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Most Livable City: Bethesda?

Magazine ranking stories are like In/Out lists and movie Top Ten lists -- I know I shouldn't fall for them, but I do. Now here's Forbes magazine, purporting once again to list the most livable cities in the country.

I'd have skipped right past this -- really, I would have -- but for this utterly strange factoid: The geniuses at Forbes list as the second most livable city in these United States Bethesda -- yes, our Bethesda.

Leaving aside the fact that Bethesda is not a city -- heck, it doesn't even have its own government, let alone lots of the other amenities that real cities have -- how can this possibly be?

To give you a sense of what Forbes values, the #1 spot went to Portland, Maine. The story describing these garden spots starts off with a description of a "downtown pub [that] offers a smattering of small-batch ales brewed on the premises." Ok, so to Forbes, livable city means yuppie heaven, a consumer paradise for the gentry, high income, high culture, low unemployment.

By such measures, Bethesda is most certainly a delight. But its whole vibe is intensely suburban -- even its most avid defenders wouldn't accuse the place of being remotely gritty in a U Street or Adams Morgan sort of way.

Forbes gives Bethesda huge props for culture, and it indeed has a couple of excellent theaters -- the Round House is every bit as good as some of Washington's better small theaters -- and a high-end movie house, as well as some fine restaurants. The new downtown is reasonably walkable, if only for a few blocks.

But Forbes also claims that the Bethesda area has a population of 1.1 million, which is absurdly wrong. The number corresponds more closely to the population of all of Montgomery County, and no one could argue that MoCo is a city.

All nit-picking aside, is Bethesda one of the more livable places in the country?

Only if you have a boatload of money. It's a wildly expensive housing market, with retail selections and prices to match. It's more urban in feel than many other suburban centers, and the county has done a good job of injecting planned density into what had been your standard product of haphazard sprawl. Bethesda is well served by transit; wealthy enough to provide excellent amenities such as libraries, schools and parks; and it can boast of active civic involvement.

But there is a certain sterility and sameness to the downtown that stretches between Wisconsin Avenue and Arlington Road, or farther north along Old Georgetown Road. And once you get outside that small downtown area, is there any there there?

Is Bethesda any more livable than, say, Ballston, Clarendon, Takoma Park, Old Town Alexandria, Del Ray, Vienna, Fairfax City, Leesburg, Georgetown, D.C. Chevy Chase, or Capitol Hill?

What exactly makes a place livable -- beyond the all-too-easy measure of income level? What would you rank as the most livable places in the Washington area? Come ahead with your choices in the comment board below...



POLL

By Marc Fisher |  April 20, 2009; 8:33 AM ET  | Category:  Bethesda , City life , Maryland
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Comments

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Goldvein is more livable than Bethesda. they don't have as many liberals and socialists. They live and let live. And they have the area best restaurant the Gun Club. Beats the ILW and Citronelle and any place esle in the area.

Posted by: sheepherder | April 20, 2009 9:38 AM

If you can afford to shell out the dough it takes to live in Bethesda, then sure, it's a pretty "liveable" place - but for that money, then so is just about any high-rent district in any city you want to pick. What any kind of national survey like this fails to capture though, is that Bethesda is a pretty sterile place. For as much money that is there, it is surprisingly a bit of a restaurant wasteland for a region (D.C. area) that is a culinary hotspot. You'll also never find any place in Bethesda known for its wine selection because of Montgomery county's hard-boiled liquor laws - nor will you find a bar with any character for the same reason. Given that, there are plenty of other places around the country where you could have it all, so I don't see why Bethesda is so great.

And don't get me started on the annoying misuse of the word "liveable". Any place is "liveable" if you have food, water, shelter, and a stable community. It's like the beer "drinkability" campaign - isn't beer supposed to be drinkable? I hate to think that people are so dumb that all it takes is a half-witted ad campaign to convince them that the dreck they are drinking is actually quite good... drinkable even.

Posted by: dr_klahn | April 20, 2009 10:06 AM

So sheepherder, your definition of "live and let live" means as long as your not a liberal or socialist? What an idiot.

Posted by: dr_klahn | April 20, 2009 10:09 AM

As a former resident of Portland, ME, and an employee of a Bethesda based company, I don't think Bethesda deserves the number 2 spot at all. It's miserable here in Bethesda, especially downtown. Not to mention, my salary will take me further in Portland than in Bethesda. How do you compare the perfect small town feel with great down-to-earth people to uh, Bethesda…

I love reading Forbes for the "Best Cities" reports, however, I'll have to think twice before I strongly consider their "analysis" again.

Posted by: samantha_bianca | April 20, 2009 10:19 AM

Bethesda ia "livable" if you are a smug poseur and your idea of culture is to sit at Starbucks, tweeting from your laptop while sipping a mocha latte (half-decaf).

