Here’s some weekend reading – it’s a piece by the famed Paul Graham on why Silicon Valley rocks, and why no other place can possibly beat it. And as a result, rich nerds will always flood into the Valley, snapping up houses no matter what the salary/income ratio is.
Here are some key snippets:
How to Be Silicon Valley
I think you only need two kinds of people to create a technology hub: rich people and nerds. They’re the limiting reagents in the reaction that produces startups, because they’re the only ones present when startups get started. Everyone else will move.
Observation bears this out: within the US, towns have become startup hubs if and only if they have both rich people and nerds. Few startups happen in Miami, for example, because although it’s full of rich people, it has few nerds. It’s not the kind of place nerds like.
That’s right. Nerds hate Miami. I bet you didn’t know that!
Bureaucrats by their nature are the exact opposite sort of people from startup investors. The idea of them making startup investments is comic. It would be like mathematicians running Vogue– or perhaps more accurately, Vogue editors running a math journal. 
Though indeed, most things bureaucrats do, they do badly. We just don’t notice usually, because they only have to compete against other bureaucrats. But as startup investors they’d have to compete against pros with a great deal more experience and motivation.
And I can’t think of any place more government free and apolitical than the Bay Area. Everyone in the private or public sector is strictly there to move mankind forwards – never to squabble for their own career. Silicon Valley is also a place where you will be rewarded for doing great work, not for knowing the sister of the nanny of the VC’s child. No way. Never!
A lot of nerd tastes they share with the creative class in general. For example, they like well-preserved old neighborhoods instead of cookie-cutter suburbs, and locally-owned shops and restaurants instead of national chains. Like the rest of the creative class, they want to live somewhere with personality.
Most towns with personality are old, but they don’t have to be. Old towns have two advantages: they’re denser, because they were laid out before cars, and they’re more varied, because they were built one building at a time. You could have both now. Just have building codes that ensure density, and ban large scale developments.
And nothing describes this like our famed Cupertino! Sure Stephen Levy once called it an overgrown strip mall, but hey – check out all the locally-owned shops like [tbd] and [tbd], and amazing architecture. And how can we forget world famous Rivermark!
Most nerds like quieter pleasures. They like cafes instead of clubs; used bookshops instead of fashionable clothing shops; hiking instead of dancing; sunlight instead of tall buildings. A nerds idea of paradise is Berkeley or Boulder.
That’s right. Nerds love to go hiking. They just bring along their laptops, a portable generator, a giant thick hood to block out the sun – that way they can continue to add value to the world by Twittering, writing Java/C++ code, installing patches on their LAMP site. (BTW, I actually saw someone once take a Dell XPS
M2010 out of a bag and put it on a restaurant table.) Note that hiking spots are chosen by access to 3G networks. Also, who knew that nerds loved Boulder so much, or that tall buildings mean no sunlight!
What nerds like is the kind of town where people walk around smiling. This excludes LA, where no one walks at all, and also New York, where people walk, but not smiling. When I was in grad school in Boston, a friend came to visit from New York. On the subway back from the airport she asked “Why is everyone smiling?” I looked and they weren’t smiling. They just looked like they were compared to the facial expressions she was used to.
I can’t think of any place as walkable as Silicon Valley. All the time I’m walking around on El Camino Real, or Lawrence Expressway. I’m always bumping into friendly smiling people on Stevens Creek, especially near Agilent. That guy sure smiles a lot as he asks me for change. That guy loves nerds for some reason!
To attract the young, a town must have an intact center. In most American cities the center has been abandoned, and the growth, if any, is in the suburbs. Most American cities have been turned inside out. But none of the startup hubs has: not San Francisco, or Boston, or Seattle. They all have intact centers.  My guess is that no city with a dead center could be turned into a startup hub. Young people don’t want to live in the suburbs.
Uh. Um. Something something something Sunnyvale Town Center 2012 something something something! Nerds will love it!
For all its power, Silicon Valley has a great weakness: the paradise Shockley found in 1956 is now one giant parking lot. San Francisco and Berkeley are great, but they’re forty miles away. Silicon Valley proper is soul-crushing suburban sprawl. It has fabulous weather, which makes it significantly better than the soul-crushing sprawl of most other American cities. But a competitor that managed to avoid sprawl would have real leverage. All a city needs is to be the kind of place the next traitorous eight look at and say “I want to stay here,” and that would be enough to get the chain reaction started.
A friend of a friend once arrived in San Jose airport after a long trip from Asia. As he walked down the ladder (this was Terminal C, of course) on the phone he said to my friend “This is Silicon Valley? Are you kidding me?”
If that wasn’t lust at first sight, I don’t know what is.
Why do you think of Paul’s piece?