Over the past week, I've noticed a lot of discussion about the large flows of people moving to Texas (summaries of the exchange found here and here). Matthew Yglesias mentions one part of the migration model that I think is germane to Austin's growth:
Last, as Brad DeLong observes part of the issue with certain coastal metropolises like San Francisco is the “no one goes there anymore, it’s too crowded” phenomenon. If you get really good at attracting human capital then it gets expensive for people to live there which makes growth into a self-limiting phenomenon.
The inexpensive cost of living is not the entire picture of a frontier community. The other pillar is anarchy. Acting as catalyst to a scene are the creative nomads looking for the next cultural buzz. Keep Austin weird. Keep an eye on what is happening in Buffalo.
The Slacker mentality lives on in Austin. But for how long? Why I think the city finally jumped the shark:
I experienced everything Joah mentions above while living in San Francisco. When my brother and I moved out to SF, I thought SF would be crazy creative with music and dancing. Instead, I got a rat race in which artists and musicians couldn’t live. In fact, most of the musicians and DJs that I knew from SF no longer lived OR PLAYED in the city.San Francisco had gotten so completely unaffordable that artists had to move out or work ALL the time to be able to live in the city. And because the art scene has vanished, there isn’t any fun to be had. So why work all the time if you have nothing to show for your efforts? At least in NYC there is still a little bit of magic.So I moved back to Austin. Here people can be artistic and still afford to live.
So far, so good. Austin still has what San Francisco has lost. But Joah is worried that Austin is on its way to being the next San Francisco:
The buy local movement is usually built to support retail businesses like the one I own, but I fully believe that the only thing that will really protect retail businesses in Austin in a sustainable way is a live music scene that keeps this city fun. If this city becomes less fun to live in – like what has happened to Rust Belt cities like Detroit and Cincinnati over the years – people won’t care to spend money to look good or listen to new music because they’ll be too busy stressing about how boring their lives are. Once that happens, no number of tech jobs or UT degrees being handed out will keep people here…especially when real estate prices are climbing.If you’re going to pay New York, Miami or Chicago rent, you might as well live in those cities if Austin is no longer as much or more fun in comparison, right? That’s why the next decade is so extremely important in Austin.
Austin is cheap real estate and fun. How do we quantify fun? We know what it isn't: Rust Belt cities. That's Joah's mistake. America's Urban Frontier has in spades what Austin is losing. The threat:
The city has been really working my nerves lately. Yes, the Cathedral of Junk got a stay of execution, but why attack the 20+ year old Austin institution? And why bust the renegade bridge parties? Didn’t the city get the memo: The crime rate is rising in Austin. Shouldn’t they focus their attention on that? Oh yeah, and what’s this about the city not wanting to hear any more input from the public on the Nueces Bike Way?One person complained about the Cathedral of Junk. One person complaining almost had Shady Grove’s Thursday night concert series shut down. So maybe one person (me) complaining can slap some sense into some folks before more of the city we love vanishes.
"Renegade bridge parties" sounds like a night in Youngstown, Ohio. Austin is maturing into a region that attracts a wealthier, older and more mainstream demographic. It's becoming a lot like Boulder, Colorado. Don't get me wrong. There is still a lot to appreciate in Boulder. But the wild days are a thing of the past. No one I know can afford to live there. The downtown freak shows have been pushed out, squashed or watered down to make the pedestrian mall more family friendly. It's boring, domesticated. Life is elsewhere. Time to move to the Rust Belt.