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How Silicon Valley's Tech Reign Will End 395

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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  • 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. :-(

    • It looked like hell in 1991 when I visited from the UK. The highways must be just one big parking lot by now.

      • if I need to be at work at 9am, its hell.

        otoh, if I can be at work at 10.30, then its not nearly as bad as you say.

        if you are allowed flex hours, its quite liveable. if you work for a company that still thinks like they did 50 years ago, well, you better live close to work..

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tutufan ( 2857787 )
      I had a really good offer for a major Bay Area company a year ago, and after running the numbers, realized that (largely because I have kids) there's simply no way to afford it. Maybe if my wife was also a tech person, but she's not. Ended up taking a job in NYC, as it's considerably more affordable if you have kids...
  • The cost of living is insane out there. There are great engineers all over the world.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      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 c

      • by plopez ( 54068 )

        You're right, the wannbees will kill it. And the management leechs that live off of them.

      • I'm in the NYC area, and I see a lot of the same thing: a bunch of hoopla about the "Silicon Alley", a bunch of events for people to "network" at, and a lot of talk about VC funding for "great ideas", which are all just Yet Another Social Networking website or app or the like.

    • Re:Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @03:37PM (#44143659)

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

      Including other parts of the US. While SV is an amazing collection of talent (not everyone there, but enough) it's also one of the most provincial places I've ever seen. The idea that good talent can be found elsewhere in the country, at better prices no less, never seems to occur to anyone.

  • 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.

    • Re:Oakland????!!?? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot@nosPAM.hackish.org> on Saturday June 29, 2013 @01:57PM (#44143063)

      The parts of Oakland near the BART stations have undergone considerable gentrification over the past 10 years, and yeah, a lot of it is due to techies moving there. The area around West Oakland BART is nothing like it used to be, although some of that is also due to the area being less cut off since the demolition of the Cypress Street Viaduct. Uptown Oakland (near 19th st BART) is also pretty gentrified, again largely with tech workers.

    • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

      I guess it's an age thing. Kids would prefer to live on a farm. Adolescents and young people like the big cities. When they grow older and have children they move out to the suburbs.

  • I have to think there is something more going on then lack of entertainment. Furthermore, married couples tend to prefer suburban settings.

    Consider that the solution here is getting your engineers dates. If they marry then demographically they'll be inclined to stay and even avoid the city.

  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @01:41PM (#44142955)
    Past favorites include cost of living, housing prices, traffic, taxes, tech bust, tech boom, blah blah blah. Silicon Valley isn't going anywhere and neither are the vast majority of startups.
  • 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.

    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.

    • 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.

      Eh, what coast would that be? Here [outsideonline.com] is what Mt Everest looks like near the peak these days.

    • I'm a third gen native as well, now living elsewhere.

      First, regarding the article, it's obvious that it's objectively wrong about the idea that people don't want to live in the valley because house prices in the valley are absurdly high and climbing. The market has spoken and it has conclusively proven TFA to be incorrect.

      Second, regarding your comment...yeah, I largely agree. I miss a lot of things about the bay area, but whenever I go back it's sad to see what the place has become. I think new resident

  • by coolioisay ( 2567387 ) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @01:46PM (#44142987)
    So yes, there is a group of tech workers, frequently referred to as "hipsters" that want to live in the urban areas and do their hipster things. However, if you are a tech work with kids, which is actually the majority, you don't want to live in these crime-ridden, urine-scented, no-parking-available urban areas with bad school systems. The pattern I see is that one these hipsters get married and start popping out kids, they move to what people think of as the suburbs. But, they don't necessarily stop being tech workers. And I don't know why TFA says Mountain View isn't having a construction boom. I can count 2 new office buildings and 3 new housing complexes being constructed in its downtown area.
  • 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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      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 mishehu ( 712452 )
        I live in Austin and work in LA. Take your pick of poison... "Teh Crazy" as you put it, or "The People's Republic of California", if you will. I find Cali to be no less crazy than TX. It's just a question of how that crazy is expressed, kind of like your genes.
        • We on the East Coast know that every place west of the Mississippi is nuts. Of course that's also true of places east of the Mississippi, but that's another story.

      • I disagree, to me SF would be crazy land
        • No really, once you leave Austin, you really are in crazy land. Austin is like someone took a piece of California (from Northern California, given the weather) and plunked it down in the middle of Texas, pointed at it, and say "nyah nyah! that's your capitol now!" Because everywhere else is so hostile to people who are different, most of those people have converged on Austin for protection. Even other college towns (like College Station) are good places to get beaten up for wearing funny clothes, or what ha

      • by Hartree ( 191324 )

        Don't worry. It evens out. They may not want you there either. ;)

        I've lived in a fair number of places including Texas. In all of them, most of the people are fine. They may be different than you in some ways, but that's what diversity is all about.

