Sorry all, this is going to be a LOOOOOOOONG
post, but I think it's justified because of the opportunities for a rich and themely Sprawl.
Thanks so much for adding fleshed-out cities to the SR5 universe! I love this kind of thing and I'll be reading them in due time, possibly using one of them for my first time GMing (beyond just messing around with one-on-one set pieces). I have four suggestions I would like to see, in or near the Aztlan/PCC border region, and I'll go into detail about the one that I think offers the most RP opportunities. It's so rich with 2070s RP possibilities that this post alone may inspire other people to play in its setting. I certainly hope it does.
I'm thinking of the disputed city of San Diego, for many reasons.EDIT: There's a small bit of IG information on San Diego here, mostly demographic, but also a short note on a genetech company: http://shadowrun.wikia.com/wiki/San_Diego
I object to Jewish people being lumped in as 'White', FWIW; this touches on complicated inter- and intra-ethnic issues, but the white-passing Jews mostly come from one particular ethnic subset that happened to immigrate to Ellis Island in large numbers, and beyond that, we have our own racial and ethnic tensions within Jewry. There has been significant assimilation, but only by a subset of Jews who were already white-passing in the US context.
Long disputed in the Aztlan/PCC conflict by the 2070s, San Diego is (historically at least) a highly populous city, second only to Los Angeles in California today (yes, bigger than San Francisco), with a strange brew of cultural and geographical/geopolitical elements. The present-day sprawl already connects to Tijuana - adjacent to the city and county limit, the international border - in a myriad of ways, especially culturally and economically; the county's major southern cities (Chula Vista and a southern enclave that's technically part of San Diego proper) touch the border. With historic communities bisected by wide freeways and others permanently separated by the formidable hills that dot the city, and over 2 million spread out across the county with a handful of other bustling cities acting as suburbs and exurbs (Chula Vista, El Cajon, Temecula, etc.), San Diego is a good location for a themely Sprawl where the millions of teeming, toiling and disaffected masses are more likely to see a dragon than Downtown. EDIT: In game, the city has over 10 million in the numbers from the Wikia link above.
Alienation, isolation and corporate dominance are already strong features of the landscape; one of the sillier examples was the city trying to establish Coca-Cola as the official drink over a decade ago despite Pepsi's presence in the eastern industrial zone, Kearny Mesa. More soberly: the city's major industries are clustered around hotels and tourist traps bursting with accommodations where most workers are paid nowhere near a living wage; the swankiest hotels dip directly into city funds for their advertising; sweetheart land deals for favored developers are commonplace, like the old Navy base that fell into city hands before being sold to a local development firm way below value; the airport causes substantial hearing damage in the most concentrated parts of the city, including a series of charter schools on the old base; shipyards, docks and heavy industry pollute concentrated areas and flaunt legal restrictions; political candidates use the reactionary right wing as a wedge to stave off social reforms and unionization; businesses like fast food chains use touchscreens to dodge the language barriers without actually paying people to learn languages; and traumatized veterans line the streets during economic recessions, especially in the Flats, east of 12th Avenue downtown (streets are numbered eastwise from the downtown harbor), but also a constant presence around Hotel Circle (well east of that in a bustling commercial sector) and beachfront and harbor areas, where police maintain a consistent low level of harassment to stay barely within the law while discouraging homeless people from affecting tourism and property values by existing inconveniently. For example, the police track where the bulk of homeless people go to sleep and go wake them up and tell them to move somewhere else. Of course, sleep deprivation is an effective form of torture. Residents of upscale La Jolla have been more direct according to rumor, going so far as to hire people to sit on bus stop benches through the night so homeless people can't sleep there.
Residents who can afford to are forced to drive due to a lackluster public transportation system held in inertia by the Southern California car culture, but the roads aren't maintained either, so the city's many deep potholes dramatically increase vehicle maintenance costs and can turn deadly in the rain. Rain is rare now (causing elevated wildfire risks in the dry season) but will probably increase and turn more acidic by the 2070s. With indoor activities holding little appeal where the weather is so nice most of the time (for now), the baseball and football teams have bilked the city for outrageous sums for decades. Most notoriously, the football team struck a deal with the city to sell all unused seats to the government on gameday, racking up incredible amounts of public expenditure for years while the team was abjectly terrible (they had a 1W-15L season during that time and it wasn't a whole lot worse than the normal). Now they've fattened up on the public dime and are a perennial Super Bowl contender...a level of success which the baseball team has yet managed to avoid while continuing to demand concessions. The football stadium is notoriously short on the required environmental permits and suchlike, having some of the requirements waived in exchange for bringing economic activity, and surrounded by so much concrete that there's literally a drag racing circuit in the parking lot. After the floods, water has to be pumped out of the stadium for days with giant gas-guzzling machines before it can host a game again.
San Diego is geographically well suited for enclaves: extraterritorial, ethnic/linguistic (there are already many of these), economic (ditto), political and cultural. Cf the especially hilly Ocean Beach neighborhood where local businesses rebel against the general atmosphere by giving more positive attention to the neighborhood's gigantic homeless population than to 'foreigners' and 'tourists' which actually includes locals from the rest of the city. Still, the relatively flat beach-adjacent section is a commercial zone rife with the same kind of exploitation as Hotel Circle, fueling daily class and geopolitical resentments when the workers are forced to be polite to tourists. This is also a frequent site of discreet police harrassment of homeless people, since the hippie-friendly culture and the calmer weather near the ocean attracts them. Discreet because the police know the locals will turn against them if they show a lack of compassion, but won't actually look into it too deeply if it's not overt and blatant. Not totally coincidentally, and not to endorse criminal activity, but this is also apparently the place to score cheap, grimy pot. (Think of New York's Washington Street in the film Half Baked.) I don't recommend smoking that OB stuff for medical purposes, but it's rumored that the locals have better shit that they keep to themselves.
