Art Agnos: "It was an extraordinary kind of time."

Arthur “Art” Christ Agnos is best known for his work as a California Assemblyman (1976-1988) and as mayor of San Francisco (1988-1991). The Art Agnos Papers, a 75-box collection documenting his political career, is open for research at the San Francisco History Center. The records consist of legislative and subject files, speeches, correspondence, press releases, and newspaper clippings. Mayoral issues included budget problems, homelessness, AIDS, racial integration of the Fire Department, home-porting of the USS Missouri, the grape boycott, the Loma Prieta Earthquake, and demolition of the Embarcadero Freeway.

From left to right: Assemblyman Leo T. McCarthy, Assemblyman Willie L. Brown,
Congressman Phil Burton, and Art Agnos, ca. early 1980s
Agnos served as Chief of Staff to Leo T. McCarthy, Speaker of the Assembly. In 1976, he defeated Harvey Milk to represent the 16th district in the California Assembly.

Art Agnos was the city's first mayor to ride in the Gay Freedom Day Parade, c Arnold Arkenau, 1988 

 campaign booklet Things To Be Proud Of, [1991]

A devastating 6.9 earthquake struck the Bay Area on Oct. 17, 1989. Agnos said his proudest moment was the way San Franciscans responded. Just three weeks later, a downtown baseball stadium measure supported by the mayor narrowly lost, giving the mayor his biggest disappointment. Voters later approved a privately-financed ballpark to be built in China Basin, now home of the San Francisco Giants.

Conceptual view of proposed China Basin ballpark, [1989]
“I liked being mayor best of all because you have unparalleled power to pick up the phone on any issue you wanted to get into, and I love to get into issues, and I love to gather people around me who had what I call 'Peace Corps hearts and linebacker eyes,' who wanted to get into issues and fight 'em. It was an extraordinary kind of time.”
From an interview with Evan White, Bay TV Live, [1993?]

To see more or to use this collection, visit the San Francisco History Center. A one-case exhibition from the Art Agnos Papers is also currently on view.


  1. Too bad Art spent his term as Mayor in exacting revenge.

  2. Actually he spent his time as mayor helping to move the city forward from being stuck in the 1950’s...think of the issues on his plate: reversing course on domestic partners (he got it passed after it had been vetoed), reversing course on racism in the fire department (settling a court mandate), reversing course on comparable worth (earlier versions vetoed by the prior mayor), reversing course on support for democratic institutions at home and abroad (rejecting Ferdinand Marcos and supporting Cesar Chavez), reversing course to support affordable home ownership over office building priorities, reversing course to halt police spying on protests and strengthening civilian oversight, appointing more minorities, women and LGBT citizens, etc etc etc. That doesn’t even count the courage of standing up to the Chamber of Commerce and others who wanted the Embarcadero Freeway rebuilt and instead having it torn down to open our waterfront!


Post a Comment