Did Google really transform Mountain View in the way that it proposes for San Jose, though? The Google campus in Mountain View still looks like a dressed up suburban business park to me, far away from public mass transit, just as it has always been. It relies on a private bus system to get many employees to work, which most other major Google offices don't need due to the effective mass transit (NYC, London, Zurich, etc.)
What is proposed for the San Jose campus seems far more urban, sited adjacent to a real mass transit station, like basically all the other major Google offices in the world outside of Mountain View.
EDIT: BTW, I'm not disparaging the Mountain View campus and private bus system. I've used both plenty, and they are a locally optimum solution for Google, given the lack of mass transit access, and the reality there is not enough parking for Google's high office population density. But a lot of what's there seems like duct tape and chewing gum workarounds on top of the mid-century suburban, car-centric model for siting work, housing, and transportation.
That alone wouldn't have been half bad, but with the ultra-low coverage / density of this network, it becomes useless for 95% of the people living in the city.
For example, in North San Jose, my 4.5-mile commute would take 12 minutes by car, 25 minutes by bicycle, and a whopping 75 minutes by public transportation. At that point, one might as well walk (90 minutes).
The last time I used transit it turned a 20 minute drive into a 50+ minute bus ride. I’m not about to trade away an hour+ of every day for the sake of being green. I had coworkers suggest biking to another route that was quicker, but that bike ride included an extra 30+ minutes of biking, had me hauling the bike on and off the bus, risking having my bike stolen (we had an enclosed cage, but people had bikes stolen occasionally) plus now I’m either a bit sweaty or have to take a shower at work (and then be sweaty at the end of the day).
I know this isn’t an easy solution, but from an outsider perspective I see why people don’t use public transit that much. It disrupts life to the point where it’s simply not an option for most.
A highly utilized public transit system is often far more efficient than cars when measured in people-miles/hr during hours of peak transit demand, whereas rural transit is a totally different and non comparable transportation problem space.
The inefficient bus and rail systems are usually ones in areas where people mostly commute using cars, places like Silicon Valley.
In these places, the bus and rail lines are sparse relative to the population, so they take longer to get to any individual's destination.
> It’s clearly only functional enough to be used by people a) fortuitous enough to live right by public transit centers or b) people without a choice.
It's true that housing with easy transit center access is a privilege for working and professional class people today, but that is a relatively recent phenomenon since less than a generation ago, people of some means completely eschewed transit.
If a thousand people in point A want to get to point B 2 miles away, obviously a big train is faster than cars. The next step is to _make point B closer_. This is what is so often forgotten - when I lived in LA I knew Angelenos who'd visit London and say how great the tube was, but the same tube network in LA would be garbage. What makes the tube really work is the fact that those Angelenos almost never had to go more than a few miles to what they wanted, instead of saying things like "well it's 30 miles so if it's more than 30 minutes something has gone wrong".
People say things like "it took me 15 minutes to go a mile!!" but the real problem there is filling a mile of your city with garbage (parking and roads, mostly).
Coming from a rural area, you should be more cognizant about how density affects public transit. Compare SF Muni (density=18,000 people per sq mile) and VTA light rail (5700/sq mi)
a) fortuitous enough to live right by public transit centers
many people that live near transit didn't arrive there fortuitously, they made the tradeoff between living farther away in cheaper/larger/nicer housing, and living close to transit. I live in a small condo that's a 10 minute walk from a train station, but I didn't end up there by accident -- I chose between a 3 bedroom single family home a 40 minute drive from work and a much smaller condo, and I chose the condo. Ironically, I don't even take transit, when I bought the place it was a 30 minute bike ride from work (which is poorly served by transit), then I moved to a job that's a 10 minute bike ride away (well served by transit, but too close to make transit worthwhile)
It's no more fortuitous than living by a freeway, or on a mountain. Transport is something you should investigate thoroughly before moving to a place.
Unfortunately virtually all home finding tools assume you want to drive everywhere (or at least surface that as the first option). I've worked on one to change this, but not for the US. Apparently it's fairly eye opening to people because it's not the sort of thing presented to them before buying.
One factor in this country is public transit is expected to pay for itself while the automobile is effectively massively subsidized.
In a lot of ways Buses are a more plausible solution to public transit than the idiot train-tracks nowhere you getting built (here in Sonoma County, we see the SMART train between Santa Rosa and San Rafael running once an hour and costing ~$15, a failure before it hit the ground).
The quandary is if the voters approve a railroad, it will be half-done and run at half-speed but if voters approve buses, they might run right for a year and then get sabotaged down to nothing once public attention has gone elsewhere.
