58 thoughts on “Mr. Mayor, Please Stop Calling San Antonio the 7th Largest City

  1. Thanks for writing this article. I’ve been mumbling (ranting?) the same basic points, to anyone within earshot, every time I hear a public touting of San Antonio’s city population ranking. I think you are correct, point for point, about the cities’ current positioning and opportunities and the need to stress those advantages as being in the context of San Antonio’s actual midsize population.

  2. The population number is not what is most important. San Antonio is so much, much more than its’ population count. I personally think SA is the most colorful, diverse, cultured city in TX. I know most people go directly to Austin as the cultural center of TX, but to me SA has so much more charm and history. SA is the best kept secret in the USA.

    • I wish that was true. There is a SWA flight but it does stop even though you don’t have to change planes. And that was just one good example…what about flying non-stop to Boston or Miami or Portland or even Cleveland…you get my drift. Great article about how we indeed are NOT a top 7 U.S. city (as proven by the horrible air lift) and need to focus on our other strengths.

      Here are the direct flights from SAT: http://www.sanantonio.gov/SAT/AirlinesFlights/Nonstops.aspx

  3. Absolutely correct. The irony is that I’ve had heated discussions with with people who don’t understand the difference between the size of the city vs. the metropolitan area…

  4. I can’t agree more and have often stated this in comments. Only when he is at a meeting of other mayors is it appropriate to refer to San Antonio as the 7th largest city in the US. Otherwise, we are the 23rd largest city (meaning metropolitan area). It sounds like Texas braggadocio when he says this, and it is a turnoff. Leave that to Dallas which so many people hate for its bragging–“world class city,” “biggest _____,” “best ____”!

  5. Best article I’ve read about San Antonio’s desire to promote the “7th largest” stat. It has felt off message for a long time. I assumed that economic development conventional wisdom said that the constant repeating of the stat would convince businesses to move here; as if those businesses weren’t pioneers but actually late to the party. Maybe the stat was used to attract pro sports here as well. But, the leagues understand metro and media markets.

    I believe in truth in advertising. We have many things to actually be excited about – Moorman does an excellent job of writing about them – that being “bigger” than Dallas, Atlanta, Boston and San Francisco is irrelevant and perhaps harmful.

    Today, it’s easy to make the case that as a city, it’s better to be Portand or Oklahoma City (and yes, San Antonio) than Dallas or Atlanta. Let’s keep it real.

  6. Agreed. Where are the plethora of Fortune 500 HQs, massive skyline, and established rail system? Definitely sets bar too high when outsiders hear this.

  7. I’m an SA native and had no idea SA was No. 1 on so many great lists!! Love it! Thanks for writing this.

  8. Well said. So what happens when City of SA continues to annex more land and houses into the city limits? Wow, SA could become the 6th or even 5th largest city. Shall we go for 4th, then 3rd, just for an ego boost? It has be said many a time; size does not matter!

  9. Very insightful and spot on article. It isn’t the size of our city that beckons visitors and new residents, nor is the constant barrage of ‘world class’ descriptors. San Antonio has evolved while preserving its historic fabric and sense of place. May we never compromise the unique character of our community for a quest to be a larger, less distinctive metropolis.

  10. Well said, Lew! This has always driven me absolutely nuts. For one thing, we cheat the stat. For another, who really wants to live in a city just because it’s big—and of those bizarre animals, who would settle on number 7? It’s meaningless placement for a worthless statistic.

  11. Glad the thoughts in the article resonated. Thanks for commenting. An incredible future is ahead for San Antonio because of all the people like you passionate about building it into something great.

    (Jim W, are you sure about flights to new orleans? I can’t find them…)

    • Great article, Lew. I’m a huge fan of San Antonio, but it’s still a small town to me. I see the same people at most events around town. There’s are only a few thousand people who actively network, share social media, volunteer and attend City events. There’s perhaps a better story to be told about how San Antonio has kept its small-town charm and trust between businesses, keeping this a great place to live and work.

