Friday, December 31, 2010

My New Year's Resolution

A couple months ago I stumbled upon a wiki page for Global Cities (also known as World cities). Wikipedia describes a global city as "an important node point in the global economic system" and the criteria include:

  • Economic characteristics (corporate headquarters, financial output, cost of living)
  • Political characteristics (active influence on and participation in international events and world affairs)
  • Culture (notable museums, galleries, lively cultural and music scene, strong community, major sports facilities, educational institutions)
  • Infrastructure (advanced transit systems and freeways, extensive mass transit, high-speed communications, prominent skylines).

It turns out that there is actually an organization called the GaWC that tracks all of these characteristics for cities around the world and ranks cities into categories. You have Alpha world cities like New York and London, followed by Beta and Gamma world cities, then you have cities with Sufficiency and High Sufficiency when it comes to these criteria. Spoiler Alert, we didn't do so well. In fact the 2008 report pegged San Jose as being only in the Sufficiency category.

My New Year's resolution is simple. I'm pledging to do whatever I can over the course of my life to help San Jose, regardless of how small it may seem, get from Sufficiency to Alpha World City status. It's a lofty goal, but I'm hoping that doing simple things such as promoting our vibrant culture and new developments will have a snowball effect and encourage more of the things that will put San Jose on the global radar.


  1. I agree, but one thing that would help San Jose's global image would be a monument or iconic building or place in San Jose, that could be used for promotion, something that people could immediately associate with San Jose.

  2. Looking at the list, it looks like the real selection criteria are mainly about length of history, and probably some pandering politics. If the criteria was really the importance of the city in the "world economic system" there's no way we'd rank below Phoenix, Charlotte, and Indianapolis ("high sufficiency" cities in the ranking); or for that matter Santiago, Aukland, and Kuala Lumpur (alpha and alpha- cities).

  3. Completely agree we need an iconic structure of some sort. Even lighting up the top of the Bank of America building would have a nice impact! (Tom's idea)

    As for Matt's comments, there is also a list for 2000 and 2004, and the crazy thing is that San Jose actually ranked higher on those lists (the .com glory days likely had a substantial impact as they even track how many times a city is named directly in international publications).

    Also I don't think the economics category is where we are hurting right now, but primarily the other 3. If you look up Kuala Lumpur, that city is the cultural and economic engine in Singapore, and has a skyline that rivals any city in the US (Petronas Towers are still the tallest twin buildings in the world). Santiago is a city of over 5 million with an advanced transit system. And Aukland is the core of New Zealand. I'm not going to debate any of those, but Phoenix, Charlotte, and Indianapolis I do agree we should outrank.

  4. Ugh, don't bring up skylines. I know it's relatively superficial, but a skyline is so important to a city's image, and because of the airport we will never have one. I appreciate having our own airport (not looking to start that debate again), but the lack of a skyline is the most depressing thing about San Jose for me because I know it will never be fixed.

  5. I wouldn't go that far for several reasons:

    1.) Development will slowly move away from the airport. A good example of this is what's planned for North 1st. There should be potential for 30-40 floor buildings along that corridor. While not in the Downtown core, many of these buildings will still be in the backdrop of downtown photos and be visible from downtown. Even further down Santa Clara Street past city hall should allow for taller buildings.

    2.) Airplane technology will improve substantially in the next 5-10 years. It's amazing that we still need to use traffic control towers in this day and age. When planes are operated and managed mostly by computers, it will narrow the flight path required.

    3.) There are amazing things that can be done with lighting to make downtown look taller and more dramatic. Here is the best example so far:

    Also... height isn't everything. If you look at Rio or London, the overwhelming majority of buildings are under 20 stories and the most desirable places to visit are not next to the tallest buildings. If you do a Google image search on these 2 cities, the first items that come up are their iconic structures like Big Ben (323 ft) and the Statue of Christ Redeemer (120 ft). One more point is the main cultural areas are usually now where the tall buildings are. You will likely see the same thing in San Jose. The taller buildings will be further out from the core and the main cultural facilities will stay in the downtown core.

  6. Interesting points. I hope you're right. I love a good skyline.