Effectively, long ago, whoever is America's powers-that-be decided cars were for transit and mass-transit was for soaking tax-dollars (back when General Motors destroyed the trolley systems, say). Now that the car model is falling apart, switching directions isn't possible 'cause it would disturb the feeding of too many swine-at-the-trough.
For example, travelling from Google's SF office to the Googleplex in MTV on the weekend will take about 2 hours and 45 mins via Caltrain/buses, and 2.5 hours via SF2G's Bayway route (http://sf2g.com/bayway.html).
People just take light rail since few want to bike places, let alone at "workout pace"
And the state is bigger than just the Bay Area :-)
the Bay Area provides 40% of state tax revenue and, even worse, externalizes the costs of its awful development policy on a large chunk of Northern California population in form of increased housing and transportation costs.
Which isn't to say I'm pro-car or pro-private-instead-of-public. If anything, a spot light needs to be shown on the clot of public-private corruption apparently controlling US transit decisions.
The biggest cost to HSR is acquiring and developing property in developed areas. But this is significantly more costly for highways and airports.
The solution to the bloated HSR budget is to improve the process, not to switch to another alternative mid-stream that both theoretically and in practice would be at least as bloated and even more costly.
In what way? This seems clear for light rail that shares lanes with traffic, but that’s not always a given. Seattle light rail has quite a bit of right-of-way that is unshared with car traffic and therefore faster than car traffic during peak hours (at least for certain segments).
I lived in Jena, Germany for a while and the light rail there was similar. Most of the railway was dedicated and where it was shared, rail got priority over cars (lights switched rapidly to allow rail through).
So, other than making things more congested, Google hasn't really transformed MTV.
bike sharing schemes are such a plague. And people were all shocked when GoBee up and died. now we have their stupid bikes littered all over the place.
Of course it helps that they city is flat - San Francisco is clearly more suited to electrically-assisted modes of transport.
It's designed to be a nice place to live, first and foremost. Now, if you know a local, you could easily get all kinds of recommendations for interesting restaurants and neighborhood bars, and probably various random festivals that are going on. But the city doesn't advertise itself to tourists.
The only reasons I won't live in SJ are A) because Cali is a nanny state and B) I find the culture of Silicon Valley's tech industry to be degenerate, but I choose to live in a large sprawling suburb in another state, and I'd never live in any place that isn't a sprawling suburb.
They have a liking for different kind of city and that's alright. We don't have to like living in the same kinds of places. There is no reason to downvote on personal opinion on something.
I'd like to see SJ get built up a bit more to look like a traditional city, but they don't. I don't have a problem with that. They're not even trying to impose their values on SJ --they chose to live in a place that shares their values.
Because amyjess is using the same kind of brash language and tactics that aren't appreciated when people crap on "the flyover states" or "backwater redneck states." Slagging on an entire class of anything--whether states that happen to be located in the Midwest or cities that happen to be dense--isn't a good way to have a conversation. Nor is throwing in that California is a "nanny state," which is often perceived as coded language for "government run by Democrats."
Had amyjess stuck with professing a preference for a sprawling suburb and left it at that, without also taking shots at other people's preferences, I would agree with you.
As for "parks" - that's not a park. That's a quarter city block with trees (Cuesta Park. Which is by far the biggest "park").
"Rapidly densifying". /lolsob. Adding a few four-story buildings isn't "densifying". "adding housing" - sure, if you don't mind paying a fortune for mediocre places. 1br for the amount of money that buys you a 3br w/ pool in LA.
And sure, I can drive to Napa. Or Tahoe. Or south to the beaches. But that's not Mountain View, that's Northern California. That's like saying Gary, Indiana is a great city because you can drive to Chicago.
Culturally it is almost completely dead. Art? Music? Dance? Just forget it. In terms of diversity, yeah, no.
Unless you like living in a culturally dead suburban monoculture, it's not a city I'd recommend to anybody.
How many cities of a similar size have even 1?
I'll grant you this one. No great museums (maybe the Computer History museum?) or art galleries in MTV.
Shoreline Amphitheatre? It's a rather large music venue by the water. If you want a smaller venue, Dana Street Roasting Company has live performers every weekend. The city does free concerts a few times a year.
> (Cuesta Park. Which is by far the biggest "park").
Did you just completely forget the Shoreline recreational area? You can learn how to sail, windsurf, and stand-up paddleboard there.
Two nightclubs and a (salsa?) dance club in downtown. MVCPA for performances. Is that unimpressive? It's a city with 80k population, how much exactly are you expecting?
