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Google Plans Large New York City Expansion (wsj.com)
138 points by dcgudeman 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 381 comments

This coupled with the Amazon news is starting to get distressing. With the amount of companies that copycat them it’s like the rich are getting richer and the economic benefits are still going to be concentrated only in the most affluent cities. The rest of the country desperately needs real industry and good paying jobs - and will go to huge lengths to try to get them but it appears nobody can come up with a business plan. We’re truly heading for Elysium.

> The rest of the country desperately needs real industry and good paying jobs - and will go to huge lengths to try to get them

No they don't. Tax breaks aren't enough. One of the big reasons a lot of people really like NYC is that it's one of the few cities in the US that actually feels like a city. NYC is urbanist in a way that relatively few American cities are (and most of the other cities in this category are also big economic winners, like SF and Boston).

How many of those more conservative/cheaper US cities actually take walking/biking/transit over driving as a serious issue? Virtually none of them that I've seen, they put in token efforts at best; an unprotected bike lane here, a "technically counts as transit" bus stop there, but very little that really moves the needle or challenges the status quo.

Name one of these cities, and I'll show you how they're failing miserably on at least this front just by a quick look at Google Maps.

Define economic winner....you mean top line income and area GDP? These places are the most expensive places in the country to live, and quality of living is considerably lower. Incomes may be lower in many areas of the country, but when you consider you can pay $2k/mo on a 5,000 sq ft mortgage instead of renting a 900 sq ft apartment, I don't view these places as economically successful as many perceive them to be.

Yes, I mean by having lots of high-paying jobs. Speaking in the abstract, that means economic success. You're not wrong that high cost of living can often cancel much of that out at the individual level though.

> quality of living is considerably lower.

See my other nearby comment for why this is a "it depends" thing. A lot of people would consider living in Kansas City to have lower "quality of life" than NYC even if it's less crowded and it's much easier to afford a house.

Your comment itself illustrates the disconnect here: we have one side arguing that the other side is wrong in what they want, ala

"Why don't more techies want to come here?? This is ridiculous!"

"Well, because they want to live in places with X Y Z even if they're expensive and crowded."

"Well, they should care more about A B C instead (because I do)."

In my experience, your fundamental assumption about what "techies" want is at least partially flawed. Not that no one in tech wants bike Lanes, public transit, and authentic South Indian cuisine. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if a majority of people who work at FAANG consider these things important in their life. But there is still a large portion that truly don't care for all that. They live in the bay because if they can find an illegal $800/mo Airbnb they will make a lot of money, if they lose their job there is another close by, and that is where their close friends are. If there were an equal paying, less congested alternative to these tech hives, they would take it. This is, of course, generated from anecdotal evidence. Fundamentally, some people like true urbanism, and others just don't.

You are not wrong, but I'm not saying this is the sole factor in city attractiveness here. It's just one factor. Other things equal, I think it's easier to attract top talent to cities with halfway decent urbanism than to cities that are more like giant suburbs.

I focused on it in my original comment mostly just because it's an area I'm particularly familiar with, and it's an area where the cities that are supposedly "desperate" are hardly doing anything at all. (Not that I blame the local governments for that, really, I realize the local residents mostly want their cities to stay that way)

> You are not wrong, but I'm not saying this is the sole factor in city attractiveness here. It's just one factor. Other things equal, I think it's easier to attract top talent to cities with halfway decent urbanism than to cities that are more like giant suburbs.

I wonder if the real situation is that it's easier to attract young "top talent to cities with halfway decent urbanism than to cities that are more like giant suburbs." That's also tends to be kind of talent that's willing to work way more than is really good for them. The suburban lifestyle is more suited for established families and older "top talent."

Of course, there are also suburbs of major metros. Lots of people commute into Manhattan from Westchester every day. And, traditionally, most of the tech jobs in "Boston" were actually out in fairly far-flung suburbs and many still are (with the notable exception exception of biotech in Cambridge and the satellite offices of SV firms).

But you're absolutely right that a lot of new college grads want to live in the city and maybe not even buy a car.

The majority of the established workers already own houses in the suburbs, exurban areas, and even NH. For many of them, a location that's actually in the city is a bug, not a feature.

People who with more settled lifestyles are often already settled, though. So even if you wanted them, you don't have as much access.

> older "top talent."

Older top talent often has the resources to actually buy houses even in expensive areas, anyway.

> Older top talent often has the resources to actually buy houses even in expensive areas, anyway.

Maybe at the toppest-top, but it's a struggle for anyone with even a high normal-range income to buy a home in the Bay Area.

This means they are underpaid ( which I am pretty sure quite a few people in tech are ):

- LIC Queens high rises have 2/2 rentals that go for $17k/mo. ~ 1200sq feet. High floors. Ok views. Ok buildings. - In Manhattan those are $22k-$30k/mo in newer buildings and $15-20k/mo in older hifg rises.

They aren't full of tech bros. They are full of finance and attorney bros. I have an acquaintance that lives in one. He is one of the portfolio managers for one of the hedge funds. He is a salary only manager. By the standards of NYC apartments qualification, it means his take home after taxes has to be at around 65k/mo as proven by his tax returns for last two years.

I suppose I forgot to state my original point. Let's hold all else equal, and look at the labor pool divided into two categories, urbanism and ruralism. Suburbs lie on the ruralism side for this comparison. The labor pool is of course not evenly divided in terms of preference, say maybe 3/4 of protential Google employees prefer urbanism. If a given employee prefers urbanism, and lives in one of the cities mentioned above (NYC, Yay Area, Boston), their resulting employee satisfaction (what the company cares about in this scenario) is improved. However, if a given employee prefers ruralism, their resulting employee satisfaction is worsened. Vice versa for a more suburban, smaller city.

Of course there is some cost to not collocating employees. Google has decided new offices are worth this cost, and thus Google can decide to allocate building/location resources based on employee preference alone (let's assume the other factors are somehwat insignificant, which could be valid taking into account the high proportion of labor cost).

If every additional dollar spent on a given location buys the same amount of office space and equipment in both the urban and suburban areas, then it would make sense to divide the budget for offices according to the proportions of the labor pool preferences. Now of course, a dollar in SF buys a lot less office space than a dollar in Lexington, so that should be a accounted for in budgeting decisions, as well as overhead costs involved in opening a new location.

If we look at Google's actions under this framework, it doesn't make much sense for Google to devote as much of their office budget to highly urban areas as they do, unless the proportion of current and potential employees that prefer ruralism is very low. I would find that difficult to believe. Of course there are other factors to consider, but the trend is what I mean to highlight.

That being said, the true proportion would have to be discovered, and company culture may not allow people to express their true desires. This would apply to many tech giants.

* You also have to factor in that people with suburban preferences are going to be less likely to be willing to move. It's a less accessible demographic.

* The nature of "suburbs" is that they don't scale well. They're not meant to, suburbs are supposed to be the thing on the outside, not the thing everyone comes to. And while costs may be lower in some ways, they may be higher in others: like how Google has to run its own fleet of shuttles to go to Mountain View, because transit is inadequate. They don't do that in NYC.

* Google has a cultural preference for being environmentally friendly. Suburban style living and working is more energy intensive and less environmentally friendly than its urban counterpart.

* There's a large contingent of people that are united in their support for companies like Google to open an office in a more suburban city, somewhere, but I suspect that if you actually tried to pick a particular city, suddenly that support would fracture into a million pieces.

I have lived in West Michigan (Insanely Cheap), Kansas City (Kinda Cheap), and Seattle (Pretty Expensive).

Thing is, renting a 900 sq foot apartment in any reasonably urban area has gotten pretty expensive anywhere. It was about 1000-1500$ in KC when I left. It's about 1600-2200 in Seattle. My salary jump from KC to Seattle more than makes up for the difference in rent. Other things may be slightly more expensive, but I don't really notice.

Major difference is you can buy a house in Kansas City, but even that is starting to get expensive - at least in the areas that I would like to buy a house in. Even Grand Rapids, Michigan is having its own housing crisis. At least the salaries are already high in coastal towns. That said, I sometimes feel like I was saving up enough money to buy a house back in the midwest.

Ultimately affordable housing isn't a factor of price as such. There have always been very expensive parts of town. It is how abruptly the city ends. Once these smaller cities get expensive there it nowhere to go, the rest is suburb. 10 000 new people in NYC is almost a rounding error, while even 1000 people in a smaller city (with a small core) could be significant.

This is also what San Francisco suffers from. It goes from city to essentially suburb extremely quick. While cities like New York, Paris and Tokyo just go on and on. Of course we only talk about those examples because they have developed that way over decades.

>There have always been very expensive parts of town.

Historically, yes. But I'd argue that there are a lot of US cities that got pretty hollowed out by white flight and other factors to the degree that there were essentially no desirable parts of town. What's happened is that any number of those cities now have a revitalized urban core (however small) and living in that small core with the dozen or so restaurants you can walk to, maybe some small markets, new condos, etc. is pricey.

I've either worked in or spend a fair bit of time in a few of those places. The few dozen square blocks on gentrified core is pretty nice as a visitor but it's pretty small.

Yeah, Grand Rapids is getting more and more expensive - currently I'm paying $875/mo for ~700sqft, 1br.

> "Well, they should care more about A B C instead (because I do)."

I'm guilty of this, but I think your formulation is a straw man. All I want to tell people is that they shouldn't reflexively rule out the middle of the country, because a lot of people really would be happier there. Not everybody, but some people.

And the way (some people on) the coasts talk about the Midwest and the South is as though they're a complete and total non-starter that's out of consideration entirely. "Yeah, New York's expensive, but what am I going to do? Live in Cleveland? Obviously I can't do that!"

I think that kind of talk convinces a lot of people who would be happier somewhere else that they shouldn't even bother looking into those places. And that's a tragedy of human flourishing.

Edit to respond to one comment below:

> I think you're dismissing people's issues too easily.

On the contrary, I think you're inordinately focused on your own particular (and somewhat eccentric) issues. Most Americans prefer car ownership. You might think they're wrong to prefer this. I do, too! But, "I don't want to live somewhere where I have to own a car" isn't a mainstream American opinion.

I grew up in Michigan and moved to greater NYC after grad school, and I want to push back a bit against the idea that nobody on the coasts even considers the middle of the country.

My spouse and I would love to move somewhere less expensive than NYC, but we just can't make it work. We're both in fairly specialized tech fields, and prioritize walkability, diversity, great schools and career growth opportunity. Outside of say Chicago, it's hard to come up with a place that checks those boxes.

It would be pointless to try to speak to your particular situation, but I think a lot of people who think they can't get this or that thing out of, say, Nashville or Minneapolis, or whatever, are wrong. I don't mean to say their opinion is wrong. Live wherever you want! I mean to say that they have objectively false impressions about quantifiable aspects of those cities.

> I think a lot of people who think they can't get this or that thing out of, say, Nashville or Minneapolis, or whatever, are wrong.

If a person values a thing, saying, "well [thing] exists in these other cities too, there's just a whole lot less of it there" is maybe not a super effective counterpoint.

