I found this article by Kathleen Pender to be a refreshing reality check on what might actually be happening regarding people leaving (or not) San Francisco.


So which is it: Are people fleeing California and the Bay Area for cheaper housing, or swarming here for high-paying jobs? The answer is: both. A flurry of recent population reports have painted a confusing picture.

If you look just at domestic migration — people moving around the country — the Bay Area lost about 46,000 people more than it gained during the year that ended July 1, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released March 22. That net loss was nearly twice as big as the previous year and marked a turnaround from earlier years, when more people were coming to the Bay Area than leaving.

The national media pounced on this data — throw in some one-way U-Haul prices and dubious survey results — and declared that the Bay Area is losing its appeal, and fast. “They made it sound like the highways are jammed with people trying to get out of the Bay Area right now,” said Patrick Carlisle, chief market analyst with Paragon Real Estate Group.

So if people are leaving the Bay Area in droves, why are home prices still soaring and why aren’t there more houses for sale?

One thing these stories mostly failed to mention is that net immigration — people coming from and leaving for other countries — is still positive in the Bay Area. About 58,000 more people came here from abroad than left last year, surpassing the nearly 46,000 who decamped for other states. (The census estimates included the nine-county Bay Area and three neighboring counties.)

Another reason is that people moving here tend to have higher incomes than people moving out, and so are better able to absorb the ridiculous cost of housing.

Linda Crowe moved from the Bay Area to Boston for a job three years ago, but moved back in December because she missed her friends and community. “I worked my entire career in technology, and a lot of my professional network was here,” she said. And the weather “is so much nicer here.”

She landed a job with IBM, and bought a home in San Francisco’s Cole Valley. It helped that she sold her home in San Carlos a year and a half ago, after renting it out the first year and a half she was gone.

Crowe said housing is somewhat cheaper in Boston, but “I make more money here. Salaries are significantly higher in the Bay Area, particularly in the technology sector. They have to be.”