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January 9, 2013 1:37 PM   Subscribe

Is San Francisco The Brooklyn To Silicon Valley's Unbuilt Manhattan? Much has been said about how San Francisco should build up and become a new Manhattan. (Previously.) Similarly, much has been said about the utterly boring suburban sprawl that is Silicon Valley. (At least in San Jose.) The Awl's Ken Layne points out that there's a lot of underdeveloped land in between that isn't exactly virgin wilderness- and suggests making more out of it: an entire metropolis, in fact. Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic Cities mentions that Redwood City is the neighborhood of the future.

"...Silicon Valley is a dull and ugly landscape of low-rise stucco office parks and immense traffic-clogged boulevards. The fancy restaurants are in strip malls, like you'd find in Arizona or something. There is nothing to do, nowhere to go. Massive arcologies like the new Apple campus are where the tech giants are headed, but until there are living urban neighborhoods connecting these monstrosities, anyone with hopes for a life outside of work will pay a ridiculous premium to live in San Francisco and spend two hours of every day sitting on a bus.

Meanwhile, the areas around and in between the tech giants of Silicon Valley are mostly ready to be razed and rebuilt. There are miles and miles of half-empty retail space, hideous 1970s' two-story apartment complexes, most of it lacking the basic human infrastructure of public transportation, playgrounds, bicycle and running and walking paths, outdoor cafes and blocks loaded with bars and late-night restaurants. This is where the new metropolis must be built, in this unloved but sunny valley."
posted by Apocryphon (134 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Those who say that San Francisco should build up and become a new Manhattan should stay in Manhattan. San Francisco is what it is. Making it super dense will not improve anyone's quality of life.
Meanwhile, good luck getting the multiple cities and counties that make up the Silicon Valley to agree to any such improvement.
People who make such claims should live in the results.
posted by wellvis at 1:43 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


With local light rail at street level and express trains overhead or underground, the whole route could be lined with native-landscaped sidewalks dotted with pocket parks and filled on both sides with ground-floor retail, farmers markets and nightlife districts around every station.

That sounds lovely, but for now we can't even figure out how to get people from San Francisco to the Valley and back without driving everyone crazy and forcing employers to run shuttle buses.
posted by eugenen at 1:45 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that's all over the place and fails to mention the most basic thing: Manhattan is built up as it is because it's a bleedin' island and there's no more room (unless they do more landfill). It's a weird and twee comparison. That's not to say that development options should not be seriously considered, though. Just that there isn't much here.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:46 PM on January 9, 2013


I have a simpler idea:

Move offices to San Francisco.

Apartments are ludicrously expensive, but there is office space in SF proper.
posted by ocschwar at 1:48 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


...and there's no more room...

I keep hearing this argument and yet there's this giant empty lot just sitting there between 59th and 110th.
posted by griphus at 1:48 PM on January 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


eugenen: "... we can't even figure out how to get people from San Francisco to the Valley and back without driving everyone crazy and forcing employers to run shuttle buses"

Even for the places with BART rail service it's super expensive, like nearly $7 round trip from the mission to Oakland.
posted by wcfields at 1:49 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah you can't talk about the problems of the Bay Area without covering the insane network of private buses that allow so many people to live in SF but work in the valley. Offices are slowly coming into the city but it doesn't seem like we're actually adding more square footage, just repurposing what is already here at a higher price.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:49 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Manhattan is built up as it is because it's a bleedin' island and there's no more room

S.F. is between a bay and the sea. Certainly development can flow southwards, but that's just further sprawling the San Jose conurbation. The idea here is connecting San Jose to San Francisco using the space in between.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:52 PM on January 9, 2013


Open space is weirdly abundant and well protected here, with a 25-mile length of redwoods and hills including the state fish and game refuge, several state and local parks, and various preserves stretching down to Pescadero and all the way north to Pacifica.

It's not really weird. A lot of that is watershed for Crystal Springs reservoir. It's also not weird when you take into account the number of horse people who live along the 280 corridor. Also, not weird when you consider that it's goddamn beautiful.

However, I could totally get behind sensible housing and business infill and improvement along El Camino and 101, and public transit to serve it.

I live in SF but work in Menlo Park, in a complex on Sand Hill road. A couple of years ago, my office banded together with a few others in our complex and a few farther along Sand Hill to share a (small) shuttle service. It only lasted about six months, because despite the clamor, I was usually one of two people on it, and sometimes I was the only one. It can be hard to be there all day without a car, because it's hard to get anywhere without a car.
posted by rtha at 1:54 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even for the places with BART rail service it's super expensive, like nearly $7 round trip from the mission to Oakland.

And Caltrain is just an n-dimensional hypercube of fail.
posted by eugenen at 1:55 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those who say that San Francisco should build up and become a new Manhattan should stay in Manhattan.

Oh man. I had such an explosion of grar at the idea that SF or even Silicon Valley should become Manhattan that I surprised myself. We already have Manhattan. Sometimes people who wish they could be living in Manhattan but aren't, forget that most people aren't living in Manhattan because they don't want to live somewhere like that. There is a lot that really fucking sucks about Manhattan and turning any part of the Bay Area into something that dense would be terrible. Yeah, the Silicon Valley is ugly, boring and full of strip malls, and there are a lot of things that could be done to make it a more interesting or aesthetically appealing place. But the only two choices aren't "how things are now" or "Manhattan." What about making it more like Copenhagen?
posted by cairdeas at 1:55 PM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Also, not weird when you consider that it's goddamn beautiful.

For serious. One of the things that makes the Bay Area the Bay Area is the amount of open space that's been preserved here. Personally, I don't really want to see the 280 corridor and the Oakland/Berkeley hills become LA North.
posted by asterix at 1:58 PM on January 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


Oh yeah, and we shouldn't forget that for every Manhattan, there need to be a few big slums and then a lot of dinky surrounding suburbs, plus a huge garbage dump, so if we put another Manhattan in say, Santa Clara, where's all the rest of it going to go? Bulldoze some horse farms in Portola Valley to make another New Jersey?
posted by cairdeas at 2:03 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hey, NIMBY, people-who-don't-actually-live-here! As someone who lives "on the Peninsula" and also grew up here, I don want to be living next to Manhattan, thankyouverymuch. Sorry that makes it hard people who want to live like hamsters in a dense, urban Habitrail®, but a lot of us here like it the way it is. I'll even spare you our nostalgia for the way it used to be, just...keep your projections big city dreams to yourself, and let us country mice go about our business designing and programming nice shiny objects, OK?
posted by mosk at 2:04 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


And Caltrain is just an n-dimensional hypercube of fail.

Caltrain is a one-dimensional fail. Not too hard to evaluate its topology.
posted by GuyZero at 2:06 PM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Is Brooklyn the Eugene to Portland's ecotropic Manhattan?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:07 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Holy shit, I just realized that San Jose is Newark to San Francisco's Manhattan.
posted by GuyZero at 2:08 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Actually, I think San Francisco is Washington DC to San Jose's Baltimore.
posted by gryftir at 2:09 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually in all seriousness I would say SF's Newark is Oakland (has the seaport and the airport).
posted by cairdeas at 2:09 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


People who make such claims should live in the results.

what, you mean that people who call for greater urban density should be doomed to live in urban areas? I think they'd probably love that. I sure would. Living in Seattle for the last decade and a half I'm delighted to see the place slowly shaking off its low-rise NIMBYism and growing up into a real city. It's a lovely place and getting lovelier. I have a hard time sympathizing with people who grouse about density, because it's exactly what we need to make well-funded, well-maintained, happy livable urban spaces, which are in turn exactly what we need in order to make sure that we can preserve the open, un- or less-developed spaces around them.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:09 PM on January 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


Oh, let's not.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:10 PM on January 9, 2013


Actually in all seriousness I would say SF's Newark is Oakland (has the port).

