Urban planning and development

As San Francisco mayor, Brown was criticized for aggregating power, and for favoring certain business interests at the expense of the city as a whole. Supporters point to the many development projects completed or planned under his watch, including the restoration of City Hall and historic waterfront buildings; the setting in motion of one of the city’s largest ever mixed use development projects in Mission Bay, and the development of a second campus for the University of California, San Francisco. In contrast, critics objected to the construction of many live-work loft buildings in formerly working-class neighborhoods that they believed lead to gentrification and displacement of residents and light industry.

Under Brown, San Francisco’s city hall was restored from damages sustained during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Brown insisted on restoring the light courts and having the dome gilded with more than US$ 400,000 in real gold. The Embarcadero was redeveloped and the Mission Bay Development project began. Brown also oversaw the approval of the Catellus Development Corp., US$ 100 million restoration of the century-old Ferry Building, new Main Library, the new Asian Art Museum, the new M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, the expansion of the Moscone Convention Center and San Francisco International Airport’s new international terminal. Brown worked to restructure the Housing Authority. Brown helped established an AFL-CIO housing trust to build affordable housing and he worked to increase the city’s share of federal and state grants. He oversaw declining crime rates and improvements in the city’s economy, finances, and credit ratings during his first term.

Brown was known for his shrewd and strategic use of the details of the planning process to affect and facilitate development projects on his watch. In regards to a parking garage on Vallejo Street desired by North Beach and Chinatown merchants, Brown circumvented neighborhood resident opponents of the garage by ordering demolition of the site’s existing structure to commence on a 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."

During his time as Mayor, Brown hoped to build a new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers and worked with the 49ers to create a plan. No new facility was built for the team during his tenure. Brown worked with the San Francisco Giants to build a new stadium in the China Basin after previous stadium measures had failed on the ballot. The stadium gained approval by San Francisco voters in 1996 and opened in 2000.