2016 BAC Poll: Direction

According to a poll of 1,000 Bay Area residents conducted for the Bay Area Council, only 40 percent of residents feel like we’re “headed in the right direction,” down from 57 percent in 2014.

In San Francisco, that number drops to 33 percent, versus 52 percent in 2014, with the majority now feeling as though we’re headed down the wrong track.

And with the cost of living, housing and traffic the leading concerns, a third of current residents now agree that they’re more likely than not to consider moving out of the Bay Area within the next few years.

For those who have lived in the Bay Area for less than five years, during which time employment in San Francisco has increased by 87,000 people, half now strongly or somewhat agree that they consider themselves as likely to flee.

2016 BAC Poll: Likelihood of Moving

Unfortunately, the Council didn’t ask the same ‘likelihood to move’ question in either of their previous two annual polls in order to measure any shift or perceived impact.

119 thoughts on “Survey: Bay Area Headed in Wrong Direction, Residents Might Flee”
  1. Chances are if you bought property and could afford to pay your mortgage then you will most likely stay in the Bay Area.

    1. AND…if you are locked in w panoramic city view at grossly low / decades old rent–THANK YOU JESUS 🙂

      1. You can always be evicted with an ellis act/owner move in. But hopefully you put all your money in other investments. 😉

    2. I own a condo in SF and can easily afford my mortgage, so much so that I was also able to buy a house up in the sierras at the bottom of the market up there in 2011. But I’m likely to leave the city in the next 3-5 years. If my condo ever gets to the point where I can sell it for double what I bought it at (which would net me right around the $500,000 tax free married couple california real estate lottery windfall), I’ll sell it and move out of the area. That money can go a lot further outside the bay area which means I can work a lot less and enjoy my life a lot more.

    3. Good point. If i didn’t own real estate here I would move from the area. Those that do it might seem the wise financial move is to double down on real estate here and wait out the appreciation in order to maximize a legacy for their heirs. Otherwise, the crime, vice, and political incompetence would drive me to a better run city and state.

  2. I am native born and have mostly lived all my life here. I am fortunate to have a home and not be in the situation of having to pay exorbitant rent.

    My reasons for planning on leaving the Bay Area are not economic – they are quality of life reasons mostly. I have seen the City degrade in – well, you all know the litany of ways.

    The destruction of the skyline comes first to mind – it captures what the City was and what it has become. At an intimate level. The sensibility of the City. The First/Mission tower story from last week showed the projected City skyline. At the time an ad was running for the Gateway apartments. I clicked on it. It had a picture of the skyline circa the 90s and if only Soccketsite could juxtapose those. Because the loss of what the City was is partially a loss of the visual/aesthetic. Newbies don’t even realize this..

    Its called quality of life. It is being lost and hence so many wanting/willing to leave. The specialness of the Bay Area and SF is being lost.

    The lack of a decent transportation. The increasing traffic. Coming up Sloat to Portola in the mornings has become stop and go in the last 5 years as more commuters, the increased jobs, take their toll not on just downtown but the “burbs” where I live.

    My reason for wanting to leave is, as such, not primarily economic It is though too – I have 15 years seniority and a retirement package (when the time comes) as well as a 401K. I can’t leave short a transfer and I am on the list but the list is long.

    For others quality of life takes a backseat. The cost of living is a killer. The cost of housing moreso. Its why the younger folk in the survey, those here for just 5 years, are even more prone to want to leave. One can go to Seattle and afford a home, pay less for almost everything and – no state income tax to boot.

    Still the condo towers go up that most of us can’t afford. The traffic gets worse. Let’s build an arena that the infrastructure can’t support. Yeah right.

    BTW, I have put my money where my mouth is. I own a home in the Northwest. Waiting for the day.

    I think SF, and not just SF but the whole region, is/are playing with the continued economic viability (not to mention quality of life) of the Bay area as they continue to seemingly ignore what is happening..

      1. I was going thru some old “California Monthly”s yesterday and ran across an interesting article about efforts to try to preserve/resurrect the region’s natives dilaects – I don’t recall the name for them, but it was something more complicated than “Miwokan” or “Ohlonean” – and though few specifics were given, I’d wager they had no words for “density” or “taller!!” (at least not in the meaning so often uttered here).

    1. Skyline comes first to mind? That’s the biggest issue really because it’s the first thing that surfaced. Come on.. you don’t even have a view of the skyline in the “north west” and you’re citing it as an issue to leave?

      1. Skyline as a metaphor for the changes for the worse in SF. IMO.

        The 1990s view says San Francisco. The hills totally visible, the white structures clinging to them. In the day some dared compare it to Italian towns on the Mediterranean. In terms of look.

        The view today. A dark wall – you can no more tell this is SF than NYC or Chicago.

        SF was unique in its terrain/visage. That has been lost It may be one reason, aside from cost of living, that younger transplants seem ready to leave.

        SF is maybe not so special anymore? IMO it certainly has become less special than Portland or Seattle. I say that as one born and bred. But that is JMO.

        1. Thanks for the clarity.

          I think people always reminisce about the “good ol’ days’ that never really were. As a resident of west SOMA for 6 years, and talking to all the small “mom and pop” shops, you can certainly tell that it was absolute HELL for the past 20 years before. And believe me, it’s still hell IMO. ,

          I definitely feel/see the “changing of the blood”, but I think it’s going to be a much better city in the long term. I’ll gladly sign up to that long-term resident category of staying if I could.

          1. Its not a question of change. Its a question of how an urban area makes that change. IMO.

            Change is inevitable.

            Paris and London have changed while preserving their uniqueness. SF has not. To me it is a simple as that. I am not nostalgic as much as I am holistic. As in holistic growth/change.