Huh. Oh yeah. I guess San Jose is once again in its own league of suck.
posted by GuyZero at 2:10 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ha. That Atlantic article must be completely impenetrable for people who don't already live here. I worked in Redwood City for 5 years, and I have to admit it started to grow on me finally; basically anyone with an office there is within walking distance of Broadway, and that stretch really is quite a bit nicer than the strip-mall-hell you get in most other suburban locations. And the Caltrain express stop does not hurt.

Speaking of Caltrain, regardless of what you think about rebuilding Silicon Valley as a general proposition, riding that rail does make you realize that there is a vast stretch of inefficiently used land between like South SF and San Mateo. I realize that once you get over to 280 and up in the hills, it's watershed, but over on the bay side there are large expanses of light industrial land that frankly look almost idle - and this is all right near Caltrain, 101, and (depending on the exact latitude) BART. That stuff could all be filled in with high-density, transit-friendly neighborhoods.

Also we need something like a NYNJ Port Authority to knock some heads and get all the different transit agencies to work together. Caltrain and BART are great, but all the other mass transit is balkanized at the county lines and it's just miserable trying to get up and down the peninsula unless your destination is RIGHT AT a Caltrain station. It's pathetic, not to mention inefficient, that a dozen different employers all have to run their own private mass transit services rather than having a decently integrated public one.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 2:11 PM on January 9, 2013 [11 favorites]


San Francisco is not Manhattan. When I lived in Manhattan I could go downstairs to any of a dozen places on a Sunday morning and pick up a coffee. In SF there's only one place open before noon on Sunday, three blocks away, and it's a motherfucking Starbucks.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:12 PM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


all the other mass transit is balkanized at the county lines and it's just miserable trying to get up and down the peninsula unless your destination is RIGHT AT a Caltrain station.

When someone in the Balkans needs to describe a highly fractured situation, they use bay area public transit.
posted by GuyZero at 2:14 PM on January 9, 2013 [26 favorites]


The bay area popularized the internet so that they wouldn't have to go anywhere on public transit.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:15 PM on January 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


Manhattan is just a convenient, American-centric metaphor. No need to beat that horse to death, as there was already a previous thread for that (linked to in the OP).
posted by Apocryphon at 2:17 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


That is another thing I will never understand. 99% of the time when someone is telling me why living in Manhattan is the pinnacle of human existence, the main thing they cite is the availability of different kinds of food and the hours of the day or night when you can get it. Clog up the Bay Area just for that?
posted by cairdeas at 2:17 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


In SF there's only one place open before noon on Sunday, three blocks away, and it's a motherfucking Starbucks.

It's San Francisco. Make your own fucking coffee.

In your vacuum pot. With fair trade organic beans that you roasted and ground yourself.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:18 PM on January 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


Yes, we're all frustrated with the Bay Area because we can't find decent falafel.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:19 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


You have tacos. What do you need falafel for?
posted by Aizkolari at 2:20 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is Manhattan The Brooklyn To San Francisco's Unbuilt Silicon Valley?
Is Brooklyn The Manhattan To San Francisco's Unbuilt Silicon Valley?
Is San Francisco The Manhattan To Brooklyn's Unbuilt Silicon Valley?
Is Manhattan The Silicon Valley To Brooklyn's Unbuilt San Francisco?
Is San Francisco The Manhattan To Silicon Valley's Unbuilt Brooklyn?
Is Silicon Valley The Manhattan To Brooklyn's Unbuilt San Francisco?
Is San Francisco The Silicon Valley To Manhattan's Unbuilt Brooklyn?
Is Manhattan The San Francisco To Brooklyn's Unbuilt Silicon Valley?
Is Silicon Valley The San Francisco To Manhattan's Unbuilt Brooklyn?
Is San Francisco The Silicon Valley To Brooklyn's Unbuilt Manhattan?
Is Brooklyn The San Francisco To Silicon Valley's Unbuilt Manhattan?
Is Silicon Valley The Manhattan To San Francisco's Unbuilt Brooklyn?
Is Silicon Valley The Brooklyn To Manhattan's Unbuilt San Francisco?
Is Silicon Valley The Brooklyn To San Francisco's Unbuilt Manhattan?
Is Brooklyn The Manhattan To Silicon Valley's Unbuilt San Francisco?
Is Manhattan The Brooklyn To Silicon Valley's Unbuilt San Francisco?
Is Brooklyn The San Francisco To Manhattan's Unbuilt Silicon Valley?
Is Manhattan The San Francisco To Silicon Valley's Unbuilt Brooklyn?
Is Brooklyn The Silicon Valley To San Francisco's Unbuilt Manhattan?
Is Manhattan The Silicon Valley To San Francisco's Unbuilt Brooklyn?
Is Brooklyn The Silicon Valley To Manhattan's Unbuilt San Francisco?
Is Silicon Valley The San Francisco To Brooklyn's Unbuilt Manhattan?
Is San Francisco The Brooklyn To Manhattan's Unbuilt Silicon Valley?
posted by Sangermaine at 2:20 PM on January 9, 2013 [19 favorites]


MOVE OFFICES TO SF AND RUN THE BART 24/7. BUILD A NEW DAMN LINE IF YOU HAVE TO.

Then Oakland can take the rent pressure off SF, and nobody will have to live in the monotonous suburban hell that is the Peninsula.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:21 PM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yes, we're all frustrated with the Bay Area because we can't find decent falafel.

http://www.yelp.com/biz/falafels-drive-in-san-jose
http://www.yelp.com/biz/falafel-stop-sunnyvale

Both of these places are AWESOME.
posted by GuyZero at 2:22 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes, we're all frustrated with the Bay Area because we can't find decent falafel.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:19 PM on January 9 [+] [!]


You're not looking hard enough.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:22 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Running the BART 24/7 is not going to help people get to work.
posted by Aizkolari at 2:22 PM on January 9, 2013


Yes, we're all frustrated with the Bay Area because we can't find decent falafel.

Or bagels. Or pizza.

But really, fuck the bagels and the pizza because burritos okay?
posted by elsietheeel at 2:23 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


it's a motherfucking Starbucks

I'll take a Half-caff Venti Jocasta Latte. No whip.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:24 PM on January 9, 2013


We get bagels air-shipped from Montreal. Sometimes logistics trumps localvoreism.
posted by GuyZero at 2:25 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Running the BART 24/7 is not going to help people get to work.

No, but it will make Oakland a more attractive place to live and hang out in.

When Manhattan became too expensive, New Yorkers discovered Brooklyn. When San Francisco became too expensive ... San Franciscans stayed in San Francisco. And got reamed up the ass by rapacious landlords because Oakland is too dangerous and inaccessible to be a viable place to live.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:26 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


"...Silicon Valley is a dull and ugly landscape of low-rise stucco office parks and immense traffic-clogged boulevards. ...

Former City of San Jose planner here: you're welcome.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:27 PM on January 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Or bagels.

Come to Oakland! We have bagels.
posted by asterix at 2:29 PM on January 9, 2013


And got reamed up the ass by rapacious landlords because Oakland is too dangerous and inaccessible to be a viable place to live.

Oh give me a fucking break. Seriously. Many people - mefites, even! - live in Oakland. I used to work in Oakland. many parts of Oakland are really pretty awesome. And all the people who already fucking live there manage to get to and from SF and other parts of the Bay Area. Christ.
posted by rtha at 2:30 PM on January 9, 2013 [19 favorites]


No, but it will make Oakland a more attractive place to live and hang out in.

I said this the last time this subject came up here: Oakland is a plenty attractive place to live and hang out in.
posted by asterix at 2:32 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Q: How can you tell if someone lives in Oakland?
A: Don't worry, at about 11PM they'll tell you.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:33 PM on January 9, 2013 [21 favorites]


San Francisco is not Manhattan. When I lived in Manhattan I could go downstairs to any of a dozen places on a Sunday morning and pick up a coffee. In SF there's only one place open before noon on Sunday, three blocks away, and it's a motherfucking Starbucks.

