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Possible move to San Antonio/Austin, what can I expect?
June 14, 2007 12:21 PM   Subscribe

Possible move to San Antonio/Austin, what can I expect?

My wife and I are currently in Los Angeles but are considering a move to either San Antonio or Austin. We're in our late 20's, early 30's and are ready to get out of Los Angeles. I work as a web developer and she is a therapist. I'm currently interview for jobs in each city and though I've been to both, it's hard to get an honest feeling for the place without actually living there.

Advantages/Disadvantages of each city?
posted by captaindistracto to Society & Culture (24 answers total)
 
Extreme humid heat in SA, although you may be used to this in LA. This town is also fairly sprawled, so be prepared to do a lot of driving unless you're very lucky with respect to home/work proximity. Lots of nice historical landmarks. Really, much of your impression of this place will depend on which part of town you choose to live in (much like any other large city, I assume).
posted by IronLizard at 12:33 PM on June 14, 2007


You can expect to skim through the previous 48 threads on Austin or to ask a more specific question.
posted by grouse at 12:36 PM on June 14, 2007


I find San Antonio really boring. It's also a long way from anywhere very exciting, except Austin. I honestly prefer Houston. To both.
posted by atchafalaya at 12:38 PM on June 14, 2007


I lived in Austin for 5 years and visited San Antonio a bit.

Austin: A liberal college town. Honestly, the one place in Texas I could stand to live. Laid back, easy going, bit of a party city. In the past 10 years it's become a bit of a tech mecca, which has caused an interesting culture clash between New Austin and Old Austin. The north side of the city are soulless developments receding into sprawling suburbs. Very generic. South Austin has lots and lots of flair.

San Antonio: Strange. Old West meets modern city. The zoning, such as it is, is bizarre. In the space of 3 blocks you'll go from ghetto to old Spanish mission to high-tech buildings, it seems. Not sure what it's like to live in, but I've heard traffic is pure murder. As I said, I've only visited, so I don't have as much impact about that. I think it could be a fun city, if you could deal with its greater conservativism.
posted by jammer at 12:42 PM on June 14, 2007


Impact? Input. No idea how that happened.

Houston? Ugh. Smoggy, smelly, over-crowded, humid as a sponge on a hot day. I loathe Houston.
posted by jammer at 12:43 PM on June 14, 2007


The cost of living in SA is much lower then Austin if that is a concern. San Antonio is nice city, but it really depends on where you live as IronLizard said. I expect Austin and San Antonio to be a single metropolis in about 8 years much like Dallas and Fort Worth are now. It really depends on what's important to you. What kind of specifics are you looking for?

Here are some city stats: (a little out of date, but still helpful)
San Antonio
Austin
posted by bigmusic at 12:44 PM on June 14, 2007


Well, jammer's answer made me realize I should have written more. I agree with what he said about Austin; it's fun, but the best parts were kind of geared toward smaller crowds, rather than the population it has now.

As for San Antonio, it's like there's no there, there, if you know what I mean. The Alamo, for instance, is incongruously surrounded by office buildings. It's a city without imagination.

While there's a lot to dislike about Houston, its history of no zoning has made it a city with a lot of mystery. I've seen strange and wonderful combinations there. It's also, in my opinion, much friendlier than Austin.
posted by atchafalaya at 12:50 PM on June 14, 2007


Warning: I don't like Texas. Feel free to completely ignore my reply.

I used to live in Boston, but I have lived in Austin for over a year.

Austin is seedy but has a lot going on. Most of the night life down town is geared towards a college/low income crowd. There's not much going on in the suburbs, but there are a lot of them (and it's growing like crazy).

There are more pawn shops, tattoo parlors, strip clubs, check cashing places, and one day auto insurance business than I've ever seen anywhere else. Traffic (and drivers) is generally awful, and getting anywhere usually takes a long time (though you may be used to that).

It's definitely has the feel of the deep (poor) south as well. If you get any distance out of Austin you'll run into tiny towns that look deserted (until you realize that abandoned building is one of the most popular restaurants in that part of Texas) -- the scenes from the Texas chainsaw massacre were filmed just north of Austin.
posted by roofone at 2:05 PM on June 14, 2007


Thanks for the feedback so far. I've looked at all the Austin threads, so I have a good understanding of it. San Antonio has become an option because of job opportunities, but I didn't know what to expect.

It's a city without imagination.

Exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. Thanks atchafalaya.

pawn shops, tattoo parlors, strip clubs, check cashing places, and one day auto insurance business

Living in LA, I'm certainly used to this. I also have a full sleeve tattoo, so I'm not really stressed about parlors.

We're definitely looking into South Austin as a destination. Urban sprawl makes me cringe. There's just no sense of identity or creativity about a series of Condos next to a Home Depot and Walmart. Phoenix is like that and it's painfully boring.