            You and most may disagree, but I will embrace/move to an area which honors its uniqueness and grows organically from that rather than destroying it – as I feel SF is doing.

          2. I’m sure there’s some ‘Good ole days’ reminiscing. But it does seem as if there’s been some squandering of opportunity. Construction of the NYC subway began 116 years ago in 1900. All these wealthy residents moving to SF and property values increasing strongly dumping money in the city coffers and all we get is the world’s most expensive bus terminal?

            Everything’s a cost/benefit tradeoff, but it does seem like we’ve been hit with the cost of growth without reaping as much of the benefits as I would have hoped.

          3. Dave, have you been to Paris? Right outside the city is a slum of refugees and racism. If you think our poverty is bad – you should see the amount of homeless children that aren’t mentally insane.

        2. Just as a counter point to Dave I was born in SF too and raised on the Peninsula in a blue collar family.

          Still for the majority of my cousins and my brother-in-law economic growth is good because they provide the services, constuct the buildings and have public safety jobs. The issue for this demographic is the cost of living and not views

    2. I would largely agree with Dave. After close to 40 years here, I am looking forward to exploring new areas to live. We are planning to exit in a about a year (or so), cash out of a paid off NV house and explore the wide open Desert Southwest; more relaxed living, open spaces, national parks to explore, and oh yea, a swimming pool.

      The city is changing, but then again it was changing when I moved here fresh out of architecture school in 1976; cities evolve and change and make room and make adjustments to newer generations.

      I do wish the growth would slow down somewhat, but then all of California keeps growing. Opportunity, lifestyle, jobs, weather and tons of open space attract a lot of people.

      I’m not so much bothered by the changing skyline, but rather the lack of new transit to support it. And yes, I worry about the essence of San Francisco being lost or “malled” over. The Castro is changing, I feel for the worst: mostly crappy food and crappy junk shops, and tons of Marina girls and bros invading the party scene on the weekend. I would definitely make them pay an entrance fee.

      1. Consider Tucson – seriously. With a Noe cashout, you can buy a great place there (yes, with a pool), and still pocket about 3/4 of the Noe sale price. Far more pleasant and interesting than Phoenix.

        On Castro food – man, the food in the Castro is so much better than it used to be. It was crap, crap, and more crap throughout the 90s and 2000s. I can actually eat at about a dozen great places within a few block radius now. One can lament the changes (and there are decent arguments on both sides), but not that one!

        1. I wouldn’t consider Arizona if the houses cost $1. One of the most bigoted states in the country, with that redneck sheriff O’Paio and the witch of a governor Brewer.

          We’re not leaving California.

          1. Some who post here might prefer the hard core libertarian right goofyness of Arizona. As I think there are too many people here, I will wave fondly goodbye.

            Besides, you think the water situation is bad in Cali?

          2. @Brian M – Arizona isn’t libertarian (and certainly not hard core libertarian). It isn’t a government will leave you alone state, its a government will impose a conservative agenda state. Its a old retire white conservative people use the government to impose their views on the people state. That is not libertarian. I have quite a few family members in Arizonia, not a one is libertarian. They are all quite content to vote for government officials that will use the police powers of the state to tell other people how to live their lives.

          3. Futurist: we have a mid century home in Rancho Mirage (just outside of Palm Springs) and plan on eventually making that our only residence. I never thought I would love the desert, but I do, and our retired neighbors use the hot summer months as an excuse to travel to Europe or rent a place in Colorado just outside of Aspen (not a bad idea!). I sometimes wonder if there is a larger gay community here in the desert than in San Francisco? It sure feels that way.

          4. @ Anon94123: You hit the mark! Yes, Palm Springs is number one on our list. We are actively looking now for a home there. Love the Twin Palms, Deepwell, Tahquitz and Araby Cove neighborhoods.

            We plan on doing much the same thing as you; traveling during the hot summer months, but over all I love the desert climate. And yes, Palm Springs has approximately 40% gay residents, very active in the government and the art/architecture activities. A great community.

        2. Agreed on the food, there are some way better restaurants that have popped up in the last bout of gentrification.

      2. You know what blew me away the first time I visited the NW – the neighborhoods. No backyard fences, no sidewalks, mail boxes at the street. Folks out front, street parties. That did not compute for me.

        Saying that is apostasy I know.

      3. Check out the banana belts of Washington there are warm/drier areas in the NW. Stunningly beautiful state with no state income tax.

      4. Looking forward to having people like Futurist leave. Heavens, the Castro is changing. And your “entrance” fees, yes, you’re a real urbanist.

          1. Yea, I think you’re right about Frank C. His comments against me are pretty ridiculous and probably born of jealousy or envy, of anyone who has been successful here.

            And he has no sense of humor. But thanks for your comment.

          2. Not at all. I just despise his pomposity. A classic narcissist (online, at least) Pray for his loved ones that he’s not one in real life.

      5. No offense to you and Dave but in the context of the Bay Area I think you are a narrow demographic. In the context of this report people are concerned about long commutes, congestion and not being able to secure adequate housing for their families not the skyline in SF of building set backs in SOMA

      6. Only been here about 25 years, but feeling the same way. Of course I’m not into being sweaty and would much prefer a day on the ski slopes over a day hiding from the heat and the suns cancer causing death rays. So when I sell I’m off to the mountains. Still gets warm in the summer but not so oppressive that you need AC 24/7 for months on end.

      7. I have tried the desert life, LV for 27 months (gone since March). Having a pool is nice, except when the water temperature goes over 90 degrees and you swim in soup. They even make cooling systems for pools up there. Pools cannot be used from mid-october to mid-March but are still pretty nice to hang out.

