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Thread: Differences in Bay Area and southern California cities and towns

  1. #1
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    Differences in Bay Area and southern California cities and towns

    Are their alot of differences people can tell?

    I think the Bay Area has more centralized downtowns because there are more liberals which can mean more press for conservation of open space and farmland and less urban sprawl.

    Planning wise, I also think Bay Area cities and towns are more dense than SoCal cities and towns and that they are better connected with the rapid transit like the BART where as SoCal is more connected by freeways.

    I also think the Bay Area towns and cities have more people with a layed back attitude. I also think there are more Asians in Northern California where as Southern California has more Latinos.

    Climate wise I think the Bay Area tends to be foggier and have more rain.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Does an area create a mindset or does a mindset gravitate towards a certain area?

    SoCal has so much more room it's no wonder it spread out. SF has geographic constraints it had to work with so housing prices went up. Who can afford high housing prices? Generally educated people without children. Who normally doesn't have any children? Homosexuals, who also tend to be liberal. So the liberal mindset you mentioned is all cyclical. Wealthy people buy houses which keeps housing prices high, etc. The one major disappointment I have with SF, which is a stunning city, is the huge number of homeless and drug using population is plain view. It was a total turnoff the times I've been there.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  3. #3
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    I think it depends on how you define SoCal. If you stick with the official definition (the 6 counties that comprise SCAGopolis - my term - of Greater LA) as SoCal, there are some typological and development patterns. but if you try to put San Diego into the same region, you have a square peg and round hole problem. Scagopolis is a multi-polar region largely unconstrained by topography. In a formal/physical planning sense, Scagopolis has much in common, in many respects, with the South Bay (principally Santa Clara County and environs, with the exception of downtown San Jose itself, which bears a very loose resemblance to the Oakland/San Diego model.. see below)

    Topography dictates effectively everything in most of the other Bay Area counties and in San Diego, with topographic issues dictating form choices from among the pallet of typologies deployed statewide (or at least state-wide south of, say, Sacramanto). For example, the suburban East Bay has a lot in common typologically and formally with San Diego's burbs. In fact, some SFD developers I know use the exact same plans and site development standards for those two markets (but use different ones for projects in the Central Valley or Scagopolis).

    Similarly, San Diego's full-block/total coverage inner and central city blocks have no real parallels anywhere in Scagopolis, but have direct parallels in Oakland, strangely enough. San Francisco and San Diego's standardized downtown grids result in a similar center city granularity (although with different sustained densities, of course), whilst's LA's downtown superblocks give you something completely different. Corbusier and mid-20th century logistics requirements prevailed in downtown LA - hence the superblocks and the complete decomposition of its original Law grid. San Diego, San Fran, Oakland and a few other cities never really evolved beyond their ancient Law grids... they just kept on replicating the sameg formal logic as they expanded and have yet to stop. Highways in the Bay Area and San Diego are, for example, cut into the grids, instead of the grid being organized around the highways (complicated in San Diego by the city's unique arroyo - riparian canyon - system).

    The beach/boardwalk communities offer a different split, with Bay-focused communities like San Fran and Oakland having fundamentally different typological and morphological characteristics compared with both San Diego and LA's urban beach communities, which, although different, bear at least some passing resemblance to one another (as opposed to their radically different downtown and inner city neighborhoods).

    There's also MEP standards. For climate related reasons, non-highrise residential multi-unit buildings in most CA cities (including San Fran and San Diego) are constructed without central airconditioning. Scagopolis housing, however, is often constructed with central airconditioning (much of scagopolis averages 10-12 degrees hotter on average than San Diego and 15 degrees hotter than much of the water-facing Bay Area). This leads to some scale and density variations.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 22 Dec 2010 at 5:26 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    I think it depends on how you define SoCal. If you stick with the official definition (the 6 counties that comprise SCAGopolis - my term - of Greater LA) as SoCal, there are some typological and development patterns. but if you try to put San Diego into the same region, you have a square peg and round hole problem. Scagopolis is a multi-polar region largely unconstrained by topography. In a formal/physical planning sense, Scagopolis has much in common, in many respects, with the South Bay (principally Santa Clara County and environs, with the exception of downtown San Jose itself, which bears a very loose resemblance to the Oakland/San Diego model.. see below)

    Topography dictates effectively everything in most of the other Bay Area counties and in San Diego, with topographic issues dictating form choices from among the pallet of typologies deployed statewide (or at least state-wide south of, say, Sacramanto). For example, the suburban East Bay has a lot in common typologically and formally with San Diego's burbs. In fact, some SFD developers I know use the exact same plans and site development standards for those two markets (but use different ones for projects in the Central Valley or Scagopolis).