> That's like saying Gary, Indiana is a great city because you can drive to Chicago.
That would be a true statement if Gary had Mountain View's economy, weather, crime rates, and Michelin-starred restaurants.
> In terms of diversity, yeah, no.
What kind of diversity are we talking? There's plenty of people with varied cultural backgrounds and national origins.
> culturally dead suburban monoculture,
I'm not sure you've lived in an actual culturally dead suburban monoculture. There are some other towns I could introduce you to. I can also introduce you to towns that are actually a "pit" :-)
Taking the first Italian city from this list that has 7x,xxx population, turns out to be Fiumicino, and seems to have two 1-star restaurants. This was a kind of random sample of size 1.
You want MTV sized? Asheville. Boulder. Greenville. Santa Fe.
Slightly bigger: Ann Arbor. Berkeley. Cambridge. Lafayette.
Good chunk bigger: Savannah (140k), Madison (250k)
Smaller: Bozeman. Port Chester.
Elsewhere: Plenty of cities all over Europe that are in the 100k pop range and _much_ more vibrant than MTV.
The point is, Google's presence doesn't magically improve the place. It's still a bland suburbia, like, yes, 99% of US cities this size. Google's presence won't improve SJC, either.
You're right that there are cities that are worse than Mountain View. What's upsetting about it is not merely the blandness, but the fact there could be tremendous potential. A rural city of the same size, with a historically uniform population and a relatively small tax base, has very little choice. Mountain View does, and they squander it.
But even if they didn't, "it could be worse" has never been a statement that attracted me to a city ;)
> Unless you like living in a culturally dead suburban monoculture, it's not a city I'd recommend to anybody.
What level of Maslow's hierarchy is this because I'm legitimately becoming concerned I'm neither wealthy enough or educated enough to understand or appreciate any of this and it's scaring me.
Well, unless you're in a city like Mountain View, which lacks these things - but even here, the public library carries excellent recordings of music/dance performances, and has wonderful art books. There's also https://artsandculture.google.com/ for a vast number of the world's greatest art pieces.
It's really not a question of wealth.
Neither is it "education". You don't need education to appreciate beauty, and there are quite a few pieces that have a beauty that's immediately accessible even without a background in art or dance. Some art might not resonate with you -- and that's OK. Find the stuff you like, ignore the stuff you dislike.
Sure, you can go from there and get an education, and it will open more avenues for you. But it's not necessary. And as far as Maslow goes - setting aside that the "hierarchy" isn't - I'd put art at "Love and belonging". It's a connection to people across space and time, and it can unlock deep, profound emotions.
Give it a try, don't be scared!
Yep, when I say to people that the south bay is completely devoid of anything resembling culture they still look at me funny. Until they go, that is.
Because it's hyperbole - it's not a literally true statement. The Bay Area is culturally middling. It's no Paris or NY or even Atlanta - unless we count Valley tech culture's influence on the world, which obviously is immense. But it has its share of museums, theaters, music venues, and good food.
One of the themes of Pleasantville was the insularity and closed-off-ness of the town - literally in a geographical sense (only at the end do buses start going to out of town). Whereas MTV conveniently places you close to awesome things that you can access easily, while still having a good career.
There are other equally prosperous and thriving cities in the US that I would consider to be a distinct step down in terms of quality of life.
Bland means you've made it. Singapore is "bland" Yokohama is "bland". One could say life is not "bland" in the Donbass region. Santiago might be bland, but Rio de Janeiro is not bland. I'd wager many of the non-bland places would trade an arm to be successfully bland. Busan used to be gritty. Now it's a "bland" city.
Furthermore, even foreign transplants who settle in foreign places be they from India, China, Russia, Nigeria, etc., if they can, they settle in these so-called 'bland' cities, if they can. I have not yet heard anyone going to Paris saying, you know what, I'm going to settle in one of the exciting arrondisements --nevermind those other places most people gravitate to.
Mountain view isn't as exciting as living in a cultural center (SF and Oakland being them), but it's a lot better than most of the places you compare it to.
First, it's actually majority non white, meaning you get a lot of cultural diversity you'd miss in elsewhere "white middle upper class neighborhoods".
Secondly, has access to great outdoors and weather. (Not all places in the city limits, but close enough).
Interesting tech scene (especially if you count next door Palo Alto)
Decent downtown for a city its size.
And reasonably dense by American suburb standards. While not SF, it also isn't full of the mcmansion type housing found in other affluent suburbs.
I am a south bay native and only recently does SJ have some cool stuff to do downtown. The beer scene in particular is fantastic.
