Cheap City / Cool City: Oakland Edition

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Jan. 10 2012 1:15 PM

Cheap City / Cool City: Oakland Edition

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Oakland, CA.

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Isa Hopkins writes about how she found her bliss in Oakland rather than San Francisco:

Earlier this year, a friend and I co-founded Femikaze, a feminist sketch comedy troupe. (And if you don't believe that "feminist" and "comedy" are natural allies, you should come to one of our shows!) We had our first independent production in October, a full-length show here in the East Bay that sold out three of our four nights. We've already scheduled three more shows for next year.
It's the kind of thing that would have been exponentially more difficult in San Francisco, where any given Friday night offers thousands of entertainment options, including dozens of comedy shows. We're only a few miles away from the frenzy here in Oakland, but it's quiet enough that we don't have to shout to get anybody's attention. There's room for two determined women, with no patron and no budget, to start something.
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This is the dynamic I was talking about with reference to DC and Berlin. A lot of people in the DC arts and culture communities took me to be dissing the work of the people who are here in the city. That's not at all my intention and obviously there's lots of stuff happening in San Francisco. But as Hopkins says, when you look at an Oakland or a Baltimore "fewer resources are required to start something new, and less competition comes from established entities." To an extent, the advantages of not being in the center of the action are inherent. The flipside of saying "if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere" about New York is that it's really hard to make it there. But to an extent, this is just about prices. Rents in San Francisco would be lower if San Francisco didn't have a public policy climate that's hostile to the expansion of the city's square footage. And if rents were lower, it would be cheaper to start things up and easier for lines of endeavor that can be socially or culturally meaningful without necessarily being lucrative to prosper.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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