[ACTIVITY]: Exploratory Visit to the Bay Area

post by Daniel_Burfoot · 2014-07-21T19:49:46.511Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 24 comments

In my opinion, living anywhere other than the center of your industry is a mistake. A lot of people — those who don’t live in that place — don’t want to hear it. But it’s true. Geographic locality is still — even in the age of the Internet — critically important if you want to maximize your access to the best companies, the best people, and the best opportunities. You can always cite exceptions, but that’s what they are: exceptions.

- Marc Andreessen


Like many people in the technology industry, I have been thinking seriously about moving to the Bay Area. However, before I decide to move, I want to do a lot of information gathering. Some basic pieces of information - employment prospects, cost of living statistics, and weather averages - can be found online. But I feel that one's quality of life is determined by a large number of very subtle factors - things like walkability, public transportation, housing quality/dollar of rent, lifestyle options, and so on. These kinds of things seem to require first-hand, in-person examination. For that reason, I'm planning to visit the Bay Area and do an in-depth exploration next month, August 20th-24th. 

My guess is that a significant number of LWers are also thinking about moving to the Bay Area, and so I wanted to invite people to accompany me in this exploration. Here are some activities we might do: 


I would also love to connect with LWers who are currently living in the Bay Area. If you are willing to meet up, discuss your experience living in the area, and share some local tips, I'd be happy to compensate you with a nice dinner or a few beers. 

If you are interested in participating in this activity, either as a visitor to the area or as a local, please comment below and I will PM you details for how to contact me. Depending on the level of interest, I will probably set up a shared Google Doc or one-off email list to distribute information. 

In general, my plan is to keep things loosely organized - less like a conference and more like a couple of friends on a weekend vacation. If you want to participate for a single day or just one activity, that's fine. The main exception is: if you are interested in sharing accommodations, please let me know and we will try to coordinate something (sharing rooms will make things cheaper on a per-person basis). I am planning to use AirBNB (if you are a local LWer who rents a room through AirBNB, that would be perfect!)










Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by ialdabaoth · 2014-07-26T17:43:16.403Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would very much like to come do this with you, but I currently work for the IT staff of a community college, so taking vacation time in the month of August is highly frowned upon.

EDIT: OH COME ON. Why was this downvoted? Why was this the ONLY POST IN THE THREAD THAT GOT DOWNVOTED?

Why am I terrible? Someone please tell me, why am I terrible?

Fuck it, I don't care about karma anymore. Downvote me to oblivion. Run me off the site. I don't care.

But please, please, tell me why I'm terrible. Tell me what I did wrong. Tell me how I could change. Please.

comment by ITakeBets · 2014-07-26T20:18:54.184Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Above observe downvotes making things worse

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-07-21T20:20:16.772Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Travel around using public transportation. Which places are convenient to get from/to, and which places aren't?

Google Maps is a pretty good simulator for this.

One thing to keep in mind, if you're coming from somewhere with marginally sensible public transit, like New York City or Portland: The Bay Area is not a metropolitan area; it's several metropolitan areas that don't cooperate very well. Bus systems are on the city or county level (Muni, ACTransit, VTA, and SamTrans); there are light rail systems that don't connect (BART and VTA), and a commuter rail line that doesn't reliably sync with the above (Caltrain).

Visit the offices of the major tech companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Twitter. Ask some of their employees how they feel about being a software engineer in Silicon Valley.

Find a current employee to give you a tour. You generally can't wander around people's offices unescorted.

Eat at local restaurants - not so much the fancy/expensive ones, but the ones a person might go to for a typical, everyday lunch outing.

The larger companies have cafeterias; even many startups have catered food.

See some of the sights. Again, the emphasis would be on the things that would affect our everyday lifestyle, should be decide to move, not so much on the tourist attractions. For example, the Golden Gate Bridge is an awesome structure, but I doubt it would improve my everyday life very much. In contrast, living near a good running trail would be a big boost to my lifestyle.

Look up bike trails and such online.

Do some apartment viewing, to get a feel for how much rent a good/medium/student apartment costs in different areas and how good the amenities are.

Expect to be astonished by the prices, and watch out for aggressive HOAs.

Go to some local LW meetups, if there are any scheduled for the time window.

Subscribe to the bayarealesswrong mailing list on Google Groups; meetup announcements are posted there.

Visit the Stanford and UC Berkeley campuses and the surrounding areas.

Go for it. Stanford is huge and Berkeley is hilly, by the way.

Interact with locals and ask them about their experience living in the region

See also mailing list. Also note that the visible populace of a busy town looks very different at different times, based on whether people are at work, whether school is in session, etc.

Visit a number of different neighborhoods, to try to get a sense of the pros and cons of each

You could spend days or weeks doing this in one town. Live near where you work, or find a workplace that's near where you want to live — commuting sucks.

Discuss how to apply Bayesian decision theory to the problem of finding the optimal place to live ;)

Hmm ....

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2014-07-21T23:52:01.910Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Subscribe to the bayarealesswrong mailing list on Google Groups; meetup announcements are posted there.