        Pick your area well. Stay close to accessible nature and culture. Phoenix is too crowded and everyone rushes to the good hiking spots. Las Cruces will be my next move if I ever go back to the desert. 5 Acre spots and nice houses. For the price of a TIC.

        1. Been going to Palm Springs for over 2o years and know it well. already a good number of friends from SF have settled there; very nice community, relaxed, but full of art and design activities; one of the best museums around for a “small” city. LV I would never consider.

          And super close to Joshua Tree National Park (where I recently did an Art Residency, BTW), close to tons of hiking and biking areas. The gay community is very social and friendly.

          1. Yeah, the only plus of LV is that it’s cheap. The “old” downtown has a small arts district and an MCM vibe around 3rd or Main. But the locals are not very sophisticated and mostly uninterested by it all, which is why it’s one empty store front after another when the malls less than 1/2 mile away are filled to the gills.

          2. Futurist – Does your horn ever get worn out from all of that tooting?

      8. “and tons of Marina girls and bros invading the party scene on the weekend. I would definitely make them pay an entrance fee.”

        It’s okay to discriminate against straights, I see.

    3. Funny, I left because of the vacant soulless dead looks on everyone’s faces. But yeah.. the skyline.

      1. But, one could argue the two are related. I like impressive tall buidlings and am generally excited about the growth along Mission and in eastern SoMa… but there’s no debating that a side effect of all that growth is a lot more people crammed into the same area (and the same insufficient transit options), which perforce leads to stress, anonymity and “shutting down”.

    4. Ah yes, that glorious old aesthetic of when Mission Bay was a rail yard, Lower Haight was all crack houses, Polk Street was seedy, gays were confined to the Castro, Presidio was inaccessible military land, and Inner Mission was gang land. Those were the days. While we’re at it, let’s bring back the Embarcadero Freeway and the radioactive contamination at Hunters Point. And why are we letting Chinese Americans buy property outside of Chinatown?

        1. Your and formidable’s trite responses may be cute, but they are inapposite. No one here has longed for the Embarcadero Freeway to be rebuilt, or for the military to reoccupy the Presidio. (As for the Castro – I don’t know when at any point gays were “confined” there).

          Believe it or not, it’s possible to miss certain *good* things about San Francisco that are disappearing or long gone, while simultaneously recognizing that some things have improved. Commenting on the former does not mean that we want to return to the racist sock-hop 1950s; it’s simply noting that there were (believe it or not) some things better in the old San Francisco, that are sorely missed.

    5. The same can be said of any global magnet city. We attract the best and brightest and then export people that have been transformed forever by their stay in SF. The same happens with Paris and London. People move there all the time, and eventually people move out.

      These cities function as hearts. They vitalize, reenergize the rest of the world.

      I am not worried for SF.

  3. Quality of life is too subjective as many of these “surveys” reveal. Sure, traffic is horrific and will continue its downward spiral. Skylines change. Cities expand. People move in and out. You can’t get stuck in nostalgia. Also, it’s unfair and selfish of you to slam people who have moved here in your lifetime who seem to have “corrupted” the status quo you seem to love. I smell a NIMBY.

    1. People who have moved here have not corrupted anything. I did not say that.

      IMO TPTB have sold out to developers and there lies any corruption.

      TI – it should have been a jewel to be developed for all of SF and the Bay Area. A world class venue. But no, all we get is 7300 units crowded into a small island in sterile towers. Future generations will bemoan the lack of foresight – the failure of this generation to see the potential of what could be, could have been on TI.

      I could go on, but the examples are plain for all to see.

      1. I’m sure future generations, if there are any, will very much enjoy diving tours of the underwater city of Treasure Island.

      2. Dave: San Francisco (and the bay area) have thousands and thousands of acres of park land. (I do think TI is crazy, but not because there is not enough park land in the bay area). SF has also been spending millions on fixing up and improving many of its shorelines. Crissy Field. The Presidio. The southern waterfront (a work in progress).

    2. Bay Area is not SF. The vast majority in this poll don’t care about the SF skyline or SF at all and have more prostatic anxieties about life here

  4. I know most people think the universe revolves around tech, but prior to the dot com, there were 750,000 people living in SF and doing just fine. The vast majority had no desire whatsoever to live in the most expensive city in America and all the crap that goes along with it, like soul crushing rents, unbearable traffic, overpriced and mediocre food, and entitled snobs who worship only money. I don’t even want to leave my house anymore on the weekends.

    I have been here 20 years, and am definitely looking to move within the year. A lot people want to blame housing policies, but the fact is that there is only an acute housing shortage during bubbles; speculation is the problem, just like it has been since 1849.

        1. So you are, of course, donating your house and all your possessions to a worthy poor person? Maybe an “artist” who works in feces and menstrual blood and just can’t afford the city any more?

          1. No I’m keeping my house because… you might want to sit down for this… I bought my house so that I could have a place to live. And I bought my rental property so that I could retire when I’m older, not so that I could buy a Tesla with the proceeds from gouging my new tenant after illegally tossing the old disabled senior tenant out on the street. Let me guess, maybe an “investor” who Ellis’ed a building and converted it to AirBnb?

  5. And the Dept of Finance just released its annual population report, and SF’s population grew by another 9,000 in 2015 (1.1%). Either people are not moving out as they say they’d like to do, or even more people are moving here because (presumably) they are attracted to the place, or both. Or I suppose it could be just a lot more babies being born than normal.

    I take surveys like this (essentially “are things good or bad”?) with a grain of salt when it comes to any practical implications.

    1. SF normally has a population turnover around 8%/yr. That is ~8% leave and ~8% arrive. Some people act like we got a boom or bust when the difference between arrivals and departures is 2% or more. Most of the high and low longterm forecasts for SF per year population growth rate are ~0.7% for high and ~0.6% for low.

