Leaving the Bay Area: Where People Are Going and Why

5 min
High housing prices and cost of living are the two top reasons people give for leaving the Bay Area in a recent callout by KQED News on the social network Nextdoor. (Creative Commons)

"I'm packing boxes now and moving to North Carolina."

"I'm looking very hard at moving to Nevada!"

"My kids cannot afford to rent, let alone buy here, so we are all headed to Colorado in the fall."

These are just a few of the more than 200 responses we received to a question we asked residents of Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco on the neighborhood-based social network, Nextdoor:

"Are you considering a move out of state, and if so, where are you going?"

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Of the more than 200 respondents, 187 pointed to high home prices, the cost of living, traffic and homelessness as the top reasons they were considering a move. According to the real estate website Zillow, the median home value in San Francisco is $1,334,800; $1,080,300 in San Jose; and $757,700 in Oakland.

As for where people are going? Here's a snapshot, based on the responses we received:


Your Stories

Many of you also shared heartfelt stories of resolve, heartbreak, disappointment, fear and, for some, excitement at the prospect of gaining relief from the high cost of living in the Golden State.

"For us, it's a quality of life issue."

Laura Saso at Big Sur, one of her favorite natural wonders.
Laura Saso at Big Sur, one of her favorite natural wonders. (Laura Saso)

W

e are talking about moving when our son is done with high school. For us it’s not because of the housing prices. We are part of the fortunate few able to buy a house recently.

I was born and raised here. We have some of the most beautiful coastlines and mountains for hiking. When I was younger I used to think so many Californians take for granted the natural beauty we live in. Now I worry that all that beauty will be lost in garbage, overcrowding and mismanagement of funds.

The gap between "the have and have nots" is widening everyday. The tech "play money" doesn’t help. Also the foreign investors land banking hurts our local families.

For us it’s more of a quality of life issue. It’s about the insult of paying a premium to buy here and paying high property taxes and having to deal with traffic gridlock no matter what time of day you go out. The actual condition of the roads are horrific too. Not to mention lack of policing for unsafe drivers.

As I write this I am saddened... I love California, the Bay Area in particular and wonder if I’m giving up on hope by the thought of moving. - Laura Saso, San Jose

"Add me to the list that's leaving."

Randy Sacks of Campbell, California.
Randy Sacks of Campbell, California. (Randy Sacks)

I

actually think a lot of people are moving out of areas like the Bay and LA area but are still staying in state. I sold a house I had in Campbell recently and bought one in a tiny town called Coarsegold, a half hour south of Yosemite. For now, I'm living in a condo that I lease in Campbell and planning to live full time in Coarsegold at the end of this year. So, add me to the list that's leaving, although staying in state. There are plenty of beautiful and affordable places in California, just not Bay Area or LA. - Randy Sacks, Campbell

"We will never be able to afford a house."

The Arzata family lives in Santa Clara, California.
The Arzata family lives in Santa Clara, California. (Eryn Arzate)

M

y husband and I make just over $100,000 a year combined. He is a mechanic and I work in HR for a local home health and hospice company. We live in Santa Clara and pay $3,000 a month for rent plus other bills including day care. We will never be able to afford to buy a house in the city we grew up in, and at the same time it’s very hard to save the money to even move! - Eryn Arzata, Santa Clara

"I'm crying as I write this."

Joyce Van Horn is a longtime San Francisco resident. She's now considering moving to Panama.
Joyce Van Horn is a longtime San Francisco resident. She's now considering moving to Panama. (Joyce Van Horn)

I

was raised in Burlingame and was head over heels in love with the City for as long as I can remember. Three years ago we had to leave our rent controlled house of 20 years due to the owner wanting to move in, and had to find a new home within a month. Because I’ve lived in SF for so long and never had any problems finding a new home that was affordable, it was a huge shock to find out that rent had more than doubled.

We’re both entrepreneurs and earned enough to be comfortable there, but now we have had to cut back on extras that used to be affordable. We now live in the Inner Sunset in a 3 bedroom flat. It’s $4,600/month, which is now a steal of a deal with so many new people moving in.

We’re respectively 64 and 65 and don’t want to work as much as we do because we have to pay such high rent. I opted to drop my insurance because it was so expensive. There’s heartbreaking homelessness everywhere. We both walk to the park pretty much daily, which is a relief and blessing — except that, if we want to enjoy the museums, we need memberships, which used to be really reasonable, but not anymore.

It breaks my heart to leave, but most of our friends and community have chosen or been forced to leave. I will always love San Francisco, but it’s no longer what I knew and no longer a place where I belong.

I’m crying as I write this, but it is time to move on, where I have more breathing room. - Joyce Van Horn, San Francisco

"Leaving becomes more attractive every year."

Jim Eagleson is a fourth generation Californian.
Jim Eagleson is a fourth generation Californian. (Jim Eagleson )

I

am a fourth generation native Californian. My paternal grandmother’s family first came here in the 1890s settling in Salinas, Carmel and on a homestead in Corralitos which is near Watsonville, California.

Now that I am retired, I worry about California's single party system and youth and tech culture that will probably end up overriding the Prop 13 tax law in the near future. All of this will make it impossible to stay in what may by then be a $1 million, 1,100 square feet house! People seem to forget that one major reason for Prop 13 in the first place was that retired folks living on fixed incomes were being taxed out of their homes.

Even though I have a fairly open schedule since retiring, it has become impossible to take a quick afternoon trip to the coastal mountains or the ocean from San Jose even on a week day. Instead of the 30 minute trip that it should be, it now takes twice that or more. Forget the weekends!

We used to say "50 million Frenchmen can’t be wrong," France being a country that is 254,000 square miles in size. France today has about 66 million people, but California, in the meantime, has crammed about 44 million people into 164,000 square miles mostly living in the SF/SJ and LA metroplexes. Our government still insist on policies that encourage even MORE people to join the beehive!

I don’t know if it is practical to leave California at this point due to health problems with my wife, but it sure becomes more attractive every year. - Jim Eagleson, San Jose

"We are now working to live, not living to work."

Jane Dornmann at the San Francisco Women's March in January of 2018. Dornmann and her family recently moved to Reno, Nevada. (Jane Dornemann)

M

y husband and I were both making close to six figures, but felt like we were living with a gun to our heads--and that's with a housing discount thanks to a wealthy friend who owned the house we were renting.

Preschool tuition, the cheapest option in our area, was $1500 a month. Rent was $2700 for a 2BR. Add in groceries, the roughly $20 a day my commute cost, and it was just too much. Buying a house wasn't even on the table. We tried, but they were all dumps that got $100k over list price, in all cash.

Now, I live in Northwest Reno, in a giant 4BR 3 full bath house that we bought for under $400k. Great school district, NO TRAFFIC, 10 minutes drive to the great parts of downtown, which are flourishing thanks to the economic rebound. There are lots of cool vintage shops, eateries and bars. There is  a good art scene; always something going on.

Our quality of life has vastly improved. Main point: we are now working to live, not living to work. And, the Bay is just an hour flight/3.5 hr drive away! Tahoe is 30 min away. Best of everything. - Jane Dornemann, Former San Francisco resident, now living in Reno, Nevada

The stories featured have been lightly edited for clarity and style.

Have you moved out of the Bay Area or are you considering a move? Share your story with us via Twitter hashtag #byebyebay, email me at: tmosley@kqed.org or fill out our form below.