    Similarly, San Diego's full-block/total coverage inner and central city blocks have no real parallels anywhere in Scagopolis, but have direct parallels in Oakland, strangely enough. San Francisco and San Diego's standardized downtown grids result in a similar center city granularity (although with different sustained densities, of course), whilst's LA's downtown superblocks give you something completely different. Corbusier and mid-20th century logistics requirements prevailed in downtown LA - hence the superblocks and the complete decomposition of its original Law grid. San Diego, San Fran, Oakland and a few other cities never really evolved beyond their ancient Law grids... they just kept on replicating the sameg formal logic as they expanded and have yet to stop. Highways in the Bay Area and San Diego are, for example, cut into the grids, instead of the grid being organized around the highways (complicated in San Diego by the city's unique arroyo - riparian canyon - system).

    The beach/boardwalk communities offer a different split, with Bay-focused communities like San Fran and Oakland having fundamentally different typological and morphological characteristics compared with both San Diego and LA's urban beach communities, which, although different, bear at least some passing resemblance to one another (as opposed to their radically different downtown and inner city neighborhoods).

    There's also MEP standards. For climate related reasons, non-highrise residential multi-unit buildings in most CA cities (including San Fran and San Diego) are constructed without central airconditioning. Scagopolis housing, however, is often constructed with central airconditioning (much of scagopolis averages 10-12 degrees hotter on average than San Diego and 15 degrees hotter than much of the water-facing Bay Area). This leads to some scale and density variations.
    I'm sorry, but that was a little hard for me to follow. I grasped that the grid system are similar and different for some and some downtowns are similar and others are different.

    And that the cities close the beach are more tied for land.

    The lack of land and higher home prices does make sense for why the Bay Area has more liberals. Only people able to afford it are college educated without kids. And people without kids sometimes are homosexuals.
    Last edited by urban19; 22 Dec 2010 at 5:45 PM.

  5. #5
    I spend a lot of time in both the Bay Area and SoCal. First of all, I think they are more similar than you might think. They are both much more multi ethnic than most of the country. Both have large Asian and Latino populations. Both seem to be losing Whites and African Americans. The Bay Area is more expensive, but the West Side of LA isn't much far behind.

    Certain parts are different, such as San Francisco and parts of Oakland, but the vast majority of both north and south live in dense suburban situations.

    There are personality differences. The Bay Area is much more serious, almost humorless, even as they are laid back. People in SoCal tend to act dumber than they are - something no Silicon Valley wonk would ever do

    I think the areas (Los Angeles is as strongly Democratic as the Bay Area and the other SoCal counties are slowly turning Blue) vote liberal for the same reason they vote liberal in every other major metro area: population density itself seems to breed tolerance. As does higher education and higher incomes..

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by urban19 View post
    I'm sorry, but that was a little hard for me to follow
    OK, in a nutshell, from a physical planning perspective:

    - Overall: Greater LA Area and the San Francisco South Bay Area have a lot in common (flat plain, largely unconstrainetd by topography except at the edges, highways defined form of development). San Francisco, East Bay, San Diego are very different.

    - Suburbia: Inland East Bay and San Diego have a lot in common (topographically constrained, similar time and form of sprawl development). Greater LA and South Bay have something in common.

    - Downtown/Inner City: Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco have a lot in common with Law-based grids and full-block, full-coverage morphology - in fact, some of the most morphogenetically dense in the entire US. Downtown LA relies more on superblock typologies, lower coverage, logistics-driven grid logic.

    - Highways: San Diego, Oakland fits highway around their street grids, San Francisco doesn't have a whole lot of highway penetration, LA fits the grid aruond the highways.

    - Urban Beach Communities: San Diego, LA have more in common. San Francisco Bay area is bay-focused and lacks the same type of beach communities.

