John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
It’s not for the easily offended.
San Rafael boasts “more hybrid cars than black people,” half the residents of Palo Alto “have their name registered as a domain,” and San Francisco’s Tenderloin district is, ahem, the “ass smellin’ area”—these are some of the revelations in this profane Bay Area map based on Urban Dictionary judgment calls.
Sasha Trubetskoy, a 19-year-old student at the University of Chicago, made the map by overlaying U.D. statements on the cities and towns they reference. The process took careful curation. For Milpitas in the South Bay, for example, he could have gone with “a small town that serves as a speed bump between Fremont and San Jose,” or “gangs usually start in Milpitas and move on to San Jose where they can actually get into trouble,” but settled with “perpetual smell of rotting trash.” (There’s a dump nearby.)
Trubetskoy created the map as a sequel to a similar one for Long Island, saying he chose the Bay Area “because I have a lot of friends from there” and presumably wanted to offend them all. Or not—while there’s much to argue with over negative stereotypes like “violent” and “ghetto” neighborhoods, that stubborn Californian pride shines through in entries like “most beautiful city in the world” (San Francisco) and “dumbest kids still smarter than you” (Silicon Valley). Trubetskoy writes:
Combing through Urban Dictionary entries for Bay Area cities and towns, I noticed right away how much less negative the entries were when compared with Long Island. Perhaps this says something about the culture of the Bay, as well as the history. With a lot of recent development, neighborhood tensions are not as entrenched as on Long Island. Combine this with the mellow, easygoing Californian stereotype and you get a lot of dictionary entries that are actually quite positive.
Folks wanting to see what the Internet thinks of their city stay tuned—Trubetskoy says he’s planning more biased cartography, including Chicago and the “D.C. metro area, my home city.” For now, here are a couple Bay Area highlights. San Francisco:
And San Jose: