January 12, 2022 By Mary Prenon ~
When Tony Bennett first crooned “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” back in 1962, no one had any idea that the popular “City by the Bay” would one day become an urban center so wrought with skyrocketing home prices, crime, and homelessness that even long-time residents are now joining an ever-growing exodus.
After living in the region for 37 years, Scott Fuller, a real estate broker, pulled up stakes and moved to Gilbert, Arizona, where he, along with his wife and two children, are now enjoying a much better quality of life. Five years ago, he founded LeavingTheBayArea.com, a unique consulting company dedicated to helping Bay Area residents relocate to other areas within California or to surrounding states.
A real estate broker for more than 20 years, Fuller said the timing was right when he launched the firm in 2016.
“I wanted to make sure there was no question about what we do, so that’s why I chose the name ‘Leaving the Bay Area,’” he told The Epoch Times.
Fuller began to notice a slow exodus from San Francisco about seven years ago, and realized then there was no one company dedicated to providing full-service relocation assistance. Working in partnership with real estate professionals throughout the country, the company now offers everything from selling and moving services to researching new locations, buying, utility connections, and even mail forwarding.
“As things started to snowball over the past couple of years, people have had a lot of concerns like affordability, taxes, congestion, crime, and homelessness,” he said. “The area has changed a lot from the California that I knew growing up here.”
A December 2021 report by the California Policy Lab found that the migration to California from other U.S. states dropped 38 percent since the start of the pandemic in 2020. San Francisco had the deepest decline at 53 percent, while exits from the Bay Area increased by over 21 percent. Overall, the report found that some 60,000 people left the state in the first quarter of 2020, and that number more than doubled by the third quarter of 2021, with over 150,000 exits.
San Francisco is not alone, as published reports indicate a similar migration from other large cities such as Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. However, two recent separate surveys both show continued large-scale exit plans by many current Bay Area residents.
A fourth-quarter 2021 poll by Joint Venture Silicon Valley indicates 56 percent of respondents are planning to leave the Bay Area within the next few years, and 75 percent name the cost of housing and homelessness as the area’s most serious problems. Overall, 71 percent believe the quality of life there is worse than it was just five years ago.
A similar poll conducted by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce during the summer of 2021 shows more than 40 percent of residents surveyed plan to move from San Francisco in a few years. Eight out of 10 respondents say crime has gotten worse, while close to 90 percent believe the homeless crisis is flourishing. Almost 75 percent of those polled say their quality of life has declined over the past year.
Over the past year, screeching headlines across the nation have detailed the rash of daytime burglaries of high-end retailers, as well as other stores and small businesses throughout the Bay Area. Countless photos and news videos continue to depict an expanding homeless population in the city.
According to the San Francisco Police Department’s Crime Dashboard, at the end of 2021, larceny theft was up almost 20 percent from 2020, with 30,406 incidents reported.
“I think a lot of people feel that the state is going in the wrong direction,” added Fuller.
Respondents to the Joint Venture Silicon Valley survey are split on the overall direction of Silicon Valley and the greater Bay Area: 52 percent say it is on the wrong track, while 48 percent say the region is headed in the right direction. While 71 percent responded that the region is good or excellent for pursuing a career, 89 percent believe the area is poor or just fair for purchasing a home. Zillow lists the current median home sale price at $1.5 million for the San Francisco region.
For Fuller and his family, the move to Arizona has resulted in a “100 percent” better lifestyle.
“The housing is more affordable, taxes are lower, there’s less government regulation, and people are a lot less stressed out and happier,” he added.
Many of his clients are nearing retirement, while others are younger professionals who are now working remotely, due to the COVID-19 virus. Some of the more popular destinations include Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida.
Eric Thomas lived in the Bay Area for 52 years, but he and his family left last year. Thomas cited the cost of living, public policy, high taxes, crime, and traffic as some of the main reasons they left.
“There was also an over-restrictive handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and related enforced mandates,” he told The Epoch Times.
The Thomases’ new home is in North Texas near the Oklahoma border.
“We absolutely love the people here and feel safe,” he said. “We live in a small town where everyone is friendly and helps one another.”
The family was also able to purchase a home twice the size of their former one, for nearly half the price.
Another client, Matthew Cooper, relocated to Montana last year after living in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 40 years.
“We were so glad to escape the area,” he told The Epoch Times. “We saw how things were going with crime waves and homelessness—it was a breakdown of law and order in society.”
Now Cooper, his wife, and three girls live on 21 acres just outside of Helena. The property includes their own large home and a guest house, and the cost for everything was just $650,000—less than half of the cost of a Bay area home with little land.
“Up here, everyone we’ve hired and everyone we’ve met has been a freedom-loving patriot,” added Cooper. “It’s been wonderful to be in a community of like-minded people.”
Recent published reports indicate San Francisco Mayor London Breed is now promising to get tough on crime, announcing new policies to battle drug use and dealing, as well as theft. The plan would also include overtime funding for police presence in the Tenderloin district.
A December press release posted on the City of San Francisco’s website also touts the state of California’s $54.7 million grant for the city to purchase a 160-room residential building on Mission Street as Permanent Supportive Housing. This follows a 2020 Homekey grant for $76.89 million for purchase and operation of Hotel Diva and Granada Hotel. The acquisitions are part of Mayor Breed’s Homelessness Recovery Plan.
The Epoch Times contacted the mayor’s office several times via email (offices are currently closed due to COVID) but did not receive a returned email by deadline.
Meanwhile, LeavingTheBayArea.com is growing substantially, with Fuller and his team fielding inquiries daily.
“People have their breaking points, and a lot of that does revolve around politics,” he said. “Sometimes, it just becomes too much.”
C-VINE Volunteer Citizen Journalists