I had an internship in San Francisco before I graduated, I'm never living in that city.
Sure, you probably won't get to work on something as disruptive and world-changing as Theranos, Juicero, or whatever the latest SV hawtness is, but I think it is a pretty good trade-off.
And Docker, which is neither from the Valley, as it was mentioned here, nor of any consequence to anyone not involved in the industry? That's not changing the world. That's SV self-congratulatory bubble
There are some companies in SV that are doping something world-changing. Sometimes it's even for the better (often it's not, but let's not go there). But it's far from the only place these innovations come from. But coming back too the original point, it is just about the only place (other probably being Skolkovo) where you can get funding not just for outright frauds like Theranos, but for things like Juicero or what was the name of that company where they had their scientists pour liquid nitrogen around whenever investors or journalists came, to make it look "sciency".
Twitter - agreed.
Only in the SV bubble could one think that "disrupting the laundry pick-up industry" or some "uber for dog walking" is something world-changing
And COL-adjusted salaries in SF outdo other cities only if you happen to be at one of the FAANGs or something with particularly generous VC backing. But even for people who want to work there, there aren't enough FAANG jobs for everyone (and not everyone wants to touch them with a 10 foot pole). At the vast majority of companies pay isn't anything like that.
Not that weather in SF was all that great either.
Startups pay a lot. So do smaller companies located in SF. You have to: otherwise you lose employees fast.
But I guess it works, as long as there is a sufficient supply of bright-eye kids who were led to think that living with roommates after you've graduated from college is acceptable it all works out.
You realize that a lot of folks who work in SV are immigrants who come from situations much worse than this, right?
Even for Americans: please don't blame the young for the shitty economic situation that they've inherited. I get your point that they shouldn't put up with that lifestyle, but what do you expect them to do? Just not move here?
Once they're here and see that you can demand better compensation, they do move up the ladder.
And there are lots of places in the US where economic situation (at least if you're IT-related) is quite good. E.g. in Chicago you can have a job, and buying your own house a few years out of college is perfectly doable. And you still have access to world-class culture, entertainment, food, what not. Really, in Chicago I have never heard of anyone working even in some boring corporate drone developer position who had to live with roommates. This is something students, or day laborers do. In the Valley I regularly met grown-up people working as software engineers for FAANGs who were bunking with roommates.
Sure, if someone likes it, all the power to them, but is it really the best option for everyone?
After that it's probably more a matter of taste than anything. I don't think I would want to live in Omaha, but I certainly want to live in San Jose even less. And once you get to the point where a family becomes important, SV certainly is not the place where I want to raise kids, unless I wwre to win the lottery and be able to send them to a private school.
I have family in Denver, it has a lot going for it, but none of Denver, Minneapolis nor Austin can be said to have 'far more culture' than SF.
I think the Bay has become overpriced for what you get, personally, but places with more cultural cachet in the US are NYC, LA, Chicago, and maybe Boston and Philly. If you don't like winter, it's Cali or nothing.
Not sure about cachet... SF might have more of it in sense of having more "here a famous 60's musician shot acid" landmarks and movie references, but as far as things to do today that don't involve networking with scooter-riding techbros (stepping over the heroin-shooting homeless optional) even Austin so far seems to be ahead. And given how bad traffic on 101 is, I can drive to either Dallas or Houston, which have pretty good museums in not that much more time it takes to get to SF from the corner of San Jose where I lived.
Granted, my definition of culture isn't everyone's cup of tea either. But what's wrong with winter?! After a couple of years I found it very irritating that when I wake up and look in the window, I have no idea if it is June or January.
When somebody was trying to recruit me there, looking at the offering range and housing prices, I could fly myself to the French Laundry pretty regularly, and still come out ahead.
There's nothing wrong in living in SV, as long as you like it. Or liking it. It is wrong to try to make it out as if it were the best place fro everybody; or even everybody in "computers". It's quite demonstrably not, just like it's not quite that engine of innovation, especially world-changing innovation it used to be.
You also seem to be conflating companies (sure, it is easier to start a company in a place where you can get finding for almost anything, no matter how harebrained it is) and innovations. The way I see it, Web was an innovation (not from SV). A first browser that a normal person could use and would want to use was an innovation (flyover country). Showing that the Internet could be safely and reliably used for commerce (at least for a time)? Not SV either. These were world-changing innovations. Stripe or AirBnB? Not so much.
 Technically the train goes to Sacramento in the north, but the section from Richmond to Benicia is very slow.