Like, I realize that basically every major city in the US does have public transit...technically. But pointing out that out is not useful when for most of those cities, said transit is slow, unreliable, sparse, and infrequent.

I don't just want transit. I want good transit. I don't just want walkability in a few isolated neighborhoods. I want widespread walkability.

Minneapolis does have a growing tech field, and it is laid out in such a way that you can get out into the country quite quickly after the work day.

However, unless your working in medical devices I wouldn't call it a hub like New York, Boston or the valley.

I don't think that is generally people's concern. What people in bigger cities would want from smaller cities are things that are significantly better to offset the lesser verity and upside. If you to a large degree still have to deal with commuting, the housing market, education and health care (or whatever) it doesn't really do that. If these cities want to be competitive they have be attractive in their own right, not relative to a bigger city.

I think you're dismissing people's issues too easily. I've lived in Alabama before, and heeellll no I wouldn't want to settle down there. This isn't the only problem I had with the area (I lived in several different parts), but it felt super, super hostile to not-driving. And I should know, I had to bike around a lot as a mormon missionary there. We didn't even bother checking transit, it was taken as a given that it would be too slow and sparse to be useful.

My wife is even harder on this line than I am. We live in Munich now, and the biggest reason she doesn't want to come back to the US is that she doesn't want to go back to driving everywhere, and there are only a few cities where a family can reasonably and easily get away without a car.

No, I'm not.

Firstly, I recognize this is just one factor. I focused on it because it's one I'm highly familiar with, not because it's the end-all be-all. I've already pointed this out in multiple comments. We could also talk about educational opportunities or tolerance/discrimination, but those things either aren't as clear cut or would be more contentious to discuss.

Americans saying they prefer cars when you ask makes sense when you consider the other options are usually hilariously bad wherever they live, and where they've lived in the past, too. Give them an option where walking and biking and transit actually work, and suddenly many people find those options desirable. Just look at how many American tourists say they love the transit system in, say, Tokyo, when they visit. Americans mostly "love cars" because they've been given no other serious options.

Lastly, while many people may not think of it in explicit terms, they may nonetheless enjoy some of the knock-on effects of urbanism, like a city "feeling more lively".

People prefer car ownership because car manufactures lobbied for laws that shaped most modern american cities around the car. However, New York is so dense that getting around without owning a car is the norm.

Car ownership is a multi thousand dollar expense, every year. Many people would be happier with that cash in their pocket.

It appears that you assume more sq. ft. implies higher quality of life. Are you aware of any studies that indicate that's true? I would think that most New Yorkers would consider the traffic mess in a place like Dallas to be an indication of a lower quality of life. I believe there are studies that indicate this is true.

It's not easy to imagine what other people place value on. I like peace and quiet, so suburban living suits me. Others value nice restaurants, good weather, close skiing, professional sports, access to first class health care, good jobs, inexpensive housing, low crime, etc. How can we judge the desirability of different cities with such different styles?

It seems there is exactly one reliable way to make this assessment. Look at where people move to. The large cities with the most rapid growth are (from Forbes 2018 list[1]):

1) Boise, ID

2) Seatle-Bellevue-Everett, WA

3) Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX

4) Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL

5) Fort Worth-Arlington, TX

6) Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV

7) Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN

8) Austin-Round Rock, TX

9) Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL

10) Tacoma-Lakewood, WA

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/samanthasharf/2018/02/28/full-l...

> It seems there is exactly one reliable way to make this assessment. Look at where people move to.

Not necessarily. Many cities strictly limit how much housing they have, such that there is a hard limit on the number of people who could feasibly live there. SF is a good example of this, since it's also small and geographically constrained. Saying "well, the net increase in people was small, so therefore it must be that not so many people want to live there" is not necessarily true if physically the city cannot accommodate many more people due to regulations.

Looking at where people move to is useful, yes, but high housing prices are themselves often a marker of desirability, particularly in supply-constrained markets.

I lived in other "cities" in the US: Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC.

Here’s why people who can end up electing to live in a place like NYC and here's why the NYC is the economic winner.

I pay $3400/mo for 2400 3bd 2bath two floor apartment with a private backyard ( mine ). If I had a car, I could have parked in in a back - I don't because I have 27 zip cars available within a five minute walk. I also have Maven, Cars2Go and Enterprise -- I have an account with Maven because it is free and I only need to pay for usage of cars.

My commute to work is ~35 minutes door to door - which includes walking and a subway. When the L goes down for two years, I will have J and M and my commute at most will increase by 45 minutes. It won't affect me as I will just adjust my hours to avoid the rush hour shitshow caused by the stupidity of MTA and NYC politicians. Employers of NYC know about it and based on my informal polling seem to be willing to accommodate those who would be affected. I have an unlimited monthly metrocard which gives me all the needed access for about $130.

I have 3 super markets within a 10 minute walk, 1 CVS/1 Wallgreens/1 Rite Aid. I rarely have to use Uber, but if I do, it takes ~4 minutes for me to get one where I live. If I needed a doctor or a dentist, there are dozens within 15 minute walk. There are walkin medical centers, including the ones that are open 24x7 within a 20 minute walk. If I needed a proper hospital with ER, it can be accessed in about ~15 min. And some of the best hospitals in the country are at most with crazy traffic over Williamsburg bridge or Queens Midtown tunnel are ~45 minutes away.

If I feel like getting the biggest variety of produce or proteins or wine for cooking or entertaining, I have access to all suppliers in Chinatown, Koreatown, farmers markets (Union Sq farmers market makes other farmers market look like a stale 2 week old french fry), butchers and Hunts Point Terminal ( in addition to ethnic grocery stores and ethnic markets). All of them are accessible by the subway. Most of them deliver. Same day. Well. not Huntspoint but that’s where I can get whole wild caught King Salmon for $9/lb -- the same price that a distributor that sells to a distributor that sells to the vendor who sells to your supermarket for $22/lb pays. Except that I get it 7 days earlier and $13/lb cheaper. You get the idea.

Depending on how much time I want to spend "commuting" (subway ~ 45min max ) I have somewhere between 3 ( walk of of the door ) to 20 ( ten minute on L, J/M (per train/per direction, not total) to 50 (fifteen minutes) to > 400 (35 minutes) coffee shops/bars/restaurants/lounges/nightclubs. This includes the best restaurants in the country that a person who does not live in NYC needs a 3 months in advance to get a reservation at -- I can stroll into them and get a table in an hour worst case scenario simply because I'm out enough which means I run into people who work in or own those restaurants socially. I’m doing it this weekend - wife’s birthday so we are hitting four hottest places in 4 days, three of which are “not reservable until some time in January”. I made calls yesterday -- happen to meet one of the chefs at a party, the other was sitting next to me in a little bistro where a photographer friend of mine works during the day ( he introduced us ) and two others are industry regulars so I know them from the other places they used to work at.

It also includes hole in a wall places that prove access to all kind of ethnic food ( I live in a PR/Dominican neighborhood which borders Polish/Eastern European and African-American neighborhood) really cheap - $20 would feed a family of 4 for at least 2 days. If for some reason I’m itching so socialize with 20 year olds, I can replace my Italian off the runway jacket that my wife picked up on her way home for $200 (it just has a cut on the inside label to indicate it is 'damaged' and does not need to be taken out of the country to avoid taxes) for a $65 vintage blazer from 1995 and be surrounded by the smash the patriarchy hipster girls that voted for Ocasio-Cortez who decide that I must be a socialist professor that they absolutely must fuck either today or tomorrow.

Within a five minute walk from where I live there are 12 bodegas. Of those 7 now carry the same organic blah/blah staples that one has to get at Whole Foods outside NYC. Those staples are priced the same or slightly less than at Whole Foods. And no, I'm not talking about the new, upscale small marts. I'm talking about bodegas that service local population -- bodega cats included.

I do not do "theatre" but if I did, Broadway is 1h away door to door, using subway only. Off-broadway that happens every single day is between 10 minutes to 1 hour away using a subway.

Galleries/Museums/exhibits are at most 1 hour subway ride away (those are the ones that plonk themselves at the MET or Whitney). The edgier stuff is much closer -- 15 minutes away. Some punkish looking characters have just opened what they think will be a gallery two blocks away (~3 min walk ) -- it will probably flop in about a year for for that year it will be a fun and interesting space. Within a couple of months (at most) after they flop someone else will do something with that space.

My biggest dilemma with my wife in the evenings or weekends when we want to do something is just exactly what do we want to do because there are so many options. If I decided that I was going to go out every night and was to pick a random 5 block area somewhere between where I live and where I work and never went to the same place twice, then by the time I finished with every place I would probably need to do it again because some of those places would already be different.

My wife is a somewhat of a fitness bunny and woo-woo conneserus. She can find something to do to feed her habits every day, also accessible by the subway be that yet another pilates studio -- no, not the ones that do mat pilates but the ones that have cadillacs -- or spend her lunch break on a bike at the Peloton studio -- the one that is streamed to the middle of nowhere Kansas ( and she paid nothing for that because the lunch classes were free when she was into that specific form of exercise ) or aerial yoga or meditation or whatever else happens to show up on class pass. Not dozens places. Hundreds. She gets it all for $125/mo that she pays for the class pass.

I have done the calculations -- our lifestyle costs us less than what my wife’s brothers lifestyle costs him living in Ambler, PA -- a cute little town about 1 hour away from Philadelphia. Not only he makes less money and has less things that he can do, he spends more money doing it -- mostly because the town is small which means that pretty much everything that he can do requires him driving somewhere, which costs money and takes an enormous amount of time. And since there are fewer people around him, everything costs more.

The only place in the US where at least one can get everything he or she can get in NYC is the greater Los Angeles, which of course requires driving everywhere which, in turn, makes so many spontaneous ideas impossible.

This is why people want to live in NYC. It is my second stint here. I used to live here when I was much younger. I thought there's no way I would want this in my thirties because there won't be anything that would interest me in this city -- I was wrong. The older I get the more I appreciate that a city like NYC with the population density provides the most bang for one's buck regardless of what one wants. Twenty years from now I'm probably going to buy a condo so I won't have to do any maintenance and still have everything at my fingertips without needing to drive anywhere. I cannot wait until NYC NIMBY get smashed ( we are finally starting ) so Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens start getting high rises which are needed to push those boroughs into the modern age.

P.S. I'm 44. I used to live here when I was single and in my early twenties. I moved back here in late thirties.

P.P.S. Love the downvotes. It is like a badge of honor.

You've stated my feelings on the matter perfectly.

> $3400/mo for 2400 3bd 2bath two floor apartment with a private backyard

though I prefer single floor condos more, and don't want to pay that much in rent. But, that's 20 years too early to be talking about it.


I stay in Boston right now, and Charles bordering Boston-Cambridge neighborhoods are similar to how you describe NYC living, just on a smaller scale.

Sounds awesome. If I was single and 25 I'd be all for it. Being 38, married with 3 kids means my lifestyle preferences are a little different.

Married people with 3 kids and suburban preferences mostly do not want to move to begin with. That's why targeting this demographic is usually going to be less effective if you're trying to concentrate a large number of workers in one area.

Yeah, not sure how Google can recruit folks in this category unless they allow full-time remotes.

