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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Here's a topic that hasn't come up here: what is the relationship between Chicago and San Francisco?

We seem to get hyper-focused on LA with which Chicago has a spirited rivalry. It no doubt came form the similiarities of population and LA passing up Chicago, as well as being the two non-NYC global cities in the US. Sheer size of the two cities may obscure there is another city in California, much smaller but part of a huge metro area, that shares so much with Chicago.

But what about San Francisco? It seems to me we share a lot with the city by the bay.

Going back to the time of the first continental railroad, when the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific joined up at Promitory Point, essentially what was happening was the joining of SF (Oak) with Chicago. Both cities were influenced by Daniel Burnham (oblivously more so in Chicago than in SF) and Chicago architetects have played a prominent role in the development of SF architeture, including the Bay and GG bridges. Educationally both areas offer up the likes of Northwestern, Chicago, Cal, and Stanford. ORD/SFO is one of the nation's strongest air links.

No other cities away from the northeast corridor project urbanity the way that Chicago and San Francisco do; in that sense, they are in a class by themselves.

Downtown, SF may be more like Chicago than any other city: two magnets without the sheer size of Manhattan. NY, Chgo, SF, and Boston, IMHO, have the nations most vibrant downtowns, but Boston (with its proximity to NYC) does break away from the pack as a major center the way SF does.

A recent thread on the West Coast board showed pictures of SF development (u.c. and planned) and what you see is almost Chicago-like, in scale and scope. I realize there is a lot of speculation in architectural renderings, but if most of this stuff is built, SF will be giving Chicago a good run for its money in what it can offer downtown...something I don't see in-land downtown LA ever accomplishing.

So much are the City-by-the-Bay and the City-by-the-Lake kindred souls, joined by urbanity, density, forging true great cities away from the Atlantic, current forgers of the good life, etc. ? How does Chicago relate to San Francisco?
 

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Cynical post-collegiate
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San Franciscans are all commie pinkos that are unamerican.

Seriously, though, if people think Chicago has an inferiority complex... I think they should take a big look at "The City."
 

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I'd put Philly in the list of vibrant downtowns, but I sort of agree with what you said comparing SF and Chicago's downtowns. They are both very active and vibrant but are not as large in size as NYCs. However I believe Chicago's is bigger.
 

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Interesting point. SF and Chicago are two NE-influenced cities away from NE, though SF has kinda grown into a multimodal region. I wonder why that is?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
samsonyuen said:
Interesting point. SF and Chicago are two NE-influenced cities away from NE, though SF has kinda grown into a multimodal region. I wonder why that is?
samsonyuen, it was no doubt inevitable: the geography is unique in the form of a huge bay in the center of the region. In size and scope, nothing in the US compares with SF Bay and the Bay Area (Tampa Bay, a far smaller area, has a bay that pales in comparison). Oakland on the mainland side was going to rise just the way that Newark was in relationship with Manhattan. Silicon Valley boomed from the technology of an institution with strong SF ties (Stanford),but with a campus far enough away from the city that that Palo Alto, San Jose, etc. were going to form their own mode.

Another point that I've made before about Chicago and San Francisco I'll throw here. They are both the best examples of their topography:

no city does "hills" as successfully as San Francisco.

no city does flat land as successfully as Chicago.
 

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Yes although San francisco is not similar in architecture like the Notheast corridor it is similar in urbanity. Chicago has arguably the best architecture and to me is a little more similar to the cities of the northeast. I cant really put my input in as far as the relationship of Chicago and Sf because I dont know.
 

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When I visited SF, I loved the way downtown flows seemlessly into the surrounding neighborhoods. With the exception of the "Mag Mile-Gold Coast-Lincoln-Park-Lakeview, and beyond" corridor, Chicago is not really like that. Much of what surrounds downtwon Chicago is highways, railyards, parking, wharehouses and other stuff that us not very inviting to the pedestrian.

Someone (I don't know who) over on SSP compared Chicago's urban fabric to swiss cheese and SF's to dense cheddar.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
A42251 said:
When I visited SF, I loved the way downtown flows seemlessly into the surrounding neighborhoods. With the exception of the "Mag Mile-Gold Coast-Lincoln-Park-Lakeview, and beyond" corridor, Chicago is not really like that. Much of what surrounds downtwon Chicago is highways, railyards, parking, wharehouses and other stuff that us not very inviting to the pedestrian.

Someone (I don't know who) over on SSP compared Chicago's urban fabric to swiss cheese and SF's to dense cheddar.
I agree with a lot of your observation. SF density is greater than Chgo's by necessity; it is on a tight (7x7mi) peninsula with hills further cutting down developable land. That accounts for a density second only to NYC. It is hard to preceive when you leave downtown to go into the neighborhoods.

Where SF is more Chgo like is in SoMa (south of Market) where the ball park and UCSF have been part of a major development area, along with a massive expansion of downtown crossing over the Market Street divide. This was all underdeveloped land.

As far as who gets the better end of this, SF and Chgo, I'm in complete
disagreement with you. Virtually any healthy, growing city would kill to be in Chicago's situation: developable former r.r.,factory, and warehouse land adjacent to downtown. Just drive on Roosevelt Road from Clark to Canal and see the type of opportunity Chicago has to continue the boom in exciting ways is mind boggling. Don't you think that SF would kill for such an opportunity? For all its popularity, there is not a lot of possiblity for real growth in SF due to its intensely developed landscape.
 

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"Someone (I don't know who) over on SSP compared Chicago's urban fabric to swiss cheese and SF's to dense cheddar."

Having lived in both...Chicago is so big it has both dense cheddar and swiss cheese.

Chicago is more sophisticated/pragmatic
San Francisco is more classy/romantic

San Francisco does have a few census blocks that are denser than any in Chicago, but overall more people in Chicago live in denser neighborhoods than the whole of San Francisco. Both have vibrant downtown/shopping/business/entertainment. After that....they are pretty different and wonderfully so.
 

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A42251 said:
Someone (I don't know who) over on SSP compared Chicago's urban fabric to swiss cheese and SF's to dense cheddar.
that was me (i'm "steely dan" over at SSP)




i don't see a very strong link at all between chicago and SF. they seem like they're in different worlds, actually. two of the best cities i've ever been to, though.
 
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