By Tim Hunt
Thinking of heading out of town?Uploaded: Oct 26, 2021
As a native Californian and a life-long resident of Alameda County, I will confess to having similar thoughts to Bay Area residents polled by two organizations recently.
The Silicon Valley Leadership Council and the Bay Area News Group (my former employer of 39 years) conducted a poll that showed many residents believe that the quality of life and other key metrics have declined. That prompted the thoughts of moving out of the former Golden State.
Given the stress of the pandemic and the aggressive shutdowns in Bay Area counties by public health officers and the governor, 56% of those polled said they were likely to leave in the area in the next few years. That’s up from the still substantial 47% in the 2020 poll. The poll covered five counties including Alameda and Contra Costa.
Residents are fed up with the sky-high housing costs, the soaring number of homeless people leaving on the streets and the failure of government to develop any policies to deal with it. The cost of living was named by 84%.
Throw in that many schools districts in the Bay Area, particularly the larger ones, were very slow in getting kids back into classrooms for in-person learning that contributed to a lost year of education and you can understand the results.
Prior to the pandemic, you could mix in traffic congestion that led to long, long commutes as other issues.
Many people have suffered with fear and anxiety during the pandemic that only magnified the frustrations and willingness to think about living somewhere else.
Notably, 71% believed the quality of life now was worse than five years ago. That opinion was dominant in people ages 50-64 earning between $100-250K. For Republicans in that group, it was 92%.
The high cost of housing was cited by 76%, while 68% cited the overall cost-of-living. Homelessness was named by 66%, while wildfires/droughts polled at 60%.
Couple that poll with the work-from-anywhere policies that major employers are adopting or considering and an exodus becomes more likely. That would be tough news for the Silicon Valley, the Peninsula and downtown San Francisco which have lots of Class A office space designed for high-tech companies. The Bay Area always has benefited from the critical mass of talent because this was the place to be.
Is it still?
Some firms are still pushing for employees to return to the office regularly, but they’re getting plenty of pushback from their workers who have become accustomed to an extra two hours at home daily thanks to no commute. That will take a big sell or become a big selling point for another potential employer as life returns to whatever the “new normal” is.