This is an excellent effortpost. Thank you.

People don't want 5000 sq ft anymore. I looked at suburban houses as an option and was thinking I hope I never have enough crap to fill this much space. I think I can comfortably fit my family of 4 in 1200 sq ft indefinitely and never own a car.

> People don't want 5000 sq ft anymore. I looked at suburban houses as an option and was thinking I hope I never have enough crap to fill this much space. I think I can comfortably fit my family of 4 in 1200 sq ft indefinitely and never own a car.

That's an incredibly broad overstatement. There are plenty of people, including "techies," who still want a suburban home with a car.

There's a lot of talk in this thread that assumes that tech workers all want to live a minimalist lifestyle in a dense urban area (or even worse: that they should want to live that way). That's frankly false. I assume what's really going on is that people are projecting their parochial preferences onto a large group that's much more diverse than they understand.

Yes, I'm generalizing but it's definitely a trend. The schools in my city used to fight for attendance and now they fight crowding and the PTA rates in 7 figures. Families are staying in the city more than ever.

Do you have kids yet? Genuinely curious.

I have a kid and our current duplex (150 sq m, I think) is basically the perfect size for our family of 3. Maybe even a little too big, honestly.

1200 sqft is plenty of room for a 4 person family.

I mostly grew up in the city, in a small apartment, but for a while we did live in the Midwest, in a big house. The only problem with apartment living was that we had too much furniture we didn’t need from when we lived in the Midwest.

> 1200 sqft is plenty of room for a 4 person family.

That's a projection of your subjective preference.

1200 sqft is not enough space for just me, that's my subjective preference. I currently occupy a home by myself with about ~2,500 sqft. I don't utilize all the space regularly. My bills would not go down by much if I reduced that space to, say, 1,500 sqft. Housing where I live is spectacularly affordable. I consider not having to live in a tiny, cramped space to be a quality of life benefit. I enjoy that my kitchen is the size of a small studio in San Francisco or NY, and it costs me perhaps $120 per month as a share of my mortgage.

I’m sure that people richer than me can’t imagine living the way I do. I’m trying to point out that if you’re in the upper middle or upper class, your standard of living isn’t applicable to everyone else. I’m trying to point out that there exist a large number of people who are ok with the living conditions you see as unacceptable, not prove that no one wants a big home.

The average American home was around 1500 feet 30-40 years ago and people raised families in them just fine. Instead of 4br 400sq ft each with en suite bathrooms, you had 120sq ft bedrooms for kids. It wasn't until the excesses of the mid 2000's that 3-4k sq ft homes became somewhat common, and outside the realm of mansions. Now the trend for home size is decreasing.

Different strokes for different folks, I suppose. Once we had our kid, I couldn't wait to get out of our 850 sq ft. house. (which also had an 850 sq ft basement for laundry and storage)

I occassionally work from home, and I need a seperate office with a door to do that. Also, I just like having some space to get away from the rest of the family for a while.

Like you, it's what I'm used to from when I grew up, so that probably plays a big part in my preference.

Yes. Two. We live in <1000 sq ft right now and they don't mind at all.

I have 2 kids and a 1200 sqft house. It’s a good size for many 4-person families

exactly, I don't even have kids but I thought this too. If you have kids or pets, I want a lot of space for them to play and for me to play with them

I grew up, 6 people (With frequent guests) in a ~800 sqft house.

Something like ~2500 sqft. sounds amazing to me, as long as it is all on one floor.

NYC literally has an app where anyone can press a button if they're standing somewhere where they feel like a tree should be planted, and if you press the button a couple hours later a group of guys will show up and start digging a hole and plant the tree. For all of its problems, it's the only city that works at least somewhat like a city should.

That's kind of a twee, brooklyn-artisinal-pickle example, but the greater point is true: having lived in a number of big cities around the US (including San Francisco), New York is simply functional in a unique way for a US city. Even San Francisco is a backwater by comparison.

For example: I was issued a ticket in SF for moving (and I hired professionals to do it). That kind of crap simply doesn't happen in New York, but it happened routinely in SF.

> That's kind of a twee, brooklyn-artisinal-pickle example

I'd actually argue that the quality of street / park trees is the best way to judge how competently a city has been run over time. When a city has lots of healthy older trees, that means not a single administration has dropped the ball in over 200 years or whatever. If look around NYC there are thousands of mature American elm trees everywhere, but not in any of the surrounding suburbs. Why? Because NYC parks department actually takes care of the trees when they're sick and removes them if they can't be saved, whereas all of the surrounding tri-state towns just let them infect the surrounding trees and then die.

Now maybe the fact that Robert Moses's favorite tree was the sycamore should have been a hint to everyone that some of his other policies may have been suspect, but that's a different issue.

Sure, yes. But the tree-planting-app thing is still twee.

This sounds awesome! Do you know what the app is called?

You greatly over-estimate how much those things influences people's decisions. People move for jobs. SF is pretty much the poster child for a terrible place to live (transit clusterfuck, aggressive homeless, high rents, no hope of owning property for most, increasing crime) that people keep moving to for the economic opportunity (good jobs).

Personally, I think SF is a great place to live. It has great weather, lots going on, decent public transportation, lots of tech, and more open mindedness about how people want to live their lives. Other than issues that are pretty much inherent to living in a city (less access to large grocery stores, inability to setup a workshop in my home) the only big complaints I can think of are the cost of living, aggressive homeless people, and how crazy the DMV is.

> SF is pretty much the poster child for a terrible place to live

That depends on what you value.

* SF's transit, while indeed bad, is still superior to all but a handful of other US cities.

* Similarly, SF is top tier for walkability and bikeability.

* SF has more cultural and ethnic diversity than most cities, especially since it's the principal city of a metro with a ton of immigration.

* SF has a LOT of interesting stuff that goes on (partially as a result of the previous point). Concerts and walks and other cultural events.

* Also as a result of the diversity, SF's food scene is really excellent.

* I'm not personally much of a fan, but a lot of people actually like SF's weather.

* SF is very left wing, and a lot of people in tech like that. Not everyone, but a lot of people.

The things you listed as problems largely are real problems of course, but there's a reason so many techies still choose to live in SF even if they work in Mountain View, and that's something your theory here doesn't explain: why not live in the closer, somewhat cheaper, and less crime/homeless-filled South Bay?

Your list of problems just reveals your own preferences: you prefer the advantages of the suburbs to the advantages of the city. Nothing wrong with that, but not everyone shares your preferences.

> How many of those more conservative/cheaper US cities actually take walking/biking/transit over driving as a serious issue?

Do you really think NYC is a good example of this? I found the car traffic horrific, cycling is variable at best and downright dangerous at worst. The subway is pretty amazing but massively under-invested.

Even most UK cities which have longer levels of history restricting what can be done for cyclists are better than NYC.

NYC certainly isn't perfect, but there's been significant investment in bike infrastructure (and the expansion of citibike) and is quickly improving. Anecdotally, I find I have to plan my trips a little bit, but can get from my apartment in Queens to most places in Manhattan without leaving a protected bike lane for more than 2-3 blocks

> How many of those more conservative/cheaper US cities actually take walking/biking/transit over driving as a serious issue?

I often wonder about why relatively conservative /cheap/low-density/car-bound are so correlated.

Are there significant counter-examples, in the US or elsewhere, where, for example, a more conservative area is higher density or urban, compared to it's more progressive surroundings?

If those situations are very rare, then why? Is it strictly historical, or does relatively higher density, and more frequent interactions that result, change many people's perceptions.

So, I just got back from a week-long vacation to NYC, and it's reinforced what I've always felt about it: NYC is a wonderful place to visit, but I'd never want to live there.

I had a lot of fun, and I wish I could've stayed another week, but actually living and working there? No thank you. I actively do not want to fight through crowds and run to catch connecting trains just to get to and from work every day. I don't want to live in a tiny apartment with no cooling but a room air conditioner sticking out the window. I don't want to be surrounded by noise 24/7.

Trust me, for every person who wants to live in NYC because it's actually a city, there's at least one person like me who only wants to set foot in cities to play tourist and would rather live and work in the suburbs.

And I'd rather live in modern suburbs at that... in NYC suburbs like Westchester (where I stayed during my trip), the housing stock is so old that even a nice place will be a fixer-upper, and the street layout is horrendously bad because nothing was planned in advance. I strongly prefer living in southwestern suburbs where nothing is older than the late '70s, half the neighborhoods were built in the 21st century, and the suburbs are built around a one-mile grid of six-lane divided highways (e.g. Dallas, Vegas, Phoenix).

The great thing about NYC (and a thing that is lost on most people visiting the city, including myself before I moved here), is how many options you have for your living situation.

Want the crowds, the city life and the noise? Live downtown. Old-school New York? The upper west side. Brownstones on quiet, beautiful streets? Any number of Brooklyn neighborhoods. A quaint New England-y fishing village? City Island. Conservative-leaning, leafy suburbs? Staten Island. The ethnic enclave of your choice? Peppered throughout the city. Cheapo cool kid artist communities? Bushwick/Ridgewood. Want to own a boat and live on the water? The Rockaways. The list goes on and on, and that's not even touching Jersey, Westchester or Long Island.

The beauty of the city is that all of these places are unquestionably, culturally 'New York'. They're also, for the most part, quite well connected to the city core on affordable public transit, and in many cases quite affordable by big American city standards.

If you want a suburban life in NYC you simply move to Queens or the part of Brooklyn that is closer to Queens.

Chicago. In the midwest and has the best urban core in the North America outside of New York.

> One of the big reasons a lot of people really like NYC is that it's one of the few cities in the US that actually feels like a city.

I think you’re conflating current cultural preference with actual economic ability. Where do towns like Palo Alto, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale fit into this?


Ooh, that's a good choice. Philly isn't more conservative, but it is cheaper and I'm given to understand it's one of the more urbanist cities in the US (probably because of its age). I'm sure I can still find some things, though.

* Very few miles of protected bike lanes, although at least things are looking up there for the future: https://bicyclecoalition.org/our-campaigns/30-miles-of-prote... (although the fact that 30 miles is celebrated as some big achievement is itself telling)

* Two subway lines is better than most US cities, but still not very many for a metro of this size. Munich has a comparable metro population and has 8 subway lines, for example, not to mention several separated-grade commuter/rapid transit lines that go way out into the burbs. Looks like high quality, rapid transit is still close by for only a small percentage of Philadelphians. It also sounds like the regional rail system is in disrepair.

* Looking at the zoning map, it looks like implementation of mixed use zoning is much better than most US cities, but still very limited in many neighborhoods, which limits walkability: https://openmaps.phila.gov/

* Also from the zoning map, many areas are still zoned just for single-family homes, which limits walkability/bikeability (and also encourages economic segregation, to boot).

Philly's level of urbanism should really be like the bare minimum for US cities, but in reality it's close to the top, I think.

I just moved back to Philadelphia. After stints in Boston, New York, and Seattle. I have a completely different perspective than when I first left.

