Los Angeles is not for everyone. After all, the traffic is terrible. The homeless situation is deplorable. The wealth gap is highly visible. The air quality leaves a lot to be desired. Earthquakes are a constant threat, and fires can spring up at any time. Then we have high taxes, which can be rationalized only as a good-weather fee.

The recent riots did nothing to flatter the image of any city.

The complete dominance of a single party in a particular state means the trajectory of policy is rarely challenged. Other states see a lot of political advertising because the result of an election is more in question. Driving around Los Angeles, you would never know there’s an upcoming election. Texas’ ads, on the other hand, actively try to get people to move for specific candidates. 

With L.A.’s laundry list of problems, I wonder what I’m still doing here. There’s a similar trend of thought about New York. I’ve seen many articles discussing the exodus of people from major cities. I’d forgive you for thinking that millions of people are on the move. It’s just not the case.

In fact, the quality of life in Los Angeles has improved immeasurably since the pandemic began. A drive that used to take 40 minutes now takes 10. So many offices are closed that there is no rush-hour traffic. Almost everywhere in the city is now within easy reach. The air quality has improved for the same reason – there are fewer cars on the road.

Outside of the weekend, the beaches are empty. Everyone seems to be friendlier, too. Being caged up for a few months seems to make even the most introverted person crave social engagement.

The city went into overdrive during the lockdowns and tried to get as many of the homeless people off the street as possible. Homelessness is still a massive problem, but visible homelessness is back at levels I haven’t seen in years.

Taxes will still be a headache, but I feel like I’m now getting more for my money. It’s very similar in New York. Over the last week, I talked to two different friends who have kids thinking of moving to New York. Apartments in Brooklyn are now much more affordable than they were a year ago. It’s still a vibrant metropolis. It will still attract young people to try to make a successful career.

Sure, the pandemic will result in more work-from-home situations. However, as I’m sure many people are figuring out, working from home is not for everyone. I’ve been doing it for 14 years. The best description I’ve heard for the lifestyle is, “You don’t work from home; you live at work.”

It takes incredible discipline to stop working. There is always a temptation to read one more article or write one last email. As soon as this panicky period is over, many people will feel drawn back to a structured work community.

Many relationships survive because couples don’t spend every waking hour together. Those people will rush back to the office when they have a chance.

I strongly feel big cities will come out of this crisis much stronger than many think possible. We are a social species. Cities exist because we thrive in crowds.

The biggest challenge to my conclusion is whether tax burdens will outweigh the positives. The legacy of mismanagement many large cities have means the biggest challenges they face will be on the fiscal front. They’ll need to meet those problems head-on if they are to succeed.

All the best,

Eoin Treacy