      1. 8% a year – I did not know that. That is pretty astonishing! I guess my stable of acquaintances is pretty, well, stable – makes sense given that I’m getting up there in age.

        1. Well, about half of the SF turnover is people moving within CA but across county lines. Most of that for SF is to/from adjacent counties.

          In boom times we get a big net immigration into SF from outside the USA. About half the population growth of SF and Bay Area over the past ~50 years has been net immigration. No wall on the immigration front.

      2. As a parent of young kids just starting school, I’d love to know how much of this 8% annual turnover is parents who simply give up on raising their kids in the SF school system. SF has the highest percentage of kids in private school of any major metro area at about 35%. And SF has the lowest percentage of minors (under 18) of any major US city. As any parent who has gone through SF public school insanity knows, when SF parents look at options outside the city (north, east or south but still Bay Area), it’s tough to come up with solid arguments for grinding it out in the city for the decade+ of kids in school.

        1. SFUSD Lottery is why we left. My wife was anguishing over what strategy to use in final round of middle school lottery and I decided to solve the problem a different way. With suitcases! Good luck to you and your kids.

        2. It’s been this way for 40 years in SF. People come here as young adults, have kids, then move away because of the combination of high housing costs for a family and lousy public schools. We dealt with the latter by just putting our kids in private school (which, by the numbers anyway, is a far better school than any of the public schools in the wealthy suburbs, but at a very high price). The SF public schools are actually getting better now with the influx of new money. Some great public elementary schools and high schools. My older daughter is going to a public high school. To my knowledge, all the public middle schools are terrible, but I can’t say I paid much attention since we were out of the game.

          1. Yes just going private schools from the outset would have been a less disruptive solution. I suspect you are more level-headed than I. Sometimes I think the great subset of SFUSD schools are the ones ‘fixed’ by the parents in spite of, not because of, SFUSD bureaucracy and ideology. The techies that stick around will bring new energy and solutions-oriented mindset to the school system. I think SF is mostly on the right track, just keep building more density around transit centers, safer bike paths, let the new generation of parents fix the schools, and maybe someday some non-insane members of the BOS.

          2. I can’t say that I was not initially extremely unhappy about going the private school route. I’m a big fan of the public schools as the melting pot of a community. I do not like at all SF’s separation of wealthy kids into private school and poor kids into the public schools so that they rarely even encounter one another (with Catholic schools a little more balanced, but no way . . .) When our kids were little, the primary SFUSD “lottery” factor was that less-educated mothers (fathers were irrelevant) got priority. My wife, as a lawyer, put us on the bottom of the list. And it killed me that with all the taxes I pay, I had to shell out a bunch more for private school.

            I made peace with it early on when I saw how truly wonderful our school was – far, far more academic-oriented than the schools I attended. Can’t put a price on that (so, I work a couple years more than planned). And it is nice to have a very responsive administration. I’m already feeling nostalgic for the white glove treatment as we navigate the bureaucracy of the public high school where my daughter will start next year. Crossing my fingers that the upside balances that out.

        3. Getting a good public schooling in SF is, like everything else in this town, uneven, capricious, and unpredictable. There are good schools, probably as good as good suburban public schools and there are challenged schools.

          To paint the whole district as a bad school district is unfair, but it’s true that SFUSD can be maddening if you get assigned to a challenged school, or even a good school that’s a logistical nightmare to attend or find out your neighborhood school is highly coveted and there’s no way your kids’ll be attending. I believe SFUSD states 60% of applicants get their first choice, and 80% get a school they listed, leaving 1 out of 5 very disappointed in their results, likely going private or moving, if they have the resources.

          1. @jenofla–I wouldn’t say the whole district is bad…only that the SFUSD methodology for placing students is so fatally flawed that it tends to force our those families who care most about their kids’ education and might therefore be some of the most vocal and effective agents of change…with those families/kids ending up either in private school or leaving the city for the ‘burbs.

            One fact that astounded me: Clarendon is perennially listed as the most in-demand elementary school for the lottery. This year they had 97 applicants for each of the 16 non-sibling spots open. So if you’re not a sibling and don’t have some low income preference/priority, odds are close to zero. And yet when you look at how Clarendon ranks compared to all SF Metro elementary schools? wait for it….#122! Not sure SS allows this link, but check out all the surrounding ‘burbs offering great elementary school options. So when the best SF has to offer is so low on the list…and when the odds of getting in there are close to zero, it’s very easy to understand why parents get so frustrated with SFUSD.

            Probably most readers grew up in the same sort of public school system I did: you go to the school in your neighborhood, meet other kids and families close to your home, spend time with them, develop community bonds, parents contribute time/energy/money because this not only helps the kids/school but also make the community stronger as a result. In my dream world the SFUSD would phase in this logical and virtually universally accepted approach (outside SF) and watch the quality of SF public schools dramatically improve, the ratio of private vs public decline, and the health and vitality of neighborhoods surge.

          2. That is an interesting website! I looked thru it because I am always a junkie for more data. I entered our SF neighborhood school and my childhood school, and was shocked to see our SF neighborhood school, with an English Proficiency score of 46%, 50% free/reduced lunch, and graded 7 out of 10 by greatschools.org, ranked higher (#260) than my suburban childhood school, which had an English Proficiency score of 75%, 8% free/reduced lunch, and a greatschools.org rating of 10 out of 10 (#268). So, um, it’ll be interesting to know what other criteria they judge by. Per their website, they weight 20% for “overall district grade,” which means top schools in middling districts may get their scores dragged down a bit. Also, 20% goes towards “teacher ranking” based on “statistics and surveys.”