A lot of the homes are single family, or row homes. This results in swaths of a residential feel in a city. Even the hot Fishtown felt very rural to me after my stint in New York. Although I appreciate the quite. Looking at the history Philadelphia started with the idea of brownstones/row homes instead of apartment buildings. To give people more space. But this does result in sparseness of shops. A lot of the multi tenant buildings are either new constructions or converted warehouses.

The two subways is always a point of contention. But I don't find it that big of a deal. Living near either Broad or MFL, I can get around very easily. The city is also extremely walk able, a majority of the people I knew just walk. It's under two miles river to river. If not that there are a number of buses. http://skookul.com/ <| For real time public transit.

I can't speak regional rail. But when I left ~15, commuting from Delaware was a shit show.

In the city bike lanes I don't think is the best. But the river trail along the west side is well used. I know a number of people up in outer Manayunk bike in. https://schuylkillrivertrail.com/

Having just taken a history walking tour. How the city feels makes alot of sense. It's meant to feel like a number of connected neighborhoods. I still think it deserves a second look for tech companies. With all the universities and good start to transit. It's ripe for an investment outside of Comcast.

Philadelphia is Brooklyn for people who cannot even cut it in Brooklyn.

Yeah, gotta admit here, Philly has done a good job. The public transit is good. I live an hour outside Philly, and taking the train in is a real option here because the trains are good and getting around once in city has never been an issue. Couple that with easy access to NYC itself, and it's even nicer. It's not perfect, but then neither is NYC.

I dunno, I love Philly, but “good” isn’t exactly the word I’d pick to describe SEPTA.

JW, do you use a lot of other public trans? It's easy to be impacted by an issue and think that SEPTA is incompetent, forgetting that public transit is hard and not realizing how bad other people are doing. After all, Septa isn't famous for catching on fire all the time[0][1].

0 - https://twitter.com/ismetroonfire?lang 1 - https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/washington-d-c-s-metro-...

So why do you think great is the exact word you use to describe SEPTA?


I wouldn't consider Portland to be a cheaper or more conservative US city, and it's still one of the better US cities at urbanism, sad as that is, but okay.

* The MAX has decent reach, but it's severely handicapped in capacity and speed by running at-grade. The Portland metro cheaped out there, and the result is a train system that's only good by American standards.

* Many of the MAX stops, you can go a block or three and hit single-family homes (mandatory single-family homes, I think). To spend billions on a transit system, and then intentionally handicap its usage by strictly limiting how many people can live nearby around its stations...that's just completely insane. What are they thinking? "Better make sure as few people as possible can actually use this enormous investment"?

* No bus lanes that I'm aware of, or at least few enough that a multiple-time visitor didn't see them, so buses are stuck in general traffic.

* Very few physically protected bike lanes, in spite of its reputation as a bike-friendly city. The sum total value of bike improvements prior to the Orange Line was I believe estimated at around 60m, which is probably like a hundredth of one percent of the value of the roads and other stuff built for cars.

* Despite ostensibly being a major city, most of the residential areas are zoned very low density.

* Those very low density areas also generally have no commercial/retail activity allowed, which particularly hurts walkability: part of walkability is being able to, y'know, walk to things.

Most of what I wrote here, you could apply in some form to nearly every US city.

MAX is not that handicapped by being at grade because it has dedicated roads/lanes everywhere it goes. Portland will eventually ban cars downtown anyway (they are close).

Zoning laws are changing and have changed to allow infill. Plus, there is an urban growth boundary which will force higher density.

The bottlenecks in Portland are the bridges and there is at least one bridge that cars can't drive on, only busses and transit and there will be more in the future.

There are entire streets where vehicle through traffic has been blocked in favor of bicycles. There are still bike lanes on the major roads a block away too which is why you probably didn't notice the dedicated streets.

Portland is being upzoned all over the place. look at any major street west of 82nd and you will see new apartment buildings on almost every block. The suburbs of Portland haven't caught up, but in 20 years if trends continue in both places I could see Portland being more dense than San Francisco and the suburban sprawl not ending till the sierras.

> MAX is not that handicapped by being at grade

Yes it is. It limits how long the train can be, because it can't block traffic downtown, which limits its capacity.

It also limits how fast it can travel. Having its own lanes is better than not, of course, but not as good as being completely physically separated. For an example of this that I'm particularly familiar with, a big part of Caltrain's unreliability comes from it having so many at-grade crossings.

> Zoning laws are changing and have changed to allow infill.

Yes, but very slowly. The current state is that they're extremely bad. Less extremely bad than the US average, probably, but still extremely bad nonetheless.

> There are entire streets where vehicle through traffic has been blocked in favor of bicycles.

Yes, and that's a good move. Would love to see more of those across the city. The way Portland has done it isn't as good as, say, Munich, but it's still a nice thing.

> There are still bike lanes on the major roads a block away too which is why you probably didn't notice the dedicated streets.

Eh, I mean the neighborhood greenways are good, don't get me wrong, but there should still be more off-street paths and physically protected lanes on arterials.

> look at any major street west of 82nd and you will see new apartment buildings on almost every block.

I'm aware of the steady upzoning in Portland, and that's good. It's still true that they're decades away from the kind of urbanism that many cities in, say, Western Europe take for granted as the norm, where "only single family home" areas do not really exist in major cities.

MAX doesn't have the Caltrain problem because it is not at grade outside of downtown.

You are comparing Portland to European cities which is not a fair comparison. Compared to any city in California, Portland is miles ahead.

> MAX doesn't have the Caltrain problem because it is not at grade outside of downtown.

That still limits its speed for that area, and its capacity everywhere.

> You are comparing Portland to European cities which is not a fair comparison. Compared to any city in California, Portland is miles ahead.

Nah, transit usage is much higher in SF, and BART + Caltrain + Muni is better than Portland's system.

Anyway, like I said, Portland is one of the better US cities for urbanism, it's just that that's a bit like claiming to be a more honest-than-average politician.

> No bus lanes that I'm aware of, or at least few enough that a multiple-time visitor didn't see them, so buses are stuck in general traffic.

No bus lanes, but buses aren't just stuck in general traffic. Portland has a system that gives them priority at stoplights: https://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/2016/03/what_are_the_bl...

That's interesting, and good, but it's hardly a substitute for dedicated lanes, let alone separated-grade lanes. A bus with signal priority can still get slowed down by and stuck in traffic when there are flat out too many cars around.

> Most of what I wrote here, you could apply in some form to nearly every US city.

Also every Canadian city, with some very rare exception to the bus lanes bit (there are like... two in Toronto).

> Those very low density areas also generally have no commercial/retail activity allowed, which particularly hurts walkability: part of walkability is being able to, y'know, walk to things.

The other things are more a matter of preference, while I think zoning insanity is the clear leader in making North America's cities and towns tend to be so tedious and isolating.

> Very few physically protected bike lanes, in spite of its reputation as a bike-friendly city. The sum total value of bike improvements prior to the Orange Line was I believe estimated at around 60m, which is probably like a hundredth of one percent of the value of the roads and other stuff built for cars.

For all the investments of Dutch urban centres in bicycle infrastructure, it seems to me that it is the culture which makes or breaks this. As a more-than-commuter cyclist, I can say with confidence that a clumsy protected bicycle lane is more dangerous for cyclists (but quicker for motorists) than none at all. Most protected bicycle lanes are clumsy. Here in Hamilton (mid-tier city in Ontario), a lot of the roads are one-way (which has some benefits and drawbacks, the bus routes look funny), but on these one-way roads, the city of hamilton has installed protected two-way cycle paths. Now, these are convenient, to be sure, but you can imagine that when you get on a one way road, you do not expect oncoming traffic, this leads to all kinds of precarious situations, and (among other factors here) probably some deaths.


* Almost no rail transit whatsoever, closest equivalent looks like a bus system that doesn't even have its own lanes, let alone being separated-grade.

* I see a few off-street bike paths, but at a glance, no physically protected bike lanes. Maybe there are a few I'm missing, but if so, very few. Very few bike lanes in total, too.

* Freeways cutting through the city

* City is super sprawled out, looks like most of the space is the typical American mandatory single-family home area with no retail activity, so walkability is limited even where the sidewalks are fine.

* Very wide roads all over the place

Also just in general Detroit seems like it's been historically mismanaged and has lots of problems with crime and infrastructure and corruption and poor schools, which doesn't help things.

I live outside of Detroit. All your points and criticisms are valid. When I visit the coasts, I often tell people who ask that it was nice to spend some time in a "real" city. The true "big city" core of Detroit is quite small, and whenever I'm in Chicago or even Cleveland I'm reminded of that fact.

That said, the experience in the downtown/midtown core of Detroit has improved drastically since the bankruptcy. It feels incredibly vibrant. When I started working there in 2012, the city felt completely empty after about 5:30. Today, downtown is buzzing seemingly all night.

Even if you live within walking distance of your office, though, you still need a car to get groceries though, and as much as it sucks, I don't see how that changes anytime soon (or within my lifetime).

I think there's less value to this kind of experience-living-in-a-city-via-google-maps than you're implying here.

To be sure, an actually thorough analysis would require firsthand experience (and I have visited Portland at least multiple times). It's just that most US cities are so very terrible at urbanism that it's easy to spot many of the massive flaws from Google Maps.

Most Midwestern cities are indeed sprawling, pedestrian-hostile, car-philic wastelands and that's what you're going to see on Google Maps. But, thankfully, they didn't destroy all of their pre-war housing and infrastructure and so most of them have at least a couple interesting, walkable neighborhoods. If you're moving to NYC, then you can throw a dart at the map and you'll land in a walkable neighborhood. If you're moving to St. Louis or Cincinnati, then you'll need to do some research. The dart is a bad strategy.

So, look, it's totally fair to say, "I don't want to live in a city like that." But there are people working really hard to make their little pockets better for bikes and pedestrians and so on, and I think people underestimate the extent to which that's going on and the extent to which they could be happy in a neighborhood like that, especially when housing is 1/10th the cost.

> But, thankfully, they didn't destroy all of their pre-war housing and infrastructure and so most of them have at least a couple interesting, walkable neighborhoods.

Sure, but how useful is that, really? Huntsville has a New Urbanist neighborhood that looks nice and cute, but the rest of Huntsville (which I have lived in before) fucking sucks for anything that's not a car. As soon as you need to go anywhere else, you gotta go back into driving, and only driving.

> If you're moving to St. Louis or Cincinnati, then you'll need to do some research. The dart is a bad strategy.

I don't dispute that you can mitigate the effects somewhat via careful selection. But:

* That only works for those particular neighborhoods. You're probably not gonna always stay in those, so you're still going to need to at least own a car, and probably make at least somewhat frequent use of it if you want to go to other places in the area.

* You're probably also looking at other things you want in a neighborhood: crime rate, school quality, restaurants, other points of interest, etc. Having to only look at a few neighborhoods as viable urbanist-friendly locations greatly constrains your options when it comes time to look at the other dimensions.

> I think people underestimate the extent to which that's going on

Maybe other people do, but I'm a dorky-ass urbanism nerd who reads blogs on this shit all the time, so I don't. I'm well aware of what's going on. But I also travel enough to know that these cities are so woefully behind most of the rest of the developed world, it would take literal CENTURIES to catch up at the current snail's pace of improvement. Changes that happen after I'm dead are of no use to me.