  12. Thank you for writing this article. I also think size of the city should be the last metric it should be used as a highlight in order to impress. I will be particularly honest, prior to moving to San Antonio in 2007, I would have never thought of living in San Antonio, other than the Spurs and the heavy military presence there was very little that I knew about the city, I am now in my mid 30’s and it’s hard to find myself living anywhere else as I grown roots here and find myself attached to this great city.

    • Derek

      Thanks for your comment. Seems like it ought to be a simple determination, but…

      Click here for Lew Moormon’s Wiki citation on U.S. Metropolitan Areas, which lists San Antonio as 31.

      Click here to see a Wiki citation listing SA as 24.

      Click here to see a Wiki citation listing SA as 25.

      Click here to see a U.S. Census citation listing SA as 25.

      • Dear Mr. Rivard,

        The citation Lew used is comparing CSA or Combined Statistical Area. That is not a fair comparison considering San Antonio does not have a CSA.

        Mr. Moormon’s column compares METROPOLITAN population, aka, MSA. In that ranking, San Antonio is 25th.

  13. While I completely agree with the sentiment and the beautiful description of the city I love I do think that the artificial inflation of rank 7 has some beneficial prospects to it. As a marketing ploy it empowers the citizens of San Antonio to know that they are relevant on a global scale. It reinforces the importance of all the quality quirks that make this city a great place. We are on the rise, we are wonderful in all the ways that Lorenzo’s full list expresses. To ask the Mayor, who is in the public eye of the nation and the world, to stop using a statement that gives power and precedence to no one but the people of our city is something I disagree on.

    • Thanks for sticking your neck out, Forrest. It’s hard to be a lone voice.

      Like you, I agree with the positive sentiment in this article and not the negative sentiment.

      Lew, I’m glad you’re thinking about and writing about the great city we live in. Next time, please stick with lifting us up. Don’t criticize our mayor over semantics while you’re doing it.

    • I respect your opinion, but my whole point is that is DOES NOT give power and precedence to our city. I think we just disagree – which is just fine. And on the topic of supporting our mayor – nothing could be more true. I find it troubling that 100% support must equal 100% agreement. We need to be able to have good healthy dialog with our friends and foes.

  14. I never thought of this and I think Lew has a valid point. As one commenter noted, it gives a ‘late to the party’ impression to outsiders which is not necessarily accurate but somewhat relevant since many things about the city are changing. It seems that perhaps he is trying to fill the shoes of what the seventh largest city ‘should’ be like by keeping this statistic in sight. Our population is relevant, and we are striving (very well I might add) toward the opportunity to provide this community world-class living (theaters, parks, culinary/art festivals, opera house, potential street car, more hospitals, another medical school, downtown living, modern design, walkability). It seems to make people take notice, and I agree with Forrest that our city is getting notice-worthy.

  15. Wow! I had NO idea. And I absolutely agree with you….all the way up until the crack about Austin. Um…No. Heck no. I don’t know a single solitary person in San Antone that wants our beautiful city to be ANYthing like Austin.

    • I definitely would prefer it, but unfortunately San Antonio is all I can afford. And, I think Mr. Moorman’s point about “attracting and retaining young educated people” and how “the thing they love most about San Antonio is the opportunity to build it into a great city” means we necessarily are heading Austin’s direction, and New York’s, and San Francisco’s. We won’t become them because we don’t have their geographies and topographies, but we will become our own unique city.

  16. Yes, let’s focus on talking points that the Mayor touts because that will benefit the city and its residents (and all residents, not just the trendy/hip ones)… Sigh… A whole article about an obvious misstatement… Congratulations Mr. Issac Freaking Newton…

  17. As the author correctly points out : ” people in the largest cities….are living in traffic jams and paying too much for their homes.  Let’s entice them to come take part in building the next great American city.”
    Yes, by all means. That way we can live in traffic jams and pay too much for our homes. I have never understood the “growth equals good” mentality. It is snake oil, sold to us by the only people who benefit from growth: real estate speculators, developers, bankers, and city politicians who Apr to become national politicians. Growth is bad. With big city population comes big city problems.