    - Climate: Bay Area, San Diego: cooler, so lacking residential central air, Greater LA: everyone who can afford it has central air.

    Hope that's clearer. There is no clear distinction between SoCal and NorCal unless you define SoCal just as Greater LA/SCAG and exclude San Diego (which is the official definition, by the way).

    As to your point abuot demographics, I have to disagree. San Diego (city proper) and West LA both have very high gay concentrations. I believe Hillcrest - a neighborhood in San Diego - has one of the hghestd declared gay concentrations in the entire country. Inner city/urbanized areas of the central cities are all very liberal - LA proper, San Fran proper, San Diego proper. Outlying areas are much more conservative, as a general rule. Orange County is an aberration (more conservative than most). San Diego, for example, appears to be much more conservative because the city includes several large annexed suburban annexes and San Diego County is 2/3rds suburban, 1/3rd urban in terms of population distribution (whereas most Bay Area counties are clearly one or the other). If you take these distinctions into account, NorCal is only marginally more progressive than the south is.. it's just organized differently in terms of population distribution in counties. Remember, CA (especialyl NoCal and San Diego) is one of the most heavily party gerrymandered regions in the country - where districts are engineered to benefit one party or another.. making it very difficult to accurate gage geographically-specific trends in political affiliation.

  7. #7
    Zoning Lord Richmond Jake's avatar
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    I'm confused. You are mixing regional descriptions. What are you trying to compare and contrast? The nine county ABAG vs. the six county SCAG? (IMHO, you can't possibly compare and contrast the two.) Or the Los Angeles basin with the immediate Bay Area?

    Hint: Many northern Californians do not consider the Bay Area as part of northern California (present company included), as in, northern California starts at the Golden Gate Bridge.



    Raf, turn away from this thread. I really don't want to see your head fall off your shoulders.
    Annoyingly insensitive

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    Many northern Californians do not consider the Bay Area as part of northern California (present company included), as in, northern California starts at the Golden Gate Bridge.
    Agreed, but I was using urban's terminology. I personally would not put the Bay Area (which is actually two interwoven and overlapping urban sytems - South Bay, on the one hand, and the San Francisco and Marin Peninsulas, plus East Bay, the eastern foothills, and the Lower Delta, all thrown into another one, as opposed to single one, like Scagland), SoCal (the 6 county scag region), and then there's San Diego-Tijuana (and Sacramento and Fresno, separately, if you want to count them). I would not directly compare ABAG to SCAG. They're different creatures as geographical descriptors, even if they're both administratively speaking MPOs..

    True Northern California is a different thing altogether, as you point out, but I think that's beyond the context of urban's question.. even though Arcata and Eureka are two of my most favorite cities in the world, I don't think they're what he's talking about here.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    I'm just a transplant (seven years in the Bay Area), but I have to admit that I've never heard anyone refer to "Northern California" as being north of the Golden Gate Bridge (aside from RJ ). I've heard Redwood Country, or other terms with Redwood in the name, but in my experience "Northern California" is typically used when comparing/contrasting with "Southern California," which typically is just a Bay Area (possibly plus Sacramento) vs Southland conversation. The Central Valley (possibly including Sac) and Central Coast are typically thought of as separate from either Northern California or Southern California.

    Maybe just changes of the past decade or so for terminology? For what it's worth, two of the other principles in my firm are 50+ year residents of Northern California and don't use the term to refer to north of the GGB, but they're both kind of oddballs (in a good way, mostly).

    As far as planning goes, the Bay Area and LA area are pretty similar IMO in most ways that matter. Certainly the northern and southern metropolises of California are more similar to each other than they are to any other metros out there.
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CJC View post
    I'm just a transplant (seven years in the Bay Area), but I have to admit that I've never heard anyone refer to "Northern California" as being north of the Golden Gate Bridge (
    This long-time ex-CA resident doesn't see that much difference between south of the Grapevine to North of the grapevine socially. Planningly, SoCal may have a little more functional regional groups and more money to effect change overall, but on larger scales transportation times make public participation more problematic down south (look at what Sacto did with the blueprint).

    My 2 from someone who got out a few years ago.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Going to have to speak up as a native several times over...

