San Francisco has the Pacific Union Club, at the top of Knob Hill, across from the Fairmont. In Houston, it's the Petroleum Club on the 43rd, 44th and 45th floors at the top of the Exxon U.S.A. headquarters. Los Angeles has the Jonathan Club, downtown on South Figueroa, which, naturally, has its beach annex in Santa Monica.

But in Tysons Corner, there is no similar locale for the power elite. So in 1981, when the first gathering of two dozen of the most powerful men in Fairfax County was arranged, the best that could be done was lunch at Clyde's at Tysons -- a fern bar.

"In a Philadelphia, a Birmingham, a San Francisco, there are organizations where you can have your tentacles out into every significant happening," said Earle C. Williams, chief executive officer of Tysons defense contractor BDM International Inc. "There is nothing like that in Fairfax County. No way to throw the levers. There's no club, no organization. So people are always looking for ways to make things happen."

One result of that lunch was the creation of a murky public-private partnership called TYTRAN, short for Tysons Transportation Association Inc. The leaders of more than 30 of Tysons' heaviest-hitting corporations are the private side. The public side includes elected officials who know where the levers are in Fairfax, Richmond and Congress.

TYTRAN is one of perhaps two dozen similar public-private shadow governments in the region. Other examples include the Urban Districts in Montgomery County, Downtown Partnership in the District of Columbia and Ballston Partnership in Arlington.

While their structures and purposes vary, these public-private partnerships have enjoyed increasing acceptability. Facing spending cutbacks, local governments have been looking for ways to engage the business community in solving problems that in the past had been exclusively the province of government. This despite those critics who think one of government's basic functions is to be a check on capitalistic avarice, and who regard such partnerships as the foxes guarding chicken coops.A Network of Power

TYTRAN has done everything from cutting state highway department red tape to getting a bridge built to establishing a day care center.

Earle Williams is TYTRAN's outgoing president. He may not be the outgoing mayor of Tysons, but he was at least the chairman of its de facto advisory board -- of its Establishment. TYTRAN's incoming president is Frank E. McCarthy, executive vice president of the National Automobile Dealers Association.

"What happened in 1981 was the local politicians said, 'We're not going to be able to solve the transportation problem in Tysons -- which everybody viewed as the blossoming downtown of Fairfax County -- on a purely governmental basis,' " said Williams.

More importantly, he said, TYTRAN "was absolutely the first thing that began to pull chief executive officers together to act as a group. If you turn this over to the v.p. for public relations, then this organization is not going to go anywhere."

"TYTRAN isn't much of a transportation management authority. But it's one hell of an effective lobby," said C. Kenneth Orski, one of the nation's leading champions of such authorities.

Not only that, individual corporate members of TYTRAN have spent $25 million in private money to build public roads in the Tysons area in the past few years. This includes that celebrated rarity, the triple left-hand turn. Visibly excited, watching traffic zip through it from West Park Road to Rte. 123 in the center of Tysons, E. Wayne Angle, the Tysons II project manager and TYTRAN board member, said, "It's one of only two in Virginia."

"I don't have any sympathy for people who say it's a small, special-interest group," said Williams. "Anybody can join. My view is, I'm performing a public service. People who sit on the sidelines and snipe, that's their problem, not mine."

TYTRAN has served as a graduate course on how to locate the levers of power in Virginia.

" 'How do you get the timing changed on the traffic light at 123 and West Park? Why doesn't the county do something?' " Williams asked rhetorically.

"The answer is, because the county doesn't control the timing of the traffic lights. The state does. None of us knew that. The politicians were trying to use the business community as a force to try to get the state to do something.

"As time went by, we said, 'Hey, if we're going to deal with the state legislature -- if that's where the power is -- we gotta get at them.' "

"The first reaction was, 'Do we have to go to Richmond?' The answer was, that's where the decisions are made, and that's where the money comes from. One thing we're gonna tell them is we send the money. We want some of it back. And we want to have some control over how it's spent when it comes back. We, TYTRAN. Absolutely. We, the Northern Virginia business community." Montgomery's 'Urban Districts'

Nationwide, as many as 1,000 public-private partnerships have flourished as a way of getting things done in the Reagan era of tightened federal purse strings.

In Montgomery County, for example, Robert S. McGarry has become the godfather of the shadow governments of the emerging cities of Silver Spring and Bethesda, and as of July 1 will be the godfather of another shadow government in Wheaton. In each case, he was the point man behind the creation of a public-private partnership called an "Urban District."

