CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries
August 2009 (Vol. 46, No. 11)
Review by A. D. McNitt, Eastern Illinois University
The Leftmost City: Power and progressive politics in Santa Cruz, by Richard Gendron and G. William Domhoff. Westview, 2009.
Students of urban government call the individuals and businesses that benefit from the construction, development, and sale of real estate the "growth coalition." 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. Santa Cruz was dominated by its growth coalition until 1965 when the University of California at Santa Cruz enrolled its first class of students. Aided by extremely destructive development plans, a progressive coalition of socialist-feminists, neighborhood activists, and social welfare advocates challenged and finally won control of the city government in 1981. This coalition managed to stay in power even after an earthquake destroyed most of the downtown business district and forced the progressives to cooperate with their opponents in the business community in redeveloping the city center. Gendron (sociology, Assumption College) and Domhoff (sociology and psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz) use their case study to evaluate the effectiveness of competing theories of urban politics. They end up arguing that a modified version of growth coalition theory does a superior job of explaining urban politics.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers and students of all levels.