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June 21, 2010

What are the most pretentious suburbs in the Bay Area?

Yesterday, my husband and I enjoyed a day out in Marin County. We took a walk along the Tennessee Valley Trail to the beach, and it was gorgeous, breezy and clear. Then we went for lunch in Mill Valley.

Mill Valley is a pretty town: nestled up against Mount Tamalpais, in the redwoods, beautiful old houses, European-like staircases that connect homes in the hills to downtown. My dad grew up here, and I visited it a lot as a child because my grandmother lived here. In the 1960s and early 1970s, it was a hippie town.

It still has a little bit of that hippie feel, even though only very well people can now afford to live there. Now, it's filled with very high-end boutiques selling clothes and home decor. I guess you could call it pretentious. My husband thought Mill Valley might duke it out with Palo Alto for the most pretentious Bay Area suburb. Then he mentioned Woodside, and I pondered some of those famous wine towns up in Napa County.

It goes without saying that San Francisco and Berkeley are pretentious but those are cities, and they didn't factor into our conversation about pretentious suburbs.

Now, we get to the East Bay suburbs. I'm not gonna name names right now. There is one that is older and wealthy, and some of its residents, I have found, can be pretty snobby, especially to people who might--horror!--live in apartments. But that town looses some pretension points because its downtown is not bursting with business. More than a few empty storefronts.

Then there is another one that is also filled with very wealthy people who live in big cookie cutter mansions. The whole experience of journeying into that place is pretty surreal.

In my opinion, some suburbs earn the right to their pretensions, if, like Mill Valley, for example, they are genuinely attractive places. Where does that leave Walnut Creek?

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lafayette and Danville is certainly pretentious.

jgolds said...

Atherton. By far the most pretentious 'burb in the Bay Area.

Anonymous said...

pretentious |priˈten ch əs|
adjective
attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed

I would say that Walnut Creek fits this definition more than Danville or Lafayette. Walnut Creek has a Tiffanys, Nordstroms, and soon a Nieman Marcus. You've got the landscape littered with "swanky lofts" that no one wants to buy and faux "clubs" like Lift and 1515. Danville has a tasteful downtown with an ancient bowling alley. I guess the difference to me is that Danville has a more organic, unforced feel to it whereas Walnut Creek seems desperate to develop into something that it is not by a bunch of Affliction shirt clad, chubby, bald, thirty-something men grasping at the last vestiges of their twenties.

Thud said...

Walnut Creek,Danville, I love them all! I leave Britain for my summer stay in W.C. in 8 days time and I look forward to spending many a lazy sunny day taking in the pretentions...who knows I may add a tad of pomposity myself.

Anonymous said...

WC vs. Danville vs. Lafayette...yeah there are differences, but we are all in the same bubble and drawing bright distinctions is the very definition of the narcissism of small differences. Like a more urban feel? Go for Walnut Creek. Like a charming old rural feel? Go for Danville. Like "urban suburban"? Then Lafayette (or so say its bumper stickers...lulz).

And i we're gonna hold high-end chain retail against Walnut Creek, I guess you have to hold it against the Danville, Alamo, and Lafayette residents who shop there as well as WC residents. And I guess we should hold it against San Ramon and Pleasanton developers even more for trying to stop the Neiman Marcus development in WC because *they* wanted the business!

Affluent, white exurbanites arguing over who's the most pretentious...let's get real, folks.

Anonymous said...

The Bay Area as a whole is maybe the most pretentious area in the US. New York is about the only place that's close. So is it good to be the most pretentious burb in the bay area, because you embrace the identity more than any other, or bad? And isn't it pretentious to debate who's the most pretentious in a highly pretentious area?

Anonymous said...

Walnut Creek is #1, by far. I can't think of any burbs in Contra Costa more pretentious than WC.

Anonymous said...

Lol...in these comments we read that WC is the most pretentious, stagnant, its schools suck, broadway plaza is so crowded that no one goes there anymore, etc...

Sometimes I think this board is overrun by the Tri-Valley Chamber of Commerce fighting guerilla warfare with their neighbors to the north...

Either that or the good people of Walnut Creek are given to hysterical self-immolation...

Anonymous said...

I'll take Walnut Creek schools (Acalanes & WCSD) over Pleasanton schools any day of the week.

Anonymous said...

Of course there are no substantive differences in student performance in the Mt Diablo schools of WC vs. the WCUSD/Acalanes schools...there is probably no town that illustrates better than WC that the demography of a school's surrounding population matters a whole lot more for "performance" than the district bureaucracy.

Nevertheless we have a 2nd layer of pretense in this most pretentious burb: the highly pretentious West side and the merely pretentious East side, based on this quantitatively negligible but socially huge difference in the school districts.

It's just another attempt to enforce a pecking order because everyone feels insecure about themselves, no matter how high up they are on their own constructed social ladder. Why not just live your lives as best you can and wish others well as they do the same.