Posted by: CubsFan | April 20, 2009 10:22 AM

I work in Bethesda. The thing I look forward to most everyday is leaving bethesda.

Posted by: VTDuffman | April 20, 2009 10:29 AM

Oh, just in the Washington area. 'Cause I would easily move to any Small Town, USA if I could afford to. So...here in the Washington area, I actually got lost in a tiny old-fashioned country town around or past Upper Marlboro up MD-4 I believe. Plenty of open space and simple people... that's what I call heaven. I also like my neighborhood. I don't like my building or landlord, but the neighborhood is nice. We live in Brookland, which is a lot more affordable than most spots in the city, and my son and I spent all day Saturday the park at Turkey Thicket and had tons of fun. The benches are all broken but plenty of nice families all go there when its nice outside.

Posted by: forgetthis | April 20, 2009 10:35 AM

Livability is such a highly personal combination of factors - values, concerns, economics - that I think it's hard to call one place more livable than another. Is it close to work? Near friends or family? Institutions you frequent like churches and schools? Do you feel it's safer? Offers more space for the money? More culture? Is quieter? More energetic? Walkable? Easy to park? Not only is it difficult to measure those things, we value those things differently when considering what makes a place livable for each of us.

Posted by: OntheHill | April 20, 2009 10:36 AM

i think Capitl Hill is more livable than Bethesda, but it is a neighborhood, not a city. Portland Or is the most livable city I know of.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | April 20, 2009 10:40 AM

I really dislike Bethesda - much of it reeks of the charmless smugness that excessive amounts of money can give a place. Though there are some Bethesdan restaurants and stores I enjoy visiting, mostly north of the intersection of Old Georgetown/East-West Highway and Wisconsin Ave, I would not live there even if I could afford to, which most human beings cannot.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | April 20, 2009 10:43 AM

The purpose of these magazine lists is to sell magazines. The financial magazines are the worst. Every month its the top ten investments, mutual funds, jobs, etc. They are just a cheap way to repackage the same information over and over.

Posted by: buffysummers | April 20, 2009 10:47 AM

Bethesda used to have more book stores and that was nice, but it has plenty of places to eat. If you don't know Battery Lane or the area south of the Naval Base, you have missed a lot. Same for the area west of Arlington Toad. The Woodmont triangle is fine for walking, as is most of the area and the public library is excellent. My wife is from Texas, but she thinks Bethesda is her "home." We live close, even if it cost more. Why not?

Posted by: GaryEMasters | April 20, 2009 10:56 AM

Bethesda is not a community -- either in the sense of government or in that elusive sense of cohesiveness that makes for community. I agree with 'there's no there there'. Several communities within the DC area come closer -- Arlington, Takoma Park, even Chevy Chase (the Washington, DC side of the fence.) Washington is not lacking in neighborhoods that work -- but I've yet to see the one in Bethesda that does -- Capital Hill, Chevy Chase, AU Park, Mount Pleasant -- all are genuine neighborhood communities...but Bethesda?

Posted by: TracyAligDowling | April 20, 2009 10:57 AM

Maybe it's the brains. September 18, 2002, The Christian Science Monitor had an article stating that the Federal Government ranked Bethesda as #1 in intelligence (I think they meant level of education). Interestingly, the article put Bethesda's population at 50,000.

Posted by: CheneyM | April 20, 2009 10:58 AM

sheepherder:

You're an idiot! Probably a Rush Limbaugh ditto dork with a room temperature IQ. Even morons are entitled to their opionions I suppose.

Bethesda rocks! I envy those of you who get to live there!

Posted by: montana123 | April 20, 2009 11:18 AM

Why are you surprised that Forbes would produce such a bougie list? It's FORBES MAGAZINE.

Posted by: goodwinc | April 20, 2009 11:21 AM

Arlington and Alexandria hold much more appeal to me. The only reason I would choose Bethesda is that Maryland law is much more friendly to my beloved Vespa motor scooters. In an urban area it is really convenient to park legally on the sidewalk like a bicycle.

Posted by: ghostmoves | April 20, 2009 11:23 AM

Livability:

Farmer's market
Walk to restaurants

Posted by: jimward21 | April 20, 2009 11:25 AM

i thought bethesda was a street. when did it become a city or even a town? seriously what a lame choice. why not pick DC?

Posted by: dealer1 | April 20, 2009 11:34 AM

Any surprise? The total absence of rednecks and conservatives is what has made Besthesda the most livable place in America. Even a conservative rag as Forbes had to recognize that.

Posted by: August30 | April 20, 2009 11:36 AM

My old au pair from Germany wants to come back for the summer. She specifically wants to be in the Bethesda area. The town must have some attractive qualities, even for a poor college student.

Posted by: bkshane | April 20, 2009 11:40 AM

Marc Fisher is nothing but jealous.