    I really don't think there's supposed to be too much of a debate about what constitutes Southern California. I was taught from 1st grade onward that the geographic northern limit of Southern California is Point Conception/Cojo Bay, west of Santa Barbara and south of Vandenberg Airforce Base. ... this is well south of the Bay Area and well north of LA. Heading eastward, the line follows the Santa Ynez mountains to the path between the Transverse Range and the San Rafael/Sierra Madre Mountains, north of Mt Pinos and then along the valley at the southern base of the Tehachapis, all the way to the base of Death Valley and then through the desert, at the low point, to the Nevada border. Clearly, the LA Area (what is usually referred to as Southern California, politically speaking) and San Diego are south of that line, and the Bay Area is way north of that line.

    North of that line, you have Central California, up until another line which begins at Point Reyes in Marin County, and follows the valley NE until it joins with the Suisan Delta, and intersects with the Sacramento Valley.. then follows the River eastward through Sacramento and up into the Sierra Nevadas, up until Lake Tahoe. That's the geographic boundary between Northern California and Central California.

    Culturally speaking.. these official geographic limits aren't terribly meaningful, though. My ancestors are from the Lower Delta (in what is now Central California) but settled later as farmers in the South Bay (now Silicon Valley), Otay Mesa (south of San Diego), and even as far south in the Imperial Valley as Mexicali. This - which includes most of what is now Central and Southern California - is all one region, culturally... where land grants and tenure systems date from the early 19th century, up to the historical limit of imperial Bourbon political control (a little north of San Francisco)... although that was much earlier, it left its marks culturally and on the state's psyche. Other empires colonized areas north of that, such as the Russians, the English and the French.. the Bourbons may have claimed territories as far north as the current California/Oregon border, but they certainly never held it. Anyway, from this (cultural and political) perspective, San Francisco to Ensenada (now in Mexico) is really one region - Upper California. Cities further north, like Eureka and, at the southern limit, Sacramento, are different... and follow from other traditions.

    If you want to be strict about it, there's probably a line somewhere north of Sonoma, which corresponds with the northern limit of the status of forces agreement between Andres Pico of Mexico and John C Fremont of the US Army (which formerly ended the US military conquest of the south - Upper California). Areas north of that line had already voluntarily sought to join the US at that point, whilst areas south of that line were subject to the armistice.. and to the later guarantees on land-rights and migration rights eventually put into the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo (and then roundly ignored by Washington DC).
    Last edited by Cismontane; 23 Dec 2010 at 3:53 PM.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    Going to have to speak up as a native several times over...
    I can tell you're a native: you didn't call them "the Sierras". ;o)

    My breaking down CA into ecoregions further delineating the state will sadly have to come some other day, but one of my family still grows avocados NE of San Diego, and they hardly thought a second about the wisdom of visiting me way up in the dirty north...

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    avocados .
    Valley Center?

  14. #14
    Zoning Lord Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Observation: South Florida is never referred to as "Southern" Florida; North Florida never "Northern" Florida. Compare that to California; never "North" California or "South" California. I wonder why that is?
    Annoyingly insensitive

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    Off-topic:
    Observation: South Florida is never referred to as "Southern" Florida; North Florida never "Northern" Florida. Compare that to California; never "North" California or "South" California. I wonder why that is?
    Well.. to further complicate this, Southern and Central California together were referred to in the 19th Century, as Upper California. Subsequently, Lower California ('Baja' is Spanish for 'low'.. not 'lower' though, I think) has been further split between Lower Southern California (consisting of the Cape and the city of La Paz) and Lower Northern California (the cities of Ensenada, Tijuana, Mexicali, etc). Central California has also been renamed by out-of-staters and some 1st and 2nd generation emigres to California as "Northern California" (San Francisco Bay Area, etc.). Finally, Angelenos call their region Southern Cailfornia, excluding San Diego and Imperial Counties, which lies south of Southern Cailfornia.

