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The West's best places to live

Entrepreneur? Artist? Raising a family? Behold: the West's best spots to suit your lifestyle

San Diego
Photo by J. P. Greenwood; written by Mike Grudowski

San Diego: Hatch big ideas

Population: 1.37 million. Median single-family home price: $330,000.

Research labs: 75

Take a trial run: Hotel Indigo is S.D.’s 1st LEED-certified. From $189; hotelindigo.com

Tracking San Diego’s innovation economy is a bit like counting plants in the Amazon: Just when you think you’re getting somewhere, a thousand new wonders sprout up behind you. Carry a smartphone? It almost certainly contains technology pioneered by local wireless giant Qualcomm. Buy a new computer recently? That smaller, faster chip inside was likely made possible by a billion-dollar local company called Cymer. The decoding of the human genome? Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute played a major role in that and in producing the first synthetic bacterial cell last May. Like to surf? Matuse makes wetsuits not from petroleum-derived neoprene, but from a limestone-based material dubbed Geoprene.

Countless other future-is-now projects are in the works, like Sapphire Energy, which in 2012 plans to produce a million gallons of diesel and jet fuel derived from algae (pictured). As the local population of surfers might put it, “Duuuude!”

Runners-up: Palo Alto, CA; Seattle; Los Angeles

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