        And, everywhere I've lived has had at least a sprinkling of assholes. It's not a function of the place so much as a function of there being humans in it.

      • by hwstar ( 35834 )

        I agree. California is much better:

        1. No noncompete contracts written on flypaper.
        2. Temperature and and humidity are lower in the summer.
        3. Sane limitations on invention agreements
        4. More people beleve in evolution instead of creationism.
        5. California has initiative and referendum. Texas doesn't.
        6. Even though Texas has no personal income tax, property taxes are twice as high as California's.

      • by fliptout ( 9217 )

        This kind of post proves that provincial people exist everywhere.

      • by plopez ( 54068 )

        Austin is a part of CA. As is Santa Fe, Boulder, Jackson, Laramie, Aspen, Bozeman, Sun Valley, and Steamboat. All Californicated or soon to be.

    • That is actually where I will be moving in the next few months. Any areas you could recommend to move to or stay out of? My job will be near the IBM plant. and Ive been looking at places in brushy creek.
    • Austin has it's good points, it's gained it's share of problems in recent years. Full disclosure - I've lived in Austin for over 5 years, many of my friends have been here for 10+. I'm looking to make a move back to one of the coasts in the next year or so.

      1.) There is the climate. As I type this, it's 106F (40C) right now. It could be worse. It hit ~114F last summer. There's an awful lot of blacktop and concrete out there that's just baking in it. Walking around outside and breathing feels a bit l

  • Some people like SF (Score:3, Informative)

    by eviljav ( 68734 ) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @01:49PM (#44143009)

    Some people like San Francisco.

    Others find it to be a crowded dirty place that smells like urine.

    Nobody wants to live 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.

  • 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.

  • Ever been to Shenzhen?

    • by plopez ( 54068 )

      As long as you don't mind getting lung cancer, lead poising, or oppressed by a brutal Communist regime; China is a GREAT place.

  • People in California seem to think that everyone else has this burning desire to live in California.
    We don't.
    • You can't beat coastal CA weather. NoCal is pretty good. SoCal is even better, 55-95 F temp range. 10 months a year it's 65-85 F. You live outside all year. Beaches are 5-25 min away. Mountains are 25-60 min away. I lived in a house with NO air conditioning. Just a ceiling fan and getting out to a movie or the pool in the afternoon during August. Coastal breezes cool it off after 5pm (rather than the heat rising until the sun goes down).

      It's a different way to live and if you've never experienced it befor

    • by router ( 28432 )

      Its really because we can't live anywhere else. I tried, failed. If you're from here, the rest of the country has seasons/bugs/religion/closedmindedness. If you grew up without those things, its really hard to live somewhere they are endemic. Look, if you grew up in the frozen wasteland, the weather _anywhere_ is great. If you're used to thunderstorms, you can handle hurricanes. Humidity is the same everywhere, and if you grew up with it, its no big deal. "Worshiped on Sunday, forgotten all week?" You know

  • 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 plopez ( 54068 ) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @02:31PM (#44143255) Journal

    Try, "can afford to live in silly valley". Six figures is minimum wage there. I interviewed for a job in Pittsburgh. The more I looked at it the more I liked it. I would've made more money and paid about $100k less for a good house in a decent neighborhood. In a city home to CMU, University of Pittsburgh, Biotech companies, and regional energy companies. And brew pubs.

    If you want a good standard of living, go east.

  • oh really? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @02:48PM (#44143351)

    I'm not sure this writer has been to silicon valley in the last 10 years. There are "walkable, urban" spaces all over the place. The problem is that they're crazy expensive.

    The valley is not full of the sleepy suburban areas from 30 years ago. There's a significant amount of high density housing, hip restaurants and bars. A lot of it looks like what you'd expect to see around a large college campus - cheaply built apartments with "interesting" architecture, gelato, coffee, smoke shops and international cuisine. The single family homes actually in the valley are not an option for anyone you might consider a "worker."

    The only still-suburban spaces are squeezed between the urbanizing centers in the valley and the two cities: San Francisco and San Jose. Talking about Oakland as an important city to Silicon Valley is... weird.

    I know there are several companies in Oakland, but it seems more like a separate, nearby community than part of Silicon Valley. San Jose is larger in population than both San Francisco and Oakland, but is far more spread out. San Francisco still dominates the local political landscape, but San Jose long ago took over the role of counterbalancing city to SF in regional policy and diversity - Oakland is just another set of SF neighborhoods now.

  • 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.

