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How Silicon Valley's Tech Reign Will End 395

Posted by timothy
from the reports-of-its-death-seem-premature dept.
theodp writes "Silicon Valley's stranglehold on West Coast innovation is in danger. The main problem? It's no fun to live in Silicon Valley. Technology is people, explains The Atlantic's Derek Thompson, and more people are choosing to live in cities. And Silicon Valley isn't like a city, it's like a suburb. 'What's happening now,' says author Bruce Katz, 'is workers want to be in Oakland and San Francisco.' So, how might Silicon Valley save itself? 'Silicon Valley is going to have to urbanize,' Katz said. '[There is a] migration out of Silicon Valley to places where people really want to live.'"
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How Silicon Valley's Tech Reign Will End

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  • by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @01:26PM (#44142881) Journal

    >And introverts don't necessarily love the bustle of the city.

    Have you been to silicon valley? There's plenty of bustle, just with worse traffic and no good restaurants.

  • and expensive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 29, 2013 @01:36PM (#44142921)

    Yes, it is incredibly boring, AND it is ridiculously expensive. It's not just a problem with "Silicon Valley" - tech money is slowly destroying the entire Bay Area, by destroying the ability of non-tech millionaires to live normal lives. It's starting in Berkeley. :-(

  • Oakland????!!?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 29, 2013 @01:38PM (#44142935)

    I work at a major silicon valley company, and haven't met a single person who wants to live in Oakland. No matter how "hip" it is, the violent crime rate is 4x that of San Jose (the largest suburban city in Silicon Valley).

    Source : http://best-cities.findthebest.com/compare/196-246/Oakland-vs-San-Jose

    Plenty of techies do live in SF and commute to Silicon Valley companies every day. But SF isn't a city you want to raise kids in - the only people I know with children in SF are either too poor to move, or so incredibly rich that they can send their kids to private schools.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 29, 2013 @01:42PM (#44142963)

    Cost of living.
    I'm telling you right now, after living outside the Bay Area for a few years.
    There is NOTHING Silicon Valley has to offer except nostalgia of its past.
    Today, we have zero land to develop on.

    The city I am from, Mountain View, is in constant process to build these god awful HOA town homes, stacked one on top of the other. you might think its a wonderful place to be, and surely the weather has everything going for it.

    But that's it.
    The glory days are gone.
    What is coming next is the city sprawl, you can count on it.

    My family came out here to grow orchards back in the early 1920's, mostly Apricots and Almonds.
    These are non existent today.

    You can find the same quality of living with just as much cultural activity in many other places across the US.
    And most importantly, the cost of living is far cheaper virtually everywhere else.
    Seriously.

    This place has become more of a status symbol for those who live and work out here than anything else.
    There is also a growing divide amongst the wealthy and the living paycheck to paycheck classes in the Bay Area as well.
    People are really wasting their money and time out here and they don't even know it.
    They're missing the point imho entirely.

    I'll be leaving again soon, this time I intend for good.
    I'll miss Santa Cruz and The coast line and hills more than anything else.
    But I know, there are plenty of those places left unspoiled all across the coast.

    just my 2 cents.

  • Try Austin (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HungryGhostTalks (2967935) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @01:46PM (#44142991)
    Austin is super cool and fun and way cheaper than SF or Oakland. Austin sort of has a unique mix of SF - Berkeley - Boston - Washington DC in one.
  • by dgatwood (11270) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @01:52PM (#44143019) Journal

    Inelegantly worded, and I wouldn't go quite that far, but I tend to agree with your dislike of the city life in general.

    Full disclosure: I live in the Silicon Valley.

    I can't imagine the allure of places like San Francisco. They're dirty, overcrowded, and getting around requires insane amounts of walking because you're never going to find a place to park and you're taking your life in your hands if you actually drive up there. Half the places you want to walk, you're constantly being hit up by people begging for money (despite an ever-increasing homeless services budget—homeless are drawn to SF by the availability of those services, so the more they spend, the more homeless they get; you can't solve homelessness one city at a time—it must be fixed at the national level—but I digress). There are drugged out people lying in the streets. There are drug deals going down on the corner, and prostitutes drumming up business. And for this, people pay more to rent a small apartment than I pay in space rent for an 1800 square foot mobile home. Seriously, what the f***?

