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toxtethogrady

The Battle for Cool - Houston vs San Francisco

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It's great to be the energy hub, but reliance on commodities is a potential liability and the industry can also be affected by things like climate change regulations.  It's good that we have two other key sources of employment:  the port and the Medical Center.  The Medical Center is especially important, since the medical industry can benefit from network effects and is remains pretty labor-intensive.  It's not a visible as the energy business, but we get a lot of bang for the buck with the Med Center.

 

 

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If it's a battle of cool the question is where would you live all things being equal?

If all things being equal, that means SF would be less liberal, have less of a homeless problem, more hurricanes, better freeways, have less hills, and have better supermarkets.

Houston would be more liberal, have higher taxes, be prone to earthquakes, have terrible supermarket options, and generally lose a lot of what makes it attractive to industry in the first place.

Tough call.

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i don't get where thread title "the battle for cool" is coming from - the title of the article is "battle of the upstarts"

 

i love SF and ya it is a "cooler" city but that's not what this article is trying to argue.

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Houston.

1. Houston's affordability frees me up to be able to actually do things. Unlike S.F. where way over 50% of my income forced me to have to save up to do or buy anything.

"The Bay Area, for all its vaunted progressivism, increasingly resembles a “gated community” whose high prices repel most potential newcomers, particularly families. Already by far the nation’s least affordable city—only 14 percent of current residents can possibly afford to buy a home—it represents a growth model that is by definition exclusive, almost a throwback to medieval forms where the rich clustered inside the city gates."

"In contrast, Houston is among the fastest growing regions in the country, with rapid increases both in domestic migrants and newcomers from abroad. This stems from both lower housing prices and a growth model that is far more amenable to higher paid blue collar and middle management positions. Since 2000, Houston’s population has grown by 30 percent compared, three times that of the Bay Area."

2. Because I think it is more interesting watching cities being built and watching them grow and change at breakneck speed than marvel at the same things for rest of my life. I lived in S.F. for 11 years. It looks pretty much the same today as it did when I moved there.

3. There is a real uniqueness to inner city Houston. It's a beautiful mess. There's nothing original about being one of the many urban drones who wished they could afford to live in S.F. Everybody drools over it. What is so cool about being just another face in the crowd. SF was made cool by misfits - but now they are mainstream. Houston enthusiasts are the misfits and the outsiders. Whenever Houston become inundated by trendy follow-the-leader douche bags I'll remove number 3 from my list.

Edited by SMF
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In all seriousness, though, San Francisco is like that guy who looks and acts like a hipster (because he is one), but is also cool to hang out with (and play card games or whatever), really intelligent, and one of the few people you know that can wear a fedora and not look like he needs to be punched in the face. Houston is the guy who looks a bit scruffy but has hidden depths (he knows restaurants better than S.F. does, for instance), almost universally likable to everyone he meets, and a true friend you could depend on if times got rough. Who would you choose?

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It's not a zero sum game between the two metropolitan areas - each has its strengths, and each has its deficiencies.  I probably spend more time in the Bay Area than in any other one place outside Houston, and while the views are nice in a macro sense, it's a lot grubbier (as in physically dirty) in the city centers of San Francisco, Oakland, and to a lesser extent, Berkeley.  BART is great for getting around the area, MUNI's light rail works pretty well, and of course there are the ferries across the bay which are at least cool; but I'd stack METRO's bus system up against that of AC Transit or MUNI any day; in terms of routine daily commutes I think we likely come out on top (the Bay Bridge's toll plaza into the city during morning drive is easily as big or bigger a cluster than the West Loop).  One thing that a casual visitor may not notice is that a lot of people in the Bay Area will stereotype "others" the same vigor as the most xenophobic of those behind The Pine Curtain - they just choose different groups of "others" to slam.  Jerk status of recently deceased former football team owners?  Between Al Davis and that Okie Mercury dealer with a bad rug, it's a foot race.  Dysfunction of state governments is also pretty much a wash.  Though we certainly were a culinary backwater 25 years or more ago, now I'd put the variety and quality of our food up there with anybody else - and our Mexican food is MUCH better than what they call such there, though they do have us beat on East Asian.  The newly higher housing prices that we whine about in some neighborhoods here, is considered "starter home" territory there.  The absence of mosquitos out there sure is nice, though.

 

Who's cooler?  That's a matter of perception, unless you're talking about average temperature west of the Caldecott Tunnel - in which case the Bay Area has us beat (over the ridge gets every bit as hot, though).

 

In answer to the original question - I've had the opportunity to move there, and didn't.