            So I compared #1 (Piedmont) and #100 (Orinda) and Clarendon. All 3 have academic scores ranging from 87-95% (87% actually from Orinda). Scores aren’t everything, but interesting how you can pull the same scores from students when Piedmont and Orinda have 0% free school lunch populace while Clarendon has 20%, bigger class sizes, AND poorer-paid teachers. I can’t help but think that maybe the top 150-200 schools are pretty much on par, similar to when an Ivy League school admissions director admits that they could dump their entire incoming class, admit the next 1500 students they liked, and probably have just a good a class. Like one big fat peloton in the front.

            Anyway, not to knock that website too much. I agree with you that an essential community feel is lost when a school district become unified. SFUSD, like other urban or poorer school districts, faces the additional challenge that not all communities within its boundaries are very strong and may not support their local schools in the way you describe, and they have a responsibility to educate the kids in those communities. So they have various integration schemes and whatnot.

            I’m no idealist. I’ve always wondered whether “reducing the achievement gap” merely meant lowering the scores of those from higher socioeconomic background (and I have NOT been able to get raw data). I’m giving SFUSD a chance for a few years, but if it doesn’t work out, we will leave.

    2. “Either people are not moving out as they say they’d like to do, or even more people are moving here because (presumably) they are attracted to the place, or both.”

      If you Google around, there’s some polling and I believe an Atlantic article that shows that a not insignificant chunk of the younger generation is moving to urban areas not based on desire, but because that’s where the jobs are.

      So it’s not inconsistent to see people move somewhere and then indicate that they don’t want to stay.

    3. I agree 100%. Mood surveys don’t mean much unless people speak with their feet too.

      A quick one-person survey:

      My corporate rental side job is doing great. Start-up people for 3 months drumming up business, then a performance artist for 6 weeks, then an SF couple moving back and booking for 3 months. I have solid bookings and visibility up to the end of the year and it could be my best year so far overall I could be under 20 days of cleaning/down time for 2016 which is insanely low.

      People still keep coming.

      1. But if people are only here for the jobs it does indicate what they are likely to do if the job situation weakens.

        In theory, all the first wave dot com arrivals could have stuck around after that bust. Some of course did stick around, but enough people left to put a sizable dent in the rental market.

        1. Maybe. I have already seen people around me trying ventures and sometimes going back to their old jobs. A friend who joined an app-oriented startup saw the start-up falter. Everyone went back to their old careers because the jobs are still out there. In my company we lost 2 very valuable coders the same month in March. We just can’t find the right replacements. Just to say that if there is softness, it’s not like the people leaving jobs will necessarily have to leave the BA.

          The Dot Com years were partly smoke-and-mirrors, in particular in terms of quality of talent. These past 10 years the people who came to SF were much more seasoned and can find other opportunities. Companies still cannot hire all the people they need. It would take a major correction to send good people packing.

          1. “Companies still cannot hire all the people they need.”

            That’s an understatement, IMO. My company used to number ~85 in SF. After being acquired, many left and through attrition the SF office is down to < 10. We’ve basically given up hiring in the BA. The whole development team is remote now.

  6. Kudos to whomever designed those charts. One of the most effective uses of small multiples that I have seen. They convey a large amount of data in a relatively small area.

    1. Ah. Another fan of Tufte it seems ! I’m also an appreciator of good information display.

      1. Napoleon’s army marching into San Francisco, gradually winnowed by a lack of cheap rental housing.

  7. I left after 40+ years and, much to my surprise, don’t miss San Francisco and the Bay Area that much. It isn’t the center of the universe.

    1. … or as the saying goes in Manhattan : “New York: Where everyone mutinies but nobody flees.”

  8. I’d be curious to see whether this has changed at all over time. Not necessarily true for the whole Bay Area, but SF (as are most cities) are by their nature fairly transient places. SF has always been a very transient place, since it first boomed in the gold rush era. Of course it’s terrible if transience is caused primarily by high cost such that it limits the kind of people that can afford to bring new energy and ideas to a place and forces people to leave who would otherwise want to stay, but transience is what makes cities founts of innovation and new ideas — people coming and going. So we shouldn’t bemoan transience on its own as a bad thing.

    Also interesting to see how different the right track/wrong track polling is from 2015 to 2016. People in 2015 were more optimistic than 2014 but all of a sudden in 2016 everyone is super pessimistic?

    1. If you read deeper you’ll see that one of the reasons for the downturn in perceived satisfaction is that attention about the drought has diminished due to the reasonable amount of El Nino precip. So the % share of that concern has been distributed among other worries.

    2. Between about the early 20th century when immigration slowed in the US to the migration to the suburbs into the 1980’s I think SF was much less transient actually than now. This has really increased in recent decades. There has to be pretty low native family formation in the city at this point

      I’ll let fact checking Jake comment if I am right

  9. In other news, 67% of San Franciscans are renters — the exact same percentage who are unhappy with the “direction” of the city. Amazing coincidence?

    1. Well since it was 48% unhappy in 2014, then yes it probably is a coincidence unless the renter population has changed as well over those two years.

  10. I dunno, people say a lot of things. Every election a sizable number of voters threaten to move to Canada if the wrong person wins and yet virtually none of them ever do. Except for retirees, people basically move because (1) they got/lost a job, (2) start/ended college, or (3) family reasons. What “direction” they feel their region is moving in is not really a factor.

  11. “Might”? I don’t know anyone who isn’t getting out. We’re going to the other side. (I already have). The loss of community & sense of place is palpable n San Francisco — but alive and well elsewhere.

  12. I came in 2001. Had a SOMA loft/condo that I paid off in ’09. Left this year due to all the negatives everyone already knows about. Happy, happy, happy. Got a Toll Bros. new build in the country close to an Revolutionary Era town, with plenty left over to invest. The only thing I miss is the SJ Sharks.

