The Palo Alto of Pittsburgh

Sewickley, no matter what the Post-Gazette may say, is no Palo Alto.

(1) Big-time Silicon Valley CEOs don't live in Palo Alto. They live in Los Altos Hills, or Woodside, or Atherton, or even Hillsborough.
(2) Palo Alto has no middle-class, let alone any poor people. It used to, but several years ago it managed to get the poor to reincorporate as their own city on the other side of the Bayshore Freeway. It's called East Palo Alto. Law firms and venture capital firms that had speculated on inexpensive real estate tried to keep their "Palo Alto" addresses even while their real estate tax dollars were going to "East Palo Alto." Local politicians threw a fit, and the addresses changed, too.
(3) In Palo Alto, people routinely buy million-dollar residential properties and then tear them down in order to build something livable.
(4) Virtually all the charming local shops that used to line University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto have been replaced by upscale imitations. Palo Alto isn't an especially successful college town any more. It's a Yuppie GenX/GenY paradise.
(5) The public schools are high quality, but real estate taxes don't cover the budget. The "Foundation" that solicits private contributions is big business, and every family has to stomach a several-hundred dollar "voluntary" contribution, per student, per school, to cover school supplies and things like sand for the sandboxes. There are waivers for hardship situations.

This is not a vision of Sewickley's future. It's a high tech apocalypse.

But the weather out there is awfully nice.



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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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