Wait, where do you live, on Lake Merced or something? I'm not sure I've ever been anywhere in the city that was more than like 400 feet from a friendly neighborhood non-chain coffee shop. Well... that's giving Marth & Bros. a pass on the whole "chain" thing for the moment.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 2:40 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh give me a fucking break. Seriously. Many people - mefites, even! - live in Oakland. I used to work in Oakland. many parts of Oakland are really pretty awesome. And all the people who already fucking live there manage to get to and from SF and other parts of the Bay Area.

Yes, because obviously I was saying that nobody lives in Oakland. It's just a vast uninhabited wasteland.

No, what I'm saying is this : take a look at apartment ads on Craigslist. Take a look at rent prices. It may not affect you and I so much, living in rent-controlled apartments, but it does affect anybody who needs an apartment or is moving to the area (such as my girlfriend). Rents are ridiculous, and have gone up by a ridiculous amount in the last year. If Oakland was a more viable option, SF landlords would not be able to get away with such insane rents.

I mean, the fun parts of Oakland are, what, a half hour from the Mission by BART? Consider there are now-fashionable parts of Brooklyn that are further from (New York's) Union Square than that. And I don't mean to compare Brooklyn to Oakland (aka, the city most often compared to Brooklyn by people who have been to neither). I'm just saying that having a 24-hour public transit system makes a big difference.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:43 PM on January 9, 2013


San Jose is one of the largest cities in the US and they couldn't manage to even keep a symphony open. With all the money floating around down there that tells you a lot about the cultural values of a place. Doubtful SV will ever overshadow SF.
posted by quadog at 2:43 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


"...Silicon Valley is a dull and ugly landscape of low-rise stucco office parks and immense traffic-clogged boulevards. ...

The first time I drove through that area my immediate first thought was, "Christ, it looks like New Jersey with palm trees".
posted by octothorpe at 2:49 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, because obviously I was saying that nobody lives in Oakland. It's just a vast uninhabited wasteland.

You said it was "too dangerous and inaccessible to be viable." Which is obviously false, since many, many people find it to be neither.

The fun parts of Oakland and the fun parts of SF have been trundling along without 24/7 BART service for decades. Apparently many people have figured out how to manage this, whether it's by driving, going home earlier, sleeping on friend's couches, or taking a Night Owl bus.
posted by rtha at 2:49 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


You said it was "too dangerous and inaccessible to be viable."

And it is, for many, many people.

driving, going home earlier, sleeping on friend's couches, or taking a Night Owl bus

Which is, to me (and apparently many others), the very definition of inaccessible.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:51 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Which is, to me, the very definition of inaccessible.

For hanging out in at night, right. What about for working from 8am-6pm?
posted by Aizkolari at 2:53 PM on January 9, 2013


Nightlife is essential to having safe, livable neighborhoods. Read your Jane Jacobs. You want to have people walking around and doing things at pretty much all hours of the day and evening. Same reason the Financial District can't really be called a neighborhood.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:56 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh, get over yourself, SF. I live in SJ and I bike to work, shop at the farmer's market, go out to a small rock club, visit my local art gallery, drink good drinks and eat amazing food. Just because I'm not living in a poorly insulated shoebox from 1973 doesn't mean quality of life here is poor. Sure I come up to SF a few times a month for a bigger show, but there's about a $500/mo difference in my rent that more than makes up for it :)

Symphony? You mean this one?
http://www.symphonysiliconvalley.org/index.php
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 2:56 PM on January 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Why does everybody hate buses so much?

Also, Oakland's (comparatively) cheap, has (comparatively) more room to grow compared to the rest of the Bay area, and is (comparatively) not pristine wilderness.

This should be an no-brainer. The Bay Area's density/building/cost constraints are some of the craziest self-inflicted crises I've ever seen.

If we're going to accept that it's politically or economically impossible to change San Francisco's landscape, that Silicon Valley is overcrowded and expensive, and that the North Bay is quite pretty and should be preserved, you're left with two options: Build upward in Oakland, which is close to SF and already has good transit, or unsustainably sprawl further to the south.

Naturally, guess which one we're doing.
posted by schmod at 3:03 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


you're left with two options: Build upward in Oakland, which is close to SF and already has good transit, or unsustainably sprawl further to the south.

Wait a second. Why is everyone picking on Oakland? Daly City's right there!
posted by asterix at 3:08 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why does everybody hate buses so much?

If we had a real, actual bus rapid transit system, I don't think they would. But we don't and they do.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:08 PM on January 9, 2013


Nightlife is essential to having safe, livable neighborhoods.

This. In the New York City area, there's a place right across from 57th Street in Manhattan over the East River, over in Queens, called Long Island City. (You know it well: it's the home of Silvercup Studios, which you all saw at the end of Highlander.)

It was a fairly downscale neighborhood, not particularly nice, with a lot of strip clubs. Then Citigroup put up Reed's Dick - er, One Court Square - there, because it was just outside Manhattan, and one subway stop away from Citicorp Center. But there were a lot of muggings in the area, and for a while it was corporate policy to Not Leave The Building At All, and they had guards in the subway paid for by Citi. So the local club guys stared hiring their own guards, and putting up more lights and adding cameras, and the area started becoming safer.

And now LIC is considered one of the fastest-gentrifying parts of the City, because the strip clubs started making the area safer, and then the dance clubs started opening due to opportunity, and more restaurants...


(As an aside, those of you who find it reflexive to make New Jersey jokes should (in my opinion) all be forced to gorge on ex-lax brownies and then have your pants unopenable when things explode. I know, FIAMO, but it would be nice once of these days for some of you to shut your traps before making a joke about how horrible New Jersey is and go to another thread.)
posted by mephron at 3:10 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


The Mission has, inarguably, lots of nightlife, and yet it also has crime.

I agree that something like bus rapid transit would be awesome. But you're gonna have to take that up with a bunch of other transit agencies, not just Muni.
posted by rtha at 3:15 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why does everybody hate buses so much?

If you can answer this question then please let someone in Toronto know because they keep digging subway tunnels to nowhere. Busses get a bad rap. Although to be fair I hate them too and gladly took the provably worse streetcar nearly every day when I lived in Toronto. I suspect people just hate the lateral motion. The whole simplified logistics of busses is lost on users.
posted by GuyZero at 3:19 PM on January 9, 2013


When San Francisco became too expensive ... San Franciscans stayed in San Francisco. And got reamed up the ass by rapacious landlords because Oakland is too dangerous and inaccessible to be a viable place to live.

For what it's worth, I have a lot of artist friends who've bit the bullet and moved to Oakland over the past five or so years. They all bought cars.

IMO Oakland now has all the artistic vibrancy you could still find flourishing in pockets of San Francisco 5-10 years ago. What's left in San Francisco consists mainly large institutions (e.g., SFMOMA), lovely parks, and boatloads of artisinal restaurants and boutiques.
posted by treepour at 3:20 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why does everybody hate buses so much?

They have people on them.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:24 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


I keep hearing this argument and yet there's this giant empty lot just sitting there between 59th and 110th

Just look at this wasted space.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:25 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why does everybody hate buses so much?

Because they suck? They're slow, the schedules are always spaced too far apart, they rarely arrive on time, you always have to stand around waiting for no apparent reason, they make a million unpredictable stops and then sail right past yours if you don't keep an eagle eye out for it, and they sit around waiting for the wheelchair ramp to go up and down for minutes at a time. They bounce and shake all over the place, they lurch forward and jerk back as the driver tries to deal with all the traffic. All the bouncing and shaking makes it difficult to read, as your eyes skitter all over the page, so there's nothing to do but sit there and contemplate your fellow passengers, many of whom are stinky, dirty, and/or deranged. The latter is true of any mass transit system, but it's worse on the bus since buses suck and therefore people only ride the bus when they have no other choice.

Commuter buses tend to be newer, nicer, less full of homeless people, and running on more frequent schedules, so you'd expect them to be a better experience: but they are invariably crammed full of commuters, so you can expect to wait as bus after packed full bus passes you at the stop while you wait for one with a dozen cubic feet left open. Then you do your best not to smash into your fellow passengers as the lurchy, jerky bus shakes and trembles its way to wherever it is you're all going.

