The Californians Are Coming!

31 thoughts on “The Californians Are Coming!”

  1. I blame lawyers for our ugly mall sprawl landscape. Nobody but large corporations can afford to defend themselves against the constant onslaught of lawsuits that anything public must fight off to stay afloat. It’s not the car, whose use could be easily accommodated. My son worked in a grocery store where they had a person assigned to patrol the aisles to stop the slip and fall customers from breaking things and trying to fall so they could sue.

  2. Near the end of his life, Hunter S. Thompson had some issues with various
    new neighbors moving into Woody Creek, CO. The local sheriff said that the
    problem was that ‘the billionaires are driving out the millionaires’. That was
    a while ago & took place in a desirable touristy area; now it seems to be
    happening everywhere.

  3. Californians are hated everywhere. During the early 80’s boom in Colorado, bumper stickers proliferated saying “Don’t Californicate Colorado”. Anyone with a California plate could be subject to rude driving antics and unfriendly gestures. When I moved to Seattle I made clear I did not come from California.

    When Austin boomed in the early 80’s there was a kind of “don’t build it and they won’t come attitude” where proposals to enlarge or add roads were resisted. They came anyway, and the roads were eventually built after several years of traffic nightmares.

    I’ve been reading articles about how Idaho and Montana are the “last frontier” for folks bailing out of the big city for a more “traditional” life. I guess they have been discovered, despite a lack of economic opportunities.

    I supposed this also confirms reports that big cities are experiencing significant out-migration as they price out even the upper middle class. Surprised it took so long.

  4. Johnny- A quote from John Michael Greer in his latest blog post that I believe ties in with this and many of your posts
    ” It’s impossible to fix the system by using the tools the system wants you to use to fix it. Quite a bit can still be done, and many existing institutions can be repurposed once the changes are under way, but you can’t start the changes within those institutions, because they’ve evolved a hefty collection of tools to render your efforts useless. Instead, actions from within carefully chosen institutions (such as local government) need to be paired with actions entirely outside existing institutional structures, to build the momentum that will make change possible”

    1. I just gave a presentation to that very effect down in Southern California. We have the built environment that we have. Most of it will never change. We have the cultural, political, and institutional arrangements we have. Most of them don’t want to change – and probably can’t change for all sorts of reasons. So…. that leaves sub rosa adaptations. Quiet. Under the radar. Let the big stuff lumber along as it may. David Holmgren down in Australia is big on inhabiting suburbia in slightly different ways without interacting with officialdom – if you can. https://store.holmgren.com.au/product/retrosuburbia/ He offers a lefty liberal version, but I see conservatives doing the same basic things with different motivations and language.

    1. Plywood, chip board, wafer board, medium density fiberboard, oriented strand board…. What? You expected brick and granite? Builders swear engineered lumber is superior to anything natural since it doesn’t warp and comes in reliable dimensions that can be banged together quickly with a nail gun and some glue.

      1. Build it, sell it. Let the third owner worry about it when it turns to mush in 30 years. It will just be a tear-down then anyway. At that point, techniques and materials probably will be even more shoddy and cheap. If American decadence and bloat haven’t caught up with us yet.

  5. Change is one of life’s constants.

    A static city is a dead city.

    Embrace it and you will be a lot happier and not come across as a grumpy old person.

    Remember, the next generation need a roof over their head too.

    At the end of the day it’s just shelter.

    Building a roof over one’s head is a noble cause.

    As they say. “Everything in moderation, including moderation!”

    1. Except it sucks as a place to live. And it isn’t sustainable in many important ways. The most important people in these new areas aren’t people. They’re cars.

  6. Generally, of course, restricting development in towns like Missoula can’t stop it, just force it to be ultra-sprawled construction in nearby unincorporated areas, which is a lot of how we’ve gotten into this mess.

  7. On the other side of the coin, my city has done most of things you’d want them to do for the last 30 years: adaptive re-use of buildings, in-fill developments on post-industrial lands, cleaned up our rivers & lake fronts, cleaned up our traditional neighborhood centers, taken down an urban highway. Getting better on active transit & ped enhancements. It’s still a top 15 most population dense large city in the US. Amazingly walkable. Great building stock. All surrounded by a vanishingly thin veneer of suburbia – it’s less than 10 miles from the city to the farms. Yet it’s continued population outflows. The trickle of development that does occur is driven by cratering of household size and the corresponding need for more housing units – a “growth” pattern that is clearly limited.