Are freeways a must use in both cities?
posted by captaindistracto at 2:18 PM on June 14, 2007


Here in San Antonio you'll have a difficult (if not impossible) getting anywhere without a freeway. If possible, avoid having to take loop 410 anywhere. It's the worst and constantly under construction. Ditto for loop 1604, it's also the most dangerous road here according to the local news. Commuting from Austin to SA is definitely not something you want to do, either. I must say, however, considering the reputation LA has for traffic you might be pleasantly surprised by this town. It's all relative.
posted by IronLizard at 2:25 PM on June 14, 2007


I like San Antonio. It would be smaller by far than LA, of course, more laid back, more of a "medium-size-city" experience.

San Antonio has been a majority-Hispanic city for a couple of decades now.
posted by gimonca at 2:38 PM on June 14, 2007


I grew up in San Antonio and have lived in Austin for 18 years. There is one major difference: San Antonio is old, Austin is young. That means it is very laid back and slow in SA. Manana-town is what I call it. The people are old, too. Even the young people are old. Austin is hectic, I don't care what other people say. It is also exhilarating. Everyone is go go go and doing interesting things. Both have sprawl, just avoid the edges, that's where it is. A car is a MUST in Texas. Just like any other city, you can judge a neighborhood by the number of pawn shops etc. in the immediate vicinity. Not to say they're bad neighborhoods. I have to drive right by that strip of things to get home, but my neighborhood is neat neat neat. And I would never live too far from SA because I would die without proper enchiladas now and again.
posted by green herring at 2:43 PM on June 14, 2007


I'd still pick Austin over S.A. ... but keep in mind that traffic STOPS on any freeways and major streets during rush hour (3:30pm to 7-8pm), so put a premium on being able to live close to work.
posted by SpecialK at 2:52 PM on June 14, 2007


I live in Austin and only know SA as a tourist.

"Are freeways a must use in both cities?"

Depending on where you live and how you prioritize, you can mostly avoid the expressways around Austin, but it takes some doing, and renders an increasing number of destinations inaccessible. That said, in some central neighborhoods, you can go all week without getting in a car at all and meet all your routine needs.

"Urban sprawl makes me cringe."

Sorry. Me too. I'm not sure you can escape it in the USA. Every major city in Texas is afflicted by it.
posted by adamrice at 3:05 PM on June 14, 2007


I've lived in both places. If you live and work in the intown area (of both cities, actually, but especially SA), traffic isn't that wretched. Moving from Atlanta, I found San Antonio rush hours kind of...cute, I guess. As in, they actually lasted for an hour, instead of from 3:00 to 7:00. Basically, you can live/work anywhere from the Trinity University area to Southtown and avoid freeways easily. Austin's worse, particularly when school's in session, but again it's a matter of where you choose to live and work. I wouldn't live in South Austin and commute to the north side of town.

Cost of living, especially housing, is considerably cheaper in San Antonio. You can find excellent old neighborhoods that are still affordable. There's actually a pretty vibrant arts and music scene, as well, depending on what you're into--it's a matter of avoiding the suburbs and finding the good, local places to go. I enjoyed living in Austin for several of the reasons other posters have mentioned, but San Antonio is what I miss when I miss living in Texas.
posted by paleography at 3:29 PM on June 14, 2007


My wife and I moved from Los Angeles (West Hollywood) to Austin a few years ago so I could go to grad school. I'd lived in LA for 8 years. Like you, I was ready to leave LA for good when the time rolled around. I love it here and I never want to live in LA again. Off the top of my head, here are some pluses and minuses.

How Austin is better than LA:
1. People are much friendlier here (in Texas, in general) than California (especially LA). Strangers say hi to you as you walk down the street, etc. This might freak you out at first, but it makes for a much more pleasant feeling about the city.
2. The pace of life is much slower in Austin than LA. Everyone's more laid back.
3. Driving is a more pleasant experience. Traffic isn't nearly as bad. Whereas in LA there's traffic 24/7 on freeways and surface streets, Austin traffic (for the most part) is limited to rush hour, usually on the freeways. You could skip the freeways during rush hour, but taking surface streets to South Austin from downtown still sucks. I live in North Austin and have no trouble getting to campus/downtown in the morning or evening rush hour (using Lamar or I-35). Drivers are much friendlier. Less road rage, people are less likely to cut you off & more likely to let you into a lane, etc. If you need to get across town, freeways are a must. Without traffic, you can do it in 20-25 minutes.
4. The cost of living is much better. Rent is definitely cheaper, gas is cheaper, food is a little bit cheaper.