    So.. moving from south to north, you have Lower Southern California, Lower Northern Cailfornia, San Diego-Imperial (possibly part of Southern Cailfornia although not in the opinion of Angelenos), Southern California, Central Cailfornia (called by some, Northern California, and actually divided into three subregions - Central Coast, Bay Area, and Central Valley), and finally Northern California (I don't know what people who call Central California, Northern California, call this region.. Modoc Land maybe? Redwoods Country? Russian River? The State of Jefferson? Who knows). And I hear that further north, there's a strange country called Cascadia that wants to annex Northern California. Fortunately, we have Pelican Bay State Prison guarding the border against any potential invasion force.

    I don't know where the claim (made below) that Northern California begins at the Golden Gate comes from. The dividing line has always been Point Reyes, unless you're one of those (mostly recent emigres) who insist that Central California doesn't exist, in which case Northern California begins at Point Conception.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 23 Dec 2010 at 7:38 PM.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    As a lover of maps, geography, and history, I think this thread is really great as I've learned some interesting facts about California. Kudos!

  17. #17
    Zoning Lord Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    ........I don't know where the claim (made below) that Northern California begins at the Golden Gate comes from. The dividing line has always been Point Reyes, unless you're one of those (mostly recent emigres) who insist that Central California doesn't exist, in which case Northern California begins at Point Conception.
    As a youngster (many moons ago), I was at home sick from school. Mom had the Merv Griffin show on and Merv mentioned that he had a house in Northern California...in Carmel. My mom, in a rage, said, "Carmel is in Central California! Northern California starts at the Golden Gate Bridge." Since then, I've heard numerous times from people native to the north coast that the GGB marks the start of Northern California. Some folks narrowed it to Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte counties.

    Another interesting point: If I remember correctly, following the creation of the California Coastal Commission, there was talk of creating similar regional land use regulatory authorities including the Coast Range, Central Valley, Sierra Nevada, Siskiyou, and Desert commissions. Anybody else remember that story or am I just dreaming that one?

    Whoa, way off topic here. Sorry.
    Annoyingly insensitive

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    , "Carmel is in Central California! Northern California starts at the Golden Gate Bridge."
    I think that may be just a notation of convenience that caught on sometime. I think Point Reyes maybe more technical - since the dividing line between Central and Northern is geographically fixed at the 38th parallel, which runs through the point. I don't know why anyone would want to divide the Bay Area between two regions though.. since putting the line at the Golden Gate (closer to 37'70" or so, I think), would put Marin County - which isn't culturally different from San Mateo, for example, in a different region.

    Culturally speaking, points north of Point Reyes are clearly culturally different from Marin.. like Sebastopol, etc.

    I hadn't heard of the regional commissions thing. Would be interested in learning more.

  19. #19
    I remember from my high school days that California didn't have statewide championships if sports but rather there was a "Central California Section" set of playoffs. It still exists and stretches from San Francisco to Kings City

  20. #20
    Zoning Lord Richmond Jake's avatar
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    You make strong arguments, Cismontane. But wouldn't the physical separation of the Golden Gate Strait (prior to the completion of the Bridge in 1937), between the San Francisco Peninsula and the Marin Peninsula be a better geographical defining point between Northern and Central California rather than an arbitrary parallel?

    Just thinking out loud.
    Annoyingly insensitive

  21. #21
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    Valley Center?
    No, Santee.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    What I mentioned above wasn't related to anything technical or how things should be, just the way that I had heard the term used in daily conversation. Nowadays, "Northern California" mostly just means "stuff north of LA" and is used as a way for Bay Area folks to describe where they live when not using the more common "Bay Area" or specific city names - with a clear connotation that they're not from LA. I can't imagine anyone saying that the Bay Area was a part of Central California, as that sounds too close to the common Central Coast or Central Valley designations that are widely agreed upon.

    For one pop culture example, the ubiquitous "NorCal" clothing company is based in Santa Cruz, and started as a Bay Area fashion statement. It simply makes sense from a cultural standpoint that the two largest metro areas in the state would largely be associated with northern and southern parts of the state in conversation, regardless of where dividing lines originally were.

    Slightly off-topic, but I really don't think that Sepastopol is that much different culturally than other parts of the Bay Area now. Historically, sure, but now it's just another commuter town that happens to have some hippie stores in the downtown area and a few orchards and vineyards in the surrounding region. One of my closest friends just bought a new house in a cookie-cutter subdivision there and commutes to Marin for work.
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

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