Buses suck, and I'm sick and tired of having transit discussions get diverted into "hey let's just make the buses better" discussions. No. Buses suck and I don't want to ride them. They may well be a necessary evil but they are in no way a replacement for a real public transit system.
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:26 PM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


And don't get me wrong. I like Oakland. I hang out there regularly, or at least whenever there's a thing there I want to go to. Would even consider living there, if my gf hadn't expressly forbid it. Heh. But I'm not willing to own a car, and I realize that if I lived out there, my potlucks and dinner parties would be thinly attended. I'd also be less likely to hang out in SF, which would be sad.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:28 PM on January 9, 2013


Owning a car in the Bay Area doesn't improve access to nightlife because then you have to think about parking and designated drivers. And securing both of those things is a pain in the ass.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:33 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


So what IS a 'real public transit system', if not buses linked to light rail or train or other major transportation hubs?

It's never going to be sufficiently economically workable to rip up the streets and make the entire place a light rail paradise, unless we also mass-burn-down entire cities and rebuild them, with immense levels of geoengineering, to 'rail everywhere' standards. The current roads will not support that kind of revisioning without mass reconstruction of landscapes.

I live in Seattle (as does Mars Saxman), one of the better cities for public transport. Where I am, a somewhat remote part of the city (if you must know, South Beacon Hill), there is a (perfectly acceptable) bus line three blocks away, and a light rail station three-quarters of a mile walk. I rarely have that bad a time, even going downtown and through, with 'stinky, dirty and/or deranged' persons (although last night there was an attempted rapper, but he stopped when one of the other riders asked him to keep it down). Some of the buses aren't very good, but those tend to be the older ones, and a lot of the newer ones are just fine ridewise. I wouldn't draw on them, but I can read fine (despite not having very good eyes).

Meanwhile, over here, we also have people complaining about the light rail extension projects in terms where I read and go 'did you learn how to be racist from Rush Limbaugh, because damn'.
posted by mephron at 3:40 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Grandma and dad born in SF, me in Omaha cuz he was in school on the GI bill. We moved back when I was four, and I spent 50+ years in SF and the last five in the valley. Also spent enough time in NYC and DC.

Lots I could say on this topic, but I'll spare y'all the bore...for now.

Re: the person who can't find coffee on Sunday.

Maybe there isn't a coffee store with fresh beans on your first floor, but there's one close by.

Mr. Buttafoucault:

"Well... that's giving Marth & Bros. a pass on the whole "chain" thing for the moment."

I know you know, but I want folks to be able to find 'em, so... That's Martha (with two "a"s) and Bros. For >25 years, we've been buying North Beach blend, ground for #3. I drive up to the city every three months to get more. Haven't seen Martha behind the counter for ~7 years.

asterix:

"Wait a second. Why is everyone picking on Oakland? Daly City's right there!"

There's a "no there there" thing in there somewhere.
posted by issue #1 at 3:47 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


As someone who lives "on the Peninsula" and also grew up here, I don want to be living next to Manhattan, thankyouverymuch. Sorry that makes it hard people who want to live like hamsters in a dense, urban Habitrail®, but a lot of us here like it the way it is. I'll even spare you our nostalgia for the way it used to be, just...keep your projections big city dreams to yourself, and let us country mice go about our business designing and programming nice shiny objects, OK?
Some points:
  • One key reason why dense urban living is so expensive in most places is because it is massively undersupplied. More people want to live in what you call a Habitrail than we have Habitrail spaces available.
  • I think (correct me if I'm wrong) the reason why you call living in a city like living in a Habitrail is because it seems unnatural to you — to be hemmed in by rowhouses or apartment buildings or whatever. This is in comparison to your life in Burlingame or East Palo Alto or whatever, where you have access to trees and lawns and nature.
  • People living in Burlingame or East Palo Alto or whatever tend to generate more carbon per capita than people living in San Francisco.
  • But, weirdly, they generate less carbon than people living in the New York metropolitan area (metropolitan area, not just the city).
  • This isn't becuase they're necessarily more environmentally aware and responsible than people living in metro NYC. It's because the weather is way nicer and you don't need to heat or cool your house as much living there. Also, it's because Northern California can get a lot of its power from renewable sources.
  • Having to rely on a car to get everywhere is unnatural and it is killing us all.
  • One thing that can significantly help us not die by drowning is if everyone who wants a place in Northern California can get a place in Northern California — and if beyond that they can get around those places without burning much carbon.
  • You're not a "country mouse." You're a "spread out, but heavily built environment smack dab in the middle of one of the most populous metropolitan areas in America mouse."
I've stopped using the term "NIMBY" altogether. Instead, I just say "anti-environmentalist" — it's less cutesy and more accurate.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:49 PM on January 9, 2013 [24 favorites]


I think, as The Atlantic piece mentioned, the original article neglects to mention that some people may actually want to live in the suburbs. But some of us are just sick at how South Bay has a greater population than S.F. yet everything closes around 10 P.M., and there's hardly anything to do even when things are open, and we don't want to have to make the trek up to The City because parking is terrible and CalTrain stops running at midnight. Making cities more dense and developed does not instantly lead to Manhattan overnight.
posted by Apocryphon at 3:59 PM on January 9, 2013


So much of this is predicated on the idea that people want to live in the city but are forced to undertake these arduous commutes down to their offices in the suburbs but it proposes some really impossible to have happen scenario of razing a vast area and building skyscrapers. Which won't even be in SF anyway which is... the point of it in the first place, right?

I reject the premise. The entire notion that all these super tech geniuses need to work on cube farms in the suburb seems stupid to begin with. Yeah, I know, it's more efficient, etc etc to have teams together physically etc etc. I took the ScrumMaster certification, too. But screw that: let the people live where they want to live and WORK FROM THERE. Maybe finally then SOMEONE will be using those Google Hangouts they push so hard. If they can't figure out how to disrupt the marketyblobitynoodlemonetization space in their jammies from their sofa then why are we paying them >$150,000 a year to live in a 70x70 box anyway?

Stop trying to make an hour-long commute less shitty. It's a shitty idea to begin with. Stop trying to make the valley (I moved from Manhattan to Menlo Park, I GET IT) into something it isn't. Why not just let them work wherever they like to be, be that SoMa, Omaha or Solanas (no, no one wants that).
posted by marylynn at 4:11 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a Bostonian techie, I find it bizarre to compare San Francisco to Manhattan.

Boston is the standard of measure here.

Like Boston, San Francisco has good urban living.

Like Boston, San Francisco has tech jobs.

Unlike Boston, San Francisco separates urban living from tech jobs with a hellish commute.

That's the only meaningful difference.

Well, there is no real reason for the Bay Area's tech jobs to be in Silly Valley. These companies are not manufacturing their hardware there, and their workers do not want to live in suburban homes.
posted by ocschwar at 4:15 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I do a lot of things that are just shitty for the environment. I eat meat, I take way too many plane trips, and in a number of other ways I cause environmental damage that offsets the damage I'm not causing by not driving. Living in a suburb, like eating meat and taking a bunch of plane trips, is not a value-neutral thing. It's an objectively bad thing. It's okay if you want it, and it's not the end of the world if you actually do do it — but it might indeed be the end of the world if everyone does it.

Everyone makes choices that are bad for the environment. What bugs me is when people fool themselves into those choices as if they were choices without consequences. There are consequences, and some of them are potentially quite dire.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:19 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Isn't Oakland supposed to be the Brooklyn to San Francisco's Manhattan? So is Oakland, I don't know, Queens?
posted by madcaptenor at 4:25 PM on January 9, 2013


These companies are not manufacturing their hardware there, and their workers do not want to live in suburban homes.

Thats definitely not universally true. Lots and lots of Googlers would rather be in suburbia than in the City, especially the ones with families. Of course, I'm talking about Peninsula-style suburbia, which is way more dense than what I grew up with near Atlanta, and has public transit and stuff (although not like awesome transit).
posted by wildcrdj at 4:31 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


And don't get me wrong. I like Oakland. I hang out there regularly, or at least whenever there's a thing there I want to go to. Would even consider living there, if my gf hadn't expressly forbid it.