    I know some people like the "hip" culture of bars and clubs in larger cities, but once those people get a few years older, the desire to go clubbing usually wears off, and they find themselves wanting to live somewhere safe and comfortable. Cities are not that sort of place. The young workers who still haven't figured that out can live in their San Francisco. That's the thing about the Silicon Valley: It's an easy commute from there. Companies that want to attract those young workers would do well to follow the lead of companies like Apple and Google, who provide buses down from the city, where workers can get work done while they commute.

    As for the companies that decide to move to San Francisco, it's only a matter of time before they figure out that they need a balance between the young workers and their older, wiser elders, most of whom don't want to move to a city, will be much less willing to commute than their younger counterparts, and will be much less able to commute on commute buses because they are spread over a larger geographical area. It's easy to set up commute buses from a highly populated area to your campus in the suburbs. It's much harder to set up commute buses from the suburbs to a company in the city.

    In short, the entire notion of this article is fundamentally founded in a false dichotomy and an incorrect assumption that everyone likes cities. Oh, and one final point: Anyone who says that "Workers want to be in Oakland" is probably holding on to real estate in that city that they can't sell because of Oakland having one of the highest violent crime rates of any city in this country. As far as I can tell, nobody wants to be in Oakland.... :-)

  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @01:52PM (#44143021)

    It's too f-ing expensive.

    Almost requires an IPO or your startup to be bought to buy a home in a decent location around here. I guess that's the benefit of telecommuting. You can live way down in Gilroy and VPN into your company located in Palo Alto without having to drive for 2 hours.

    "Starter homes" around here which I'd say is a 1500sq ft with almost no land 10ft from your side walls to your neighbors' and your house is 20ft from the back property line), costs $500k and up. Want to live in a district with good schools? Take that same 40 year old house and crank up the price to a cool million. Oh and you'll need to put in about $50-75k worth of upgrades to replace that cracking wood shingle roof, worn out carpets and pipes that have been moving hard water for 40 years. That's ok for the seller because they know someone will move in to put their kids into the top schools around here. Oh don't forget the $15k worth of property taxes each year and potentially $400/month in HOA fees.

    Housing prices are now higher than during the bubble, dot-com or housing bubble. It didn't help that all the sellers sat on their homes in the hopes that some Facebook millionaire would want to buy their house.

    I live in the silicon valley and can't wait for the day to sell my home and move to another part of the country and pay for a 3k sq ft home for $500k with an acre of land on a lake.

    Silicon Valley, like NYC but spread out and requires a car.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 29, 2013 @02:01PM (#44143081)

    The cost of living is insane out there. There are great engineers all over the world.

    What is going to kill Silicon Valley is their pathological need to have the "best and brightest", the "stars", and the "super geniuses" - all to make yet another social networking website or app or yet another push advertising app.

    When I see a tech entrepreneur whine and complain how she can't get enough qualified people - like JavaScript engineers - and claims that there are only 25 people in the World who can what she needs to be done in JavaScript, they're headed for a downfall.

    Silicon Valley lost its creativity and innovation. Many of the creative folks have gone back home - like back to India and left the Steve Jobs wannabees.

  • SF not that great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @02:01PM (#44143083) Homepage

    San Francisco is not as "fun" as it used to be. Higher rents drove the artists out a decade ago. SF has about 8,000 homeless people, out of a population of only 750,000. Most of the bookstores have closed. The nightclub scene is slowly being crushed by gentrification.

    The financial district is struggling to stay relevant. The big SF banks either tanked or merged with banks elsewhere.

  • Re:Try Austin (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @02:10PM (#44143135)

    I've heard good things about austin.

    problem is, its still inside texas.

    I would not be caught dead in texas. sorry. but texas is too ful of Teh Crazy. and once you wander out of austin, you are now in crazy land.