Bethesda's walkable commute, easy access to high-quality amenities and funky hometown vibe makes it an excellent place to live. It's hometown vibe while not accepting junk is unique in DC. Takoma Park has too many houses collapsing in a heap of lawn gnomes and political signs to qualify as livable.

while it's been many years since I lived or worked in Bethesda, here are some of the truly amazing things it has:
1. Farm Woman's Market every wednesday
2. Funky ethnic places like the Sakura Japanese grocery store
3. Old town charm like Nick's barber shop, Bruce Variety, Bradley Food and Beverage, Talberts, Strosniders and other DC area institutions that Northern Virginia lost 10 years ago.
4. Walkability and walking trails
5. More PhDs than any place I've ever lived- you know you can actually talk to your neighbors, have a good conversation, without them spewing anti-science junk, believing in superstitions or falling for every news story that comes down the pike. Try having a conversation where most of your neighbors never went to grad school, The first topic is the Redskins and the second is about a hoax email they believed was true. In Bethesda you can have a REAL conversation because your neighbor wrote a book about it.
6. Incredible dedication to the arts- I've never seen so many working artists making really top-notch work as I did in Bethesda. Takoma Park artists are virtually working at craft fairs compared to the dentists I knew who moonlighted as sculptors and photographers. How many hollywood directors got their start making movies in B-Town?

I don't live in Bethesda now, but I hope to return.

Posted by: bbcrock | April 20, 2009 11:51 AM

Have you ever tried to live in a real city, like Boston, New York or even Washington, D.C.? I have. You'll find that they are even more expensive than Bethesda, and in places like NYC or Boston, you will get a hell of a lot less for your money. Many times the city neighborhood that you can finally afford will have a school that is not anywhere near the quality of a Bethesda school. And let me tell you something, I grew up in one of the outer boroughs of New York City. Gritty can certainly be a colorful term for roaches, peeling paint, and graffiti smeared decaying apartment buildings. Urban neighborhoods can be just as sterile as the suburbs and offer less culture and amenities for exorbitant prices. I can attest to that. The suburbs in Montgomery County now are as ethnically diverse as anything I saw in Brooklyn. In fact, the money it takes to live comfortably with amenities in any of the major eastern cities exceeds what it takes to live comfortably in Bethesda, and allows those people with even these more lavish incomes to sneer at the "sterility" of the suburbs. What drivel!

Posted by: captn_ahab | April 20, 2009 11:51 AM

pardon the typos above.

Posted by: bbcrock | April 20, 2009 11:53 AM

I think Marc's Money quote is this:
"even its most avid defenders wouldn't accuse the place of being remotely gritty in a U Street or Adams Morgan sort of way"

Indeed that lack of grittiness, read: lack of misogynistic sexual harassment from street drunks and juvenile pickpockets, makes it more livable than U st or Adams Morgan, both of which I lived near in the 1990s.

AM and U St are fun at night, but are lousy places to live due to the lack of even the most basic household amenities such as good government services, schools and grocery stores. They are, at best, good neighborhoods only for childless singles.

Posted by: bbcrock | April 20, 2009 11:59 AM

Great comments from "Captain Ahab."

As an aside to the Boston comment, I have friends in Cambridge who claim that it's a pretty decent place to live due to the educated neighbors and good social services.

Posted by: bbcrock | April 20, 2009 12:03 PM

Sterile and smug are definitely apropos words for Bethesda. It has 3 things going for it in my mind:

1. Nice centralized planning, even if it wasn't actually planned. The access to everything seems very workable, and of course the transit is great.

2. About the most educated citizenry in the country (NIH helps). Nice not to have to deal with FauxNews detainees, as someone above pointed out.

3. Great restaurants. Too bad you can't actually patronize them, because you cannot *park* in Bethesda to save your life.

But sterile, yes, very. And expensive, sure.

Posted by: B2O2 | April 20, 2009 12:18 PM

Bethesda can't even be on a list with Portland, Maine... It's not even close.

Posted by: dannno301 | April 20, 2009 12:25 PM

Without making a value judgment on Bethesda's merit at the 2 spot, I must say that even if one could derive a closed universe of criteria against which the czars of these rankings could mete out the results from atop their perches of enlightenment (and, of course, that is NOT possible), this type of exercise is a complete waste of time and why Marc is not wrong or right...it's Forbes that's irrelevant.

Unlike academic rankings, where you can at least look at quasi-objective benchmarks like curriculum, peer assessments, endowments, and post-school measures of success; or athletic rankings, where you can look at players' or teams' stats and hold them up against past performances, geography is complete chaos when it comes to assessment.

What does one value?
You want to live in a relatively well-planned suburban census-designated place with nice restaurants, good schools, but excruciatingly dull architecture and a kind of inorganic, sterile feel? Bethesda is your place!

You want to live in a "suburb-within-a-city" where you can slap a Janney Elementary School bumper sticker on your Volvo or Prius and join the local chapter of NIMBY? AU Park is your place!

