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Almost all US cities are controlled by real estate and development interests, but Santa Cruz, California, is a deviant case. An unusual coalition of socialist-feminists, environmentalists, social-welfare liberals, and neighborhood activists has stopped every growth project proposed by landowners and developers since 1969, and controlled the city council since 1981. Even after a 1989 earthquake forced the city to rebuild its entire downtown, the progressive elected officials prevailed over developers and landowners.
Drawing on hundreds of primary documents, as well as original, previously unpublished interviews, The Leftmost City utilizes an extended case study of Santa Cruz to critique three major theories of urban power: Marxism, public-choice theory, and regime theory. Santa Cruz is presented within the context of other progressive attempts to shape city government, and the authors’ findings support growth-coalition theory, which stresses the conflict between real estate interests and neighborhoods as the fundamental axis of urban politics. The authors conclude their analysis by applying insights gleaned from Santa Cruz to progressive movements nationwide, offering a template for progressive coalitions to effectively organize to achieve political power.

What's Inside

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"This is a terrific book that shows how cities can chart a course between self-destruction at the hands of the ‘growth at any cost’ advocates while maintaining the tax base to provide social services and preserve neighborhoods. It’s a lively case study of two decades of progressive government, carefully documented, reads like a novel. And along the way, Gendron and Domhoff provide a theoretical underpinning that suggests how this experience can be repeated elsewhere." —Pierre Clavel, Professor of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University; Author of The Progressive City
"The Leftmost City provides cogent insights on the opportunities for and persisting barriers to progressive politics at the local level. From a rigorous case study of Santa Cruz and critical analysis of urban political theory, this book offers essential reading to anyone who wants to understand and change the quality of life along with the opportunity structure in the nation’s metropolitan areas." —Gregory D. Squires, Professor of Sociology andPublic Policy and Public Administration, George Washington University; Coauthor of Privileged Places: Race, Residence, and the Structure of Opportunity

“In most US cities, the growth coalition controls local government. Santa Cruz, California, is one of the few exceptions to this rule, which is why Gendron and Domhoff’s analysis of its politics is of particular interest. … [They] use their case study to evaluate the effectiveness of competing theories of urban politics and end up arguing that a modified version of growth coalition theory does a superior job of explaining urban politics. Highly recommended.” —Choice

The Leftmost City is a wonderful contribution to urban political theory as well as a concrete guide for how to exploit new opportunities for moving urban America forward. Without cynicism or romantic illusion, the authors use Santa Cruz to show the possibilities for community groups to exert effective local action against entrenched business interests. Thanks to their keen ethnographic eye and fast-paced narrative style, Santa Cruz becomes a laboratory for understanding how to take and hold power, and for seeing what local power can and cannot do.” —Harvey Molotch, New York University; Coauthor of Urban Fortunes

The Leftmost City is an exceptional book and a pleasure to read. It is built on 25 years of careful research and written in a way that is clear and lucid, free of posturing and jargon. It is a piece of inspirational literature that offers…both a rigorous case study on the politics of the community and a critical analysis of urban political theory.”  -City & Community 
“A well-written and jargon-free book that is pitched at an appropriate level for advanced undergraduates and master’s-level students. . . . This book represents an important new addition to the arsenal of books that can be used to teach courses in urban or political sociology. It is theoretically informed, well organized, has an interesting case, and is written in a way that most undergraduates and new graduate students will find approachable.” —Teaching Sociology
"The Leftmost City gives the reader lively prose, provocative arguments, and a fresh stream of ideas. Advocates of progressive politics will find this book a rich resource to draw on. Across the political spectrum, all will learn from the extraordinary politics of Santa Cruz, thanks to the lucid and down-to-earth instruction by authors Gendron and Domhoff." —Clarence N. Stone, Research Professor, George Washington University; Author of Regime Politics
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