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Guide to the Joseph L. Alioto Papers 1958-1977(bulk 1968-1974)
SFH 5  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Materials
  • Conservation Note
  • Materials Removed from Collection
  • Appendix A List of Members of Administration

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Joseph L. Alioto Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1958-1977
    Date (bulk): (bulk 1968-1974)
    Collection number: SFH 5
    Creator: Alioto, Joseph L.
    Extent: 22.6 cubic ft. (16 boxes),6 scrapbooks, 1 map folder
    Repository: San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco History Center  
    100 Larkin Street
    San Francisco, CA 94102
    (415) 557-4567
    Abstract: This collection documents the two-term administration of Mayor Joseph L. Alioto during the years of 1967 to 1976, with the bulk of the collection covering the years 1968 to 1974. The papers provide a broad, policy-level view of the Alioto years. The collection is rich in housing and redevelopment files.
    Physical location: M43:29A, 44B, and Map Drawer; and Photo Room
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research. Some housing documents in Box 8, Folder 41 and Box 9, Folders 2, 4, and 5, are restricted through the year, 2021, with a review to take place in 2006. The names of minors have been redacted in police reports in Box 16, Folders 12 and 32.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has been assigned to the San Francisco Public Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items and the copyright.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Joseph L. Alioto Papers (SFH 5), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco, CA

    Acquisition Information

    Transferred from City Hall.


    Joseph Lawrence Alioto was born February 12, 1916 in San Francisco to Giuseppe and Domenica Alioto. His father, a Sicilian imimgrant, was a successful San Francisco fish wholesaler. Alioto graduated Magna Cum Laude from St. Mary's College, Moraga, California, in 1937 where he was student body president and valedictorian. In 1940, he graduated Catholic University of America Law School, Washington D.C. He received honorary Doctor of Law degrees from St. Mary's College, Santa Clara University and Catholic University of America.
    Married to the former Angelina Genaro from 1941 to 1977, he had six children with her. In 1978, he married Kathleen Sullivan and had two children with her. He was a philanthropist and patron of the opera, symphony, ballet and theatre as well as a fan of the 49ers and Giants.
    Prior to taking public office, Alioto made a name for himself in antitrust law and was a self-made millionaire. He worked five years with the antitrust division of the United States Department of Justice before opening his own law firm in San Francisco in 1945. His practice would establish basic principles for the prosecution of private antitrust suits. In 1959, Alioto took over the Rice Growers' Association of California and ran it for 16 years. He was also a founding member and Chairman of the Board of First San Francisco Bank.
    Appointed to the San Francisco Board of Education by Mayor Elmer E. Robinson in 1948, Alioto served five years. In 1955, Robinson appointed Alioto to the Redevelopment Agency which he chaired. By this time, he was active in Democratic Party politics. In 1956, he helped develop the Food for Peace Program of the U.S. Senate. In 1959, he was appointed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct a major survey of farm production and marketing in South America.
    After a whirlwind, 56-day campaign, Joseph L. Alioto was elected San Francisco's 33rd Mayor on Nov. 7, 1967 and was inaugurated Jan. 8, 1968 with much fanfare. (His designation as 33rd mayor changed to that of 36th mayor as a result of official recognition of three additional administrations.) A moderate Democrat who reflected the tolerance of the city, he was easily re-elected in November, 1971. At one time considered as Hubert H. Humphrey's vice presidential running mate, Alioto catapulted into the national spotlight with his nomination of Humphrey as the party's presidential candidate at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. While serving as mayor, he explored a gubernatorial run in 1969, and ran unsuccessfully for governor of California in 1974. Alioto was known as charming and commanding, articulate and outspoken, flamboyant and rich in personality.
    Alioto's administration spearheaded economic development and jobs including a building boom, an increased police force, and a mini-park program. Although known for downtown growth, his administration also stopped freeway development, established the 40-foot height ordinance, and adopted the first urban design plan, which was aimed at protecting views and open spaces. Elected on a promise of reducing crime and taxes, Alioto took office when racial tensions were high, following the "Summer of Love." Credited with being a strong advocate of civil rights, he brought minorities into city politics. Alioto called upon the city's heavyweights of intellect, commerce, and labor to serve as deputies and advisors. He launched charter reform and mediated numerous major labor disputes, including the police and fire strike of 1975. While he lowered the property tax rate three years in a row, his years in office were marked by both inflation and recession. Political strife during his tenure included opposition to redevelopment by low-income housing and anti-high-rise proponents, the strike at San Francisco State College, hippies occupying the Haight-Ashbury, anti-war demonstrations in the streets, and racial tensions over a series of killings known as the Zebra murders.
    Alioto's political career was affected by federal charges of bribery and mail fraud in 1971, and allegations of Mafia connections published in Look Magazine in 1969. He claimed the federal Grand Jury investigation into the bribery charges was politically inspired by those trying to foil his growing prominence. He successfully fought both the civil and criminal bribery charges regarding a fee kickback, and won his libel suit against the publishers of Look Magazine after seven years of litigation. In 1975, Alioto lost a conflict-of-interest trial for arranging his family's purchase of Pacific Far East Line, the largest port tenant.
    Upon completing his second term in January 1976, Alioto returned to his private law practice, Alioto & Alioto. In 1992, the law firm dissolved in a family feud although his daughter, Angela Alioto, continued to practice with him. Joseph L. Alioto died on January 29, 1998, in San Francisco at the age of 81.