You want to load up on canned goods, arms, and build a steel bunker in your backyard as you either wait for the apocalypse or for the federal government to become one step too tyrannical? Montana is your place!

You can see why this is a dumb debate...

Posted by: Dan43 | April 20, 2009 12:31 PM

bbcrock, almost all your reasons scream of a pretentious snob.

I can appreciate your sentimentality, but "funky" ethnic markets like Sakura? Who are you?

Cracking on probably 99% of communities that are made of a majority of non-grad school attending folks? Good grief, don't be so elitist.

Dentists moonlighting as sculptors? Not sure whether to laugh or gag.

Posted by: docmd | April 20, 2009 12:35 PM

It's really annoying to hear all the wingnut anti-Marylanders on these boards. Bethesda is what every semi-urban area should strive to become: virtually devoid of crime, extremely well educated, have excellent transportation, and have virtually every amenity immaginable. Being liberal and wealthy is a good thing, but all the redneck haters from Virginia apparently have a problem with that. People are always complaining on here how PG County is overrun by crime, and is inhabited by poor illegal immigrants and other minorities, which is all grossly exaggerated, but now Bethesda is the exact opposite and that's a problem to.

Apart from Arlington (which is pretty nice) Virginia is disgusting, with 95% of the state populated with rednecks living in trailer parks, and Northern Virginia (excluding AC) being a perfect example of ugly sprawl with no mass transit whatsoever. If you guys hate Bethesda and the rest of Maryland so much with our supposedly super-liberal politics, high-crime, and yuppies then don't visit!

Posted by: TheMarylander | April 20, 2009 12:52 PM

bethesda used to be a nice place until they made so darn "liveable"!! i have lived here for 48 years, so i have a good idea whats liveable or not! i know its expensive as he!!.

Posted by: astroman215aolcom | April 20, 2009 12:55 PM

"But its whole vibe is intensely suburban -- even its most avid defenders wouldn't accuse the place of being remotely gritty in a U Street or Adams Morgan sort of way."

Intensely suburban, to me, indicates the type of suburb that most people commute from in the morning and to in the evening--usually by car, since the traditional definition of suburbia, especially post- World War II, thought it somehow was a badge of pride to turn their nose up by public transit, until traffic became untenable. Such suburbs usually have housing subdivisons, strip shopping centers, and not too much else.

Bethesda is not like that, and hasn't been for many years. "Intensely" suburban communities do not have much in the way of high rise office towers, active bar/restaurant scenes, public transit, and an active arts community. In a sense, Bethesda, which has all those attributes, is really more of an urban community that isn't located in the central city. The same can be said of places like Arlington, Alexandria, Silver Spring, and maybe even Tysons or Rockville/Gaithersburg as they've recently been redeveloping.

Bethesda may not be as "gritty" as your traditional center-city neighborhood, but it does not fit the 1950s/60s-type suburban archetype, at least not now. That can be seen in areas much farther from the District.

Posted by: mkarns | April 20, 2009 1:00 PM

A few years ago IT WAS Vienna, and next year they will chose 10 different cities as they do each year. Eventually they will hit our area again.

Posted by: rocotten | April 20, 2009 1:08 PM

Bethesda is not the 2nd most "liveable" place in the US. It is the best of a crappy area. I live there because College Park is a glorified truck stop, the surrounding area is a total cesspool, DC is as sterile as Bethesda, and I can't get to work easily from anywhere else. Oh, and I can meander home from some of the slightly more interesting bars without a car or bicycle.

I just checked, and for only $100-200 more a month, I could rent a 1 bdrom in Manhattan proper - UES or SoHo. Am I leaving once I graduate? Hells, yes. As fast as the U-Haul will carry my junk and me back up I-95 where I belong.

Bethesda is a sterile yuppie breeding ground devoid of culture, flavor, and reality. It is not livable for anyone, unless by "living" you mean "living lives of quiet desperation," to quote Thoreau. ...Which, when I look around at the moms in their dishwasherable shoes and the dads with the strollers, all with thousand yard stares, looks like what's happening.

We wonder why our children are so divorced from "reality." Maybe it's because we remove them from it? Anyone think of that? I can't believe Bethesda of all places is the second most livable city in the US. Whoever's getting paid to compile this nonsense at Forbes should be fired.

Posted by: gradstudent4 | April 20, 2009 1:11 PM

"5. More PhDs than any place I've ever lived- you know you can actually talk to your neighbors, have a good conversation, without them spewing anti-science junk, believing in superstitions or falling for every news story that comes down the pike. Try having a conversation where most of your neighbors never went to grad school, The first topic is the Redskins and the second is about a hoax email they believed was true. In Bethesda you can have a REAL conversation because your neighbor wrote a book about it."
____________________________

What a twit. Your definition of a liveable neighborhood is that everyone in it is liberal and highly educated?