Another unique cultural element is that the city has attracted an unusually high number of trans people (which still isn't even a substantial minority of the population), especially women, from far-flung locales because more treatment options for gender dysphoria are available here than most US cities, with the occasional exception like San Francisco. The city itself doesn't do as much to integrate trans people as SF, but the State requires insurance companies to cover standard trans healthcare as essential, creating another divide between people the system works for -- the well-insured and, among the downtrodden and displaced, the equivalent of SINners with legit State residence and paperwork -- and people the world forgot, who, like anywhere else, often turn to drug dealing and sex work in desperation, but are also at special risk of violence due to the saturation of sailors and Marines from more conservative places who may forget not to fight civilians when they get a little drunk. Obviously, this is a threat for the homeless in general, too, though there's power in numbers there. Trans healthcare, transantagonism and transmisogyny aren't addressed in canon aside from a joke of questionable intent in Run & Gun, but presumably in the 2070s this is a ripe market for street docs and medical fixers, and possibly still a locus of discrimination and hate, though it does seem to be implied in Run & Gun that gender confirmation surgery/augmentation is considered everyday and mundane by then, so I'm not sure.
Both groups attract a lot of hatred from the political and cultural right, blamed for their situation and told to 'get a job'. The aforementioned right wing is disproportionately powerful because a massive
portion of the city's residents and/or workers are undocumented migrants from Mexico (sometimes by way of Central America), or you might say SINless, leaving Democrats and Republicans split down the middle in political contests even though the actual population is culturally liberal and leans left as a whole. (California and the US in general are like that to a degree, enough to affect political contests, but that's a story for another site.) Of course, the city was right in the middle of Mexico before the Mexican-American War and events surrounding it, so Mexico/Aztlan has a centuries-long connection to San Diego and many families have distant memories of being displaced by war and racism. The racism isn't over by any stretch - they are treated as outsiders and criminals for the mere act of returning to work, and their social and political movements decried as subversive radical elements by the right.
The city and region are also well situated for climate/environmental/toxicity/radioactive game elements. Millions are vulnerable to the San Onofre nuclear power plant failing again/harder - the power company easily obtains permits and the cooperation of governments without the hardware upgrades and safety protocols that are theoretically required, and the plant has been forced to release radioactive gases to keep from bursting. Also, as a coastal, car-choked industrial, commercial and residential center, the city and Sprawl will have been hit hard with environmental degradation and rising tides by the 2070s, probably to the point of private sea wall construction and possibly to the point of a geodesic dome for the rich to escape to. Already, people who can afford it drink exclusively filtered water, deadly landslides affect ritzy La Jolla, wildfires in the eastern and northern sprawl displace people into the football stadium that rapidly becomes a hellhole, and late autumn flooding has regularly overwhelmed the infrastructure in Mission Valley (surrounding the football stadium and Hotel Circle mentioned earlier) for about 11 years, stranding people in their cars at night where the water level looks the same while the road dips invisibly underneath the polluted flow.
There's a lot of info out there on the predicted climate changes and impacts on the region in the next few decades, which can be adapted to fit SR themes. When the intense flooding in Mission Valley started, it drew national attention due to a football playoff game being set there during the first unexpectedly torrid rains at the same time as a game in Seattle was dry and comfortable. Interestingly, and I don't know if this has been supported by research in the intervening years, but at that time I heard speculation from one climate scientist on the local public radio affiliate that in a few decades San Diego's climate would actually be a lot like Seattle. He thought Seattle would become more like the old climate of San Diego, too. I don't have the energy to look up and sort through the climate projections right now, but doubtless, there's some interesting stuff there to GM the 2070s with, both in terms of toxicity and continuing sociopolitical struggles.
I hope someone gets around to integrating this city into the SR world a little more. I have a few scrap notes, but I probably can't do the job myself unless my health improves. In the meantime, I'm too exhausted to detail why my other suggestions would be interesting - you may be able to guess my major health problem at this point - but I think it would be cool to have more material on Los Angeles, Imperial County - probably an entire county of barrens and Z-zones by 2070 - and booming Phoenix, which has always had a stronger brew of institutional racism and has seen a rise in gang activity in recent decades. In fact, San Diego Sprawl material could include juicy bits on LA, Imperial County, Phoenix and Tucson, not to mention Tijuana. It may actually be the San Diego-Tijuana Sprawl...like I said above, it already kind of is, to an extent. Tons of people commute from one to the other, haul scrap from San Diego to Tijuana to build and repair shanty towns, smuggle cheaper and more easily available drugs from Tijuana, etc., and a joint airport has been discussed in serious tones.
I have some level of familiarity with all these places (mostly San Diego and Tucson) so people can bounce ideas off me and seek me out for questions if they feel it would be helpful. Eventually I may develop the setting in a campaign, but for now someone else will have to do it if they want to see it done.
If you've read all the way to this point, I thank you for your time and hope this has been fruitful. So far all I know about canon material on these cities (other than the war and the obvious Horizon/Hollywood stuff) is that 3rd Edition lore treats LA as overtly sort-of independent and revolutionary but actually dominated by corporate interests behind the scenes.
First post is a doozy - Hi, I'm Red Rivka and I'm a Shadowrun addict.