Dare I suggest that then that the issue may be your girlfriend's rather than Oakland's?

I really don't think there are hoards of people living in SF thinking "If only the BART ran 24/7, I'd live in Oakland." I'm admittedly pretty boring, but you know what the one thing I've missed out on in life because BART stops running is? My roommate and I didn't go be extras in Milk because we didn't want to trek home at 3am. And that was really only because we didn't have enough information to plan a route home and it looked like there'd be a fait bit of standing around for buses... MUNI buses that is.
posted by hoyland at 4:52 PM on January 9, 2013


Those who say that San Francisco should build up and become a new Manhattan should stay in Manhattan. San Francisco is what it is. Making it super dense will not improve anyone's quality of life.

Oh for fuck's sake. How about improving the rent situation and making more space available? There are no good arguments against lifting the height restrictions and letting modern construction supply the apartments that people are desperately clamoring for. When a one-bedroom apartment in a 100-year-old building with single-paned windows and bad pipes has a half dozen couples jamming the open house at an ask price of $3000/month, there just might be a problem with housing availability.

When Manhattan became too expensive, New Yorkers discovered Brooklyn. When San Francisco became too expensive ... San Franciscans stayed in San Francisco. And got reamed up the ass by rapacious landlords because Oakland is too dangerous and inaccessible to be a viable place to live.

Manhattan became too expensive when its dense housing got filled in. San Francisco became too expensive when people wouldn't let it build dense enough housing to support the number of people who wanted to live there.
posted by spitefulcrow at 4:52 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


> 'm not sure I've ever been anywhere in the city that was more than like 400 feet from a friendly neighborhood non-chain coffee shop.

Everything (Far) South & East of Market is closed Sunday morning. Probably the Financial District, too. I was at Harrison & Beale for the Dew Tour and even the Starbucks at 398 Market were closed. I walked down to the one at Montgomery. The Creamery (a mile away) might have been open, but I went the other way because I needed a couple of other things.

[the Starbucks at 299 2nd was not open, though Yelp claims it should be. Maybe Crossroads Cafe was open, but it was the wrong direction. Walgreens on Market closed, those out-of-towners that bought Longs, CVS, open.]

Oh, and there are bits of life in Santa Clara Valley. Murphy St. in Sunnyvale & Castro St. in Mountain View. Old town Campbell. The weird funky stuff hidden around downtown San Jose like Good Karma. It's so so easy to drive around here, where even the arterials have 45 MPH limits and well-timed stoplights, but if you put in a little effort, it's fucking flat, so you can bike many miles sweatless and there is public transportation if you're schedule is flexible.

I appreciate JWZ's humor, but when it comes to finding something redeeming in the valley, he's a lazy fuck. Try, dude, try.

>> And Caltrain is just an n-dimensional hypercube of fail.

> Caltrain is a one-dimensional fail. Not too hard to evaluate its topology.

One-dimensional fail, but many dimensions into making it a better system with electric engines and no at-grade crossings. Just fixing the signalling system is keeping people quite busy.
posted by morganw at 4:57 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


> San Francisco became too expensive when people wouldn't let it build dense enough housing

I don't have all the facts here, but isn't that stupidly expensive condo tower still mostly vacant? Can high-rise towers be used for more econimical housing at all? Is it really just planning/zoning or is it that investors won't put steel in the sky for anything other than short term crazy big returns?
posted by morganw at 5:02 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Caltrain would be freaking fantastic if it had committed funding like BART. Electrifying that line is going to do a hell of a lot more for the environment than the Livermore extension to BART will, and for quite a bit less money — even with Caltrain's pathetically infrequent schedule. I really wish Caltrain had the financial and political backing to electrify quickly and start running trains at a reasonable frequency...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:02 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't have all the facts here, but isn't that stupidly expensive condo tower still mostly vacant? Can high-rise towers be used for more econimical housing at all? Is it really just planning/zoning or is it that investors won't put steel in the sky for anything other than short term crazy big returns?

Huge high-rise towers aren't the name of the game. We need mid-rise (6-story or so) construction across almost the entirety of the rest of the city. The fact that almost everything west of Fillmore or so is single-family homes or, at most, 3-unit flats is absurd. Everyone clings to those older buildings because they're "historic Victorians" but the vast majority of those are not — they're early-to-mid 20th-century construction that was styled to mimic the older houses in places like Alamo Square. Tear them the hell down and put up buildings with modern amenities and higher capacity.
posted by spitefulcrow at 5:06 PM on January 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


The Mission has, inarguably, lots of nightlife, and yet it also has crime.

True, but compared to Oakland? Or any number of neighborhoods I lived in back in St. Louis? The Mission is pretty tame. Yeah, shit does happen here, but nothing compared to what the neighborhood was like before the nightlife.

Why does everybody hate buses so much?

Because they suck?


But they don't have to. If you'd asked anyone in the 1980s, they'da said all the same things about the NYC subway, but look at it now. A freakin' paragon of public transportation excellence. (that is, to anyone but a New Yorker, who will complain endlessly about the MTA, probably because they've never lived in SF) Also, if you looked at the Wikipedia article on bus rapid transit, you'll see that it's actually worked out quite well in places.

I think, as The Atlantic piece mentioned, the original article neglects to mention that some people may actually want to live in the suburbs. But some of us are just sick at how South Bay has a greater population than S.F. yet everything closes around 10 P.M., and there's hardly anything to do even when things are open, and we don't want to have to make the trek up to The City because parking is terrible and CalTrain stops running at midnight

The reason SF can have nightlife is because of density. There are literally enough people packed into those 49 square miles to support all those bars. You can't get that in the suburbs. Hell, I wish restaurants in SF stayed open late like the places in NYC, but there are just not enough people like me to support those hours.

Dare I suggest that then that the issue may be your girlfriend's rather than Oakland's?

No, actually, you dare not. And if you'd read my comments instead of cherrypicking, you'd see my point goes beyond my own personal decision of where to live. By BART, Oakland is not much further from SF than Brooklyn is from Manhattan. However, we haven't seen a migration from SF to Oakland like what we've seen from Manhattan to Brooklyn. I would posit that's largely due to a lack of viable 24 hour public transit. (and no, that shitty once-an-hour bus doesn't count)

Oh for fuck's sake. How about improving the rent situation and making more space available?

I really don't think that'd help. Okay, so you let them bulldoze down a bunch of historic buildings and build some ghastly high-rises that block out everyone's view and change the character of the city. What will you have then? A bunch of really expensive condo units. Okay, make the developers don the fig leaf of social responsibility and designate a few units as low income housing. Great. A drop in the bucket.

I think it's safe to say that any new construction in SF proper will only benefit the people who hipsters and yuppies like to decry as ruining their precious city -- i.e. other hipsters and yuppies.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:11 PM on January 9, 2013


Tear them the hell down and put up buildings with modern amenities and higher capacity.

1. Modern construction is expensive as hell. That means rents stay high.
2. Many of those buildings are already 3-6 unit flats.
3. The infrastructure of SF is already near or at its limits. Seriously. Stick 50%-100% more people in the city, especially in the areas that you are talking about and you are going to need massive transportation improvements.
4. Those buildings have character. That's part of what makes San Francisco San Francisco.

The real problem is the number of livable cities with character in the US is pathetic. Most of them are sprawling instasuburbs grown large. That doesn't mean SF needs to be a new manhatten it means other cities need to step up their games.
posted by aspo at 5:15 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Oh and I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume by west of fillmore you really meant west of Park Presidio or at least Arguello or something)
posted by aspo at 5:17 PM on January 9, 2013


Caltrain would be freaking fantastic if it had committed funding like BART.