  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @02:22PM (#44143205)
    People in California seem to think that everyone else has this burning desire to live in California.
    We don't.
  • Not for me: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hartree (191324) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @02:24PM (#44143219)

    I'll take my small rural town in the Midwest.

    Cities are great for those who like them, but they seem an endless expanse of concrete canyons and people to me. (Yes, I've lived there.)

    Like many others, I suspect that it's the younger types that are more up for central city life. When they have a family, more opt for the burbs or even farther out in the rural to quasi rural areas. This isn't very surprising as their needs have changed.

    One item that's lacking here is good mass transit. For those who can afford cars, that's a cost or an inconvenience, but for the young or not so well off that can't, it sorta traps them here in a little burg of 1300.

    Strangely enough, mass transit used to be here in the early 1900s. There was an interurban electric train system that linked the small towns to the larger ones. (About 20 miles to each of the two in the area.)

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @03:09PM (#44143511)

    WTF? Where have you lived where your neighbors shunned you for not belonging to the "local church"? I've lived in several places around the country and have never seen that at all (TN, VA, AZ, MS), even though the places I've lived have not exactly been "forward thinking". In any town or city with a population greater than 300, there's multiple churches and people don't all go to the same church. In any normal city, tons of people don't go to church at all, and people just don't ask about it.

    Finally, where have you ever lived where you needed to be "accepted by your neighbors"? In all the different places I've lived (probably about 20 different addresses), it was very rare I knew my neighbors well or said much to them besides an occasional "hi". Americans are famous for not interacting with their neighbors.

  • by scribble73 (879745) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @03:10PM (#44143517)
    The points the author notices are effects; not causes.

    In the 1950s, San Jose and its suburbs adopted an urban growth strategy that was essentially no planning strategy at all. They minimized zoning and urban planning, assuming that giving developers the freedom to develop land without much oversight would somehow produce a quality urban environment as a side-effect.

    So San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Campbell, Mountain View and Cupertino spread out because developers opted to build where land was cheap. However, city streets were not extended in a sensible way. To run personal errands on Saturday, we had to start driving five miles (and through a dozen stoplights) just to find a grocery store. Three or four other errands could require fifteen to twenty miles. Add traffic and stoplights, and it could take you five hours or more, to run just three local errands.

    In addition, cities here allowed commercial property to mix a little too closely with residential property. This raised crime rates, lowered property values, and made everything ugly. No one planned for parks or shopping centers or other public amenities. When shopping centers were finally built, traffic patterns were ghastly. When planners were forced to route freeways through the area; they were routed where the land was cheap; not where they were really needed -- first they cut neighborhoods in half, and then in quarters. Parks were placed, twenty years late, where more land was cheap, or where well-to-do neighborhoods were still located.

    All this turned the valley into a happy little piece of Houston, Texas, only with worse freeways.

    The good things about Silicon Valley arose from areas that were planned: Stanford. Large Aerospace companies along Bayshore freeway. Aerospace died, but by then, silicon had taken the place of airplanes. Then silicon died. Today, we run on software and business momentum from the old days, but the momentum is formidable.

    ... the Valley is no longer egalitarian, the way it was in the 50s and 60s. We have a greater disparity between the rich and the poor than almost any city along the Pacific Coast, and the rich here still love Libertarian chaos... so, real estate prices are too high. Rents are too high. No parks. poor schools. Easily 7000 homeless just in San Jose. Tens of thousands of homes foreclosed over the last seven years. And even with Google Maps; local business are infernally hard to find and ugly when you get there.

    As bad as all this is, it won't ultimately kill the valley. I think lack of professional creativity and opportunity will finally kill us. Large companies here never did value what the Harvard Business School calls 'disruptive technology.' They do not hire creative problem solvers. Business startup costs used to be low: Today, they are through the roof, and getting higher. Venture Capital has ruled the roost since 1997 or so, they are getting stronger, and they do not value original ideas.