I suggest skipping the Berkeley meetups in favor of the South Bay ones.

comment by ThisSpaceAvailable · 2014-07-23T23:11:02.954Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Bus systems are on the city or county level

Slight nitpick: San Francisco is a consolidated city-county, so saying that bus systems are on the city level is slightly misleading (although the situation is still overly fractured). I don't think there are any counties with separate bus systems within the county, and as far as I can tell the different systems try to have at least some connections (VTA buses stop at some Caltrain stations, etc.) So as long as everything you're going to (e.g. Silicon Valley) is within one county, it's not too bad.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2014-07-22T00:10:40.590Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the suggestions.

comment by KnaveOfAllTrades · 2014-09-13T16:08:31.236Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Daniel, did you go ahead with this? Learn anything interesting?

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2014-09-14T15:54:35.967Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The main impressions I got were:

  • Berkeley is appealing (to me) near the university - it has a nice cafe+bookstore vibe. The rest of the city is too spread out and potentially dangerous (a bus driver I talked to said his bus had been shot twice).
  • The BART works pretty well, if your destination is near a station. The bus system in San Fran proper is not so good.
  • I didn't like the parts of Oakland I visited.
  • A studio apartment near the downtown Berkeley BART station is about $2k/month.

As an exercise, I broke down three cities (Boston, San Fran, Seattle) in terms of various dimensions (weather, social environment, business environment, cost of living, etc) and put a yearly dollar amount on each dimension, representing the value relative to Boston I'd be will to pay for having access to it. I was hoping that I would observe something like a $10k/year effective boost from moving to San Fran or Seattle, which would indicate a strong benefit to moving. I found only a $1k/year boost. I gave San Fran a $15k/year benefit for having better weather, but most of that was eaten up by a $10k/year increase in cost of living. The rest of the dimensions seemed pretty comparable.

comment by kbaxter · 2014-07-22T15:24:18.189Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I know this isn't the point, but I object to the quote at the beginning of your post. Maybe it's just because I'm one of "those who don’t live in that place," but what about people who are optimizing for something other than their career? Is that really such a big "exception?" Or am I taking the quote out of context, or does he think those people are optimizing for the wrong things, or what?

Some examples of alternative things one may be optimizing for when selecting where to live:

  • A significant other's career (or an area compatible with both people's careers)

  • Being near family or friends

  • Convenient access to specific hobbies

  • The weather

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2014-07-22T17:34:49.615Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I completely agree. If moving to the Bay Area were an obvious choice, I'd already be there. Honestly, for me the choice of Boston (my current locale) vs Silicon Valley is less about career trajectory and intellectual environment and more about weather - Boston's climate just seems awful to me. The quote was mostly to justify the idea that a lot of LWers might also be thinking of moving to SFBay.

comment by Punoxysm · 2014-07-23T17:27:12.047Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Gotta be honest, if you have more roots and relationships in Boston, you shouldn't move unless there's something you want to do that you can do far better in the Bay Area.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2014-07-23T21:13:27.838Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why do you say that?

comment by Punoxysm · 2014-07-23T22:43:33.644Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Because roots and relationships are important and Boston is a very nice city/metro that can easily compete with SF in terms of culture, cuisine, variety (if not climate) and economy. Even if you're in software, there's plenty of jobs and even startups in Boston.

comment by therufs · 2014-07-25T23:05:11.503Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This sounds fun enough to make me wish I were considering moving to the Bay Area.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2014-07-26T13:19:50.412Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You can come anyway.

comment by therufs · 2014-07-26T17:46:57.867Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay, this sounds fun enough to make me wish I were considering moving to the Bay Area so I could justify the expense and time away from work. ;)

comment by komponisto · 2014-07-22T03:35:16.234Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you are interested in participating in this activity, either as a visitor to the area or as a local, please comment below and I will PM you details for how to contact me.

I'll be there then (with status in between the two categories you mention) and am definitely interested in participating!

comment by ThisSpaceAvailable · 2014-07-24T03:00:34.761Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suppose it would be good to have all such replies collected into one thread, so I'll mention my availablity as a local here.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-21T23:39:54.913Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Bay area is a huge place. Where specifically are you thinking about?

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2014-07-22T00:07:55.964Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I plan to stay in Berkeley, and I hope to visit San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Oakland. Maybe that is too much for one visit? I prefer to live somewhere that is walkable and not over-the-top expensive. My limited knowledge suggests that Berkeley and Oakland are good candidates, given those constraints.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-07-22T07:42:24.175Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Walkable, and close access to public transit (rails, I assume?).. that would be Mountain View or Palo Alto in the south bay. Berekely or Oakland would be fine if you're looking for affordable city life. It's a little outside of the tech scene however. San Francisco is expensive and pretentious :\

comment by gwillen · 2014-07-21T23:03:48.404Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

For example, the Golden Gate Bridge is an awesome structure, but I doubt it would improve my everyday life very much.

True, unless you live north of it which you won't. The Bay Bridge, on the other hand, will have significant effects on you if you live in SF or Oakland/Berkeley. It is the primary nexus of massive traffic jams during rush hour (and at other times) that you will be contending with if you drive anywhere, and doubly so if you plan to drive over it.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2014-07-22T00:08:48.247Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the info. I am hoping to avoid having to drive on a regular basis.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2014-07-21T23:50:47.604Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

To avoid these traffic jams, you can take BART, the local subway which goes beneath the bay. Bikes & kick scooters are allowed on BART, for what it's worth.