  18. Equating geographic size promoting our city makes about as much sense as saying we have one of the longest names ( congrats Minneapolis )
    Great points-now let’s start acting like a major destination

  19. As a native 26yr old San Antonian, having lived in DFW and Austin, while also having gone to school in NYC, I agree with others that the beauty of San Antonio is in its potential. San Antonio has the charm of a small town and the vibrant of a major metropolitan. Unlike other cities of our population size, we have a diverse blend of cultures concentrated in one area, whereas other cities will lack this kind of diversity or acceptance.

    Like finding hidden treasure in the caves, like the many caves that dot the city, there is a charm and authenticity that can be developed in which other cities lacked in their own development. Privatization, industrial pollution, and segregation plague major metropolitans that sought growth and did not foresee the sustainability in that growth. Neighborhoods have stark contrasts between ethnicities, major sustainability opportunities were disregarded and replaced with cheap energy. Those major metros have to work harder to patch and coerce their own developments to become economically feasible in the future, whereas San Antonio has the opportunity to get it right the first time. Energy divestment from oil- solar, wind, and hydrological will allow a clean mentality as we increase population density within the city.

  20. Well said. When I first visited town for my job interview here, I was certain that there was a second downtown area somewhere and I was just missing it. My wrong first impression about the size of the city left me grumpy and a complainer for my first 3 years. Then I learned to love the city for what it is.

  21. Somebody had to say it. Thanks. And thanks to Rack Space for allowing truth to be spoken. I’ve worked with non-profit and professional organizations in San Antonio where that wasn’t the case, and that works against building a great city.

  22. It is some consequence that some 300,000 people commute into San Fransisco daily from the outlying towns, including Berkely across the bay, while San Antonio seems to be on it’s own. I believe the number 7 designation, but understand the “sprawl model” of the city. There is the designation of MSA(Metropolitan Statistical Area) and many other definitions of cities, which include density boundaries, etc.. The Dallas/Fort Worth “metroplex” is such a construct, and is the definition of Sao Paulo, Brazil, where the break in density describes a much larger complex than the “city limit”.

  23. I’ll come to the mayors defense.

    San Antonio is the 7th largest city! Its not the 7th largest metro!

    It is still one of the top 25 largest metro area’s (Out of 366 U.S. metros)in the U.S and will eventually break into the the top 20 metro’s in less than 10 years. Nearly 2.5 million people and one of the fastest growing, there is nothing small about San Antonio. The skyline may not be huge, Washington D.C.’s. doesn’t have much of one. D.C. is still a top U.S. metro. The same for San Antonio, and its only going to get bigger.

    There is over 3,000 counties in the United States, Bexar county is the 18th most populous county in the entire country and not far from the 2 million mark.

    If city ranking had no merit at all then why does the U.S. census even bother? Most all cities including San Antonio tout their city ranking size.

    Would you call Cleveland, Cincinatti, Kansas City, Orlando, Pittsburgh and Portland small cities? They are all smaller than San Antonio’s metro, except for Pittsburgh and Portland, those two are about the same size and its not too much longer for S.A. to surpass them in metro size. Denver’s metro isn’t much bigger than San Antonio’s metro.

    Cities touting their city proper size. It’s not just San Antonio.

    Houston
    Houston Texas | Local Community News | Houston Texas 4th Largest City

    Phoenix
    http://www.azcentral.com/community/n…nclick_check=1

    Philadelphia
    Philadelphia Is Still The Fifth Largest City In The United States: The City’s Official U.S. Census Population Increased For The First Time In 60 Years | Uwishunu – Philadelphia Blog About Things to Do, Events, Restaurants, Food, Nightlife and M

    Austin

    Austin Now the 11th Largest City in the U.S., Up from 13th Largest | KUT

    San Jose says we are the 10th largest city in the U.S.
    San Jose officially 10th largest city in the United States | abc7news.com

    San Diego
    10News – Census: San Diego 8th Largest City In Country – 10News.com – News

    Indianapolis says the 13th largest in the U.S.
    Indianapolis | Chemistry & Chemical Biology @ IUPUI

  24. The problem with this article is that a mayor is concerned with the people he serves, and the mayor of San Antonio serves everyone who lives within the San Antonio city limits. As mayor, he serves the seventh most people of any mayor in the US, so he is correct and has the right to call San Antonio the nation’s seventh largest city, because it is.