Posted by: dcd1 | April 20, 2009 1:18 PM

bbcrock - if you think Bethesda is "funky", then you have no idea what funky means. Most of what little funkiness Bethesda has is contrived funkiness. Funky neighborhoods cannot be planned out - they evolve into them through the people that live and work there. Clarendon was a genuinely funky neighborhood that is now being replaced by the more sterile Bethesda brand of funk.

Posted by: dr_klahn | April 20, 2009 1:18 PM

I guess whether or not Bethesda deserves the ranking would have to depend on the target audience that Forbes normally attracts. Is it fair to say that the majority of Forbes' normal audience are typically business owners, executives, upper middle-class and above citizens, etc (I'm not really sure, I don't read Forbes)? If so, I guess it would make some sense for them to include Bethesda.

My point is, I think Fisher should first consider what audience Forbes is trying to reach, and then make his argument.

Posted by: heydude345 | April 20, 2009 1:24 PM

"Apart from Arlington (which is pretty nice) Virginia is disgusting, with 95% of the state populated with rednecks living in trailer parks, and Northern Virginia (excluding AC) being a perfect example of ugly sprawl with no mass transit whatsoever."

Apparently Maryland is populated with at least one disgusting person that would make ridiculous, mis-placed, broad sweeping generalizations such as this one. You should start a town called Stupidville - sheepherder could be your mayor.

Posted by: dr_klahn | April 20, 2009 1:25 PM

I have to agree with Astroman. I grew up in Bethesda and before all the "stuff" went in between Arlington Rd. and Wisconsin Ave., it was a quiet, walkable, decent place to live. It now suffers from the same over-development and homogenized retail and restaurant offerings that most of the gentrified areas in the DC suburbs suffer from, along with an absolute dearth of parking (I know... you're supposed to take the metro there, if you have a couple extra hours to spare to get there and back). The best places to eat in Bethesda are still east of Old Georgetown Road.

I love Bethesda because it's my hometown, and yes, it's an educated crowd, but the area that everyone now thinks of as "Bethesda" lacks a soul. (#2 is kind of appropo actually!)

Posted by: jpetworth | April 20, 2009 1:27 PM


Cubsfan and lindemann, you hit the nails on the head.

TheMarylander,

You sound just as ignorant and closed minded as the people you despise in Virginia, which BTW I happen to love. Are you saying Maryland has no "rednecks"?. Apparently you don't get out much.

Posted by: Don4 | April 20, 2009 1:28 PM

There are a few of us who have lived in Bethesda for generations. I have been fortunate to travel to many different cities and I am very, very happy to be home again, this time to stay. It may not be a city, but it is definitely a community and in my opinion, Forbes should have listed it as number one. I think readers are best served by reasonable people armed with the facts and Mr. Fisher has not met this standard in this article. It is hard to escape a community-centric bias and I understand the readers who mistakenly believe their communities are in the same league as Bethesda, but I think Post readers expect more from the journalists. (Ballston! Alexandria! Adams Morgan! Not even close!)

Posted by: Gavel2005 | April 20, 2009 1:30 PM

Wow, gradstudent4 it sounds to me like you're more elitist than the same Bethesda residents being panned. What type of grad student can afford to live in Bethesda anyways? College Park has some nice places such as the University View on Baltimore Avenue, and has bars and shops within 10 min walk, but of course judging by your attitude, you wouldn't want "to mingle with the immature undergrads." And I don't see how "DC is as sterile as Bethesda." Dupont Circle reminds me a lot of Columbus Circle in NY with all the NYU students, and I don't consider Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights "sterile." 100:1 you're a female, and judging by your extremely hard-to-please attitude YOU'RE the elitist one. Strange, since most people from New York (half of my family included) strike me as more down to earth, and by far most of the out-of-state students at CP are from New York and New Jersey.

Posted by: terp4life1 | April 20, 2009 1:34 PM

So Bethesda does not have enough poor hipsters with questionable tastes and grooming habits? I think the people who live there and the people who read Forbes do not mind.

By the way, some neighborhoods in San Francisco make Bethesda look like Gotham.

Posted by: Wallenstein | April 20, 2009 1:40 PM

D.C. needs to abandon any pretense of becoming Paris and except for a radius around the National Mall, eliminate its height restriction. In Paris, the height cap works because it is such an alpha city, and has a well-integrated inner-ring suburb, La Defense, to host all of the commercial skyscrapers. In D.C., where half the land is zoned like a residential suburban neighborhood, the height restriction promotes sprawl, deadens the downtown, makes traffic unbearable, and forces corporate entities and residential builders out to edge cities like Rosslyn, Silver Spring, Bethesda, or worse, forces people out to the boonies (White Flint, Rockville, Gaithersburg)

Posted by: Dan43 | April 20, 2009 1:40 PM

As someone who is from Maryland, its not all wealthy upper class people either and there is nothing wrong with Virginia. There is nothing wrong with "redneck" people and it shows a lot about the character of someone who would categorize human beings in such a way. A lot of Maryland is rural, most of the "city" is all around DC. I now live in PA which has even less culture, and frequent DC area all the time. Bethesda is nice for some ethnic restaraunts but I have never had much craving to do much else there. Seems to me that it is similar to many other DC area neighborhoods, however it is a nice little place and I'm sure people love to live there. I think most of DC area is cultured and interestng, or at least close to somewhere that is, and its a nice place to be. Maybe a nice place to live will be one that everyone gets along and doesnt file people under a category.