  • The tension created by "City vs. Suburbs" is strictly for the benefit of the story. Existing companies are opening new offices in urban areas but for the most part they aren't closing offices in the suburbs. Sure, new companies are often starting in cities but they will likely open suburban offices if they survive long enough. It's a healthy kind of diversification that will likely reach some sort of equilibrium over the next decade or two. Does that mean the stature of suburbs will decrease a bit while tha

  • 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...

    • 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.

      Anybody who complains that Si Valley is too suburban has not lived in Northern Virginia. The Peninsula and the corridor down to San Jose has lots of little cities with smallish but eclectic centers strung like pearls along El Camino, 101 and Caltrain. Compared to the Beltway's endless fields full of asphalt and cookie-cutter tracts, it's a walkable urban paradise.

  • A real city with real people that's doing cutting edge tech [inc.com] not just a bunch of expensive suburbs like the valley, Fantastic cheap place to be.

  • Last time I was there I saw a bum drop trou and shit on the sidewalk.
  • ... is like saying "because larger containers hold more water".
  • by AlexOsadzinski ( 221254 ) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @05:36PM (#44144235) Homepage

    I spent 21 years in the Valley, doing 4 startups and then 8 years in venture capital. It was great, and I couldn't have had the same opportunities anywhere else.

    But I got sick of it, and moved right at the end of 2011 (hint: don't have a moving truck drive across the US between Xmas and the end of the year...it freezes itself and all of your stuff) to North Carolina, in the Research Triangle Park area. The Bay Area's crowding, expense and divided society issues began to bug me more and more.

    So now I can compare the world's leading tech area with another tech area, way lower on the totem pole.

    The cost of living is much lower and the quality of life is much higher in NC for most people. Housing, at almost every level, is one sixth the price of the Bay Area. Average household incomes are about the same (yes, really, about the same....most people in the Valley aren't rich), but a regular family making $50k per year can afford a 2,000 sq ft house on a quarter of an acre in NC. Everything costs less in NC, e.g. my garbage is $16/month instead of $50, water is $21 instead of $100, sales taxes are about 3 points lower, so everything benefits from that, and gas/utilities/groceries are all noticeably lower. Healthcare is great in both places if you have good insurance. Public schools are, overall, better in NC. There are very good local colleges, and there are more PhDs per capita than anywhere else in the US. You don't have Stanford and Berkeley, of course, but you have Duke, UNC Chapel Hill and NC State; I'm really impressed with what comes out of those schools in terms of people and tech.

    The weather in NC sucks in July and August; I personally find it too hot and humid. But that's what A/C is for. The rest of the year you have seasons. The Valley has better weather.

    BUT BUT BUT.....nothing compares to Silicon Valley for the combination of vast amounts of (venture) capital, vast numbers of experienced tech people, including startup execs, a ton of tech startup infrastructure and a very fluid job market. The RTP area is chock full of startups, with more in the "we make stuff -- chips, materials, devices" category. Capital is much harder to find. There are good banks and lawyers and other services that startups need. Developers flood out of the local schools, but not all stay here. You can pay a developer much less than in the Valley, and (s)he can actually live on the salary (as you can rent a decent HOUSE for $1200, and buy a starter home for $130k).

    I've seen multiple attempts worldwide to duplicate Silicon Valley. If I had about $500B and 30 years (I'm a little short of the former, and hope to make the latter), I could replicate the Valley, maybe. But I doubt it. The Valley pioneers were amazing people; check out the documentaries on the subject. They had perfect timing. It's hard to see the same confluence of events happening again, at least in tech.

    • I've seen multiple attempts worldwide to duplicate Silicon Valley. If I had about $500B and 30 years (I'm a little short of the former, and hope to make the latter), I could replicate the Valley, maybe. But I doubt it. The Valley pioneers were amazing people; check out the documentaries on the subject. They had perfect timing. It's hard to see the same confluence of events happening again, at least in tech.

      Why SV is where it is is a perennial debate. Success has a thousand fathers and failure is an orphan. The Traitorous Eight that left Shockley Semiconductor Labs to start Fairchild Semi were an amazing group and the real genesis of SV, but why were they in SV in the first place? Because Shockley was there, of course, but why was Shockley there? Apparently because his aging mother lived there. That's it. Happenstance, which is an explanation that many don't like. No other explanation is convincing though.


  • by SoftwareArtist ( 1472499 ) on Saturday June 29, 2013 @06:06PM (#44144361)

    For all practical purposes, San Francisco is part of Silicon Valley. Sure, originally it meant a small cluster of towns in Santa Clara county, but today Silicon Valley really includes everything surrounding the southern arm of San Francisco Bay. There are lots of people who live in San Francisco and work in Palo Alto. You just can't divide it up any more.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.