Well, yes and no. Yes, more free money would be better, sure. What Caltrain really needs is way more people living in walking distance from Caltrain stations - essentially they should re-zone 5 miles around each station into much higher density housing areas. Then there'd be more riders, more trains, more money, etc, etc.
posted by GuyZero at 5:17 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Isn't Oakland supposed to be the Brooklyn to San Francisco's Manhattan? So is Oakland, I don't know, Queens?

San Francisco is Manhattan. Silicon Valley is Queens. The East Bay is Brooklyn.


Oakland is Bushwick.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:17 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Berkeley is Williamsburg.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:19 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Berkeley is actually one of the least hip areas in the Bay Area.
posted by aspo at 5:21 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know, I was desperately reaching at that point.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:22 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I feel like Berkeley kinda suffers from a "no there there" problem. Like, when I first moved here, I expected Berkeley to be this fun hip area with lots of bars and things going on. And then I visited Berkeley and realized that, yeah, if my college town were a half hour from San Francisco, I'd probably of hung out in SF, too.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:24 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe Berkeley is Park Slope?
posted by aspo at 5:30 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I went to the "Gourmet Ghetto" in Berkeley I was a little surprised that it's wasn't ironic - it was actually a pretty tiny, crappy neighbourhood. Berkeley was a bit of a disappointment although real estate prices clearly indicate otherwise.
posted by GuyZero at 5:32 PM on January 9, 2013


Well, okay, what we really need might be state built, state managed housing for the lower and middle classes, but we're never going to get that because it's communism. In the meantime, we can let the market build more condos for rich people in the hopes that it will drive down demand enough on other apartments enough to let the middle classes sneak in sometimes.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:34 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I feel like Berkeley kinda suffers from a "no there there" problem. Like, when I first moved here, I expected Berkeley to be this fun hip area with lots of bars and things going on. And then I visited Berkeley and realized that, yeah, if my college town were a half hour from San Francisco, I'd probably of hung out in SF, too.

Berkeley has "no there there" because it also has a crowd of NIMBYs, but in its case they're opposed both to 5-story building and to anything staying open past 10 PM. Seriously. You have to get a special permit. And let's not even talk about the alcohol license situation.

As someone who actually attended Berkeley for undergrad, I can say that most students actually *don't* spend all of their time in SF. Sure, you have your once-every-few-months weekend shopping sprees in Union Square, but the majority of students are too scared to take BART past Powell Station unless they're going to SFO.

Students aren't really the population Berkeley's bar scene needs, though. They're too concerned with getting completely smashed (or getting their date completely smashed) for as few dollars as possible (sort of justifiable when you consider what they're paying for their educations now). The problem is that Berkeley has, for the most part, two populations: college students without disposable income for $9 cocktails and $15 personal pizzas, and 50-somethings with two kids and a mortgage, neither of whom exactly go out for drinks all the time.

This is changing, though. The restaurant scene has started to expand again with a number of interesting offerings right downtown next to the BART station. Hopefully bars will follow and attract more post-college 20-somethings.

(FWIW I'm planning to move to the east bay this summer because I'm sick of paying the better part of $3000 for a drafty one-bedroom across from a fire station, no matter how close it is to everything. I want a yard for my dog and a second bedroom to throw my extra crap in and free parking.)
posted by spitefulcrow at 5:35 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


San Francisco is not Manhattan. When I lived in Manhattan I could go downstairs to any of a dozen places on a Sunday morning and pick up a coffee. In SF there's only one place open before noon on Sunday, three blocks away, and it's a motherfucking Starbucks.

Having worked in downtown Vancouver, this was what really surprised me about a recent visit to downtown Seattle. The downtown (depending where you are) seems kind of vacant with not many restaurants.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:42 PM on January 9, 2013


because Oakland is too dangerous and inaccessible to be a viable place to live.

Of course, not everybody lives in fear.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:16 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I appreciate JWZ's humor, but when it comes to finding something redeeming in the valley, he's a lazy fuck. Try, dude, try.

Well, to be fair, he did write that 17 years ago.
posted by asterix at 8:30 PM on January 9, 2013


I swear I don't mean this snarkily at all: I am consistently dumbfounded by the way that a group discussion that is ordinarily hey progress ain't it grand? turns into this is how it is and ain't never gonna change with the speed and fervour that discussions of urban planning do. People take this shit weirdly personally, like you said their beloved local sporting team sucked or something.

Again: I mean that in all honesty. I don't get it. Silicon Valley's a wealthy, progressive enclave of enlightenment that is, to a casual observer, only barely distinguishable from suburban Phoenix from an urbanist's point of view. But suggest it could be otherwise? How dare you I live here it's just goddamn fine and besides you can't fix it Williamsburg hipster scumnik.

On a related note - and again as a casual observer who's been there like three times on business trips - it's always struck me as odd how San Francisco's the live-in-a-shoebox-if-I-have-to epicentre of the region while San Jose, with the vastly superior climate and some pretty nifty old architecture and the bones of a pretty damn good downtown, seems about as desirable to locals as a 7-11 parking lot in darkest exurbia.
posted by gompa at 10:17 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure why the original article and this thread are pissing me off so much, but grarrrr... Why does San Francisco need to be tied to Silicon Valley again? Because people who work in SV want to live in a lively urban environment?

There happens to be a big city already in SV. It's called San Jose. From some upthread comments, it either is starting to become a real urban area or is still sucking at becoming a real urban area. I say put some real attention and support to growing San Jose, get a good train system going between there and the lower peninsula (you will NEVER get those rich sucks further up the peninsula to agree to extend BART through their towns), and leave San Francisco to its own business - bashing Los Angeles.
posted by queensissy at 11:09 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


[...] and leave San Francisco to its own business - bashing Los Angeles.

Maybe that's why I feel so comfortable here! SF is the only city that hates LA as much as NYC. It's pretty much the only thing we can agree on.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:22 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Berkeley is Williamsburg.

Richmond is San Francisco's Sunset Park.
posted by eddydamascene at 11:53 PM on January 9, 2013


San Rafael is San Francisco's Yonkers?
posted by eddydamascene at 12:23 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hellz no. Marin is Westchester.

Sooooo Westchester.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:36 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


while San Jose, with the vastly superior climate

No way. It's way too hot there. I hear that sometimes it gets above 75! Nope. Too hot.
posted by rtha at 4:34 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


(As an aside, those of you who find it reflexive to make New Jersey jokes should (in my opinion) all be forced to gorge on ex-lax brownies and then have your pants unopenable when things explode. I know, FIAMO, but it would be nice once of these days for some of you to shut your traps before making a joke about how horrible New Jersey is and go to another thread.)

Sorry, I grew up there and I still love it but it's still New Jersey.
posted by octothorpe at 6:15 AM on January 10, 2013


mephron: "(As an aside, those of you who find it reflexive to make New Jersey jokes should (in my opinion) all be forced to gorge on ex-lax brownies and then have your pants unopenable when things explode. I know, FIAMO, but it would be nice once of these days for some of you to shut your traps before making a joke about how horrible New Jersey is and go to another thread.)"

I grew up there, and also reject the "Jersey is horrible premise," but there's a bit of truth to it when you're talking about urban development in NYC:

1) The Hudson River is wide and deep. Adding new crossings is prohibitively expensive, so Jersey's always going to have a degree of isolation from the city.

2) The parts of Jersey that are close to Manhattan are actually quite nice. Hoboken and Jersey City are better places to live than much of Brooklyn.

3) The area's geography is challenging. Allowing Manhattan to organically grow into Jersey is problematic, because the area's bisected by a bay, an airport, and a huge uninhabitable swamp. It also happens to contain a port, and thus a lot of industrial activity. Most of this activity is pretty clean these days, but we are still cleaning up from the mistakes of the past.

Newark's still got a ton of potential, and I really hope that we continue to explore that potential to provide some relief to NYC's housing supply, but there are quite a few physical barriers that make it difficult to treat Jersey and NYC as a contiguous urban area.
posted by schmod at 7:21 AM on January 10, 2013


The Mission has, inarguably, lots of nightlife, and yet it also has crime.