Is this a serious reply? Seattle has no shortage of high-paying tech jobs, and it's certainly not a cheap place to live, nor is it in any way conservative.

I think we can consider Seattle part of the "Big Economic Winners"

It's a classic chicken and egg problem.

Companies don't want to establish new offices in cities where they cannot attract new talent or there isn't a large existing base of talent. This limits large new offices to large metro areas (5M+ people)

People don't want to relocate to cities where there aren't multiple job possibilities - you lose your job/hate it and don't want to have to relocate to find a new job or you want to move but your spouse can't find a job there because their industry isn't well represented there.

This leads to a reinforcement cycle where new jobs are created in a city, people flock there, found the next generation of companies, new jobs, more people fleeing less attractive cities and so on...

Things that can happen that could break this cycle include - new industries emerging (like tech in the 90s), poor governance, infrastructure in an area forcing companies to find alternatives (like bay area right now), new skills coming into demand and companies establishing offices to take advantage of that (e.g. Pittsburg emerging as an AI hub, Seattle for 'cloud' skills etc)

>>Companies don't want to establish new offices in cities where they cannot attract new talent or there isn't a large existing base of talent.

Bangalore had this problem in the 80's and 90's. The way you beat is, surprising simple.

You just start building colleges and other institutions and make it cheap and easy to study there.

All of a sudden you have a massive pool of young, and hungry people. Then you do things like tax subsidies, and land grants.

I hate to be that guy, but if it’s this simple why hasn’t it been done?

And anticipating a specific class of answer: is it always political deadlock in America, or is there something more fundamental that would prevent this from working?

To some extent, it has been done. There are a lot of great public institutions of higher education throughout the country. I live in Indianapolis. It's not exactly an economic wasteland.

> Companies don't want to establish new offices in cities where they cannot attract new talent or there isn't a large existing base of talent

This seems especially silly. There are almost limitless people who would like to get one of the FAANG co's on their CV. They'd gladly relocate and benefit from reasonable property prices for a year or three. Google or Netlix are hardly going to struggle to attract talent if they decide to open an office in some rural backwater.

I don't know man?

You'd be surprised how attached people are to their spouses or partners. Doesn't matter how badly you want to work at Google, if your spouse is an IP attorney or VP at an academic hospital, as a family you just can't go moving to the middle of nowhere. It's not ALL about being able to work at Google. There's a lot more going on in making these decisions. (At least there is for the type of people that Google would be interested in.)

Much better to be in that NYC-Boston-DC corridor where high powered opportunities abound in multiple sectors. Or SF. Or Chicago. Etc. But trying to move a lot of these types of couples to, say, Lincoln Nebraska, is just asking for trouble. The spouses or partners are definitely not going to go for that.


I’m sure Google (etc) could lure a lot of young, single folks out to the hinterlands for a year or two, but retention and recruiting further up the ladder would be awful.

Universities in the US, which—for historical reasons-are often located in rural areas, have similar problems. They solve this through “spousal hires.” This can range from merely coordinating interviews and offers across departments [0] to creating entirely new positions, or even tenure lines, for a rockstar’s spouse.

This can work relatively well for universities, but I’ve never heard of companies doing anything similar. I wonder if you could even get a set of companies to agree to preferentially hire their employees’ spouses, so there’s a more diverse set of options.

[0] The university often kicks in some money so that both departments will be happy with (say) their number three picks, instead of history hiring an unattached rockstar and chemistry getting no one.

> spousal hires

Happened to a prof in my university just this year. Had offers from top universities & labs for tenure in CS, but stayed in our rural college town because of his SO.

And also for those with kids you have to think about them i.e. what opportunities will they have living in this area when they leave school.

Why would a kid stay in the same area after leaving school? That was categorically out of the question for my graduating classes.

To remain near family?

To help shape the future of the community that rasied them?

What was deal with your class? You lived in the middle of knowhere and the only option would have been farming or mining coal or something?

Sense of adventure / lower familial pressure.

You can always come back to "shape the community" (so american ^^) later

Europeans, Asians, etc don't see themselves as an influence on the place they live?

It’s a social class thing. Most Americans live very near where they grew up.


> Of all respondents, about 54 percent said that they lived in close proximity to where they grew up.


> 11 percent of survey respondents have never traveled outside of the state where they were born.

I agree. But if you’re a Google employee, you and your offspring are in the social class that can afford to move wherever makes sense.


You go to the best college you can get into, wherever it is, and then to the best job you can get, wherever that is. Our city was okay, but our school system and community values were not calibrated to produce contentment with mediocrity.

You might pass on opportunities for social stability reasons in middle age, but as a 22-year-old you jump without hesitation.

People sometimes migrate back when their own kids are school-aged.

Because people are attached to their family and friends and also most don't realize that any able body person with an IQ of 100 and a decent work ethic could easily make six digits if they relocated to the right area.

Where could any randomly selected person from the upper 50% of the population by IQ move and earn >$100,000? Even with your caveats, though at that pay I do wonder why “able bodied” is important.

Right out of school? Maybe. My first job, I did indeed not really consider location at all. And I would not have lived in the city I took the job long term and moved when I left the job after 3 years, albeit to go back to school which had been more or less my plan from the beginning in any case.

In addition to the reasons you give, there's also whether you like a place. I might (or might not) be willing to make some tradeoffs for a locale that's particularly desirable for recreational opportunities and so forth. But not for an exercise in creating a new city, revitalizing one, etc.

That's now a small minority of a minority. It's more usual for just one partner to have the especially high powered career. Even more so after starting a family.

For those that have both then sure, it's more nuanced and may come down to which of the two has the better future chances, or to make different decisions. Most potential workers will not be in that situation at all.

> It's more usual for just one partner to have the especially high powered career. Even more so after starting a family.

I believe the few high profile people who actually make the big decisions will usually have a partner who has a high profile career as well. Those key people wont move because their partner wont move.

I don't know about that. The two most common spouse occupations, of people I knew at Google in NYC, were lawyer and some sort of financier. Often (more than a few of those I knew) the spouse made more money and Google was effectively daycare for the other.

And in hotbeds like NYC, with the opportunities all over town, there's little career reason to go somewhere else. If Google left NYC, they'd lose most of their engineering team to other tech firms in the city.

The draw of NYC is also at least somewhat unique. I went to grad school with a lot of NY natives. A lot of them really cannot imagine living anyplace else. What? You can't do X at 3am? Inconceivable.

As someone who lives in New York City, that rings true to me. I remember being taken aback the first time I visited a smaller town and heard the ice cream shop was closed at 8 pm on a Sunday. It took a period of adjustment before I realized I was the odd one :)

No there aren't. It's the kind of move that sounds highly desirable until you actually start considering it seriously. Notably: what happens when you get tired of your current work, or you get laid off, or something else comes in between you and your current company? If there are no comparable companies around the area, you're stuck accepting shittier work, or uprooting your life.

I relocated from the UK to California and then Zurich to work at Google. I wouldn't have taken the offer if they said - "you can only work at Google if you agree to work in Alabama". Once you're in Google, it's pretty easy to move around between offices, and yet people aren't tripping over themselves to move to small offices in small cities with a small range of projects to work in.

Don't underestimate the power of network effects and critical mass. The people good enough to get into FAANG also have the abundance of options to specify where they'd like to live and work.

> Companies don't want to establish new offices in cities where they cannot attract new talent or there isn't a large existing base of talent. This limits large new offices to large metro areas (5M+ people)

I wish more companies would do what TI did.

TI set up their headquarters in Richardson, TX, where there were very few people with any engineering background. So they opened their own university in order to farm talent, and once it got large enough, they had the state take it over from them. It became the University of Texas at Dallas, and it's now probably the most important university in the southwest for engineering and CS (I've heard the phrase "MIT of the southwest" before, but I don't want to call it that because I went to UTD and that's a bit of an exaggeration).

"Things that can happen that could break this cycle include"

Also: universities, new natural resource discoveries, natural disasters, different regulatory environments, developments in transportation.

I have a hunch that the North Coast of Canada is going to become a huge boom town within my lifetime, but it's likely to take a couple decades, and I don't yet know where the major cities will be. Am tempted to take a Northwest Passage cruise to find out, though.

I live at 55°N for 25 years and counting, as well as some time in a comparable climate (St. Petersburg), the wombo combo of very low temperatures in winter and constantly high humidity (temperatures are feeling way colder than with <50% humidity) with addition of low sunshine hours is not attractive one.

I'm just assuming that global warming is going to be as bad or worse than current predictions and that the effect will be felt even more severely at high latitudes. If the arctic sea ice all melts the Arctic Circle may be the new Northern Europe. 20,000 years ago New England was all under glaciers, while now it's a pretty reasonable place to live.

What would have to happen for one of these giant companies to start hiring remote employees?

It's not that they don't hire remote employees. Most of them do.

It's that a high-level remote employee at a physical-first company is at a major political disadvantage compared to their onsite peers.

Maybe I just haven't looked hard enough, but I've never seen an opening for a remote SWE job for any of FAANG.

If they did, they could pay 75% of what I'm told they do and still be far and away the most appealing employer for talented engineers in most places.

I recently received an offer from Apple for a remote software engineering role. Amazon will also hire remote employees for certain teams in AWS. And I’m aware of both Facebook and Google hiring remote employees (or allowing employees to become fully remote) if they’re excellent and the alternative is losing them.

It’s not an explicit policy and they don’t actively encourage it. But they’ll make it work for the right person - I agree though, don’t go into it thinking you’ll be remote. If you want to work remotely for very high compensation (close to FAANG but not exactly competitive), comsider working at a second tier public tech company like Salesforce or a strong unicorn like Stripe (both of which explicitly support it).

Something big. Running a huge organization effectively is already really hard -- just look at how many companies do a terrible job of it -- and having a large percentage of WFH employees would just increase the difficulty even further.

I've encountered some well-run and successful companies that hire remote employees and the two things that seem to be common to them is that they're remote-first and remote-first from day one. Transitioning into either of those seems a bridge too far for most companies.

Older people with outdated visions of “butts in seats” need to stop running things.

That’s an unfair characterization. A lot of people, myself included, do not enjoy remote work. I did it for years and I’m over it. You might consider that there are valid argumemts both for and against working remotely.

I wouldn’t consider myself an “older person” with “outdated visions.” But I still wouldn’t want to work with or be managed by someone working remotely.

The moral of Elysium wasn’t that our species is headed for that world. The director intended it to be a dramatic portrayal of the world we already live in. Take away the scifi backdrop of a generational satellite with artificial gravity and immortality and you’re left with substantially the same vision of the world as what we currently have.

Those of us who are affluent and live in coastal cities (and similar cities across the world) are, comparatively speaking, wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice. Most of us can’t afford everything around us. But we enjoy - and frequently take for granted - luxuries and technology which billions of other humans can scarcely even conceive of having in everyday life.

> This coupled with the Amazon news is starting to get distressing. With the amount of companies that copycat them it’s like the rich are getting richer and the economic benefits are still going to be concentrated only in the most affluent cities. The rest of the country desperately needs real industry and good paying jobs - and will go to huge lengths to try to get them but it appears nobody can come up with a business plan.