    Major companies here are all slowly dying (like they always have -- remember Fairchild Instruments, DEC and Atari?) -- the difference is; that it is much, much harder to start a new company here than it used to be -- and new companies are where the big companies come from when the old companies finally die.

    tt77
  • Ever lived there? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @03:25PM (#44143607)

    I have. It sucks. It's not actually a city, it's more like a long series of 80s era malls which have been reworked to house Trader Joes and suchlike.

    The grocery stores are like, C- grade, the place is sprawled out all over and the downtown, which is largely irrelevant to what's know as Silicon Valley- Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, is unremarkable , dull and smallish. The housing it of course through the roof in price while being only mediocre , find-it-anywhere 80s and 90s style apartments.

    The houses are just ordinary ranch houses albeit with 750k price tags. really, the whole place was better, just *better* before Fairchild Semi-conductor started it on the path that is now Silicon Valley.

    I was only too happy to get out of there. Nearly any place whose name you know, SF, Portland, Austin, etc has more to offer someone looking for something to do on a weekend never mind NY NY or Boston or San Diego or even Kansas City has more to offer young, single people ...

    Maybe it has great grade schools...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 29, 2013 @04:17PM (#44143841)

    "quite a lot of the US insists you belong to the local church and if you don't, you are never accepted by your neighbors."

    I think you have a personal narrative about reality that you enjoy, which has as a possible downside having no correspondence with actual reality.

  • by Alaska Jack (679307) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @06:44PM (#44144531) Journal

    Grishnakh -- HEAR HEAR HEAR!!

    Exactly the same reaction. WTF? Has this guy ever actually lived anywhere else, or is he just spewing out what he knows surely MUST be true?

    I've been all around the United States. It is possible that places like the ones he describe exist? Sure, I guess. Is it the norm, or even common?

    No. No it's not.

    lllll aj

  • Re: I can't wait! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday June 29, 2013 @11:35PM (#44145467) Homepage Journal
    While the group has been arounf for 35 years, it's different people every 5 or so. Whatever CEOs are riding the wave at the moment. They know that any mass transit that we start now is on a longer timeline than their exit strategy.
  • Re:and expensive (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dahamma (304068) on Sunday June 30, 2013 @03:02AM (#44146027)

    Yes, it is incredibly boring, AND it is ridiculously expensive.

    Expensive? Sometimes. Boring? Only if you are *complete* shut-in, in which case why are you complaining anyway!?

    In the past month I have gone to the beach in Santa Cruz (quirky fun) and Half Moon Bay (awesome - heard of Mavericks? - and relatively remote - dog loved it), hiked Big Basin (prehistoric redwood forest, better than Muir Woods IMO) and Skyline Ridge (hard to describe the views), eaten in some awesome Indian and Thai restaurants as well as great dim sum and sushi, and made dinner almost entirely from vegetables in my backyard (tomatoes, peppers, artichokes, green onions, and arugula in a salad and oranges, strawberries, plums, and olallieberries for dessert/snacks).

    Next month I'm planning on going up to Lake Tahoe (only a 3 hour drive in the summer - a bit more in the winter but also world class skiing) - but you could do Yosemite in the same drive time if you wanted. Have some friends coming in September, will probably go on a wine tour in Napa then.

    And you know what? Most of those things didn't even cost much money (having a backyard, maybe, but you can get the same stuff year round at all of the local farmers' markets).

    The "Silicon Valley Tech Reign" is not going to end any time soon. And why? Because in fact it IS fun to live in Silicon Valley. I moved out here from the midwest 20 years ago and have no interest in moving back - same can be said of every coworker of mine (I think maybe 1 of 20+ of them are from the Bay Area originally). It's the fucking Mediterranean climate with 6 figure starting engineering salaries. Yeah, I have to admit those not in the industry will have a harder time with the housing expenses - and that is a valid issue that needs to be addressed - but that's irrelevant to the "tech reign"...

"Neighbors!! We got neighbors! We ain't supposed to have any neighbors, and I just had to shoot one." -- Post Bros. Comics

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