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Clean slate: Land-use changes in San Francisco after the 1906 disaster

James Siodla ()

Explorations in Economic History, 2017, vol. 65, issue C, 1-16

Abstract: The 1906 San Francisco fire, which destroyed thousands of buildings, provided a blank canvas upon which to reshape the city. After reconstruction, and at a time of immense growth in the city, developers shifted land out of residential uses and into nonresidential uses in burned areas relative to unburned areas. They facilitated this transition by rebuilding far fewer single-family dwellings compared to other types of housing, which suggests that houses inhibited the conversion of land to nonresidential uses before the fire. Aside from these broad effects, the fire also released new economic potential in areas that had shown little indication of shifting into nonresidential land uses before 1906, thereby creating new clusters of business activity. These impacts of the fire are still evident today—in roughly the same magnitudes and places—which suggests that the economic benefits realized upon reconstruction continue to drive the city's land-use patterns.

Keywords: Disaster; Land use; Natural experiment; Persistence; San Francisco (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: N91 R14 R31 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:65:y:2017:i:c:p:1-16