Environment: Skylines v. Skyscrapers

Most U.S. cities welcome new skyscrapers as soaring proof that a town is on the go. San Francisco is different. Tall towers, local boosters insist, tend to destroy the city's special charm. They can block long views over pastel-colored houses and the sparkling bay, disrupt the roller-coaster sequence of hills and valleys. Still, as a peninsula city, San Francisco has nowhere to expand but up. It now bristles with skyscrapers, 21 of them built in the past five years. Gloomy citizens fear that the city will soon be "Manhattanized," that it will become a senseless jumble of bleak, man-made canyons.

San Francisco's...

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