 

 

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I love Houston, but man does San Francisco have better natural surroundings!  And I'm not bashing the Gulf Coast or Galveston Bay.  Left without man-made interventions and engineering they are beautiful in their own right, that is certain.  Greater SF has some really great national recreation areas and national seashores just an hour from the Financial District.  While we may lack the spectacular scenary common among Highway 1 in California, I do wish that Houston had some larger publicly owned lands within a very short distance.  Maybe a large Katy Prairie Preserve or National Grassland that was big enough to get lost in, and perhaps natural wetlands all along the "West Bay" or maybe have the prescence of mind to preserve much of the bay frontage from La Porte to Texas City, instaed its almost 99% privately owned single family homes.

 

San Francisco Bay is heavily industrialized too, yet the areas not touched by industry seem to be better kept as public lands than what we have in the Houston region.  That's California for you.

 

Houston is both cursed and blessed.  Our industry is very visible and very big, yet that same industry that most other American cities would shun is a big part of what fuels our economy.  We sacrifice for the good of other cities.

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I love to visit San Francisco. I too turned down an opportunity to move there 4 years ago. Chose Houston instead. Part of the reason was Houston was home and I was missing it after 20 years on the East Coast. However, at age 40, San Francisco wasn't all that attractive when I looked under the covers. If you want a view of the Golden Gate or a location next to Nob Hill, you're going to pay a lot and get very little (unless you are paying 100Xs more than a lot). Transportation actually sucks compared to the East Coast cities but owning a car would be a pain and another major expense. 

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There's one concept that seems hidden, but implicit, in this thread.  I.e., that Houston and San Francisco are natural opposites.  Now, I am not necessarily agreeing with one side or the other of such a discussion.  But ... it just occurs to me that human beings like to simplify the world into simple black/white concepts.  So, it seems useful to consider whether we are being rational or just following such an inclination.

 

Lots of places on this planet have flat topography.  Lots also have climates that involve extended periods of heat and humidity.  Does that mean we should eject them from the planet because they are not like some other places?  Thinking about it that way, it seems like a silly concept to me.

 

I'm say saying that not because, for instance, that I think everyone should pledge allegiance to living in a "flat, mosquito-infested swamp".  We all want to be safe and comfortable.  However, as our technology advances, places like Houston can become useful and even attractive places to live.   OK, here's my opinionated beef:  I think that some people in this modern age still act like delicate wimps.  Houston today provides many people the wherewithal to make a good living and thereby have the opportunity to travel to (or eventually to live in) places that have climates more to their liking.  In some cases, in places in which they would could not afford to live if they hadn't taken advantage of what Houston has to offer.

Edited by ArchFan
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Arch, the quotation is actually "infested with mosquitoes and Methodists." (if my Googlez are treating me right... I thought it was Presbyterians.)  

 

In another thread, there was the observation that Paris (France, not Texas) is flat.  As I've mentioned before, we really ought to have a nice statue of Willis Carrier (the inventor of modern air conditioning).

 

And once again, it doesn't have to be a zero sum game.  

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I should have known this was a Joel Kotkin article. I appreciate his promotion of Houston as a model city, but he's starting to sound like a broken record. He says he works here as a consultant. I wonder if there is some financial motivation for him to keep pushing a Houston agenda. 

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Arch, the quotation is actually "infested with mosquitoes and Methodists." (if my Googlez are treating me right... I thought it was Presbyterians.)  

 

In another thread, there was the observation that Paris (France, not Texas) is flat.  As I've mentioned before, we really ought to have a nice statue of Willis Carrier (the inventor of modern air conditioning).

 

And once again, it doesn't have to be a zero sum game.  

 

Paris is not flat. Stand at Sacre Couer on Montmartre and look across. It's not exactly hilly, but it's not flat either. Kind of like Dallas in that respect.

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I should have known this was a Joel Kotkin article. I appreciate his promotion of Houston as a model city, but he's starting to sound like a broken record. He says he works here as a consultant. I wonder if there is some financial motivation for him to keep pushing a Houston agenda. 

 

He does work for lots of cities, but he doesn't promote any of them as much as he does Houston.  He truly believes other cities can learn from the Houston model of affordability, upward social mobility, good paying blue collar/middle skill/industrial jobs, and all around friendliness to middle class families.

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He does work for lots of cities, but he doesn't promote any of them as much as he does Houston.  He truly believes other cities can learn from the Houston model of affordability, upward social mobility, good paying blue collar/middle skill/industrial jobs, and all around friendliness to middle class families.

