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A neighborhood city

SAN FRANCISCO - ``The City,'' as many residents fondly call it - has always been a community of neighborhood activists and rebels, not just a breathtakingly picturesque metropolis. Few cities, in the United States or elsewhere, can rival its stunning natural beauty. Nor can many cities match its grit. Events like the devastating earthquake of 1906 that would have brought another community to permanent ruin were temporary interruption's in San Francisco's long march toward grandeur.

This week's landslide mayoral victory by Assemblyman Art Agnos represents a reaffirmation of the city's neighborhood orientation. It marks a return to the populist-liberal agenda of former Mayor George Moscone, who was felled by an assassin's bullets in 1978. Mr. Agnos, a Greek immigrant's son, surprised even his supporters by winning virtually every neighborhood, from working-class communities to the more affluent enclaves like Pacific Heights.

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Agnos, a social worker who has long been known as a consensus builder, says he will work to represent all San Franciscans. That means a shift away from the focus on downtown growth that has occurred under two-term Mayor Dianne Feinstein, who was constitutionally unable to run for a third term. Mrs. Feinstein had backed Agnos's opponent, supervisor John Molinari.

Agnos now has his work cut out for him: prospects of huge budget deficits and what to do about keeping the baseball San Francisco Giants in the city. Difficult as the challenges are, few people who know ``The City'' can doubt San Francisco's ability to resolve them.

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