Richard Florida’s “The Joys Of Urban Tech”

Outside Velo Rouge Cafe, San Francisco

I just read Richard Florida’s op-ed “The Joys of Urban Tech” that was published last week in The Wall Street Journal.

Florida makes a good cultural argument about why technology companies are relocating to cities after previously headquartering in suburbs–namely to keep their young employees happy. Why would the brightest engineers and software developers want to live and work in Silicon Valley when San Francisco represents a funner environment. I’m assuming San Jose doesn’t exist in this scenario, or represent a “true” city in Florida’s argument.

That aside, Florida doesn’t mention a couple things that would make cities (using the Bay Area as an example) more attraction to this workforce demographic. First, technology companies employ high-salaried people. These workers can actually afford to live in high cost cities like San Francisco; sure, they may not want to live in big houses, but SF rental housing isn’t what you would call cheap. Add the fact that couples are waiting longer to start families and you have people that have much more disposable income.

Second, Silicon Valley is almost completely built out (i.e., there aren’t many vacant lots to build campuses and new development on). There really isn’t enough office space in the South Bay to expand, unless you can convince those cities to accept denser neighborhoods and build up. Some of the companies have chosen to relocate to cheaper parts of the cities. Florida himself states that Zappos moved to Las Vegas’ “old city hall” and Twitter moved to the “formerly derelict Art Deco building in San Francisco’s Mid-Market neighborhood.” With the latter, San Francisco officials bent over backwards to persuade the company to move in a blighted neighborhood. In other words, the decision to move back to cities may be financial as urban real estate may be cheaper and local tax breaks may be possible.

While I think Florida’s cultural argument has merit, he glosses over a more plausible financial argument that cities could just be cheaper to locate nowadays.

[photo via PJ]

SPUR San Jose Is Close, But Still Hasn’t Launched Yet

SPUR San Jose: 'Coming January 2012'

It’s 31 January 2012 (9:26PM PST), and unfortunately SPUR San Jose still hasn’t launched yet.

I’m sure that SPUR‘s pilot project for San Jose and Silicon Valley is still moving forward. Heck, there’s talk about another project to bring San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association to Oakland and the East Bay.

Why am I so sure? There’s a date for the SPUR San Jose Launch Party! It will be Thursday 8 March 8 2012 (5:30-7:30PM PST) at San Pedro Square Market (87 N San Pedro Street, San Jose, CA).

It’s FREE, but please RSVP.

[image via PJ]

SPUR San Jose Coming In January 2012

SPUR San Jose

San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association or SPUR has long led the charge in promoting good planning and sound policy-making through research, education and advocacy.

SPUR is deeply rooted in San Francisco, but the member-supported nonprofit organization will pilot a new local branch in San Jose in January 2012. SPUR San Jose seems to want to be a part of the planning process in the next wave of Silicon Valley growth, and hopefully will partner with San Jose State University, Santa Clara University, and Stanford as part of its efforts.

This is a no-brainer decision for SPUR. After spending the past few years trying to shed its sprawl image by implementing more sustainable and smart growth planning tools, San Jose has tried to extend that efforts into its 2040 General Plan Update. Also, Silicon Valley companies are vying for better real estate for their large workforces, and their land use decisions will have great implications on not just the cities they are located in, but for the entire South Bay region (including transportation, education, etc.).

Don’t believe me? Here are a few headlines from the past few days:

1. Google offers to help Mountain View hire more staff
2. Apple submits updated renderings, plans for Cupertino ‘spaceship’ campus
3. Facebook must pay Menlo Park millions of dollars if it can’t improve Bayfront Expressway

It will be interesting to see how SPUR San Jose will operate: as an extension of SPUR or as its own separate independent entity? Time will tell, but it will be exciting.

[image via PJ]

Wi-Fi On Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor Service Line Still Expected By End Of 2011

Amtrak's Capitol Corridor

According to the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA), Amtrak still expects to have Wi-Fi on its Capitol Corridor Service line by the end of 2011.

The East Coast already has Wi-Fi service on many of its Amtrak services lines already. Having ridden the Capitol Corridor from Davis to San Jose (and back), I can say accessing Wi-Fi and having Internet availability would make that nearly three hour trip more enjoyable and pleasant. Although it has yet to establish a firm deadline, here’s hoping that the CCJPA meets its target.

UPDATE: As of 28 November 2011, Amtrak turned on Wi-Fi service in time for Cyber Monday for its Capitol Corridor, San Joaquin, and Pacific Surfliner lines.

[photo via Ingrid Taylar/About]

VTA Does Public Notices Right

Kato Road Grade Separation Project - VTA Public Notice 2011.09.16

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), which provides public transportation services through Santa Clara County (including the communities of Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Jose, Santa Clara, Saratoga, and Sunnyvale), serves a very diverse South Bay population.

Because of this fact of life, VTA must communicate with people who communicate in many languages, and as such, its organization materials must reflect that.

See VTA’s recently published public notice (above) for the Kato Road Grade Separation Project, part of the push to extend Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to San Jose (and the rest of Silicon Valley). Anyone familiar with Fremont knows it is a very diverse city, and VTA’s notice (as seen in the Contra Costa Times on 16 September 2011) for a public meeting in Fremont properly reflects the need to communicate and reach out to the community’s diverse residents.

The public notice was written in numerous languages, and it is an example of how a public notice should be made. Well done.

[iphoto via PJ]