These shadow governments will sweep the streets and the sidewalks, trim the trees, mow the grass and empty the trash. One is preparing to hire what he calls "surveillance" forces not unlike mall guards. Their uniforms will bear words such as "Silver Spring Urban District."

Urban Districts will be supported by their own special taxes and fees. They will even promote Silver Spring and Bethesda to businesses that might locate there. The boards of directors -- the de facto city councils of the Urban Districts -- are three-quarters business interests and one-quarter residents. Board members are not elected. They are nominated by the interest groups they represent and appointed by the county executive, subject to confirmation by the County Council.

McGarry, a chain-smoking retired Army Corps of Engineers general, is head of the innocuously titled Montgomery County Department of Transportation. It is an empire of 1,200 employes, a $70 million annual operating budget, and $557 million in a six-year capital budget.

Among other things, it runs the decades-old Bethesda and Silver Spring Parking Districts, which run more than 60 percent of the parking in the two emerging cities. It is their existence that led McGarry to the idea of creating, on the same boundaries, "urban maintenance districts." "We got the idea of having a very high level of maintenance from {James} Rouse in Baltimore's Inner Harbor," McGarry said. "These cities won't work if you don't keep them clean and spotless."

Then the word "maintenance" was dropped when it became clear that the less constrictive "Urban District" could become very versatile indeed.

Perhaps this makes the unelected McGarry the chief executive officer for the shadow governments of Bethesda and Silver Spring. Not only was he visible in their creation, but his office also writes their initial budget proposals. After the budget goes to the advisory committee, it must go back through McGarry's office before it is forwarded to County Executive Sidney Kramer.

In the District of Columbia, the Downtown Partnership is funded 50-50 by the public and private sectors. Its goals are to promote the downtown district and get a higher level of service and protection for it.

In Arlington, the Ballston Partnership is also funded evenly by government and business people, but it is actually guiding the growth of Ballston, the western end of the Rosslyn/Ballston emerging city.

That is typical of the way public-private partnerships work.

"It's a shadow kind of thing. All is negotiated ad hoc between the public and private sectors," said Truman A. Hartshorn, who is coauthor of a report on emerging cities for the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration.

He cited as examples the negotiated financing of roads and bridges. "The hearing process and zoning process is supposed to incorporate citizen input. But these {emerging city} things are growing so fast. They're riding roughshod over citizens," said Hartshorn. "The projects keep on getting larger and larger. They are more master-planned by developers themselves, who exert more control, ad hoc and laissez faire. Of course, that's what built our cities in the first place -- speculation. We're back to the beginnings again." How Problems Are Solved

Do public-private partnership shadow governments have the power to coerce?

TYTRAN has no such authority, Williams said. Then he told this story:

"We asked the state highway department representative to come and talk to us about resolving the issue of the bridge over {Rte.} 123 between Tysons I and Tysons II. He said it was contrary to highway department policy, which in this case was to have the bridge land on private property. As a result of that {TYTRAN} meeting, the county government finally saw this wasn't going to work. So they and the developers went to Richmond and went over this guy's head and got it solved."

TYTRAN is changing the lives of people who work in Tysons at other fundamental levels. For example, it is getting into the business of rearing children, with Tysons Corner Play and Learn Inc. providing one of the most sought-after social services in the United States today -- a day care center.

"Frank Wolf was the primary mover behind that one," Williams said. Wolf is a member of the board of TYTRAN and the congressman from Virginia's 10th District, which includes Tysons.

"Frank's concern was that there would be increasing pressure put on the government to get into the child-care business and thought that would be a terrible mistake."

"The Soviet Union does a marvelous thing of child care. They take the kids away from the parents and put them in Soviet-sponsored schools and teach them whatever they want them to learn, and it's marvelous. It serves the purpose of the state very well. Whether it serves the interest of the child and the parents and humanity is another issue."

But why solve the problem with a shadow government such as TYTRAN?

"It was the only organization in Tysons, the only focus there was. Any other approach would have required the establishment of some sort of new body," said Ronald Geiger, the de facto executive director of TYTRAN.

"We are now talking about a number of things besides day care," said Carrington Williams, a former member of the Virginia General Assembly and a TYTRAN board member. "The question of cleanliness comes up. That bugs me. Couple of weekends ago I picked up five bags of trash. I can't stand it. It drives me nuts!" he said, pounding the table. "We ought to hire somebody to clean Tysons, and I don't see somebody else around to do it!"