San Francisco’s Civic Center was the city’s clearest embodiment of City Beautiful ideals. Unencumbered by residences, commercial, or manufacturing considerations, the architects hired by the city were able to design with an orderly and comprehensive vision. Most importantly, the Civic Center combined both the people’s business (government) and the people’s culture. Comprised of municipal offices, courts, libraries, museums, and opera houses, the shared design paradigm resulted in a cohesive Beaux Arts complex of buildings.
However, the design was impersonal. "By 1905 reaction to the City Beautiful had set in. There was professional debate on neighborhood units, playgrounds, and public housing. But the overriding fear of socialism, the opposition of business to anything that might promote a welfare state, blocked any advance along these lines." 1 Despite the beautifiers' best intentions to improve living conditions for residents, they had not yet acquired either the political mandate or planning authority to address housing, schools, daycare centers or employment and were thus confined to municipally owned civic centers.
1 Kostof, Spiro, A History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals, New York, Oxford University Press, 1995 p. 673.