How Austin isn't better than LA:
1. Extreme humid heat in SA, although you may be used to this in LA. LA never ever EVER had the amount of humidity that TX has. Personally, I love the humidity, so I'm right at home. But the heat is unavoidable. Green Herring mentions that a car is a must, but I would like to add that this is because it is way to freaking hot from June-September to be on foot during the day. There's no beating LA weather in general, so comparing any city's weather to LA is pointless.
2. There are fewer eateries of superior quality in Austin compared to LA. Not to say that there isn't good food, it's just not as abundant. Since moving to Austin, we haven't had as many food-related "wow" moments as we did in LA. When we were in LA last month, we made it a point to visit all of our favorite restaurants because we missed them so much.
3. Even though Austin is the "Music Capital of the World", that's because every bar in town has a band playing on any given night. Your favorite band might pass Austin over during its next tour, in favor of larger areas like Dallas or Houston. LA was great for music because it was always the destination city for any band (hugely famous or not).
4. Austin doesn't quite have the same excitement vibe that LA has. It's a smaller city with fewer places to go, fewer things to do (of course, not necessarily a bad thing).
5. You won't be near the ocean any more.
posted by puritycontrol at 3:31 PM on June 14, 2007


I've lived in Austin for five years now (and 20+ years in Houston prior to that), and I do not concur with the assessment by roofone. I find the city far from "seedy". Actually, the only places I've been to which I'd attach that label would be Atlanta (because of litter and grafitti along major thoroughfares) and the non-Inner Harbor portions of Baltimore (admittedly, most of my exposure to that was what could be viewed from the highway or rail line).

Austin is, in comparison to the many cities I've been through, exceptionally neat and clean and also relatively unblighted by billboards and giant signs. In certain sections of town, you don't even know where the stores are because they hide the shame of their filthy commerce behind hedges and treelines.
posted by Midnight Creeper at 3:40 PM on June 14, 2007


Yeah, I wasn't quite sure about the "seedy" comment, either. Any city I've been to has had its seedy sections, Austin certainly no more (less, really) than most.
posted by paleography at 3:51 PM on June 14, 2007


Being a moderate Democrat who lived in San Antonio for 18 years, I can say that I never, ever felt comfortable talking politics in San Antonio -- it's like I was an antelope surrounded by lions. Ditto for issues of race and social policy; I'd imagine that things have changed a little bit, but not much; it's an immensely conservative city, at least in the circles I was in.

On the other hand, Austin is much more moderate and reasonable (to my mind) -- the fact that it's a college town, a bit on the hippie side, a bit more academic and welcoming... I could definitely live there for a stretch.

Oh, and living in San Antonio, you'd have the three-soon-to-be-four-time NBA champion Spurs to go watch!
posted by delfuego at 4:10 PM on June 14, 2007


Austin is seedy but has a lot going on. Most of the night life down town is geared towards a college/low income crowd.

I grew up in Houston and have lived in Austin for 11 years now. This is simply not true. Seedy? It's one of the safest, cleanest cities the country. And while the college/low-income comment is true to 6th street, most of downtown has gotten pretty slick. Central and South Austin are funky/arty, with significant gentrification.
posted by lunalaguna at 4:49 PM on June 14, 2007


Thanks everyone. All this info is awesome. We're really excited about the move and this info definitely backs that feeling up. Once we're ready for the move, would it be ok if I PM a few of you for more info?

Thanks again. Cheers.
posted by captaindistracto at 6:48 PM on June 14, 2007


Lived in S.A. for twelve years, between '86 and '02. Hated it. The ungodly heat, the oppressive humidity -- year round. You won't see a temperature below 72 degrees between roughly May and September, even at night. You'll be mowing your lawn in January. The traffic - horrible, unless you happen to live and work in the same area. Loop 410 is an absolute nightmare, and Loop 1604 (the outer loop) - which used to a relatively pleasant 2-lane sleepy drive on the fringes of town - is just as bad as Loop 410 (slight exaggeration, but you get the idea). And confusing streets: there are THREE major roads with the name "Wurzbach" in them, and not one of those three roads connects to the others. Bizarre.

There is one good feature of San Antonio, however: there are plenty of great restaurants.

On the other side: I've visited Austin several times, and have relatives there, and it is much more pleasant. As noted above, it has a much younger spirit - there are always possibilities in a city like Austin. Traffic is pretty sucky there, too, but if you snag a spot outside of the central area, you should be fine (for a few years, anyway).

Two cents. YMMV, etc.
posted by davidmsc at 9:08 PM on June 14, 2007


I agree. I could criticize things about Austin all the live long day, but I would never call it "seedy". Especially if I was from Boston. Unless I was living at, like, St. John's and Airport, and then I would be pissed that nobody told me what part of town was cool.
posted by mckenney at 9:16 PM on June 14, 2007


Chiming back in a little late. Definitely feel free to email me with any questions about Austin should you chose to move there. Email's in my profile.

Good luck!
posted by jammer at 9:06 AM on June 15, 2007


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