Anonymous said...

i think WC...seems to be trying too hard. not too mention the horrible parking situation everywhere u go.

Anonymous said...

Blackhawk? Round Hill? Pretension, Danville is thy name. Oh. Right. Danville wasn't pretentious enough for them so they legally had their mcmansions declared to be in Alamo.

Anonymous said...

Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, Danville and Alamo.

Don't get me wrong, I like living in Walnut Creek, but I'm a "lowly" condo dweller. I'd be perfectly happy without Neiman Marcus, Tiffany and Co and the fine dining restaurants. The excellent schools, lovely parks, proximity of public transit and safety are what keep me here.

Beau Hunk said...

Anonymous 3:45 said:

"...broadway plaza is so crowded that no one goes there anymore."

That is as fine an example of double-think that I have encountered in many years. I delight in believing that the writer envisions a future where the crowds are so dense that the plaza will be a vast wasteland full of tumbleweeds and crickets chirping in the emptiness...

Anonymous said...

I don't know which is most pretentious, but whenever I have a yearning to be judged unfavorably by a middle aged white woman in a Lexus SUV and a twin set from Ann Taylor, I high tail it to Lafayette.

LSR said...

Anyone from anywhere who prefaces their statement with "I'm a long-time resident of and..."

Meaning, they think that just because they have resided longer in their community that they fall under a different set of rules.

NOT!

Anonymous said...

What about Ross, Tiburon, Belvedere, Piedmont, Palo Alto, Burlingame, and Hillsborough? There is a big pretentious Bay Area beyond Contra Costa County.

Beau Hunk said...

The world's record for pretense is our very own Washington, DC.

Anonymous said...

It's definitely the help around town who think they're too good to be behind the counter. Uh...aren't they all from Antioch?

Anonymous said...

Pity the "poor people" of Diablo --they can't afford a residential mail box and have to go to the post office to get their mail. Fortunately, there is a sign for them in case they get lost on the way to the post office.

Anonymous said...

I'm with 6/21 @ 5:00. I've heard other WC residents talk about WC being 'the city' this side of the bay. As if WC compares with SF. And, more than one of my community members has bragged about being in a certain zip code.

Tacky, tacky, tacky.

Sir Vic's Liquor said...

The MOST pretentious area has to be Montclair. People here are oblivious to the fact that they live in Oakland. A few years ago I was involved in the pathetic realm of Match.com. I mentioned to a woman that I lived in Montclair, and was promptly reprimanded. Because I lived west of Highway 13, I DID NOT live in Montclair.

Anonymous said...

WOT! Aren't you supposed to say "Piedmont side" if you're west of 13, thus trumping those from "ordinary" Montclair east of 13?

Masterlock said...

Funny arguments all the way around, I'd have to say those little bastions of snobbery on the lower Peninsula take the cake though. But yes, we do try to keep up with the Joneses.

Jojo Potato said...

Atherton has the special quiet horns on the trains that come through their town. Also quiet bells on the crossing gates. Now that's pretentious!

Anonymous said...

Walnut Creek is for wannabes. In reality, most people in Walnut Creek are average, middle class simpletons pretending to be cultured.

This city definitely lacks the sophistication of Marin or the Peninsula...which is why it is 1/2 the price to live here. It is less desirable to those who really have the means to buy fashionable clothing and furniture from boutiques. Most people I see around here are just tacky.

The same goes for the fossils living in Lamorinda and Alamo. No taste whatsoever in those areas either, but Walnut Creek is definitely worse then the other areas. It always makes me laugh when people think they live in a better neighborhood than someone else in the east bay because by bay area standards, this place is the least desirable of all "pretentious" places to live up here.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:18 AM is wrong in just about everything he said. That certainly takes some effort. :-)

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:18 AM sounds like a bitter old man..., pity him.

Al Bondigas said...

awe 10:06 and 10:30 got their wittle feewings hurt.

Probably because they are "attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed"

But I bet they would have no problem shoving an old lady out of the way to snag that last pair of bedazzled flip flops off the rack at Ross. Very toney indeed.

Anonymous said...

Who cares about address or zip code. It does not go with you when you die. What goes with you is how you lived your life. Were you kind, supportive, loved, cared about others?

I would rather live my life in my small home, love my family and friends, be kind to others, and enjoy the sunshine. When I go into WC at times it feels phony to me. I enjoy some of the stores and restaurants and the occasional movie. What is sad to see is older women trying to look young and obviously had a bit to much botox or surgery. Plus why the heels when shopping?

Age gracefully, love often, be kind to yourself and others.

LeftCoast said...

Who cares.

Anonymous said...

no post in over a week. It looks like crazy in suburbia is now dead.

Anonymous said...

5:47 PM

I agree with you.

How sad that we are losing CIS.

Sorry SM but the Patch thing is just not the same.

Your report on the Library Gala was very mainstream and not up to your usual standards. Could have read it in the WC Journal.