    1. Can I ask what city? Is it even having recovery in a few neighborhoods? It’s a good question why some places manage to take off and some don’t.

      1. I think the more interesting question is why so many perfectly livable smaller cities and towns (with reasonable job opportunities relative to housing costs and quality of life) are ignored by most people. My friend Steve in Springfield, Mass writes about this all the time. https://granolashotgun.com/2017/04/28/the-springfield-strategy/ Springfield is Boston at 1/10th the price, yet middle class white people think it’s some kind of bombed our ghetto. It isn’t.

        1. I don’t believe that Springfield has the same job market and networks that those big cities do. There are lots of jobs where you can telecommute, but first you need the experience and connections, and for that, you need to be located in the same place (and office), as others working in your industry. Then the same thing goes for your spouse. So there are definitely rational reasons to be located in large, populous metros with lots of white collar jobs (or in large populous metros with lots of skilled jobs in manufacturing or the trades).

          1. Yes and no. Your point about needing to be in a bigger city for the early formative years of career building is often true, especially in tech, chemical engineering, performing arts…

            But teacher? Nurse? Cop? Meh. These jobs are available in almost every town in the country once you schmooze your way in to the local bureaucratic culture.

            My neighbors here in San Francisco own a one bedroom condo. They just had their first child and will be moving back to Northampton, Mass (a town very near Springfield) to be near the husband’s people. They’ll do just fine.

            1. I’d even argue that you’re probably better off being a “real-world engineer” (read: not doing computer-related stuff) in a smaller city than on the coasts. Most of the big auto plants still in the US are all out in cornfields these days, and even in actual cities like Cleveland, Detroit, Akron, or Dayton, there are quite a few engineering jobs with legacy companies like Goodyear and GE that sometimes struggle to find good talent because they’re not Seattle or Boston. I know quite a few folks, engineers, medical professionals, and otherwise, originally from the coasts who have ended up in Rust Belt cities on a whim and not expecting to stay long, finding out that it really isn’t bad to live in any of these cities.

            2. I had the same thoughts about jobs without huge industry concentrations in specific cities when I posted. I still think that there are career benefits to living in larger metros for teachers, nurses, etc., just in the number and variety of jobs and employers allowing people to find better fits for their particular personality and skills, but it isn’t necessary to live in a particular city to really get started in your career. But that is why the larger midwestern and rust belt metros are such a great value, as they have lots of affordable, walkable neighborhoods and a large enough population to support thicker job markets and also tend to have better public transportation than sunbelt cities. But outside of manufacturing, it seems that the high value added work is increasingly being concentrated in the large coastal metros. (High value added meaning that someone outside the metro is willing to pay for the product you are producing).

              1. If we were to look at the labor department stats on wages, Milwaukee metro (~19/hr) significantly out performs Miami (17), is on par with LA (19), and trails Boston (24). Considering so much of the real estate value has more or less written off in the last generation, the rust belt does pretty well. It still has well-established universities, robust health care sectors, law, insurance, rail & logistics industries, mining, agriculture, all those processed foods that fill the selves across america’s grocery stores come from here 🙂 All the normal trappings of American society – box stores and cottage industries. PLUS manufacturing jobs.

            3. Yes, they will since they will be moving from SF ownership (and attendant SF prices) to a wonderful small town. The problem is that so many other people have done the same thing in recent years. I have lived in a town adjacent to Northampton for 35 years and watched it change radically during that time, largely driven in the last 20 years by an influx of people from other places. Currently, house prices are at an all time high with a very tight market. A few years ago, my daughter and her husband moved back to “the Valley” after living in a couple of major east cost cities. They were lucky in that she was able to keep her job and telecommute. However, it took her husband (an engineer) about a year to find a job. After living here for a year, they bought a house, but had to bid against seven other young families which raised the selling price by $30,000 over the asking price. The trends you describe in this post and many others are here too driven by people seeking a higher quality of life. One often hears the cry that local people can’t afford to live here anymore!

      2. Milwaukee. The place is pretty vibrant – it’s just totally stuck in place. Decades of population outflows have deeply depressed housing prices relative to comparable cities. But one can live almost comfortably on a service worker salary in pretty traditional urban environment, something that is harder to find these days.