True, but compared to Oakland?


This statement is the sure sign of someone who doesn't know much about Oakland. There are many neighborhoods in Oakland that have less crime than the Mission. You can't compare a single neighborhood to an entire city of many neighborhoods without sounding silly.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:14 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Okay, then for that matter, it's difficult to generalize the Mission as a whole. It's a large neighborhood and the level of crime -- and variety of crime -- varies from block to block.

Anyway, I can't believe I let myself get dragged down the "Oakland is not that bad!" rabbit hole again. I was making a point about rents, urban migration, and public transportation, and I believe my point still stands. If you live in Oakland, love Oakland, like to hang out there, whatever, then mazel tov. I did not mean to insult your beloved city. Regardless, if someone asked me, "How come Manhattanites decamped to Brooklyn en masse in the early 2000s, while no such migration happened from SF to Oakland?" I would answer that a lot of it is due to the lack of a 24 hour transportation link.

Now back to your regularly scheduled program of talking about how awesome Oakland is.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:32 AM on January 10, 2013


Your premise is flawed; when the first dotcom boom happened, lots of SF residents moved to Oakland. When the bomb happened, rents in SF didn't drop much and....people still moved to Oakland (and Berkeley and Albany and El Cerrito etc.).

You got "dragged" into the argument by announcing that Oakland was not a viable place to live. It's not surprising that people take exception to an inaccuracy of that magnitude.
posted by rtha at 8:40 AM on January 10, 2013


I'm guessing you haven't lived in 21st century NYC. If you had, you would not even consider a comparison between the two migrations. Yeah, okay, maybe you had a few artist friends move to Oakland. But how does that compare to the ENTIRE LOCUS of young adult culture moving from Manhattan to Brooklyn?

You'll have to excuse me -- I'm seeing this through the eyes of a former New Yorker. "Why haven't San Franciscans decamped to Oakland?" was one of my top questions after moving here. And the answer, to my mind, is the lack of a 24 hour transit link. Nobody has offered a more-plausible theory.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:50 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, because Oakland is not San Francisco. I like Oakland, a lot. I don't want to live there, because it doesn't have the stuff I love about living in San Francisco.

And of course migration patterns are going to be different, duh. We're a different city/metropolitan area, a different geography, a different economy, and people move here instead of someplace else (Portland, Seattle, NYC) for different reasons. Why should people who move to SF act like Manhattan residents being chased to Brooklyn? Why do you assume they would?

If you are really so unhappy about the lack of 24-hour BART service (because 24 transit links do exist, they're just not the kind *you* want), then I think you'd be better off either: moving somewhere that has that or; getting together with a bunch of other local like-minded people and actually talking to your supe, going to board of supe meetings, lobbying for studies to extend BART to 24-hour service, and so on. It will be much more effective than sharpening this particular axe on the blue.
posted by rtha at 8:59 AM on January 10, 2013


Why should people who move to SF act like Manhattan residents being chased to Brooklyn? Why do you assume they would?

I'm having trouble parsing your first question, but if you're asking why I'd assume San Franciscans would behave like New Yorkers in their migration patterns, the answer is pretty obvious : rent pressure. Money. It affects us all. People, after all, are people.

It will be much more effective than sharpening this particular axe on the blue.


(gasp) Accusations of axe-grinding? Why, I never! I thought we were friends.

:(
posted by Afroblanco at 9:07 AM on January 10, 2013


So what IS a 'real public transit system', if not buses linked to light rail or train or other major transportation hubs?

The real public transit system is the light rail or the train or the subway or the monorail or the tube or the trolley or whatever it is that moves lots of people around the city in a quick, reliable way. Buses are neither quick nor reliable, so at best they can be a range-extending accessory to a good transit system; when they form the core of a transit system, that transit system inevitably sucks.

I don't agree that Seattle is "one of the better cities for public transport." It's coming along, sure, but there's not very much of it built yet. Give it another ten years and maybe it'll qualify as a "basic but acceptable" public transport system. In the meantime, we're still stuck with buses for almost everything, and buses just suck.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:41 AM on January 10, 2013


You'll have to excuse me -- I'm seeing this through the eyes of a former New Yorker.

You're a former New Yorker? I had no idea!

(Seriously, you want to know why people get their backs up when you weigh in on this subject? That sentence I quoted is why. Nobody likes to have some carpetbagger come in and tell them how their home sucks compared to this other awesome place. And there's a long long long history of New Yorkers in particular moving to the Bay Area and then bitching about how much it sucks compared to NYC.)
posted by asterix at 10:08 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


And there's a long long long history of New Yorkers in particular moving to the Bay Area and then bitching about how much it sucks compared to NYC

Yes, and clearly that's exactly what I was doing.

Carpetbagger. LOL.

Okay, I'm done here. Although it has been interesting watching you all argue against better public transportation.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:19 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a born and bred Sunnyvalian who moved to LA 25 years ago, I've been enjoying this thread so much! I feel like I should print this thread out for next time I go back up to SF and people start telling me how much LA sucks because you need a car to go anywhere blah blah blah. "Here. Please move on to next subject. I suggest 'LA is a cultural wasteland.' Proceed."
posted by queensissy at 10:55 AM on January 10, 2013


Afroblanco: Two things. First your comment about oakland being too dangerous to be livable is pretty telling because it's the classic "not from around here" feeling about Oakland. Oakland has a thriving young art scene that's semi-invisible to recent transplants because they think that Oakland is this bombed out Mad-Maxian hellhole.

Also, SF rents were relatively reasonable until just a few years ago. Yeah they were expensive, but not crazy compared to the area. There was even a slump not to long ago when people were negotiating their rents down. And having had a few years now where rents are crazy high is changing the city. Rapidly. And guess where people are moving? Oakland. Hell, when I went to school at Cal, I knew lots of people who lived in SF and went to school at Berkeley, and one of the major expenses was BART, not rent. (Of course my understanding is Berkeley rents anywhere near campus are pretty crazy these days...)
posted by aspo at 11:58 AM on January 10, 2013


And there's a long long long history of New Yorkers in particular moving to the Bay Area and then bitching about how much it sucks compared to NYC.

FTFY
posted by madcaptenor at 12:00 PM on January 10, 2013


"Why haven't San Franciscans decamped to Oakland?" ... And the answer, to my mind, is the lack of a 24 hour transit link. Nobody has offered a more-plausible theory.

You know, I would be willing to bet that someone has taken a scholarly look at that mass migration of young people with money to Brooklyn, and we would probably have a better conversation if we found it and read it first. That being said, I am of course going to give you my knee-jerk guess here anyway. And it is partly about transit but NOT about transit being 24/hr.

Okay let's just talk about Williamsburg. Impoverished artists moving there started this whole thing. But then students who could not afford to live close to their campuses came next. Which campuses are in 20 minutes walking distance of the L train? You've got a few major art schools - FIT, Parsons, SVA with tens of thousands of students combined. You've got the behemoth that is NYU, with 40,000 students. The rest of the New School is there too. Cardozo is down there.

Basically you've got at least 100,000 kids, and-

-Many of them are artists of some kind;
-Many of them can't afford anything even approaching decent accommodation within walking distance of their campuses.

Then you have:

-A neighborhood that a bunch of exciting older artists have moved to do new and crazy things
-This neighborhood has super low rents;
-The neighborhood is really actually pretty safe for how cheap it is;
-The train stop is right smack in the middle of it, and you just need to take a 10 minute train ride on 1 subway line, and then a short walk and you are at school;
-Too be frank about what I think is the truth, I don't think these kids would have all moved with that quickness if it had been a black neighborhood. I think being surrounded by a whole lot of Puerto Rican and Orthodox Jewish moms with strollers was not too scary for a bunch of white 18 year olds from the burbs.