Anonymous said...

Yes, this blog is officially dead.

I won't be "patching" either. See ya!

Anonymous said...

I love the upscale stores in Walnut Creek, and especially the Lesher Center. It saves so much gasoline and time from going all the way into San Francisco. There is a difference between affluent and pretentious, don't you think? When I was in Tiffany's with my 14 K and 18K gold charms on a bracelet from high school years and wanted a new charm to be soldered on ( the charge usually was from $10 to $20), the clerk haughtily informed me that it was "not our policy to do that unless the bracelet itself was purchased from us". Now THAT, to my mind, was not only pretentious but RUDE!!! So my answer was, "That is an unfortunate policy because now my own policy is never to set foot in a Tiffany's anywhere in the country, and I plan to write corporate to let them know the location of this store and the clerk's name." And I did. I will say that Tiffany's wrote a lovely note of apology, including a discount offer on my next purchase (which made no substanitive difference because they said nothing about changing their policy).

Anonymous said...

bye bye CIS...i'm not "patching" either...

Anonymous said...

Wow, I didn't realize that the Crazy blog still existed, til I saw a link to this post just now on claycord.com.

I miss this Crazy site. I'm glad that Soccer Mom has what is probably a good gig with Patch/AOL and I look at that site, too, but I miss the layout and feel of the CIS blog.

Farewell, Crazy in Suburbia blog, we loved you! -- AOL, please take heed and try to keep the best of the elements that Crazy has to offer, for incorporation into Patch.

Anonymous said...

Crazy in Suburbia... rest in peace...

No Patch for me.

Anonymous said...

well, I confess I am not really that sorry to see SM move on... I think Patch is really more in line with her personality - there she can be pretentious - here she got called on it.

so, good luck SM, I like you where you are!

Anonymous said...

Nice that some of the trolls are going back under their bridges!

How about a fungal blog from underground?

Anonymous said...

Freedom of speech reigns. To use the term "troll" on a person/posting is to make yourself feel better about yourself. Pathetic.

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

Walnut Creek is nice as suburbs go, I guess. Good schools, nice new library, 3 Farmers' Markets, etc. Its beauty is in the open space that is so protectively guarded. But it's not gorgeous like Marin County, and nothing we can do will make it so. It's just topography.

Regarding the people here, we do lack that bohemian vibe that can be found in most of Marin County. But it's mostly a vibe. People there and people here are pretty similar. And pretty white.

Debby Kelly said...

Walnut Creek, hands down. I grew up in Martinez then moved to WC when I got married. We moved to Concord as soon as we could. I dislike shopping anywhere in Walnut Creek. I've run across more rude shoppers there than anywhere else in the Bay Area. We couldn't wait to get out of there.

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Anonymous said...

Walnut Creek by far. I work in a restaurant in Walnut Creek that's been there for almost 15 years. They have a loyal following...a bunch of long-time regulars. I live in Berkeley, and working in Walnut Creek has been an eye-opener. I've met many, many nice folks here. But in general, and the majority of the time, people here are rude, arrogant, and often times downright mean! Pretentious to the extreme.

In my humble opinion, Walnut Creek is older, whiter, more conservative, and people seem to feel like they can say and do whatever they please because they are (A) Older (B) White (C) Conservative (D) Wealthy

Add to this the parade of 30-something steroided-out males prowling the streets Thursday through Saturday nights sporting their Affliction and Ed Hardy shirts, and "cocained-out-their-mind botox babes" looking to hook up. It's truly a sight to behold! Wine snobs, racists, botoxed and coked-out housewives, wealthy businessmen looking to get laid, and steroid-popping meatheads on the prowl.

Yeah...Walnut Creek is a special place. I work here for the decent money, and then high-tail it home!

Anonymous said...

Nonsense. Berkeley is the most pretentious place of all. They are all old euro or jewish liberals who sit at coffee shops sipping frappucinos at the gourmet ghetto and sneer about how everyone beyond the tunnel is "white trash" & "nondiverse" & "non-organic".

They then take their self-hating selves & go home to their 95% white Elmwood or North Berkeley where they sit their asses on their sofas, ignore their pot smoking statistical 1.1 children & relax reading the Atlantic or the New Yorker & listening to "This American Life" before indulging themselves in some French movie about racism or homophobia or islamofascismophobia, with lots of boob, even more Anti-Americanism and little special effects. And all that before the obligatory late night/every night martini party.

Anonymous said...

November 11, 2010 1:31 PM

For a minute there I thought you were talking about Danville. Ha!

arrielle_p said...

Hi Do you have a new updates on this article? It's been a year since you post it. :)

Thanks guys for sharing what 'pretentious' is. :)

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Anonymous said...

Walnut Creek, Dublin, Atherton, Hillsborough, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, San Carlos, Woodside, & Marin

Anonymous said...

If it lies along 680, it either sucks, is pretentious, or both.