Posted by: jammielpn06 | April 20, 2009 1:48 PM

I wouldn't characterize any part of the DC metro area as "livable." The tone of the whole area is set by people who are clinging desperately to their secure-for-live civil service jobs, or are obsessed with politics - in other words, people who couldn't get by anywhere else. I lived among all these people for about a decade of my adult life, and it wasn't until I moved away that I realized how much of my life I was wasting.

Posted by: lofan1 | April 20, 2009 1:54 PM

What's up with all the negativity toward Bethesda?! I don't live there, but it has many (if not most) of the attributes that would be on the typical list of "livable" characteristics, such as: great schools, walkability, transit access, mix of uses (residential, retail, and office), culture, libraries, low crime, good restaurants, etc. Personally, I think its a pretty attractive place that mixes old buldings with new. Does it have its flaws? Yes. Is it expensive? Absolutely. But, its expensive because its livable, and therefore desirable. If we built more livable places like Bethesda, then it wouldn't be so unique, and would therefore become more affordable.

Posted by: CNY-DC | April 20, 2009 2:00 PM

I agree with jammielpln06. I could probably survive living anywhere, but I would never live in Bethesda. Maryland actually has very few rural areas (relative to the other 49 states); the entire state is practically covered by the Balt-Wash Metro area, with a tiny sliver of Western MD. and the SW part of the Eastern Shore, which is partly covered by the Philadelphia and Wilmington Metro Areas in Cecil and Kent counties and the beach towns.

It ranks 5th in population density, which is about 3 times higher than Virginia! That type of people living on top of each other is what I can't stand (plus the extreme liberalism). "TheMarylander" is part right, Arlington is unique in that it looks more like Maryland than any part of Virginia (which is actually a BAD thing). That probably stems from the fact that it was part of the District of Columbia until just prior to the Civil War, when VA reclaimed it beacuse of differences over slavery.

Anyway I would much rather live in a Southern "redneck" state than a small, immoral, leftist Northeast state like Maryland (+DC) or New Jersey where people are stepping on each other.

Posted by: CharlieIndiaAlpha | April 20, 2009 2:06 PM

Sorry to all you poor whiners but Bethesda is great.

Posted by: sfdfsfs | April 20, 2009 2:09 PM

Forbes accomplished exactly what it intended to, people conversing about the article. They don't have to be right. In fact, they know there is no right. They just want to stir up interest. ...and from the looks of things above, they have.

Posted by: peachpeel | April 20, 2009 2:13 PM

For anyone to say its not livable because its void of the grittiness of an adams morgan or a west village is not smart enough to be reading Forbes. Bethesda also lacks the amazingly exciting violent crime of Adams Morgan (where I used to live) By livable they mean quality of life , transportation, retail amenities, schools, recreation. Where elese in this city can you walk to over 100 restauratns, plenty of bars, 3 grocery stores, a metro stop,CVS , 20 banks and pleanty of retail shopping? Nowhere in the city ! I also wouldnt be so upset about where a city or town came in on a poll, live in a place that makes you happy and stop whining.

Posted by: NoahNord78 | April 20, 2009 2:13 PM

Bethesda is not livable for normal people with normal incomes. Montgomery County's government is unusually intrusive, its taxes are insanely high, and everything is outrageously expensive, not only including housing.

But worst for Bethesda is its traffic, which is just MURDER. Its main drag, Wisconsin Ave./Rockville Pike, renders its downtown genuinely UNlivable.

It is the home to the snootiest people this side of Upper Georgetown.

Also, as the article points out, Bethesda is not even really a city at all. It's just a neighborhood. If we are comparing neighborhoods, give me Westover in Arlington County any day. Everything you need is within an easy walk, the people are more down-to-earth, the traffic is almost reasonable, taxes are lower, Metro (two stops) is right there along with frequent buses, the schools rank at the national top of the heap, it is quiet and leafy, the roads are nicely maintained, it has numerous good restaurants, and the nearby night life is jumpin'.

It isn't as pretentious as Bethesda, but I consider that maybe the biggest plus of all.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | April 20, 2009 2:17 PM

Bethesda is a elitist socialist enclave in an eltisit socialist county in an eltist socialist state. Arlington is an older version of Bethesda, but with more illegal immigrants and (consequently) higher crime. Fairtax and Lowdown counties are only slightly better than monkey county, simply because of the fact they are in Virginia. Arlington=Bethesda of the South

Posted by: uva2manassas | April 20, 2009 2:43 PM

terp4life1, you're completely wrong.

