By Tim Hunt
Thinking of leaving the Bay Area? You're not aloneUploaded: Jun 4, 2019
The humming Bay Area economy and its world renown innovation culture are magnets for entrepreneurs, but they are counter-acted by the soaring costs of living in the area.
Even well-paid tech workers find rents in San Francisco, on the Peninsula and in the South Bay dauntingly expensive. That’s led to families and companies considering doing business elsewhere. One friend of mine, now a tech manager after leading a private Christian school, relocated her family to Houston. They bought a fine home in the suburbs for way less than she would have paid for a tiny condo here. She’s now working remotely.
The latest Bay Area Council survey shows plenty of families are considering pulling up stakes and moving out-of-state—the question is where they will stop….Reno, Boise, Texas or other Southern states.
The latest survey, as reported in the San Francisco Business Times, showed nearly half of the people responding were thinking about leaving.
That’s countered by 74 percent of the 1,000-registered voters who said the Bay Area is a good place to live. For us East Bay residents, particularly here in the Tri-Valley, it’s nearly impossible to beat our weather. But, we do pay dearly for it. For people who have lived here a while and own a home, there’s plenty of opportunity in the right sectors.
However, the costs are piling up. You see it in the school districts where teachers in Dublin and the San Ramon Valley threatened to strike and teachers did walk out in Oakland and New Haven (Union City, now in its third week).
Teachers, particularly with benefits, are reasonably compensated, but pay has not kept up with the soaring housing prices. The state budget will allocate a record amount to k-12 education this year, but negotiations with teachers have been strained in many districts. The challenge for districts is their contributions to the under-funded State Teachers Retirement Fund are increasing and are taking a larger slice of the budget.
The cost of living here—despite the weather and the robust economy—has sparked the discussion of departing. It reached 49 percent in this year’s survey-up from 46 percent a year ago and sharply up from 34 percent just three years ago.
Survey respondents named housing costs, traffic congestion and homelessness as the top three issues. The number of people experiencing homelessness grew almost 30 percent in major Bay Area counties over the last two years—demonstrating how housing costs touch people across income spectrums. Major hotels in San Francisco now employ people to clean sidewalks daily so tourists and conventions don’t start skipping the city.
Those issues, not surprisingly, led 57 percent of the people to conclude the Bay Area is headed in the wrong direction.
Homelessness and housing are tied directly together, while traffic congestion is a function of the strong economy. For comparison, remember how easy the commute along I-680 was during the Great Recession and its aftermath.