SJ has so much room to grow. With the airport, soil geology, aquifer [subsidence], etc., you're not going to see much beyond 6-12 storeys, 20 max, but just getting that in some key areas like North SJ would allow pop growth really easily. North SJ (also south of 280 in some areas) was light industrial, so you won't get so much NIMBYism) and there is no excuse of "ruins the views" there are no views in SJ.
The surface area where you can build even low-rise, some mid-rise modern condos in areas where 1960's and 70's poorly built apartment building are in disrepair and with poor earthquake readiness makes for so much (re)building opportunity.
Whether residential or commercial, density is far more efficient--more revenue per acre, fewer expenditures per capita. Not choosing higher density is budgetary non-sense. Cities reject higher density because of NIMBYism, and because the costs of sprawl are hidden and delayed, whereas the costs of density are immediate and obvious. If the costs of sprawl were as transparent as the costs of density, development would be much more dense.
I'm a NIMBYist, you're a NIMBYist, everyone's a NIMBYist. It's just a question of over which criteria.
If you (think) you disagree - let me build that industrial-scale trash incineration in your backyard, and we'll see how long you hold your tongue.
And height limits down the middle for SJC.
It would be easy to double, even triple population without "Manhattanizing" SJ.
101, 880, and 280 are gridlocked for 7-8 hours per weekday as it is.
+ BART in 2026
too bad the SJC airport runway axis runs straight across downtown. They could otherwise go much much higher/denser in the urban core.
Capitol Corridor really could use an investment from the state (instead of HSR boondoogle). Huge chunk of the north-bay could be shifted to proper public transit connections to SF/East Bay economic centers.
You can get plenty of density without going over 200 feet high. Just look at most European cities.
I'm only half joking. The San Carlos airport several miles north has daily commuters who fly in for Redwood Shores offices/Oracle.
Unfortunately bandwidth is much worse than road and train networks. You can't support thousands of people commuting by air every day.
There's also a great used book store a quarter mile further down the Alameda
A jab at Apple Park, obviously.
It would be interesting to see, in a chart, all the costs that go into housing construction and compare them all city to city. I suspect the answer has a lot to do with Regulation and the local labor cost (now a self perpetuating problem).
Tokyo has many many many mid-height buildings to make density more affordable. The US typically tries to increase density by mixing tall buildings near single story houses which is generally terrible for affordability.
Also, the cities you list have different seismic realities to contend with.
This area of San Jose could be a great area for people (other than San Jose State students) to actually live and spend time. There are actually public transportation options, and with it's flat landscape, great weather, and surprisingly good bike infrastructure, it should be a very livable and vibrant city center.
With Google there it'll certainly be busier there, and there's obvious benefits for businesses that can cater to those employees. However, it's not clear to me whether there's a clear plan to also develop the city in a way that caters to people outside of tech (e.g., low-income housing initiatives, plans to help reduce traffic, etc.). Long story short, I'm hopeful this doesn't hurt the city in any way, I'm just skeptical that it'll really help, outside of economically.
Basically, what I am trying to say is that the problem isn't google investing: the problem is the ICT sector being so completely out of whack with non-ICT sector norms. In order to make it work, they need to commit to employing people who already live locally, investing in schools locally, investing in infrastructure commitments which don't (and cannot) directly benefit google. We have a mechanism to do that btw. Its called tax.
Tax is the answer.
Bizarre that there's not a single comment on HN thread for the story of their takeover of Uber's planned HQ2: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18731711
*$$$ I guess
San Jose is also not really a city in the way SF is. I used to go to conferences there fairly regularly. (Intel's IDF was there for a number of years before decamping to the Moscone.) Was there for another event a few years back and I was sort of surprised how relatively run down a lot of the downtown still was. Some new restaurants and the like but not really what I expected in SV.
They don't particularly have long commute times for an area the size of the Bay area:
This is also a function of where the employee lives. If you reside in say mountain view, your commute likely will be under 20 minutes to the vast majority of South Bay tech companies. Less true if you live farther away, say in South San Jose.
Consequently, SF companies have the same problems: the people without kids are nearby, but the ones with kids tend to be far away and are harder to hire.
There's no optimal location, unless you specifically are trying to select for junior vs. more senior talent.
> where the rents are close to what they'd pay in mountain view
Having just moved, I can assure you that Mt View rents are significantly lower than SF. For "nice area" (1990+ construction, convenient) 2-3 bedrooms, you are looking at something like $4+/sq foot/month in SoMa vs. ~$2.5/sq foot/month in Mt View (Palo Alto is considerably more expensive than Mt View and gets close to SF prices). That said, the reduced ability to live without a car cuts into the price savings significantly. (e.g. my family had to get a second car after moving)