Is L.A. Too Spread Out to Be a Tech Center?

New York Times tech writer Eilene Zimmerman did not come to Los Angeles to make friends, you guys. In her story and blog post about L.A.'s startup culture, Zimmerman manages to cram as many tired stereotypes as she can into a single sentence: "As a city, Los Angeles has been better known more for sprawl, gang violence and Botox than its tech start-up scene." Her point (and she does have one): L.A. has, like, too much traffic to have a real tech scene or anything, but, gosh darn it, these folks are trying!

Basically, it's all L.A.'s fault for being so big and stuff:

"That kind of tightness has been hard to replicate throughout the Los Angeles area — mostly because of traffic and sprawl. Mr. DeWolfe, among others, cited the challenges in trying to unify a community spread across neighborhoods and cities from Santa Monica to Hollywood to Pasadena. 'It’s not a minute or two walk down the street to get to these places,' he said."


Because you see so many tech workers walking up and down the 101 Freeway in Palo Alto, right? Strolling from startup to startup, just tucking their heads into Facebook to say hi?

The argument that Silicon Valley is some kind of dense, unified community is bullshit. Sure, in some neighborhoods of San Francisco you could punch three random douchebags and one of them would be a startup founder. But for the most part, the Bay Area is not one continuous technology compound. The entire Silicon Valley region is made up of many cities and centers— like L.A. It's 36 freaking miles from Yelp's San Francisco office to Google's Mountain View campus, far greater than the 25 miles between Santa Monica and Pasadena. And that's 36 miles through areas that are also notorious for traffic and sprawl.

In fact, all the L.A. neighborhoods mentioned where startups are launching are dense, walkable areas with great transit connections to each other. Not mentioned at all in Zimmerman's story were two massive tech-friendly development initiatives: The Cleantech Corridor in the downtown Arts District, and the (t)Expo Line Corridor, along a new light rail line (above) that will travel from Santa Monica all the way to Pasadena. In both cases, the tech community will be helping to build that connectivity between neighborhoods—not manning a fleet of private buses that are creating "reverse sprawl."


You can blame our late-bloomer tech scene on our economy or our inability to emerge from beneath the shadow of the entertainment industry (hell, blame it on the awful name: Silicon Beach???). But you can't really blame L.A.'s size for its supposed shortcomings. It's not like we all sit at home, paralyzed by the thought of traveling across town to interact with our fellow human beings: It's JUST TOO FAR and there are TOO MANY CARS in the way! In reality, we understand how to get around our own city just fine.

A much more alarming problem with this story (and part of a longer conversation for another time): Not a single woman was mentioned in this piece, with the exception of a single quote (in parentheses!) from Julie Henderson, a spokeswoman for 21st Century Fox. Oh wait, unless you count the mention of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. And we should, because it's L.A. and we're all just obsessed with celebrities anyway.


[Top image: Map of L.A.'s startup community from Represent LA]


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