1. As an NYU alum, I can say with near certainty that 99.9% of NYU students do not, in fact, hang out in Columbus Circle. Do you even know where that is?

And the kind of grad student I am is a thorough, thrifty, friendly one who has the ability to find bargains in the most unlikely places. You just have to know who to talk to and what to ask, skills most people seem to lack.

Why does my gender matter? Are you guessing my gender based upon the fact that I can quote Thoreau? Or is it because I enjoy culture? Or are you just spouting this crap because you disagree with me about College Park, and your misogynistic tendencies lead you to believe that anyone with an opinion different from yours is stupid and therefore a woman?

2. "College Park" is to "nice bars" as "rotting entrails" is to "the Nobel Prize." Besides, for a 25 year old to "mingle" with 18 yr olds in a bar is just sketchy. Where were you brought up? Were you taught to take advantage of younger members of your preferred gender? I wasn't.

Whatever your or my definition of nice bars may be, drinking somewhere that smells of chlorox, vomit, old beer, and stale urinal cakes just doesn't hold an appeal for me. Apparently inhaling this cocktail while imbibing is the paradigm of manhood to you, terp4life1, and makes me, whatever gender I am, a wuss. That's fine. You keep huffing your urinal cakes.

Finally, yes, Bethesda and the DC area is quite sterile. I've never stumbled across an alternative photography exhibition opening, contemporary poetry reading, or anything remotely like either of those things, not in Logan Circle, the U St. corridor, Columbia Heights, Dupont Circle, definitely not Adams Morgan, and never in Bethesda. Montgomery County probably has a law against it. Even the sex shop in Bethesda is lame.

So, you know, yeah, keep that elitist label on people like me, people who are shocked at the lack of individual expression in a large city and its surroundings this side of the Mason-Dixon line. People who don't like the fact that you can't get $17 opera tickets here because in DC, culture is apparently only for the select rich few. People who hate the lack of decent public transportation in and around the city.

Yes, our elitism is clearly threatening the authenticity of College Park and Bethesda.

Posted by: gradstudent4 | April 20, 2009 2:55 PM

If you can live with ridiculous traffic, rude people and crazy crowds of yuppies, Bethesda is indeed livable. I personally can't stand it--which is a good thing, because I couldn't afford to live anywhere close to it anymore (I grew up in Chevy Chase and went to B-CC).

Posted by: maggie7 | April 20, 2009 3:37 PM

gradstudent4:

I don't know if you are a native New Yorker, were just visiting as a student, or your parents worked for Goldman Sachs, but you are not at all connected to the reality of city life in New York for average middle class families. Despite the availability of Joe Papp's Shakespeare theater, alternative poetry readings at the 92nd Street Y, and the International Center for photography (where you can see all the alternative photos you like) in Manhattan, very, very, few middle class families can even imagine getting decent affordable housing with any affordable amenities in New York(i.e. Manhattan). You might wish to live in an average neighborhood in Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx, but I wouldn't exactly find them cultural oases. In addition, you would be shlepping into Manhattan on the subway in the summer on a regular basis to work, an avocation few truly desire. By the way, I was able to see the London and Broadway revival of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" for $65 at the Kennedy Center for tickets that would have cost $150 in NYC. I also saw Hal Holbrook in "The Merchant of Venice" for about the same price at the Shakespeare Theater on 7th St in D.C., and I parked on the street. Try that in NYC, or Boston for that matter. I have also gone to arresting poetry readings at Politics and Prose for free, and an incredible show of Robert Frank photography at the National Gallery also for free. All these are just a half hour ride from Bethesda.

I'm not sure what you're getting at, but we are talking about a decent place to live with outstanding cultural amenities for middle class families with kids around a major urban center. For those who could never afford to live the truly sophisticated urban life in a paradise like Manhattan, that will have to suffice.

Posted by: captn_ahab | April 20, 2009 3:49 PM

What a twit. Your definition of a liveable neighborhood is that everyone in it is liberal and highly educated?
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Ummm... you're off your rocker. I never used the word liberal to describe Bethesda. My father is a Bethesda Republican and I grew up in a conservative neighborhood with a Republican congressional rep- Connie Morella.

what you DID prove, however, is that without education, particularly doctorates, people invent all kinds of crazy stories that don't make sense. In other words, you couldn't understand what I wrote, but you attacked me anyway.

That is what I avoided by living in Bethesda when I did- people making up weird stories when I was trying to have a conversation with them. You are really unintentionally funny.

Posted by: bbcrock | April 20, 2009 3:52 PM

bbcrock, almost all your reasons scream of a pretentious snob.
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Not one of my reasons was half as snobby as your elitist post.

