David Talbot's false choice

Season of the Witch

My book club recently read David Talbot’s Season of the Witch which is about the transformation of San Francisco in the 1970s, from the perspective of 2012. Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I couldn’t help noting this passage:

The housing battles of the 1970s were the crucible for an entire generation of new activists in San Francisco. The city was a finite peninsula of competing dreams and ambitions. Was it to become a Manhattan of the West, whose office towers and high-rise apartment buildings over-shadowed everything else, or remain an affordable, human-scale city of light nestled into the hills and hollows?

In the end, San Francisco chose neither. Its “human-scale” masks a terrible auto dependency and inadequate public transportation system, while the failure to build up (even a little – Paris very human-scale but over three times as dense) has turned the city into an unaffordable playground for the wealthy and young.