Why would godless, latte-sipping, well educated, coastal executives--some of whom weren't even born in this country--want to open up offices in places that have made it abundantly clear they hate people exactly like that?

They want an educacted workforce, and the brain drain of people out of rural areas only accelerates that. Towns with good colleges are doing better than those without. The elitism comes mainly from economic rather than social considerations Ive been seeing. See: Texas.

There's another option: just build new housing in the cities that have a proven track-record of economic dynamism. There are several factors that I believe these "winner take all" cities have that many smaller cities either can't or refuse to implement. This includes not just a tolerating, but welcoming immigrants; robust public transit investment; and a great education system.

> This includes not just a tolerating, but welcoming immigrants; robust public transit investment; and a great education system.

Well 2/3 of these don't apply to the Bay Area / SF

This has been the case in the UK since, well, forever. In every field I can think of, London has the top tier jobs.

It surprises me that the US was ever different. I'm wondering whether it's a young country effect.

I don't think it's "Elysium" as claimed. It's more like - if you're competitive and want to be the best in a field, you're probably (not always) going to move to London.

If you want to live a life, raise a family, buy a house, etc, the status game isn't that relevant, and you don't need to bother with it.

It's the same on a global scale too - if you're playing that game, there's a hierarchy of 'best paying, most status-giving' _countries_. The most keen will move across the world.

You’re comparing the UK to the whole US when you should compare it to California or the Northeast. A better comparison would be Europe but I think London and SF would still be the best paying.

Not a fair comparison.

The UK doesn't have labour mobility with the rest of Europe. Even within the EU it's not as simple as 'move from Poland to France and get a job'.

Most of the countries have different languages.

"Europe" isn't a country.

I have a lot of friends and old co workers I Europe. My Serbian coworker had no problem moving to Spain and learning Spanish. My Greek friend had no problem living in the Netherlands. Another Slovakian friend has no problem living in Scotland, same goes for a couple Germans I know in Scotland.

The Poles have no problem moving everywhere in Europe working construction jobs.

Hell the Russians have no problem spending summers working in the part of Florida I vacation at.

Moving from Serbia to Spain is obviously not equivalent to moving between US states. Come on. It's more like Scotland to England with a bit more distance involved.

I worry about this as well. I wouldn't be surprised if SF, NYC, and DC encompass the majority of the country's wealth in a few decades.

It genuinely amazes me that remote tech jobs haven't taken off. I just can't fathom why—unless companies have honestly found that it doesn't work for some reason unknown to me. What other incentive could there be? You get good workers at a fraction of the cost. And with companies like Google and Amazon spreading out across the U.S., remote teleconferencing systems are already set up. Is it really that much different to have someone dialing in to Mountain View from Idaho rather than NYC?

Speaking as someone who does a fair amount of remote working, yes, videoconferencing is awful. I’ve worked at several different companies of different sizes and it’s always awful. The video quality is bad, audio is terrible, getting a meeting started takes forever.

These aren’t insurmountable problems, you just have to get used to a different way of working. It’s not remotely the same as working in the same office. Better in some ways, worse in others.

Google is one of the few companies with the resources to try to drastically improve the technology and fix this problem, but they instead decided just to double down on consolidating their staff in big offices. Obviously works for them but it’s a shame.

Edit to add: the above doesn’t necessarily preclude remote offices, but one of the problems is that it’s hard to get a good productive remote team started without a nucleus of strong local staff. It’s hard for a company like Google to open a big office in a new city without an established tech base, and videoconferencing tech doesn’t help much.

> Google is one of the few companies with the resources to try to drastically improve the technology and fix this problem, but they instead decided just to double down on consolidating their staff in big offices. Obviously works for them but it’s a shame.

I'm a googler, and this is completely wrong. Google absolutely wants to fix the remote work issue. Nearly every meeting room in the company is equipped with videoconferencing equipment, and "dialing in" is an accepted practice, with people occasionally dialing in from home being quite common. Hell, they sell their videoconferencing stuff to other companies even, so the monetary incentive is certainly there.

But fully remote work also introduces organizational problems that current tech, at least, does not overcome.

Agreed. There's something fundamentally different about contacting someone via a video conference versus the organic nature of a quick chat about something.

This puts remote workers behind quite a ways. My old team was partially located in NYC and partially located in the Bay Area. There was a major difference in inter and intra location interactions and it affected the team in some negative ways.

As a mostly remote worker, that's fair. Just yesterday, I happened to be in the office and bumped into someone and had a quick conversation about something that would otherwise have involved setting up meetings, etc.

Google absolutely wants to fix the remote work issue.

But not to the extent of encouraging fully remote work, or even of opening offices in many locations (as they formerly did).

You're confusing "wants to fix" with "believes can be completely solved (in the short or medium term)".

Yes, you may be right. I guess what I’m trying to say is that some companies and organizations (Basecamp, Mozilla) embrace remote working and some discourage it, and Google is currently in the latter camp.

I know they use videoconferencing a lot and they even sell it, but they still co-locate teams and they still expect people to come into the office most days, right?

It’s surprising to me that Google in particular is anti-remote given that all their products are so internet-focused. Yes, it’s probably unfair to expect more from them than from others.

Things like teleconferencing usually isn't a problem as such. If you work in a large enough organization, you are essentially working remotely already. It is just that people misunderstand what is happening.

It used to be that jobs where distributed as every town had their own businesses, but the work itself was centralized as one business mainly served one area.

What has happened is that large companies can now distribute their work all over the planet without the need for local branches. All the action is at the headquarters and therefor jobs are being centralized.

You can compare this to, say, how we used to and now use e-mail.

NYC is not reserved for the rich, though; there's plenty of working class people living there, and house prices are actually falling.

How would Elysium play out if many people could simply move there?

If you get the ideas of living in Manhattan out of your head, NYC is definitely more affordable than SF. So NYC does have the option of people just being able to move there.

The larger problem is how do the other cities compete at all in the future?

Smart cities are building out train based metro systems that connect their major universities and their airports to their downtown areas. (Houston for example). But that's REALLY expensive. It's not a coincidence that Houston, a city flooded with energy wealth, is one of the few cities pursuing such a strategy. They're one of the only cities that can afford it. What about everyone else? I think the other cities will need to get aggressive and creative about making themselves appeal to the bottom lines of tech companies.

If not, yeah, most will likely be left behind. Sad, but that's how the market works. Just ask Gary Indiana.

Boulder seems to be doing alright.

It's just one aspect of city attractiveness, but embracing urbanism, especially in terms of multimodal transportation options, does seem to help.

> The rest of the country desperately needs real industry and good paying jobs - and will go to huge lengths to try to get them but it appears nobody can come up with a business plan.

Got to tell you: few smart people want to live in some anti-civil-rights nightmare where everyone is anti-gay, anti-immigrant, and hopelessly religious. To top it off those states are full of rampant anti-labour provisions: no anti-poaching, no anti-non-compete.

Sorry, the Rust Belt made itself suck. This isn't disturbing. This is righteous.

There are plenty of progressive cities that aren't SF/SEA/NY/DC.

Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis to name a few

Look at the bright side, just 10-20 years ago it was basically just the SF Bay Area with tiny outposts in Seattle, Boston and Austin. Now all three of those are a lot bigger. NYC now has a solid tech scene. Boulder has one. Toronto is starting to develop one. Many secondary cities are starting to develop their own like in Durham, NC. Pittsburg is now on the map when previously all CM alums would leave the area after graduation. Even Detroit is developing a small scene.

Tech opportunities are still going to cities, especially those with the biggest companies, but it's spreading to more and more cities and tech companies now know they need to expand to other markets to reach new talent.

As somebody who lives in Dallas, I'm actually glad that Amazon is passing us up in favor of NoVa, and I've heard similar sentiments from talking to a few of my fellow Dallasites.

The consensus is that if Amazon moved here, all they'd accomplish is sending housing prices into the stratosphere and turning traffic into a nightmare. We have plenty of jobs here, and housing prices and traffic are already starting to get problematic. We don't need Amazon throwing gasoline on the fire.

I've also heard discussion about how we don't want Amazon because they could wreck the city's culture like they did to Seattle... and from what I've seen, both the right and the left are pretty unified on this. We like Dallas the way it is, thank you very much.

Many midwestern cities are seeing strong growth right now, especially in tech. Madison is one of them. I think we’ll be fine.

I've relocated to NYC area for work, from a different country. One can get depressed about jobs not being where they are, or go to where the opportunity is better. People have freedom of movement and there is incredible infrastructure supporting that. Why not take advantage instead of complaining?

To me the idea of living in NYC is depressing.

I think overall the US would have a better quality of life if industry was not so concentrated in major cities. Fewer people would need to make trade-offs between their jobs and lifestyle.

I live in NYC and I’m not going to try to change your mind, but out of curiosity what don’t you like about it? Winter? The smell? Too many people?

I live in Manhattan and work in Midtown. I love it here, but I'll give you my complaints (for whatever they're worth):

1. The traffic and noise in Midtown is downright oppressive. People just laying on their horns for basically no reason, giant trucks speeding by the mass of pedestrians.

2. Yes, too many people. This is also Midtown specific. I don't mind crowds and I like a busy streetscape, but Midtown reaches a level that's dystopian. I dread walking on the avenues during rush hour. People spill out into the street, because there's not enough sidewalk to contain them all and it's basically impossible not to bump into people the entire way. I'm a fast walker. I hate walking slow. Midtown is very frustrating in a very minute-to-minute kind of way. (See #1 for some ideas about how we could give people more space. Hint: less space for cars.)

3. I would like to own my own home. I don't see how that's going to be practical here.

4. I like building stuff. In my hometown I had lots of tools and the space to work on projects. I don't have the space for any of that here.

5. I'm a cyclist. I prefer to own a couple bikes. I can't do that here. I barely have room for one bike in my 350 sq/ft apartment. It's kind of a pain even having that one bike.

Any one of these could be reason enough to prefer a less crowded and expensive city.

All of that sounds familiar, yeah. I’m in the same situation as you. I’m cautiously optimistic about buying an apartment in Manhattan, however (though Amazon moving half of HQ2 here won’t do me any favors on real estate prices).

With regard to #1: I’m somewhat hopeful that the new state senate shakeup will get Cuomo’s congestion pricing ideas implemented. Not sure if that will ultimately be good or bad, but it might alleviate traffic.

I currently live in Denver and spend almost every weekend in the mountains. To me, the depressing part of NYC is the complete lack of fresh air, outdoor activities, and solitude.

Different strokes for different people.

I’ve never been to Denver, but I’ve been to Oregon and your comment reminds me of the beautiful hiking and scenery available there. I can definitely sympathize with that. My partner and I typically flee to a nice area upstate for a weekend every so often so we can enjoy nature more.

there are a lot of outdoors stuff 1-3 hours outside of NYC. NYC itself does have a lot of parks too, of which Central Park is the largest example.