  13. have loved san francisco since moving to the bay area in 1985 briefly, again in 1987-89 and permanently since 1991. i’ve loved many of the changes (though not the traffic or cost). being gay wasn’t a possibility where i grew up. and we are always discovering someplace or someone new.

    i say bay area because i lived in berkeley, then palo alto, then los altos (in group houses), then on stanford’s campus for 3 years, then as a we in menlo park, redwood city, fremont, back to menlo park, and only got to SF proper in 2004. jobs, commute, and expense chose most of these locations.

    i admit our luck and worry for those who feel forced out and those that cannot take the risks that we could, but i’ve never wanted to live in amber. the WSJ just dubbed Seattle the new SF and our friends in Portland don’t want their little city to grow; we seem to bring our problems with us when we move.

    we had very bourgeois childhoods but grew up believing in the possible. that is what has really been lost.

    our duplex is part of our retirement planning. and with our recent family illness, access to first rate urban medical care will remain too important to move to the desert or the beach or many really affordable overseas alternatives/adventures. we’ve also made so many friends here, including some who stay with us when they return after their own moves away. most tell us they’d move back if their own lives permitted.

  14. I’ve done a lot of stupid things and made some foolish mistakes in life. I shudder to think of the very different way things may have gone at various turns. But I’m glad I chose the profession I did, the woman I married and, maybe most of all, the choice to move to the Bay Area and San Francisco. In that, I think I did pretty well with the “biggies” in life.

    As a Midwestern transplant, I feel I can better appreciate this place’s blessings than a native who has not known other places at the level only living there affords. When I moved here in 1975, San Francisco was a revelation. A veritable urban paradise at a time when virtually every other big city in the nation was a hollowed out dead end, dying of decay and blight and lack of opportunity. Even then, there was a well-established pattern of concentric circles of declining property values radiating outward. People wanted to live in the City. The exact opposite of other regions where the flight was out of the urban core.

    San Francisco did seem very unique, even foreign. Perhaps, European. More so than today. Predictably, it was expensive and finding a place to live difficult. I remember our first apartment search and the frustration until my wife got a line through work on a flat in Golden Gate Heights with magnificent ocean views at a rent only about a third more than we had budgeted.

    Our love affair began and we attacked this place, the City, Bay Area, California, the entire Pacific Coast. Natives often consult us for tips on places to go and what to see and do. Seattle, Portland, OC, Scottsdale. Know them all well and very much enjoy visiting. The best thing about each is they’re close to SF.

    There have certainly been changes over the years including some urban ills afflicting the heart of SF I would never have believed imaginable back in those halcyon days of the 70’s not that far removed from “The Summer of Love,” the Bay Area was the porn capital of the World, and really seemed as if it was an island nation to itself. But, always some good was wrung out of the new and incorporated within and made San Franciscan to improve the existing.I truly believe the City is better now than it has ever been.

    I can’t believe all the carping about change and “strangers” taking over its soul. Change, especially the renewal brought by new comers to the area seeking even to transform themselves, has always been the very essence of San Francisco. From its crazy haphazard beginnings. When San Francisco stops changing, stops welcoming change and transforming it in its own way, it will stop being San Francisco. That’s when I’ll consider leaving.

  15. The across-the-board decreases – significant decreases – in that chart are startling. I’d love to see some more substantive research into what’s underlying those big drops – to see that change in just 1 or 2 years implies something big is happening under the surface.

    I don’t think it’s just the housing costs or the traffic per se; I think it’s something both more nebulous and more pervasive across the city. That is, for me there’s no one thing I can point to as the straw that broke the camel’s back… but I sit hear in my office hearing car horns all the time (when did that become a thing in San Francisco); I see garbage everywhere in the city (not just homeless detritus [which is bad] or body functions [which is worse], but just every-day garbage everywhere – food wrappers and newspapers in the gutter, graffiti on buildings, dead plants in planter boxes; I see crumbling infrastructure (street lights out, decorative lights on The Embarcadero out, dead palms on The Embarcadero, dead and dying trees in GG Park and along Park Presidio – and the biggest of all, the horrific state of street paving here – driving on Clement, Geary, or downtown around Embacadero Center (where they’ve been ripping up the streets for sewer work for *over three years*) is worse that riding on dirt roads by our Vermont property!).

    It all leads to a generic feeling that things are falling apart, or in the parlance of the survey “headed in the wrong direction”.

  16. “to see that change in just 1 or 2 years implies something big is happening under the surface.” Exactly.

    It’s great to hear people’s San Francisco stories in the above comments, but your point about the timing is important when looking at the main article. People aren’t unhappy because of change from decades ago. Opening of the Presidio, embarcadero freeway removal,…

    The change is very recent and geographically broad across the Bay Area.

    1. It’s pretty obviously housing prices to me. It is stressful now in the Bay Area to be secure and raise a family and people are pissed off.

      1. But that feeds back to my point – the interplay with quality of life and “the little things”.

        I’m kind of fed up with rents here and it’s made me start to think about moving – but if (per my comment above) the streets were paved and relatively clean, if the parks were well maintained, if the transit functioned with a modicum of comfort or convenience … then maybe I’d feel like I’m getting something for my money and I’d be willing to pay those housing prices.

        But at present, I just feel like I’m paying more and more for a worse and worse urban experience – I can go to Boston or Seattle and get a very, very comparable urban experience, for about 60% to 75% of the price of living in San Francisco.

        1. When I mention views I am using that as a metaphor for quality of life.

          Certainly housing costs are the biggest driver of folks who want to leave – IMO.