Posted by: bbcrock | April 20, 2009 3:55 PM

According to Wikipedia, Bethesda is a "Census Designated Place," not a city. Which seems pretty accurate to me. Despite living here most of my life, I've never thought of my self as a Bethesdan. To me, Bethesda is just the geographic location where I go to school, spend most of my time, and the "city" I put on return address labels.

Posted by: crazykitty574 | April 20, 2009 3:55 PM

Finally, yes, Bethesda and the DC area is quite sterile. I've never stumbled across an alternative photography exhibition opening, contemporary poetry reading, or anything remotely like either of those things, not in Logan Circle, the U St. corridor, Columbia Heights, Dupont Circle, definitely not Adams Morgan, and never in Bethesda.
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What a strange comment. Of course I've attended poetry readings at Busboys and Poets, seen a lifetime's worth of alternative art at DCAC and other punk rock art hangouts. How are you not getting invited to the cool events in DC?

Posted by: bbcrock | April 20, 2009 3:59 PM

"Your definition of a liveable neighborhood is that everyone in it is liberal and highly educated?"

Yes. Uneducated FauxNews dupes are the people who brought us Dumbya, Iraq, climate change denial, and ruin. I'll take educated with a side order of educated every time, thank you very much.

Posted by: B2O2 | April 20, 2009 4:21 PM

Entertaining comment string. It all depends on what you're looking for...in my twenties I would rather have stepped in front of a metro as live in Bethesda. Now, with 2 kids to educate for today's world, Bethesda's not a bad place to live...though it is ridiculously expensive.

Posted by: spartacus2 | April 20, 2009 4:49 PM

Leave gradstudent alone. She's obviously a very troubled and pretentious narcissist who probably doesn't have any friends and lives a dull and lonely life...

Posted by: terp4life1 | April 20, 2009 7:24 PM

bbcrock - if you think Bethesda is "funky", then you have no idea what funky means. Most of what little funkiness Bethesda has is contrived funkiness. Funky neighborhoods cannot be planned out - they evolve into them through the people that live and work there. Clarendon was a genuinely funky neighborhood that is now being replaced by the more sterile Bethesda brand of funk.
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CLARENDON???

oh my gosh, talk about unintentionally hilarious.

Clarendon is no example of anything.

Almost none of Bethesda is planned out. Lousiana Express was legitimately funky in its day. Bruce's is definitely funky today. If you claim it's not then you just don't know the meaning of the word.

The problem is that you don't know Bethesda, focus on the shiny new gentrified parts and claim the entire town is like that. It's not. That's the point.

Bethesda is the bagel store on River Road. It's Strike next to the AU dorm. (yes, you heard me, the AU Dorm) Bethesda is a group of teenage punk rock bands playing at the Unitarian Church on Whittier Blvd. Bethesda is Little Falls Mall. Bethesda is Georgetown Prep on the Rockville Pike. Bethesda is walking along the Capital Crescent Trail. Glen Echo. Clara Barton House. Ashburton, Ayrlawn, Bradley Hills, Burning Tree, etc. 18 neighborhoods and 4 country clubs.

You claim Bethesda is the downtown at your own peril.

Does anyone remember Mario's Pizza shack on River Road? The Smiling Buddha? North China? Dart Drug? Ginos? Roys? Little Tavern? KB Bethesda? KB Baronet? KB Baronet West?

Posted by: bbcrock | April 20, 2009 10:24 PM

Georgetown Prep is in North Bethesda. Says so on their website. Did Bethesda annex North Bethesda?

Posted by: Lindemann777 | April 21, 2009 12:02 PM

Gradstudent wrote:
Whatever your or my definition of nice bars may be, drinking somewhere that smells of chlorox, vomit, old beer, and stale urinal cakes just doesn't hold an appeal for me. Apparently inhaling this cocktail while imbibing is the paradigm of manhood to you, terp4life1, and makes me, whatever gender I am, a wuss. That's fine. You keep huffing your urinal cakes.

__________________________________________

Some of the best bars have weird smells. It wouldn't be a bar without them. I'm also in amazement that you would even consider the DC area as sterile, especially Adams Morgan, U Street and other areas. If you can't find an area to have a good time in without criticizing it relentlessly, then YOU are the problem. Looks like you don't have many friends, do you? You are the typical elitist, arrogant snob that turns people off around here.

Posted by: Don4 | April 21, 2009 12:16 PM

You mentioned theater, but totally missed the new Strathmore Concert Hall. Bethesda now gets some of the best music around, including the Washington Performing Arts Society concerts and the Baltimore Symphony concerts. It's a great place to live!

Posted by: Langr | April 22, 2009 12:02 AM

As noted with respect to Georgetown Prep [pause to retch], Strathmore is in North Bethesda, not Bethesda "proper."

I guess Bethesda's next move is to nickname Rockville "Norther Bethesda" and claim to have acres and acres of parking close to downtown.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | April 22, 2009 1:33 PM

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