 

Tory, 

I do agree with Joel's characterization of Houston as an Opportunity City, and believe it is apt. I think a lot of cities, whether they admit it or not, probably look at Houston and try to replicate some of its success.

At this point though, after reading so many of his articles, it starts to feel like getting a nice compliment from your Aunt. 

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He does work for lots of cities, but he doesn't promote any of them as much as he does Houston.  He truly believes other cities can learn from the Houston model of affordability, upward social mobility, good paying blue collar/middle skill/industrial jobs, and all around friendliness to middle class families.

 

Having just read a book about Detroit - called: "Detroit," but it might well have been called "America" - I am more than ever finding the fixation on who can afford to live in San Francisco, or whether it will have enough baristas per capita - to be about on par with Romans worrying, late in the Republic, about whether the Palatine Hill was getting too exclusive.

It's a thing, I guess, but is it really the thing?

 

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Tory, 

I do agree with Joel's characterization of Houston as an Opportunity City, and believe it is apt. I think a lot of cities, whether they admit it or not, probably look at Houston and try to replicate some of its success.

At this point though, after reading so many of his articles, it starts to feel like getting a nice compliment from your Aunt. 

 

Fair point, but we're not really his target audience - he's trying to get other cities to look to us as a model instead of to NYC or SF.

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Tory, 

I do agree with Joel's characterization of Houston as an Opportunity City, and believe it is apt. I think a lot of cities, whether they admit it or not, probably look at Houston and try to replicate some of its success.

At this point though, after reading so many of his articles, it starts to feel like getting a nice compliment from your Aunt. 

 

This.

 

Although, to be fair, Richard Florida had an article recently saying pretty much the same thing, with Houston and San Jose as the leaders of America's emerging energy-knowledge economy, and Florida ain't no lover of Houston.

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I love Houston, but man does San Francisco have better natural surroundings!  And I'm not bashing the Gulf Coast or Galveston Bay.  Left without man-made interventions and engineering they are beautiful in their own right, that is certain.  Greater SF has some really great national recreation areas and national seashores just an hour from the Financial District.  While we may lack the spectacular scenary common among Highway 1 in California, I do wish that Houston had some larger publicly owned lands within a very short distance.  Maybe a large Katy Prairie Preserve or National Grassland that was big enough to get lost in, and perhaps natural wetlands all along the "West Bay" or maybe have the prescence of mind to preserve much of the bay frontage from La Porte to Texas City, instaed its almost 99% privately owned single family homes.

 

I guess it depends on how far you want to travel for it.

 

Matagorda island is amazing, once you get away of what's left of the WWII airstrip, it's desolate and beautiful. You can walk for miles on the beach and see no one, or maybe that's just been my good luck.

 

Sam Houston National Forest.

 

Hell, even Brazos bend, or Stephen F. Austin state parks.

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I guess it depends on how far you want to travel for it.

 

Matagorda island is amazing, once you get away of what's left of the WWII airstrip, it's desolate and beautiful. You can walk for miles on the beach and see no one, or maybe that's just been my good luck.

 

Sam Houston National Forest.

 

Hell, even Brazos bend, or Stephen F. Austin state parks.

 

I thought I alluded to that in my post?  Perhaps it wasn't clear?

 

Houston does have pretty scenic areas not too far away.

 

SF has them a drive across a bridge.  Point being is that SF has prettier natural scenary close by, and that they've tried harder to preserve much of their natural areas than we have.  I'm also not saying that SF doesn't have industry.  They do.  SF Bay is home to several ports, 2 airports and numerous refining operations.  The difference is there are hills and mountains that partly obscure that, and they have preserved more frontage on the bay than we seem to have preserved.

 

Matagorda and the Big Thicket are 2+ hours away from Downtown.  Golden Gate National Recreation area is IN San Francisco and across the straight + the Muir Woods is not far + the Point Reyes National Seashore is only 2 hours from the financial district (which that one is the furthest).  All of those areas are larger and frankly more remote than anything in or around Houston.

 

Hopefully the efforts to preserve the Katy Prairie will continue to move forward and we will some day have large open swaths of land between us and the Colorado Rivers that will allow the millions of people a place to camp, hike, bird watch etc. in relative sollitude.

 

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Energy vs Tech? Energy wins. No one goes to war to protect their source of iPhones.

Interesting ... I wonder if anyone has ever gone to war FOR china.

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If it's a battle of cool the question is where would you live all things being equal?

Given the nature of humans to reproduce, I'd say that alone gives Houston the edge. It's easier and better to raise a family here.

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