Grudge City

Northern versus Southern California—an age-old tug-of-war tradition that evokes the Hatfields and McCoys
Grudge City

Brassy and a bit crass, crude and more than occasionally rude. That’s how many people in Northern California see their Southern California state mates.

Snobbish and condescending, narrow-minded and old-fashioned, and, even worse, not quite real Californians is how some in Southern California see their compatriots up north.

“Isn’t it nice,” the San Francisco Chronicle’s longtime, legendary, and late columnist Herb Caen once observed, “that the people who prefer Los Angeles to San Francisco live there?”

Yes, for decades there has been a war of words, and occasionally more than words, between Northern and Southern California, with the main players in the battle being San Francisco and its hinterlands versus Los Angeles and its.

The ‘war’ goes way back, and has certainly flared since 1958, when the big-league baseball Giants arrived in San Francisco and the Dodgers in Los Angeles. But even back in the 1930s, Will Rogers took note. “Children in San Francisco are taught two things,” he said, “to love the Lord and hate Los Angeles.”

The war between Northern and Southern California has amused, perturbed, and puzzled many. Much about the dispute can come across as amusing, like a late night talk show monologue.

“In Southern California, everyone drives an SUV, drinks Starbucks, and chats on their cell about the movie deal they are working on,” SoCal web poster ‘Dew K. Mosi’ observed. “In Northern, everyone drives a hybrid, drinks Starbucks, chats on their cell about the therapeutic meditation center they are going to. We think they are hippie snobs, they think we are materialistic phonies.”

Grudge City
Rancor between north and south can be traced back to the water wars of the early 1900s, made notorious in the film Chinatown.

Up North, it’s been said, women let their hair grow gray naturally. Down south they imbibe botox to fluff up their lips and cheeks.

Some of the rancor traces back to the water wars that periodically convulse the state, as thirsty Southern Californians continue to seek new ways of channeling Northern California’s mountain streams south through the Delta and canals. Although much of the water goes not to L.A. but to Central Valley farmers, Los Angeles’ chicanery in stealing water from Owens Valley a century ago, made notorious by the film Chinatown, reverberates with some people up north.

The weather gets dragged into the argument as well. “People in L.A. always rag on S.F. for having fog and crappier weather,” one Oakland web commentator has noted, “and they're always quick to point out how much more famous Hollywood is than anywhere else besides New York City. Whenever I'm down in L.A. visiting friends, they always wonder why I like S.F. so much, and they constantly criticize how crowded and dirty S.F. is.”

It’s particularly amusing, though, when the joke is on oneself. “In L.A.,” comedian Bill Maher said, “we’re honest about being phony.”

“It’s as if two regions are fighting each others’ stereotypes,” Jon Winokur wrote in his amusing 2004 tome on the subject, The War Between the State: Northern California vs. Southern California.