Both towns play up their mining heritage, especially the smaller Nevada City, which has lots of shops in historic or at least historic-looking buildings. We've seen a good many towns like this, some more well-kept than others, and there is always a a kind of ersatz feeling to them. They don't seem like real towns anymore. The housing boom of the last few years has brought many retirees and urban refugees (unhappy with urban-suburban crowding and given the overwhelmingly white population, perhaps with the growth of urban minority populations) to this region, driving up housing prices and disturbing the laid back milieu established by the artists and now aging hippies who settled here in the decades after the mines played out. ...[M]ore than seventy houses were listed for rent in the local paper, a very high number for two small towns and a sure sign that the housing downturn is serious, at least here.
Ersatz? he's got a point. The same day a reader sent me this, in the coffeehouse we'd been comparing-and-contrasting Grass Valley and Nevada City, and one of us had said that GV's nicer because it is like a real town. I can count the number of downtown Nevada City stores I visit on a finger* of one hand.
Solutions? we don't got no steenkin' solutions. All will be in flux soon enough regardless - read Kunstler's latest on Peak Suburbia.