It is not the same situation with SF and Oakland. You don't have this gigantic mass of kids who can't afford their rent at all sitting right on the other side of the bay from Oakland. The nearest huge mass of kids is in Berkeley, and Berkeley is pretty affordable.
posted by cairdeas at 12:06 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


All Bay Area stereotypes and prejudices summed up in one map
posted by morganw at 12:14 PM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Swamp, birdwatchers"

/falls down laughing at the truth
posted by rtha at 12:23 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Why haven't San Franciscans decamped to Oakland?" was one of my top questions after moving here.

But they have. Tons of them. And not just people priced out of the City, but people who want space for their kids, want to raise vegetables, want warmer weather, or to live in a very vibrant, more multicultural city. Restauranteurs with successful restaurants in the City have opened up establishments in downtown Oakland. Just because you don't know anybody who has decamped to Oakland doesn't mean it hasn't happened. Our rents our going up as rental properties become more scarce. Oakland is one of the hottest real estate markets in the nation, with demand far outstripping product. The last open house we went to had several people from SF looking to buy in Oakland.

TL; DR: Your premise is flawed, which is why people are pushing back. The thing is, everyone who lives around here has heard all these bombastic generalizations about Oakland before; they don't come out of the mouths of people familiar with the town, even if said people don't necessarily like Oakland.

also:

Nightlife is essential to having safe, livable neighborhoods.


You seem to think no one would want to move from the City to Oakland because, among other things, BART doesn't run 24 hours and the only place to have fun is SF. That's patently untrue. The great thing about the bars here is that Oakland has a built-in douchebag filter. Sadly, many of the best places in the Mission are now filled with impossible jerks on the weekend.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:53 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow! Still responding to me after I've left the room. That's ... awesome. Okay, I'll take this opportunity to defend myself.

First off, yes, I did say Oakland was dangerous and inaccessible. I'm not making that up out of thin air. If you were to ask people why they're not moving to Oakland, I think you'd hear that a lot. Oakland is too dangerous and inaccessible -- for many, many people. No, I'm not talking about you and your hip coterie of urban pioneering friends. I'm talking about people who are willing to fork over astronomical rents because they don't want to leave SF. Is their impression accurate? Well ... kinda. Yes, it depends on the neighborhood. But it also depends on a person's individual tolerance for inconvenience and street crime. I would never tell someone that the Mission is perfectly safe. The Mission is still kinda real in places. If someone's impression was that the Mission is too dangerous to be livable, I wouldn't contradict them. If that's where their comfort level is, they probably shouldn't move to the Mission.

Lots of you are making assumptions about me. I've actually spent a fair amount of time in Oakland. I've visited galleries there on numerous occasions. Some of my friends' art is featured in those galleries. I also go there for various musical and comedy events. Again, when I say Oakland isn't viable, I'm not talking about you and me.

As for NYC.... it sounds like I'll know I'm a real San Franciscan when I have an enormous chip on my shoulder about NYC! If you'll notice, the OP is all about comparing SF to NYC. So, comparisons are definitely on the table here. I'm not being the obnoxious New Yorker stereotype you're trying to shoehorn me into. And if you actually read my comments, you'll notice that I'm not saying everything was better in NYC. I'm saying one specific thing is better -- the transportation link between the dense inner core and the less-expensive outlying area. This is an objective fact. You can't really argue that the BART link between SF and Oakland is better than the subway link between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Anyway, it's obvious what's going on here. I wasn't careful in phrasing my argument, and seeing the words "dangerous", "inaccessible", and "not viable" set off emotional triggers for some of you, and you all are arguing emotionally. So far, cairdeas has been the only commenter today who's engaged with the meat of my argument without resorting to rhetoric that closely resembles ad-hominem.

Bottom line, I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings. I wish this thread could have just stayed in the realm of calm urban planning discussion.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:31 PM on January 10, 2013


The problem is more in the way things are said, and less the points made. It may be difficult to really grok that though, no snark intended.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:49 PM on January 10, 2013


I wish this thread could have just stayed in the realm of calm urban planning discussion.

Please go read your second comment in this thread and ask yourself how you helped the discussion stay calm.

You used loaded, hyperbolic, inaccurate language and you're surprised people got pissed? You stated it as bald fact, when in fact it's simply not true for everyone or even most people (like, the ones who live in Oakland).

NYC is one of the very few cities in the U.S. - nearly the only, as far as I can tell - that has a 24-hour subway system. Boston doesn't. Chicago seems to have two lines (out of eight) that run 24 hours. Seattle doesn't. Portland doesn't. DC doesn't. Can't tell with Philly because their system is really fragmented with buses, commuter rail, trolleys, etc.

Paris (the one in France) doesn't have 24 hour Metro service.

And all these non-24-hour-subway-having places have dense urban cores and populations that live outside of them but commute to work within them. The system we currently have in place encourages too many cars and too much driving, and that needs fixing and it needs fixing a lot faster than it's being fixed. But it's not like the SF-Oakland connection is at all unusual. NYC is the outlier.
posted by rtha at 2:16 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Grand Boulevard Initiative is more or less what the author has in mind.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:24 PM on January 10, 2013


NYC is one of the very few cities in the U.S. - nearly the only, as far as I can tell - that has a 24-hour subway system.

Per Wikipedia: "In the United States, four rapid transit systems offer rail service 24 hours per day and 365 (or 366) days per year: the New York City Subway, PATH trains, PATCO trains, and parts of the Chicago 'L' system." (PATCO apparently runs between Philly and New Jersey.)
posted by asterix at 2:48 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh hey, and here's an AskMe about this very subject!
posted by asterix at 2:49 PM on January 10, 2013


I don't agree that Seattle is "one of the better cities for public transport."

I moved to Seattle from northern New Jersey, and I worked in New York City. Compared to that, THIS IS PARADISE. Yeah, the 106 bus is usually a few minutes late but it's not like things back there, where I subscribed to their email alert service and they took five hours from canceling buses during a snowstorm, making the decision to cancel all service at 4 AM, to sending out the 'oh yeah, buses cancelled' message, assuming everyone watched the morning news shows or listened to the morning radio shows to find out.

You know what? Maybe buses suck. But right now, it's what we have, so wear it or freeze in the wind, and the next time Kemper Freeman and Tim Eyman get their asses up, kick them in it if you want the light rail to improve.
posted by mephron at 3:49 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tim Eyman is a pustulating chancre on Satan's distended bowel.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:58 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


You insult Satan with that statement.
posted by mephron at 4:02 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Please go read your second comment in this thread and ask yourself how you helped the discussion stay calm.

Look, I already apologized, and mentioned how I regret the manner in which I phrased my thoughts. I don't know what else you want from me. Sit in a corner and think about what I've done?

You used loaded, hyperbolic, inaccurate language and you're surprised people got pissed?

I should have been more specific when speaking about Oakland. But SF rents and SF landlords deserve every bit of hyperbole I threw at them. Also, I never said I was surprised by the reactions in this thread.

You stated it as bald fact, when in fact it's simply not true for everyone or even most people (like, the ones who live in Oakland).

Guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this. I would not suggest to "most people" that they move to Oakland. Some people, yes. But not most.

But it's not like the SF-Oakland connection is at all unusual. NYC is the outlier.

Okay, I'm not sure what you're arguing here. I never said it was unusual. We're talking about solving problems in the Bay area, and I'm suggesting a better transit link to Oakland. I think both cities would benefit.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:47 PM on January 10, 2013


Screw SF. Alameda is the next Manhattan. You heard it here first.
posted by WASP-12b at 11:14 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Google Invades
The Google Bus means so many things. It means that the minions of the non-petroleum company most bent on world domination can live in San Francisco but work in Silicon Valley without going through a hair-raising commute by car – I overheard someone note recently that the buses shortened her daily commute to 3.5 hours from 4.5. It means that unlike gigantic employers in other times and places, the corporations of Silicon Valley aren’t much interested in improving public transport, and in fact the many corporations providing private transport are undermining the financial basis for the commuter train. It means that San Francisco, capital of the west from the Gold Rush to some point in the 20th century when Los Angeles overshadowed it, is now a bedroom community for the tech capital of the world at the other end of the peninsula.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:03 AM on January 31, 2013


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