          Beyond that the traffic and, in my case parking, is a huge issue. Living in an SFH area where everyone has 2 cars at least and very, very few use their garages makes things harder. Especially when the garbage truck is coming your way and you can’t get around it and have to back up. By then 2 or 3 cars are behind you. That is a daily occurrence for many in my neighborhood.

          The jumble of cars along the streets is visually jarring. At least it is to me.

          Speaking of streets, I was driving by Lake Merced yesterday. A line of traffic and on the roadside two black garbage bags stuffed full. I assumed the maintenance folks would pick them up but today the garbage bags were still there. Someone had pulled over and was pushing them onto the sidewalk.

          It becomes a question to some of the high taxes here that perforce one would hope would translate into clean streets, vegetation being planted along established medians, and road work/sewer repairs being done in a timely manner. Not over 3 years as is happening where I live.

          The ironic thing is Washington state has no income tax but the roads are better kept as is the general environment.

          The “little things” can add up pretty quickly.

        2. Someone else made a point about schools. You’d think that with an influx of highly educated, highly paid techies, we’d get great schools out of that. But that hasn’t really happened.

          Much of the new construction is somewhat bland and unremarkable. You’d think that the high sales prices would allow for better designs.

          There’s a cumulative effect when over and over we incur the costs of growth, but don’t reap the expected benefits.

      2. Just click through to the survey results. Some top answers (by %) to “the most important problem”:

        2014 2015 2016
        Housing* 24 18 23
        Traffic 7 7 13
        Poverty/Income inequality** 2 5 8
        Education 4 2 2
        Crime/Safety 11 8 6
        Economy/Jobs 5 4 3
        Homelessness 8 4 6
        Cost of living 21 14 25
        Supply of water – 24 1

        So no single issue. While “housing” is the plurality concern, the number is about the same as 2014 after a dip last year. Interesting that crime and homelessness are not big concerns. Nor is the economy (wild guess – D. Trump will not do well here), although cost of living is a perennial high concern (again, with an inexplicable 2015 dip).

        Bottom line – a lot of people are peeved, but not for the same reasons. That is a healthy result IMHO.

        1. folks, zig is right. We get similar results in every era when housing prices rise much faster than inflation. I’ve been through 3 of these cycles in the Bay Area, going back to the late 1980s. And you can read about people in the 1960s complaining about CA RE prices and fleeing to Oregon engendering an anti-CA backlash, which also happened in the late 1980s and in the dotcom and now.

          A relatively small group of people make a yuge amount of money in these RE booms, while most homeowners couldn’t even afford to buy their own home at current market rates, let alone the renters. The 1970s CA RE inflation drove people so crazy they passed prop 13 and rent control. We still haven’t shaken off the hangovers.

          Of course, some folks cash out and flee to cheaper digs. Been a SF tradition since the 1850s.

          Planeloads of new folk arriving at SFO everyday.

          1. There is no doubt that it has happened over and over here but it seems to be progressing with higher high points and higher lows in housing prices adjusted for inflation and wages.

            It is really hard though to separate these Bay Area issues from more national trends. Wages for working class people have been stagnant everywhere and some working class people at least choose longer exurban commutes to avoid living among poorer people or different ethnic groups yet they still may be pissed off and not feel they made a choice. Maybe inter-cities are being gentrified as well nationally and globally

            The biggest issue the Bay Area has is just geography and transportation constraints. Jobs keep clustering in SF and now the Peninsula and the cheap housing is elsewhere. I think we can something about this

          2. Yup, the busts/corrections have not brought prices back as much as the booms have inflated them since it became driven by the computer industry in the 1970s instead of the overall economy. Can get a RE price doubling or nearly so in ~5 years followed by a 20-30% correction over a few years, and then a few flat years and then repeat.

            Would expect more of that, give or take sea level rise, earth quakes, and karma.

        2. It should be noted that while survey respondents might be concerned about various “problems”, there isn’t a place on earth that would be immune to criticism. And it should also be noted that many of the respondents who indicate they intend to leave the area may be doing so to take advantage of the higher housing costs, not because of them. There are plenty of baby boomers who don’t have sufficient retirement funds outside of their home and they are in a position to realize a nice windfall.

  17. It can be hard to disentangle quality of life and cost of living as reasons for disapproval, since one often depends on the other. “This is inadequate quality of life for this cost.” Of course, everyone judges quality of life differently. For some, traffic, littering, skyline, arts.

    I remember when I lived in LA, I saw colleagues, Armenian, Taiwanese, Copts, etc, accept crappy job offers solely so they could stay in the LA area, because that’s where their community was – the food, the pool of people to mate with, the religious community. And they’ll hold fast until the entire community gets displaced (possibly the Latino community in the Mission?) or dispersed (gays in Castro?).

    As for me, Every time I think about leaving, or retiring somewhere naturally beautiful and remote, I think to myself, but where could I get decent Burmese, Indian, Ethiopian, and Sichuan food? Until I figure out how to cook those foods myself, I think I’ll have to stay in a city. I can’t help it, food brings me more pleasure than commuting kills my soul.

    1. And Afghan food. Don’t know how East Bay ended up being an Afghan stronghold, but mmmmm.

    2. Move to the sticks and fly to those countries a few times a year and get the real thing. You’ll probably save money too.

  18. After 20 years of living in SF, I can’t wait for my golden handcuffs to unlock so I can get out. There are a lot of great things about living here, e.g. food, moderate weather, high salaries. But a lot of bad things – total apathy (100 people can walk past a crime or homeless person defacating on the sidewalk an no one bothers to pick up the phone and try to do something. Or people so lazy that they go to the grocery store in pajamas and slippers. Pathetic!)

    Not to mention the anti-success attitude. In most places around the world, if you drive around in a Rolls with a hot wife, people think you’re a rock star and want to hang out with you. Here, people just wish you would drop dead.

