Los Angeles v. San Francisco Redux: Analogy of the Day

More deep thoughts about the California split.

Given the NoCal v. SoCal fight that my World Series post precipitated, I thought I should offer another very apt analogy.  This comes via my friend and colleague Ann Carlson:

The bay area is Canada.  LA is the U.S.  We hardly notice them; they think obsessively about not being us.

I think that that’s right.  Moreover, Canada/SF is colder and lower in population than US/LA.  Both types of northerners are also at times insufferably smug.

One could finally argue that the northerners more progressive politically, although that’s trickier: for the City of Los Angeles, that holds very weakly, and since San Francisco is a county as well as a city, issues arise there that do not arise in the City of Los Angeles.  Your mileage may vary.

That is all.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

14 thoughts on “Los Angeles v. San Francisco Redux: Analogy of the Day”

  1. Since I cant really stand either the dodgers or the giants, I have a lot of trouble understanding the issue, but I am truly curious, did Los Angeles County get abolished? Is there something I'm missing here that true Angelenos get that I don't?

  2. Paul — No, Los Angeles County certainly did NOT get abolished! It's the largest county in terms of population in the entire United States. But it comprises 88 jurisdictions, including Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and now the infamous Bell and Vernon. It's MUCH bigger than the City — nearly 11 million people (as opposed to the City's 3.5 million). San Francisco is both a city and county — the only jurisdiction in the state that has both powers, I believe. Thus, typical California statutes will read, "If a City, County, or City and County" yadda yadda yadda. So the same group of elected officials in San Francisco have city and county powers and responsibilities; in Los Angeles, it's a completely different group, with different (although sometimes overlapping) constituencies.

  3. I know that LA and so forth aren't properly Lower California, because it would be so nice for the abbreviations to be LoCal and NoCal.

  4. I gots no horse in this race, but from this and the last post, SF isn't the area coming off as "insufferably smug."

    PS: Not meant as a personal attack on you, Jon, just your view of this rivalry. I've enjoyed your writing for some time, and would think of you more as "sufferably smug."

  5. US/Canada? That's one pair. Something that comes more quickly to mind is Boston/Philly/Chicago/DC in the role of SF, and LA in the role of NYC. (Oddly enough, LA is the only town in the US that New Yorkers bother to get sniffy about. DC thinks that it is in this league; it is not.)

  6. "The bay area is Canada. LA is the U.S. We hardly notice them; they think obsessively about not being us."

    Frankly, your LA friend seems a bit narcissistic.

    I've lived in San Francisco for about 20 years. I think a fair amount about Washington, New York, Boston and various cities across the water; but seldom about LA. As for my neighbors, they may think obsessively about it ,I wouldn't know … but they seldom talk about it.

    PS–Asked a colleague, who answered … "We don't talk about LA because there's not much to say, beyond 'Flash, cash and trash'. Thank God we don't live there".

  7. The only reason we think constantly of not being you is because, well, thank ghod for that. And I'm with Mike on that… it's not Canada that's coming off as unsufferably smug, though what would one expect from Cali?

    Enjoy the Palinate that's coming your way!



  8. I don't see much obsessing about LA up here. Baseball brings out a little, but even then it's pretty minor.

    As for myself I think of LA as a weekend destination. Living there seems like missing the point.

  9. You've really met smug Canadians? I honestly didn't think they came in that flavor. All the Anglophone and most of the Francophone Canadians I've met are so nice I almost feel scared for them when they're in this country.

  10. As a former resident of the peninsula and current resident of the IE (therefore looked down upon by both San Franciscans and Angelenos) I have to say that my only real experience of this was the debate over whether it is "101" or "the 101". I am fluent in both 🙂

  11. As a San Franciscan living in New York, the analogy linking the Apple to the City of Angels is just false. San Francisco is the only American city with a population density rivaling NYC, and that's why they're two of the only cities in the country that have a pedestrian-friendly feel. SF is NY with better weather, a more laid back vibe, and better food. NYC is the greater of the two cities- no city in the world is greater than New York- but LA just isn't in the discussion.

    I don't hate LA (just the Dodgers), but the fact that its population is larger is irrelevant. It's the density that matters. Large swathes of LA just look like bland suburban California to me, the kind found pretty much anywhere between SLO and San Diego and including the Inland Empire. Loz Feliz/Silverlake are nice neighborhoods, but not pedestrian-friendly (natch) and not all that culturally rich unless you count hipsters as being cultural.

    Our beef with LA is that it dominates the archetype for the whole state. Ask most people, even other Americans, about California and they'll think of movie stars and palm trees and surfers. Us Bay Area folk feel that our part of the state simply gets left out.

  12. "SF is NY with better weather, a more laid back vibe, and better food."

    That's exactly it. (Although NYC's food situation has been much improved since the opening of the Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel.)

    I lived in SF for 10 years, NYC for eight, and I have to say, I never really thought about LA much at all. Frankly, I never really thought much about the rest of the country. When you live in a truly world class city, there isn't much reason to. I do admit that I don't like L.A., but it isn't any thing particular; I also don't really like Seattle or Cleveland or Boston. (Chicago has its points.) I'm currently not living in either, and really, really miss the vibrant chaos.

    If that sounds smug, just consider the difference in housing costs and you can feel smug about not living in a dense city.

  13. @Matt,

    You're being a bit unfair to Chicago by leaving it out. The Loop area has Manhattan-style density. Maybe even more so. And much better architecture than either NY or SF.

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