        Lakefront condos in the 100s for urbanofiles.
        https://www.google.com/maps/@43.0522045,-87.8914077,3a,75y,197.96h,95t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sGOnfRmERcsgbQBQ1e46GQg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

        transit connected, inner ring streetcar neighborhoods in the 100s for familes.
        https://www.google.com/maps/@43.0351194,-87.9758884,3a,75y,216.66h,88.71t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1syYI4cndm2C1DFq1Ehb5ovQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

  8. How soon until folks from San Francisco discover cities like Dayton or Cleveland or Pittsburgh and start telecommuting from the Rust Belt?

  9. One of your best posts which does a good job summarizing a lot of issues. Really one can only conclude that people are just plain dumb. It also begs the question, were selfishness and ignorance not as common 150 year ago when traditional towns were being built? I have the impression that common sense was… common back then, whereas today our insulated suburban lifestyles, and deep segregation by economic class, has had a tremendous influence on mindsets. No solidarity, everyone for themselves, everyone’s an enemy.

    1. Exactly.
      There is a cultural change not covered here, just the symptoms, as if Americans today are the same people from the 50’s when it all started. 65 years means different people and different thinking (or no-thinking). A few examples: People are more “entitled” today; they assume they need 2-1/2 baths, 2-car garages, etc. The larger homes allows (demands) far more consumer goods than in the 50’s, many of them short-term disposable and polluting. The list goes on.

      The article ends leaving us hanging with the apt statement “Society could change every aspect of how the global and national economy is structured”. Read: cultural shift.

      Strong Towns seems to be about the need for a shift while those that should shift are getting the message: “onward, ever upwards!”

      Due to the fact that mass development is happening much faster than the Strong Towns backlash (most people don’t even know there is a serious problem), the situation is best summed up by a quote from Charles Marohn:

      “Since cities historically have a very low default rate, we’ll just remain confident that cities will continue to have a very low default rate. Until they don’t. Or until their built environment completely falls apart.”

      https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2018/4/16/where-did-the-money-go

      I vote for the “falls apart” prediction, because cultural changes “might take a while”. Suburban development, shopping malls and even many cities themselves are disposable items. Choose wisely and plan your exit strategy.

  10. I’ve sometimes thought about selling my Bay Area home and buying Montana, but they have real winters there. I do sometimes think about Port Townsend, WA though.

  11. I live in a small college town in western Oklahoma. I am pretty sure that a typical Granola Shotgun reader, including myself, would not find it charming :^). (And, if you don’t have kids, don’t like sports, and are turned off by open spirituality, you would probably find conversation here stifling.) But it is cheap and (in the central district) walkable. In fact, so cheap that my pastor moved here from Missoula, which was way too expensive for him and his family!

    Before I lived here, I spent 30 years in a large university town and even volunteered for various citizen urban planning committees. When I arrived in 1974, the city was about 75,000. Now it is about 120,000. When I was volunteering, a common refrain was “shut the door” to new residents. Like Johnny, I heard that from people who had lived in the city for a decade or less.

    I would express sympathy but would also tell them about my hometown in southern Illinois. That town has stood at 850 people since the early 1900s. Once passenger trains and the ferry crossing went away, so did many of the businesses and, with them, jobs. Typical unemployment in my hometown is 10 percent. If you didn’t have a family farm or business, your best bet was to go elsewhere for employment.

    This sentiment may not be common, but I want my grandchildren to be able to live within a short driving distance so that I can be part of their lives. If that means I have to suffer the pangs of a thriving job-creating city, so be it.

    1. I’m very happy living around religious people even though I’m not churchy myself. I focus on the things traditional families can teach me – home canning, gardening, hunting, butchering, and how to handle firearms… I’m genuinely interested and people are always happy to share their skills when asked.

    2. The desire to live near family is common, and it’s yet another thing driving people to metropolises. As jobs become more and more specialized, it’s already difficult for both husband and wife to find good work in anything other than a city. Add in your kids too and it borders on impossible unless there’s a family business or everybody is working low skill jobs. Plus while a stay-at-home spouse is sometimes possible, it’s not really an option for adult children.

  12. “F*** you, got mine” is how we phrase that attitude elsewhere. I live in one of the secondary towns in Australia and can confirm that the Melbourne and Sydney prosperous are retiring to Hobart and Brisbane, because they can’t afford to retire in place. The Brisbane retirees are heading inland and driving up the prices of small, ex-farming towns like Melaney. The other option is to head overseas, where Indonesia is developing a retirement village industry to lure in wealthy expats with a favourable exchange rate and cheap labour.

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