    1. “In most places around the world, if you drive around in a Rolls with a hot wife, people think you’re a rock star and want to hang out with you. Here, people just wish you would drop dead.”

      Frankly, this is one of the things that I’ve always liked most about San Francisco. Although in my experience, SFers don’t wish someone like this would drop dead; they just roll their eyes at the display of shallowness and move on. It’s not anti-success so much as anti-“let them eat cake.”

      1. “Frankly, this is one of the things that I’ve always liked most about San Francisco.”

        I agree. I associate the Rolls version of success with the east coast and it’s never been my thing.

        Ironically, I really like the positive startup ‘change the world’ energy when it’s based on solid ground. People who are trying to start real businesses have interesting real world experience and a can do mentality.

        One of the things I dislike about bubbly times is that the class of people trying to play the bubble game are either cynically playing the greater fool game or hopelessly naive about their industry and sometimes even business in general.

        People who sincerely want to produce something of value have a very different vibe than people who just want to separate some sucker from his money.

    2. One of the things I’m looking forward to when I move out of the city is to go to the grocery store in my pajamas and not get lazy shamed.

    3. Hey, I love going to the grocery store in pajamas! Maybe not slippers, given the state of sidewalks, but still. It does seem like you might be in the wrong community. One that doesn’t equate success with Rolls and a hot wife, but a Tesla and a spouse who’s lead scientist at Genentech. Or quiet ownership of 2000 acres in conservancy, being lead donor to a philanthropic foundation for teaching kids writing, or new venture funding of $10 mil. I think people still gravitate to success here, they just define it a bit differently here.

      That said, there is a very strong class warfare feel going on in some neighborhoods in the SF, like the Mission. But that’s not unique to SF. I’m sure that’s happening in the Bronx, parts of Brooklyn, Echo Park, etc.

    4. Unless you are British royalty, if you drive around in a Rolls Royce with a trophy wife, everyone everywhere knows you’re a clown.

    5. About the Rolls Royce and Trophy Wife, there are several attitudes:

      1 – Many people have their millions too and most people in SF just want to lead a normal life (and leading a normal life in SF is extremely expensive).
      2 – Anti-system types: they will not like you
      3 – Old timers who feel they’ve gamed the system (timed it right and / or earned their dues through rent control / prop 13) and laugh at the hyper busy overachievers with so little time to enjoy what their money can get them they have to surround themselves with status statements.

  19. Soccermom got that right. If you drive around in East Hampton with RR and TR, 80% people there think youre a clown, but you are just accepted as such, social compact is different. And 20% of the people want to be you. A few want to be you here, but will just never say, at least outside of the startup lunch room.

  20. Real question now:

    How many people who can comfortably afford to live here will really leave — as opposed to complain about the changes but stay on ?

    1. I can quite easily afford to live here and can’t wait to leave. But in the U.S. I could only replicate my salary in NYC – no thanks.

      The world is a big place and there are tons other amazing places to live. And, for the record, I’d rather be a clown driving a Rolls than a bitter and unhappy non-clown driving a Prius.

      1. prius drivers are even worse clowns. especially with their bumpers stickers proclaiming human kindness while they drive with white knuckled road rage. but that still doesn’t make a rolls OK…ever.

    2. We could afford to stay, but decided to leave. Being in SF felt like being in a lopsided relationship. I kept trying to make it work, but he just wasn’t that into me.

      We moved to Chicagoland, kept our jobs and BA salaries, are near family, have access to great public schools, and just bought a house for what would have easily cost 4 times as much in a desirable SF neighborhood.

      It’s been 6 months and I still miss the city. But I don’t miss worrying about how much the landlord would raise our rent, it went up 60% in 3 years, or what kind of education my kids will get. My heart goes out to the people who don’t have the means to stay or leave.

  21. These comments show me one thing which I already knew – SF is now a very divided city. True, there are elements of division everywhere (NY for example) but it feels that SF is now perhaps more divided then elsewhere.

    Can a divided city also simultaneously a great City ? Not sure, it certainly makes it harder in my eyes.

    1. It’s called “class warfare.” There is a constant, unidirectional warfare waged by the top .01% wealth accumulators against the middle and lower classes, an economic military campaign which is tacitly accepted and is the normal status quo; society is only considered “divided” when middle and lower classes draw attention to the class warfare being waged against them by the top .01% wealth accumulators. “

      1. Bingo. This is far broader than SF, although SF’s boomtown tech success of the last 6-7 years and more has accelerated the split here. This is what has given rise to Trump and Bernie, although their very differing prescriptions for the problem (“a Wall!” vs. “Free College!”) appeal to different sectors of the affected populace.

        There are a lot of places where there is no divide because everybody is poor/screwed. If you can find a place in the U.S. (other than the aforementioned) where this is not an issue, I’d love to hear about it so I can go check it out.

      2. Good observation. Affordability (lack thereof) here has revealed that divide even more.

        I know of parents passing on a leaving their home to 3 children. A home these people bought as lower middle class workers in the 1970s.

        Today such workers could never afford to buy in SF.

        The 3 kids split the house and even with the nice chunk of change each gets, they could not afford to move here.

        The sold home gets bought by hi-paid workers who then throw a quarter million into fixing it up.

        There was a day when the middle class could still afford a home here. They scraped to do so and when they did buy they were lucky to be able to purchase a new carpet for the home. Gutting the home and reconfiguring it would be unfathomable to them..

        No real wage increases since 2000. Income mobility – children doing beater than their parents economically, is lower in the US than almost any other First World country.

        Hence lower middle class people/workers being able to afford a home in SF in the 70s and even 80s – and that being impossible for their children today.

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