What's L.A.'s biggest rival? Is it San Francisco? New York? San Diego? Just kidding, it's definitely not San Diego.
What's L.A.'s biggest rival? Is it San Francisco? New York? San Diego? Just kidding, it's definitely not San Diego.

Which City Is L.A.'s True Rival?

It's official: The Los Angeles Dodgers are heading to the World Series for the first time in 29 years. And they may well face the New York Yankees, setting up a cross-coastal showdown between two great rivals.

The two teams have faced each other 11 times in the Fall Classic, more than any other. The potential for a 12th faceoff begs a larger question: Is the New York/Los Angeles rivalry really a thing?

"I would say 20 years ago, it was," says Joel Kotkin, an urban studies professor at Chapman University Professor. "New York was sort of the place we thought we would compete with as being a great global city."

The two metropolises offer competing visions of city life — New York: dense, gritty, cold, rushed; Los Angeles: sprawling, car-centric, laid-back, sunny. New York has Wall Street. L.A. has Hollywood.

New York, of course, always seems to win out. It has better pizza and better bagels. Its mayors are national figures. Its newspapers are national newspapers. It's the financial capital of the world and the media capital of the world. And it has more of the country's top tourist attractions than any other city.

There's just one problem with New York City's supposed supremacy: New Yorkers keep moving here.

As public relations specialist Allen Mayer told The New York Times in 2014: "I think the rivalry exists mainly in the heads of New Yorkers, current and former. ... There’s a large community of transplanted New Yorkers in L.A. and, initially at least, many of us feel a need to justify our decision to move here. At the same time, the friends and family we left back East feel rejected and want to convince us we made a terrible mistake. Native Angelenos don’t really care.”

Our other rival, of course, is San Francisco, a city that always seems to get the respect L.A. feels it deserves. Los Angeles is considered dull and flat, while San Francisco is considered too beautiful for words. And while L.A. is the entertainment capital of the world, the Bay Area has become, in recent decades, something arguably more important: the tech capital of the world.

Los Angeles has strained to catch up to both cities in various ways. It is becoming denser and building out its transit network. And it has managed to attract some tech companies. But, at least in those two respects, it remains far behind.

Objectively speaking, then, L.A. doesn't appear to be besting San Francisco or New York. But what do Angelenos think?

The great economics blogger Tyler Cowen considers Los Angeles the greatest city in the world. He writes:

Los Angeles no longer seems so superficial, perhaps because so many other parts of the country have been revealed to be the same or worse. Their bookstores are no longer an embarrassment because now everyone’s are an embarrassment. The city feels less glamorous and more normal, a better place to live but a more difficult place to talk about. It remains an oddly forgotten city, overlooked in America’s love affair with Brooklyn and Silicon Valley and yes the Southeast, yet better to live in than perhaps anywhere else on this continent. (Provided you do not have school-age children.)

"Oddly forgotten" and "difficult place to talk about" sounds about right. The rest of the country used to hate L.A. Now it ignores us.

I would argue that L.A.'s true rival is itself — or, rather, its different selves: Westside vs. Eastside, for example. There is real venom there. Just try telling someone who lives in Silver Lake that you're thinking about moving to Santa Monica. They'll look at you as if you just said you're thinking about joining a cult.

Or take the Valley vs. the city. For years, the Valley so hated being a part of Los Angeles that it wanted to secede. And the Valley is taken for granted by city dwellers to such an extent that cause for even a brief visit is often met with derision bordering on scorn.

Other intra-city rivalries spring up all the time. Gentrifiers vs. longtimers. Renters vs. owners. Urbanists vs. suburbanites. These are the divides that get Angelenos' blood boiling — not whether our city is "better" than any other city.

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