Central Park is more like a big outdoor garden not in anyway comparable to a large trail system or public lands area. There are trails a little north and in nearby Jersey 1-2 hours by car on the way to (if you head out in the early morning). But on the way back... God have mercy. Expect at least two hours and closer to three and a half in crawling traffic as soon as you get somewhere close to the city.

You can see quite a bit more like the Adirondacks you're willing to drive 5-6 hours, but a drive like that isn't suitable for a day hike.

You can also find some smaller trails and untended areas on the outskirts of the city (eg, Marine Park in southeast Brooklyn). But these tend to be.. well small.

Anyway my point is, like most big cities, it's difficult to really get "outdoors" with any measure of convenience.

There are absolutely massive parks in staten island and to some extent the bronx too. People forget simply how big NYC actually is, where should you look beyond just the city there's a tons of different types of nature than what Denver has (beaches and water for one, a more significant fall, ect).

If you have experienced west coast/Rocky mountain outdoors, the east coast likely won't satisfy you anymore.

> of which Central Park is the largest example

The most well known maybe, but not the largest. Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx is more than 3x the size of Central Park

As someone who has lived there and likes visiting, there's a lot to hate about NYC.

It's expensive. The fact that it's sometimes held out as being reasonable compared to the Bay Area says more about the Bay Area than NYC.

You can't conveniently/inexpensively own a car. Which is an advantage for some. Not so much for others who like hopping in the car to run a quick errand.

The crush of people all the time.

It's "gritty." Not 1980s gritty any longer but still. (Smell, noise, homelessness (not SF levels but that's an awfully low bar).

Basically, it's an urban landscape on steroids even compared to, say, London. That's not necessarily bad but a few days of it is about my limit.

There is an NYT article to that effect: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/07/upshot/in-superstar-citie...

95% of Googlers in NYC will be lifetime renters just like they are in the Bay Area. Hardly the gilded class

Nonsense. Most Googler engineers (more than 5% of the workforce) will be making at least $200k take-home after five years or so. This kind of salary can easily pay for a $1.5M home purchase. That won't buy you a four-bedroom in Chelsea, but it can buy you a reasonable home further out. And that's assuming no contribution from your spouse.

Now they may choose to rent, as I do, but that's because there are some big flexibility advantages to renting compared to buying.

$200k/yr can "easily" pay for $1.5m home purchase? The general rule-of-thumb for how big of a mortgage you can afford is in the range of 2-3x your gross income. [1][2][3]. You're talking about a staggering 7.5 multiple, assuming no down payment. Yes you can accrue a nice down payment after a couple years with that salary, but it's hard to make a huge dent in $1.5m.

[1] https://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/05/030905.asp

[2] http://time.com/money/collection-post/2792048/how-much-shoul...

[3] https://smartasset.com/mortgage/buy-a-home-for-2-5x-your-sal...

200k take-home in NYC is about 350k gross. And why on earth would we assume no down payment? Surely we have been saving some fraction of our income during the years prior to buying.

"Googlers, hardly the gilded class" is a silly argument. SWEs can afford to buy in the Bay, and can in NYC too. $250-300k is enough to afford a $1.5m place.

Yes, many Google employees aren't engineers, and not everyone working there gets paid like one.

As long as you assume all things remain constant for the next 30 years which is an exciting assumption.

Friend just bought a $400,000 one-bedroom co-op in Midtown East. He makes a low six-figure salary, and will have to be judicious about his spending for a few years. New York isn’t the Bay Area—we build supply to meet demand.

I don’t understand - are you giving this near half-million single bedroom as an example of affordability?

Well if your income is $133k/yr, then it would fit in the 3x annual income rule for housing affordability, which the typical sr eng at google now exceeds.

It’s one room! I think that 3x rule is supposed to be about space for perhaps a family and other normal requirements for most adults. Not digs for a twenty-year-old.

It's also in Midtown East.

Also, one bedrooms are luxurious. Advice for anyone looking for an apartment in Manhattan: don't waste your time on one bedrooms, look for studios. You pay an unnecessary premium for the extra wall, and it ultimately just makes the space less usable. You can find larger, nicer, better located studios for much less than you'd be paying for a one bedroom.

Also, never have a family

> Also, never have a family

People, Americans particularly, overestimate the space a human being needs to thrive. I know several families who are healthy and happy in two- and three-bedroom apartments. They pay reasonable rents uptown or a forty minute subway ride out of Manhattan in Jersey or Queens. That’s much better than almost any metropolis, where sprawl makes the density gradient gentler and thus commute times between cost zones longer.

The thread has been about buying one bedroom/studio places for only $400k. If you are planning on starting a family that seems like a really bad idea.

I mean, maybe?

Firstly, to be perfectly frank, you can get 2, 3 years into your first kid before a studio makes a practical difference over a 2-bedroom apartment. For the first chunk, keeping the crib in your bedroom for ease of care is pretty normal, and once the kid is mobile chances are they're going to be sneaking into your bed to sleep at every opportunity anyway.

Secondly, the average length of ownership of a house in the US is like 7.5 years. A lot of people never make it through their 30 year mortgage because they either move for work, their circumstances change and they need more or less house or their income changes and they can/can't afford a nicer, bigger house than they could before.

So living in a studio well into baby #1 before deciding to trade up to a larger place when it's time to look for the "good" schools or baby #2 is on the way is kind of a perfectly normal way to go about things?

This is honestly offensive, I grew up in manhattan, and tons of my friends growing up lived in very small spaces (families sharing studio apartments). The key difference is that the amenities that most people in the suburbs have within their own homes are available in shared spaces all around you.

It's also in Midtown, which is likely not an ideal situation for a family. Check Queens or Brooklyn with more ideal family situations (and still reasonably short commutes) and you'll get a lot more space for less money

Affordability should still mean that you get value for your money, not that any surplus wages disappear in the pockets of the land owning class.

> it would fit in the 3x annual income rule for housing affordability

Could you please expand on this rule? Where did it come from? Feels like impossibility in some countries.

It’s a oft-repeated guideline in the US that you should spend no more than 1/3 of your income on housing (rent, mortgage + property taxes + ....).

It’s not a law and it certainly doesn’t apply to all people or locations. Some lenders might use it as a heuristic though.

Good point. For instance, the Googler in question probably doesn't own a car.

Yes, and those countries have really bad housing affordability!

3x is a benchmark of what is affordable, not a law or a specific financial lending regulation.

There are people making a third of that where I live who have four bedroom houses with garages and pools.

This isn't true in the slightest, the only people who will be this way are those who are unwilling to make sacrifices in terms of quality or amount of space within a certain location, in return for the desire to own. The regional home prices in the bay area are more than twice what they are in the greater NYC region.

Way more than 5% of my coworkers at Google NYC own their own place.

You're also off on the stats for the Bay Area as well.

My plan right now is to rent in the city, buy a cabin or getaway house upstate for 200k and move there when I get older. Hard part is just finding somewhere that doesn't suck.

Bearsville, Woodstock, Saugerties. The Rondout in Kingston has a certain charm but may be impacted by flooding.

Downside is you need a car or take one of the Peter Pan buses. Could Amtrak to Rhinecliff and taxi.

A lot actually live outside of NYC (not just Manhattan): Westchester, New Jersey, Long Island, etc

95% of Googlers in NYC who insist on living in Manhattan. Hell, not even then.

Curious why I got downvoted here. I was disagreeing with the post I was replying to. Did I come across in the opposite direction?

I was attempting to make the point that this statement would only possibly be true for those who insisted on living in Manhattan, and that it isn't even true for that segment.

It's exciting. Google has been talking about expanding its presence forever. At least since purchasing the Chelsea Market complex. The Youtube studio is an amazing space. As is the AWS Loft downtown. Cornell Tech will have a new campus on Roosevelt Island. And Brooklyn has its New Lab / Navy Yards that is almost a tech city unto itself. It feels like there's community. And a multitude of events every day and night. With rents stabilizing, and burgeoning FinTech and AI momentum, I just think everyone at some point in their lives should consider a stint in the city ;)

The nice thing about NYC in comparison to the Bay Area is that we're not afraid of building more housing here, so supply increases every year and has a dampening effect on rent increases. Also, mass transit is much better, so if you live even 30 minutes away on a subway line the rents will be much lower. If you're willing to commute an hour each way (which is still less than a lot of people who drive every day on I-101 put up with) then rents are a fraction of what they are in nice areas of Manhattan, or the Bay Area for that matter.

Though personally I don't like relying on the subway (which increasingly has problems these days), hence I live in biking distance.

> and has a dampening effect on rent increase

Is that really true? I don't know if this data is accurate but googling "average rent new york city" vs "average rent san francisco" brings up these 2 results as the first hits. They look almost identical. The site claims average rent for NYC is $3634 vs SF at $3735. It also claims prices increased in NYC by 9.46% over last year vs SF at 0.62%



One thing, not immediately clear from those averages, is that apartments in Manhattan tend to be larger than those in SF.

If you look at the breakdown by bedroom count:

1BR: SF -> $3303 | NY -> $2939

2BR: SF -> $4481 | NY -> $3752

This makes clear that NY inventory is biased towards larger units, which makes comparisons of overall averages deceptive.

Do you have any data to support this? I am not being argumentative, I just found that from personal experience the opposite was true- that total rent tended to be higher in SF, but the apartments tended to be larger, at least than those in Manhattan. It seemed to me that SF was slightly cheaper per sq ft, with many more houses having access to outdoor space.

The closest I could find in terms of data was this site- https://www.rentcafe.com/blog/rental-market/us-average-apart... which compares SF to all of NYC, not Manhattan. The studios are somewhat bigger, the 1BRs slightly smaller, and the 2BRs are on average slightly larger- but the difference is very small.

I'm going just by the bedroom counts listed on that website. It's possible that those numbers are also deceptive because square footage per bedroom is sufficiently different. I was mainly remarking that the breakdown seems to indicate that NY inventory is biased towards 2BR apartments while SF inventory is biased towards 1BR. This is based merely on the fact that the SF overall average is much closer to the SF 1BR average while the NY overall average is much closer to the NY 2BR average.

Price per square foot would shed more light on this, but I don't know of a reliable (free) source of that data.

I'm a tech worker in NYC and none of my firends (except one idiot) pays more than 2500 for their studio apartment within Manhattan. I share a super fancy apartment in a hirise in Brooklyn and pay less than 2K. If you're okay living in Queens you can get a 2BR with less than 1h commute. And this is not even talking about distant Brooklyn, Bronx or jersey (also less tax)

If you count the opportunity cost of the time, stress, and money you spend using NJTransit to commute into Manhattan, and especially if you’re commuting further into other boroughs, the tax savings of NJ turn into losses.

100% Agree. It's very easy to underestimate the additional pain of commuting from NJ (unless you are talking about Jersey City or Hoboken), especially if you own a home and are paying NJ property taxes.

Lots of people live in Jersey City and take the PATH, which is a faster, cheaper, and more reliable commute than NJT. They still avoid NYC city tax and get cheaper and nicer apartments though.

Yes, Hobo/JC if you're near the Path station is an exception. But it doesn't apply to many people commuting into NYC.

There's other ways into NYC from NJ that aren't the train. There are many ferry options along the hudson, and nothern shore area has a commuter ferry that is 40 minutes to Wall St.

