Exodus: Tech workers are leaving San Francisco behind

If you’re a regular reader you already know that things have been tough on people living in San Francisco. In fact it’s fair to say they’ve been crappy. More than two years ago I wrote about the “poop patrol” the city had launched to try to deal with the human feces frequently found on the street. A 2019 poll found that 72% of city residents felt the quality of life in the Bay Area had declined. People were tired of literally stepping over semi-conscious drug addicts to ride the trains. Violent crime in the train stations went up so the area swept the homeless out of the stations. The homeless started riding the trains instead and soon enough the crime was rising on the trains. The homeless would ride the trains to the airport and then at night the cops would give them bus tokens that would take them to the end of the line where they’d be dumped back on the streets.

And of course when they’re not using drugs most of these people are finding ways to make money to buy drugs. In San Francisco that means breaking into cars and a constant wave of shoplifting from local stores. Last October the San Francisco Chronicle reported that seven Walgreens drug stores had closed because people were walking in, filling baskets and walking out with merchandise. In some cases, the thieves had cleared every shelf of merchandise while the employees watched. Company policy and the threat of lawsuits prevents them from doing anything.

And even as all of this is happening, the rents in San Francisco and the Bay Area were sky high thanks to Silicon Valley and the glut of tech workers. But that has started to change during the pandemic. As the NY Times reports today, a lot of those tech workers are discovering they can work from anywhere:

They fled to tropical beach towns. They fled to more affordable places like Georgia. They fled to states without income taxes like Texas and Florida.

That’s where the story of the Bay Area’s latest tech era is ending for a growing crowd of tech workers and their companies. They have suddenly movable jobs and money in the bank — money that will go plenty further somewhere else…

“I miss San Francisco. I miss the life I had there,” said John Gardner, 35, the founder and chief executive of Kickoff, a remote personal training start-up, who packed his things into storage and left in a camper van to wander America. “But right now it’s just like: What else can God and the world and government come up with to make the place less livable?”

…the migration from the Bay Area appears real. Residential rents in San Francisco are down 27 percent from a year ago, and the office vacancy rate has spiked to 16.7 percent, a number not seen in a decade…

There are 33,000 members in the Facebook group Leaving California and 51,000 in its sister group, Life After California. People post pictures of moving trucks and links to Zillow listings in new cities.

It’s not just the workers who are leaving. Elon Musk moved to Texas last year as did Oracle’s headquarters and a portion of Hewlett Packard. California as a whole saw 135,000 more people leave last year than enter. Personally, I’ve had two friends leave the state for good in the past year. They both moved to states on the east coast where they can get a lot more for their money. Another neighbor left for another west coast state just months ago. I see the pictures on Facebook and you can’t help but think about how much further the money goes everywhere else. I’m sure there are millions of Californians experiencing the same close-up view of the California exodus that I am and I’m sure they are tempted as well.

CBS 13 in Sacramento published this report yesterday. A state finance professor told the station, “The day will come if this goes along the path that we are on right now, that we will see California not being a leader in innovation anymore and beyond the point of repair.”