[FoRK] What can you tell me about San Diego?

Jonathan S. Knoll fork at jonathanknoll.com
Tue Jan 13 12:29:40 PST 2009

Just noticed this thread, on the same day I looked up this line I once wrote
about San Diego (which I did for 3+ years). I wrote this days after moving
to New York (and it is as true today as it was then:

"Lovin' New York. It's home. I still cannot fathom how you can stand the
callow vapidity of San Diego."


On Tue, Jan 13, 2009 at 3:23 PM, J. Andrew Rogers <
andrew at ceruleansystems.com> wrote:

> On Jan 12, 2009, at 7:52 PM, Stephen Williams wrote:
>> So, who can tell me useful things about San Diego?  Why would I want or
>> not want to go there?
> I lived there a number of years and have quite a bit of family there. It is
> a very pleasant metro to live in, and even though they are in close
> geographical proximity, San Diego has relatively little in common with the
> wasteland that is much of Los Angeles, where I have also lived.  Whether or
> not it is for you depends on how you like to spend your time.
> Some major observations, in no particular order:
> - Everything you have heard about the weather is true, it has as close to
> an ideal climate of any place I have ever been.  Sunshine and blue skies all
> but a few weeks a year, low humidity despite being on the ocean, and a
> surprisingly narrow temperature band that keeps it pleasant all year. On
> very rare occasion, you get a tropical storm. It gets its weather from a
> different place than the rest of California. No significant smog problem
> outside of fire season.
> - Biotech and med-tech is to San Diego what software is to Silicon Valley,
> also a lot of electrical systems and RF engineering, but the entrepreneurial
> environment and culture is significantly different, probably due to the high
> capital requirements of the types of technology ventures that are common
> there. Not geeky like Silicon Valley or the Pacific northwest.
> - Spending a lot of time outdoors is de rigueur. San Diego has unusually
> good parks for a city, perhaps due to the superior weather, and has beaches
> that are actually meant to be used and lived on, unlike the rest of
> California.  If you like outdoor activities, San Diego is a great city to
> live in, and there are many popular past-times and activities somewhat
> unique to the city that are based in part on the unusually good year-around
> weather. The outdoor culture is one of the things San Diego has that few US
> cities can match, which is a major positive in my book.
> - There is quite a bit of wealth in San Diego, and distributed pretty
> widely throughout the metro and population, but it has a more subtle profile
> than in many other cities.  While the city is ethnically diverse, it is
> culturally more homogeneous than the San Francisco or even Los Angeles
> region.  You do not have the visible populations of fringe nutters that have
> taken over small cities and districts like you do in northern California;
> you have the same kinds of cultural districts, the people just put less
> effort into being visibly extreme and different.  It lacks the media
> celebrity fetish of Los Angeles, the large collections of leftover hippies
> like the San Francisco area, or even much of a snooty "old wealth" culture
> despite the numbers of wealthy people.  Less cultural diversity, but the
> prevailing culture is pretty good as such things go.  Despite the
> pervasiveness of Mexicans in the population, the culture adopted some very
> English affectations (as opposed to more generic European) in a way you
> rarely see in the US.  It is not an homage to heritage or anything like
> that, just something that somehow was incorporated into the local scenery.
> - Very mountainous and distributed metro, with no real city center to speak
> of. The nominal city center really isn't, despite being the only truly urban
> area of the city that I can think of, and there are other very nice
> mini-centers scattered throughout the metro.  It is unavoidably a driving
> city.
> The primary caveats that come to mind:
> - There is a very large naval presence in the San Diego area, and
> consequently the parts near military bases have a decidely "military town"
> feel to them and are among the least nice sections of San Diego.
>  Fortunately, it is pretty easy to never set foot in those parts of town.
>  Of course, all cities have these kinds of areas.
> - While San Diego has all the restaurant diversity one might expect of a
> city of its size and history, I personally think it has a relative dearth of
> very high-end restaurants that I find surprising.  On the other hand, the
> ubiquitous indigenous cuisine is the wonderful (and healthy) coastal Mexican
> food that you really cannot get anywhere else in the US -- it is one of the
> things I miss most about San Diego.
> - It is not a city you go to for super-deep or eclectic cultural
> experiences.  On the other hand, San Diego has retained vestiges of old
> Spanish-ness that you do not see in many other cities, and parts of it are
> unusually old for a western US city.  The city first underwent explosive
> growth in the early and mid 19th century, and parts of that are still
> around.
> - I have not lived there in a while, though I do spend some time there most
> years. Some of my impressions may no longer reflect reality, but are
> probably generally valid.
> Overall, I have always found San Diego to be one of the most pleasant
> places to live in the US, and would rather go there than most other American
> cities. It is missing the diversity of eclectic local culture that you find
> in some other major cities, but compared to suburbs like Silicon Valley it
> may actually be an improvement.
> Cheers,
> J. Andrew Rogers
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