I live in NJ, and from 2006-2010 worked in WFC near Wall Street...While the ferry option is nice and pleasant, it used to cost about 2.5~3 times MORE expensive than the PATH train (the "subway' that connects both sides of the Hudson). Also, the duration of the commute gets cut down only about 1.5~2 minutes (as compared to when the PATH is running without delays). Overall, not really sustainable - neither in time nor money. Though, as a tourist, yeah, the ferry is nice for its views of the skyline. ;-)

I've used the ferry a handful of times to take my bike in, but it definitely caters to a very specific clientele. It's simply not worth it unless you live right there or work right where it lets off.

Yes, the strip of land from Jersey City to Edgewater is an exception in terms of travel time, but that doesn't apply to many NJ to NYC commuters.

You can also get a 2BR less than one hour's commute away from San Francisco for under $2000 / month.

A transit commute?

Yes, my commute from South Hayward to Embarcadero station in SF was 45 minutes, I used BART (obviously), and rent was under $2000.

Is it possible to do this without a car, though? Because in NYC you don't need a car even to live an hour away on transit, and a car is a pretty substantial monthly expense.

Yes, it's possible to do it without a car. See my cousin comment.

I'm not just referring to the commute though, I mean is the neighborhood you're living in itself built around not requiring a car? I live in a dense part of Manhattan where the majority of people don't own vehicles and most needs can be fulfilled simply by walking a few blocks; is this true of South Hayward?

None of the tech jobs are in San Francisco. Unlike most cities, people live in SF/Oakland and commute to the suburbs in Mountain View and Palo Alto to work, and that commute is closer to two hours door to door.



Wow, I looked it up and you're right. Thanks for the info.

What's living in Hayward like?

It seemed quietly beautiful to me. Very nice scenery and otherwise typically suburban? The local hispanic population is large; I walked up into the hills once and found an impressive park, filled with people none of whom were speaking English.

Those stats about NYC are, quite frankly, incorrect. I have no idea where they got that garbage data from, but it's garbage. Housing stock was massively added to over the past year and the market has actually gotten friendlier to renters, with many buildings offering one month free rent to entice renters.

You can see some more accurate stats here: https://ny.curbed.com/2018/1/24/16925172/nyc-rent-2017-decre...

The difference is a reasonable transit ride puts you in the radius of a staggeringly large amount of housing stock comparatively in NYC.

But, go to the SF burbs and try to find high rises... :/

Both NYC and SF are rent controlled areas. Rent control is cancer that punishes younger and newer inhabitants while making rent cheap for the rich. In fact, NYC has more vacant apartments than homeless people.

Rent control is much less of a thing in NYC than it is in SF. There are only 27k rent controlled apartments in all of NYC (with its >8M population). More info here: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/rentguidelinesboard/resources/rent...

There are plenty of rent stabilized apartments in NYC, but that's a much different and weaker thing, and isn't comparable to rent control in SF.

If NYC is currently at $3634 then yes, NYC has done much better than SF.

I remember getting out of college in 2005, hearing about the $3000+ 1BR apartments in NYC, and thinking "Why the hell would anyone want to move to NYC?" (I was living with my parents in Boston at the time, but looked at moving out and would've paid $650 with roommates or about $1100 for a 1BR in that city.) My now-wife was living in SF that same year and paid $1200 in rent.

The huge increases in SF rent happened mostly from 2010-2015. I paid $1400/month for a 1BR in 2009-2010 (Mountain View, not SF, but SF was still < $2000 at the time). By 2014 it was basically impossible to find something < $3000 in any transit-accessible part of the city, and apparently it's leveled off since.

You can live in many places that are not New York City and have a reasonably timely public transit commute into it.

New York City is huge though. To live in a place that isn’t NYC while still in state means Yonkers or White Plains. Reasonable commute is like an hour, maybe more.

Eh, you can get to dense suburbia in about 45 minutes, sparse suburbia in like 1 hour, and if you're willing to commute 90 minutes, maybe two hours, you're out in what city slickers would call "rural".

Also don't forget Long Island, the Other In State.

(I'm one of the idiots who commutes ~2 hours from near Poughkeepsie, which is (a) still on commuter rail [the super-express Hudson line train takes ~90 minutes, plus the time to get to & from it] and (b) where half of the food you find in NYC farmer's markets comes from. I kinda like it.)

I tried commuting from Poughkeepsie (well, that odd stop one stop south) during the dotcom 90s and it nearly killed me. The train was fine, but that final 30 minutes on the subway downtown just pushed it over the edge. Gave up after six months. If you can manage it and keep to sane working hours (I was working 9:30 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. routinely) keep doing it.

Yeah, I mostly agree; I did Metro North for a couple of years before switching to Amtrak. It's less flexible and a little more expensive than Metro North, but the train is usually faster and it drops you off by Penn Station which is a pleasant walk to the Google office (and like 5 minutes by subway if you don't feel like a pleasant walk).

My personal limit is 12-13 hours out of the house each day; more than that and it burns me out fast. It definitely wouldn't work for me with an employer who was less flexible about when the work day starts or who had expectations of large numbers of hours spent with butt in chair.

I know from my stint on Crouton on Hudson, but its still a pain. You don't truly live in the city, you just visit it from time to time.

You're definitely not living in the city and it's certainly not for everyone.

For me, I didn't really take advantage of the city - I like occasionally went to a museum or went out to eat but I mostly just sat on the couch watching TV and surfing the internet. So I moved north and got myself forty acres of tree-covered Bath-Nassau soil with rocky outcroppings. Now my free time is filled with rennovating a 200 year old vernacular house, turning my land into a proper hobby farm, and going to various kitschy festivals and hiking trails with my family. My commute is, frankly, the most relaxing part of my week, where I can sit quietly for 90 minutes and read a book or take a nap or post WoT conspiracy theories on Reddit.

It may not be for everyone, but it's amazing to me that I can have this lifestyle while also commuting to a regular old desk job in the largest city in the country. (It's also amazing to me that I'm part of a multi-century tradition of both commuting to the city from rural upstate and of gentleman farmers coming upstate from the city.)

The burbs are wsy better too. You can still find a great family home in a good school district within a reasonable commute on NJ transit, lirr, or metro north, well under a million.

I actually just came back from a week-long trip to NYC where I stayed with my cousin in Harrison (Westchester) and took Metro-North into and out of the city every day I was there. I had a lot of fun, but I would never ever want to actually commute like that day in and day out.

The train ride from Harrison to Grand Central alone is somewhere around 45 minutes. And unless you work right at Grand Central, you're looking at rushing to make connecting trains. Doing this for a week while exploring the city was fine, but the idea of having to do this every single day until I retire just to make a living would make me want to blow my brains out.

I don't know how my cousin does it. She works in the financial district and takes a 6am train into the city every day. When she gets home, she has just enough time to put her kids to bed before passing out. Now I understand why her husband has a WFH job.

And about that "great family home" thing... the housing stock is so old that every house, even the nice ones, is going to be a fixer-upper. Not long before I got there, they had a plumbing joint break in one of the upstairs bathrooms. Within a few minutes, it wrecked the fixtures in that bathroom, obliterated the ceiling of the kitchen it was above, and did a number on the kitchen counters.

I'm also generally not a fan of how the suburbs are laid out either. Houses are spaced so far apart that it feels like you're living in the country even though you're close to the city (I went trick-or-treating with their kids, and I had to force myself to not brag that my hauls when I was their age were twice as big as theirs because I got to visit twice as many houses in the same amount of time :), and the street layout is twisty nonsense where even the major roads only have two lanes.

No thank you.

I'll gladly visit NYC again (and I'm sad my trip was only one week and not two), but I never want to live there. I'm happy living in Dallas, though I'm considering a move to Las Vegas for political reasons. Either way, both of those are polar opposites of the NYC suburbs.

Agreed, being high income and living in Manhattan or nice parts of Brooklyn is great, but other than that, I find the quality of life to be much better in many other cities.

I feel like the suburbs in NJ within reasonable commuting distance (door to door in 45 min max reliably) offer all the drawbacks of the city with none of the benefits of the suburb. You get a little more space, but not enough. A little less traffic, but still a lot of traffic. No decent gyms or parks, unless you like paying out the nose. And super high and ever increasing taxes. And I think even a 45 min door to door commute is too much, but add on the system’s unreliable-ness, I would find it unacceptable to commute from Jersey.

I don’t know much about NJ. I lived in Westchester and it was great. Not sprawling exurbs by any means, but that’s a good thing. You can live in Rye or Pehlam and walk or bike to the Metro North station. MNR is very reliable, runs frequently at rush hour, and will get you downtown in 30-40 flat.

Yes, NJ Transit has to borrow Amtrak's tunnel and it frequently has problems, as does NJ Transit's stuff. MTA/NY infrastructure is much better, but still, I don't see how one can get from Rye or Pehlam to downtown in 40 min.

https://goo.gl/maps/DYvaWBSLFcP2 1h15m from Rye train station to Fulton subway station on a Tue morning

https://goo.gl/maps/TdQN5FhWF132 55m from Pelham station to Fulton subway.

So door to door, you're still looking at 70 min to 90 min commute one way, with the added stress of possibly dealing with train delays. I wouldn't be able to do that more than a couple years.

I don’t know why anyone would work near Fulton station. I worked in midtown and it was 34 minutes on the Metro North followed by a 5 minute walk.

I put Fulton since your comment stated it would take 30 to 40 min to get to downtown.

I meant midtown, which in Manhattan is the core business district.

There's a lot of hyperbole in here, especially about parks and gyms. There's plenty of parks all over NJ that offer different options from hiking, biking, to kayaking. Gyms are a plenty and it's weird to even say you'd pay more for them when places like Equinox or Chelsea Piers are absurd in price. And go ask any person commuting from Brooklyn right now how there commutes are going to get into Midtown Manhattan, they can be 30-45 minutes with current state of the MTA.

I know there are, but then the door to door commute is unacceptable per my standards. And the further from NY Penn Station you are, the more variance you are subject to, making commutes even longer.

My point is, if you want a door to door commute of sub 45 min, consistently, then you would need to be in Hoboken/Jersey City/Secaucus/Weehawken/etc. That whole Hudson County corridor doesn't offer much in the way of decent gyms (swimming pools, racquetball/squash courts, basketball, etc), and neither does it have any decent hiking. People don't really have yards there either.

If you move out of that circle, you do start getting some amenities, but your commute starts looking like 45 to 60+min, and you have to park your car at the train station or get dropped off, etc. It's all personal preference, but for me, I would want all the benefits of owning a car, or all the benefits of not needing to own a car. Living in NJ and working in NYC seems like compromising on both.

The question is: what is your point of comparison? What is the sub-million housing market look like within 45 minutes of SF, or DC for that matter?

I'm not familiar with DC, but SF is just as bad if not worse. My original goal was to point out that commuting from NJ isn't a reasonable commute, in my opinion.

Depends on where you are. I have a pretty great backyard and an excellent gym I pay $50/month for.

when it doesn't smell like urine and I don't see dead homeless people next to millionaire bankers, I'll consider it

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