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