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Megafollies: A Brief History of Bay Area HyperDevelopment Stopped by Citizen Activists

Saturday, September 16, 2006
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Event Type:
Julie Rufo
Location Details:
Home of Truth Center
1300 Grand St
Alameda CA 94501

The Alameda Public Affairs Forum is pleased to present Professor Gray Brechin, who will speak on the subject: “Megafollies: A Brief History of Bay Area HyperDevelopment Stopped by Citizen Activism”, on September 16th, 2006, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the Home of Truth Center, 1300 Grand Street, Alameda.
Professor Brechin is the author of “Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin” and “Farewell Promised Land: Waking from the California Dream” and is head of the New Deal Legacy Project. Since at least the Second World War, planners, architects, newspapers, bureaucrats, and powerful business interests have envisioned a West Coast twin of New York City in which a few would become immensely wealthy at hidden public expense. More bridges, highways, high rises, dams, aqueducts, nuclear reactors—and less Bay—were all touted as progress. A remarkable cast of locals instead asked who gets to define progress and in the process saved much of what makes the region one of the most desirable and innovative in the world. See what might have been but for a plucky few who stopped the inevitable, and learn what this forgotten history has to teach Alamedans and Bay Area residents today.
Dr. Gray Brechin grew up in and witnessed firsthand the conversion of California’s Santa Clara Valley from carbon- to silicon-based life forms. That epic transformation required historical amnesia among residents and promoters alike in order to keep the speculative bubble inflating, as well as to deaden the pain that might be occasioned by recalling what Silicon Valley replaced in the course of its triumph. Witnessing that change — along with a 1985 sojourn in Venice — imbued Brechin with a lasting concern for the environmental costs of perpetual and heedless urban growth.

Dr. Brechin received a B.A. in geography and history (1971), an M.A. in art history (1976), and a Ph.D. in geography (1999), all from the University of California at Berkeley. Between 1978 and 1992, he worked as an architectural historian, critic, and televsion producer in San Francisco where he continued to develop his ideas on how humans use the earth. In 1978, he co-founded the Mono Lake Committee and in 1984-5 helped to break the story of the poisoned Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in the San Joaquin Valley while working at KQED-TV. At that PBS affiliate, Brechin witnessed the commercialization of public broadcasting — a transformation as dramatic in its way as that of the Santa Clara Valley.

A co-recipient of the 1992 Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize given by the Center for Documentary Studies, Brechin simultaneously collaborated with photographer Robert Dawson on a project documenting the declining environmental and social health of California. Also published by the University of California Press in 1999, Farewell, Promised Land: Waking from the California Dream served as the basis of a three-year traveling exhibition of Dawson’s photographs sponsored by the California Council for the Humanities.

Dr. Brechin is currently working on a sequel to Imperial San Francisco. He lives in Berkeley and Point Reyes, California, the latter in order to write and to better be reminded of what is of lasting value
Following the presentation there will be time for discussion and questions from the audience. The program is free but donations at the door are accepted. CD’s of all previous programs are available at the website, For more information see or email jrufo [at]
Added to the calendar on Fri, Aug 25, 2006 4:43PM
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