    • Matt, of course he has a right to say it. That is not the point. The question is whether it is the right marketing angle for our city. Because something is technically true does not make it powerful.

      I have been happy to see the Mayor play up our potential a lot more in recent months. I think it is a much more powerful approach. And all his actions to propel us are super exciting.

  25. I think it’s contradictory to be a big fan of Mayor Castro and his vision of San Antonio and at the same time be critical of his touting “We’re Number 7!” That’s WHO he is, just like Mayor Cisneros was. Personally I think it’s embarrassing when the mayor says this. I don’t recall any other mayor saying such things about his city. And, as many others have pointed out, it’s quite misleading. There is very little here outside the city limits.

    • Alice, are you saying since I support the Mayor, I need to agree with him on everything? I will be honest, this idea is what has gotten us so divided as a country to begin with. We must be in ongoing dialog with our leaders not in slavish support of their actions just to ensure no weakness is shown to the “other side.”

      My experience with the Mayor is he wants a dialog. And he listens. And I do support him without reservation. But, I do not agree with him on everything.

  26. Actually . . . I don’t think it is such a bad message to remind the US and the world that we’re an unusually large (in size and population) and growing city, as we’re in many people’s blindspots currently.

    I find this Express-News geographic comparison useful for helping locals and others place San Antonio in the realm of large cities by US and global standards: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local/article/How-San-Antonio-s-Loop-1604-stacks-up-to-cities-5457021.php#photo-6265128

    While we might be much more car-dependent than other large US cities at the moment (more on par with Los Angeles just a few years ago), that could change quickly. Particularly with quick development or restoration of better walking and cycling corridors and connections throughout the 410 loop area (historic footprint) of our former streetcar city.

    Despite our historic ‘walkability’, somehow we’re one of few global cities to be building 4 foot wide sidewalks in 2015. This includes in neighborhoods immediately adjoining downtown, when most of the US moved to a 5 foot wide minimum in the 1960s and a 6 ft to 7 ft width minimum (a 1920s-40s US standard) has returned in many US cities and towns, including per AARP and Safe Routes to Schools recommendations of the past five to ten years.

    Along with much better and wider sidewalks, most major US cities including Los Angeles, Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, New York, etc. have moved to build protected lanes for cyclists and reduce driving speeds and access in residential and commercial areas in recent years to help promote street life and more active living.

    It wouldn’t take much for San Antonio to feel more like a ‘big’ (or more intelligent or better connected) city simply by taking quick steps to improve walking and cycling (followed by bus) options connecting surrounding neighborhoods with downtown and existing commercial areas.

  27. Who cares if san antonio is 7th or 25th or 34th it’s last in texas when it comes to downtown.
    Example little Austin 70 miles north of us has a better skyline than san antonio which is bigger but smaller where it counts! Dallas and Houston have a better skyline than san antonio and Austin combined. San Antonio is a buzz over one new tall building of about 25 stories? Grow up san antonio get a real skyline! Oh that’s right your small town mentality doesn’t allow your city planers to think really big.

    • Who cares about a skyline? If you don’t like it, move to a city with one and leave the historical buildings to those who appreciate them. The reason our city is beautiful is because we value the history of this city and one of the reasons people choose to move to San Antonio is the downtown area, irregardless of whether it’s the 7th or 25th largest city.

        • Mercedes-I will consider your lack of substantive reply as acquiescence, thank you.

          I will also note that even though your original response is awash with grammatical and spelling errors, I chose to focus on the actual message which is that a skyline is not a necessary component for a great city. Have a great rest of the week!

  28. As a Dallas native, I have been making this same argument for decades. San Antonio isn’t a larger city (MSA)… and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I would go further and say that those calling SA “The 7th Largest City in the USA” are doing more damage than good by setting an expectation of what those truly large MSAs have to offer (LA, NYC, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, etc.). The beauty of SA is in may ways the secret nature of it’s charms.

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