The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

12 May 2005

The city as amusement park

San Francisco, says Joel Kotkin, is an ephemeral place, a city devoted to "stylish living" above all else:

The ephemeral city differs dramatically from traditional urban centers. No longer populated mainly by middle class families and a diverse set of industries, it is dominated by a wealthy elite, part-time sojourners, hordes of tourists and those that serve them.

And its political climate, says Kotkin, runs "from left-liberal to left-lunatic," which would ordinarily suggest a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth over job losses — 13 percent in the last five years — and recent declines in "diversity," because urban ethnics can no longer afford to live there. Instead, San Francisco worries about shopping bags and the possibility that a person addressing the Board of Supervisors might commit a verbal faux pas.

For some inscrutable reason, this sort of circus is being held up as a role model for the rest of us. Kotkin reports:

San Francisco is not alone in building an ephemeral economy. Montreal, Berlin, Boston and Portland, Ore., all display signs of constructing an urbanity based on hipness, art and culture. Like San Francisco, these cities attract large numbers of young, educated people with their notable street life, entertainments and nice architecture.

Less reasonable are the attempts of other, less favored cities — places like Detroit, Cleveland, Baltimore, Manchester, Vt., and Oklahoma City, even Aarhus in Denmark — to peg their futures on becoming hip cultural centers. Some, adopting popular development guru Richard Florida's notions that having lots of gays is key to making your city successful, have decided that they, too, need to get more gay.

Will this strategy succeed in the boondocks? When a reporter from Oklahoma City tells me of the city fathers' dream of attracting hip, cool people, including a large contingent of gay people, to create a Sooner State Castro district, I can answer with one New York word — fuggedaboutit.

You might think, or I might, that if Oklahoma City really wanted to attract gay people, the city would have mounted a campaign against State Question 711 last year. And besides, however popular Dr Florida's notions may be these days, they seldom translate into actual economic success.

Some of our "emerging professionals" bewail the fact that Oklahoma City doesn't seem to be transitioning into a vacationland for lawyers in love. Right now, I'm more interested in whether they can keep the sewer lines from backing up.

(Via Matt Rosenberg in not-always-delusional Seattle.)

Posted at 10:37 AM to Almost Yogurt , City Scene


Oklahoma City as neo Metro-Fag community.....not in this world. Keep the sodomite cultural xanadu's
on the coasts, please!

Posted by: paulsmos at 11:00 AM on 12 May 2005

Gosh, paulsmos, you're right! Heaven forbid your property values go up. Wouldn't want any of that nasty equity fucking up that Oklahoman Sexual Purity.

Posted by: aldahlia at 11:57 AM on 12 May 2005

Um, on a less prejudiced subject.. where in OK are you from? I got my start in Norman..

Posted by: Taylor at 12:11 PM on 12 May 2005

Oh, yeah. And, look up "Oak Lawn." The "sodomite cultural xanadu's" are not limited to the coast.

Posted by: aldahlia at 12:48 PM on 12 May 2005

I resent the implication that "gay=urban vitality." What a bigoted and unsustainable notion.

Posted by: Dan at 2:25 PM on 12 May 2005

Obviously, Paul doesn't worry that others will take his outbursts as overcompensation for doubts about himself.

Posted by: McGehee at 2:55 PM on 12 May 2005

Assuming Taylor was asking for my location, it's in northwest Oklahoma City.

Posted by: CGHill at 3:14 PM on 12 May 2005

I dislike the name-calling, but Charles nails it when he points out that Dr. Florida's ideas *just don't work* in terms of real economic growth for cities. Except for Dr. Florida's own personal economic growth, enhanced by yet another book about this "creative class" that seems to flit about the globe.

Plus, it seems awfully cynical to me to support measures like equating same-sex unions with marriage, equal benefits for domestic partners, etc., for economic reasons. I don't support legally recognizing same-sex unions, but if I did, it would be because I thought that it was a right unfairly denied gay people. And not because I thought supporting it would get 'em here to spend money.

Posted by: Brett at 3:23 PM on 12 May 2005

Oops. To clarify, I referred to paulsmos's name-calling. Charles was of course a gentleman.

Posted by: Brett at 3:24 PM on 12 May 2005

Well, I certainly don't want us to get to the point where we're discouraging them, which is one reason I voted against 711 in the first place.

(I should have pointed out in the original that I added that link in the last paragraph I quoted from Kotkin, not that there's any chance I'd get a link from the San Francisco Chronicle anyway.)

Posted by: CGHill at 5:58 PM on 12 May 2005