    Scope and Content

    This collection documents the two-term administration of Mayor Joseph L. Alioto during the years of 1967 to 1976, with the bulk of the collection covering the years 1968 to 1974. Reflected in the collection is the mayor's trust in his deputies, which included a former White House fellow, former staff member of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, and a Democratic Party operative, as well as in other key strategists and advisors including business, labor and community leaders.
    Materials include internal correspondence, reports, surveys, minutes, strategy and policy memoranda and notes, speeches and drafts, press releases, campaign ephemera, and reference material. Subjects include the Black Panthers, building a downtown stadium, San Francisco State University unrest, the 1975 police and fire strike, school busing, taxes, salary standardization, and revenue sharing. The collection provides a broad, policy-level view of the Alioto years. The collection is rich in housing and redevelopment files, reflecting the federal subsidies received while Lyndon B. Johnson was in the White House, as well as community resistance to redevelopment.
    The Legislative and Issue Files series is organized by staff member. Staff included four deputies (Executive Secretary, Press/Confidential Secretary, Development, and Social Programs), a Public Service Director, assistant deputies (Development and Social Programs), and a Special Assistant. At least two staffers left City Hall to work on Alioto's 1971 re-election and 1974 gubernatorial campaigns, with one of them later returning to his administration. See Appendix A for a list of administration members and dates of their employment.
    Some gaps exist in the collection. There are few records documenting the final two years of Alioto's administration. There is little relating to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), which saw completion of the transbay tube in 1974; the 1972 Market Street facelift; the 40-foot height limit ordinance; and the Urban Design Study and Plan.
    Some items without specific reference to San Francisco have been removed. Researchers are encouraged to see also the History Center's biographical and subject files, such as Poetry, Sister Cities, Strikes--City Employees, and Pigeons; as well as other mayoral papers, as some Alioto-related materials are housed there.


    The Legislative and Issues Files series has been further organized into subseries by staff member. The Press and Speeches series has been organized into subseries by format.


    The collection is arranged alphabetically by subject with a few exceptions. The Legislative and Issue Files series is arranged by staff member, then alphabetically by subject. The Schedule series and the News Clippings subseries within Press are arranged chronologically. Folders are in alphabetical order by folder title, and then by date. Within folders, materials are filed either chronologically or by sub-topic.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Alioto, Joseph L.
    Alioto, Joseph L.--Archives.
    City planning--California--San Francisco.
    City planning districts--California--San Francisco.
    Urban policy--California--San Francisco.
    Housing policy--California--San Francisco.
    Labor unions--California--San Francisco.
    Labor disputes--California--San Francisco.
    San Francisco (Calif.)--Politics and government--20th century.
    Black Panther Party.
    San Francisco State College--History.
    San Francisco State University--History.

    Related Materials

    Researchers are encouraged to see also the San Francisco History Center's subject and biographical files, other mayoral collections, and the Historical Photograph Collection, and to check the catalog holdings of the San Francisco Public Library for related materials.

    Conservation Note

    During processing, the entire collection was refoldered and re-housed in acid-free folders and boxes. Some metal staples remain. Some documents on acidic or thermal paper were photocopied onto Permalife bond paper. After this process, originals were discarded. Other documents on acidic paper were kept in their original state and separated with either Permalife bond or Apollo buffered paper. Fabric items were wrapped in buffered tissue.

    Removed or Separated Material

    Photographs were removed to the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection.

    Materials Removed from Collection

    Approximately twenty 19th-century letters and invoices or ledger sheets, belonging to a John Joseph Martone and originally belonging to a Malcom McNeill of Christian County, Kentucky, were transferred to Special Collections and Archives, University of Kentucky.

    Appendix A

    List of Members of Administration


    Administration members and approximate dates of service, compiled from Directory of City and County Officers, May 1968-April 1975.



    Roff became Alioto's Re-election Campaign Consultant in 1971.


    Flynn served as Director of Information for the Alioto for Governor campaign in 1974.

    Administrative Assistants

    • John L. Mootz, Administrative Assistant (1968-1971)
    • John C. Farrell, Administrative Assistant (1971-1972)
    • George J. Grubb, Administrative Assistant (1972-1974
    • Michael McCone, Appointment Secretary (1968-1969)
    • Ann H. Racich, Personal Secretary (1968-1974)

    Selected program and agency staff

    • Michael McCone, Director, Model Cities (1972)
    • Charles E. Countee, Director, Model Cities (1973)
    • John Watts, Executive Director, Model Cities, (1974-1976)
    • Dean Macris, Director, Community Development, (1973-1974) and Director of Planning, City Planning Commission (1975-1976)
    • James Jacquet, Director, Community Development, (1974-1975)
    • Mark Buell, Director, Economic Development, (1975-1976)
    • Eunice Elton, Director, Manpower Planning and Research (1972-1976)
    • Nathan B. Cooper, Controller (1968-1974)
    • John C. Farrell, Controller (1975-1976)
    • Thomas J. Mellon, Chief Administrative Officer (1968-1976)
    • Eneas J. Kane, Exectuve Director, Housing Authority (1968-1976)
    • M. Justin Herman, Executive Director, Redevelopment Agency (1968-1971)
    • Robert L. Rumsey, Executive Director, Redevelopment Agency (1972-1974)
    • Arthur F. Evans, Executive Director, Redevelopment Agency (1974-1976)
    • Allan B. Jacobs, Director of Planning, City Planning Commission (1968-1974
    • Bernard F. Schussel, Director, Office of/Commission on Aging (1972-1974?)

    Legislative Representative, Federal

    • Stanford Research Institute/Virginia, 1968-70
    • Robert E. Josten/D.C., 1971-74
    • James A. Lyons, Jr./D.C.,1975

    Legislative Advocate, State

    • John F. Shelley, 1986-1974
    • McMorris M. Dow, 1975

    Administrative Information

    Appendix B:

    Photographs Separated from Alioto Papers


    Housed in San Francisco Photograph Collection, Alioto Box 20