More people are leaving California than arriving as the state reels from devastating wildfires that only worsen by the year, power outages, poor air quality, and a burgeoning cost of living.
The California dream may be fading as the idyllic oceanfront state sees warming temperatures, burning blazes, challenges in controlling the pandemic, and sky-high real estate prices.
Monica Gupta Mehta and her husband said that this year’s furious fires that darkened the skies over their Palo Alto home made them consider moving their family elsewhere.
‘For the first time in 20-something years, the thought crossed our minds: Do we really want to live here?’ Mehta said to the Washington Post.
‘Yesterday felt so apocalyptic. People are really starting to reconsider whether California has enough to offer them,’ Mehta added.
Between 2007 and 2016, some 5 million residents moved in to California and 6 million people moved out to other states, according to KSBW.
More people are leaving California than arriving, driven out by worsening wildfires, power outages, and the skyrocketing cost of living. Cars drive along the Golden Gate Bride under a haze of orange smoke in San Francisco on September 9
A poll conducted late 2019 by the University of California at Berkeley found more than half of California voters have given ‘serious’ or ‘some’ consideration to leaving due to the high cost of housing, heavy taxation, or political culture.
According to census data in 2018 more than 86,000 people left California for Texas, nearly 70,000 left for Arizona and about 55,000 left for Washington, according to NBC.
People making $55,000 or less a year were mostly moving out of California between 2007 and 2016 while people making more than $200,000 a year moved in, according to the US Census Bureau.
California’s 40 million residents are only seeing the state’s issues exacerbated in the pandemic as the Golden State now has more cases of COVID-19 than any other state.
President Donald Trump has blasted California, where he lost by 30 percentage points, as an example of Democrat-sparked urban unrest.
He has repeatedly slammed the state for its immigration policy in creating the first ‘sanctuary state’ for undocumented immigrants, poor forest management that leads to wildfires, and handling of the pandemic.
Wildfires in California have worsened over the past years, fueled by the warming planet and more severe weather conditions. Vehicles that were destroyed by the Bear fire, part of the North Complex fires, in Berry Creek, California above on Saturday
Los Angeles County firefighters, using only hand tools, keep fire from jumping a fire break at the Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest on Friday in Monrovia
This satellite image taken Saturday shows smoke from Oregon and California wildfires moving west, south and east
But its liberal policies are a reason so many people flock to the state as marijuana is legal, a measure to restore affirmative action in college admissions is on the November ballot, and the legislature just created a committee to study the cost of reparations to racial and ethnic groups the state has historically mistreated.
Today a slew of more than two dozen wildfires are burning, scorching through millions of acres, in the worst inferno in history.
The flames have ripped through a record 3.1million acres of land, more than 3,000 homes and killed at least 22 people.
The fires are sparked by the state’s extreme weather with soaking wet seasons followed by sharp, dry heat and high wind. Wine Country has burned for four years straight.
‘Hopefully, this is a wake-up call,’ Anne-Marie Bonneau, who two decades ago left her home in Ontario, Canada, for the Bay Area, said to the Post.
‘What is it going to take for this country to do something about the climate crisis? Millions of people are affected by this,’ she added.
She believes what’s happening in California is a warning of what’s to come for the rest of the country.
‘As always, California’s sort of on the leading edge. We’re always ahead of everybody,’ she said.
The coronavirus pandemic is another threat the state is still battling as the virus has infected more than 750,000 and killed more than 14,000 of the state
Kim Cobb, a climate scientist, says despite warning of the dangers of a warming planet for years – even she is shocked by the West’s wildfires this summer.
‘The science couldn’t be any clearer on this point. The links between warming temperatures and these wildfires are clear. This is going to get a lot worse. . . . I know that challenges the imagination,’ Cobb said.
The coronavirus pandemic is another threat the state is still battling as the virus has infected more than 750,000 and killed more than 14,000 of the state.
Latinos account for 61 percent of coronavirus cases, which is a disproportionately high infection rate as they make up just 35 percent of the overall state population.
Many are ‘essential workers’ serving food, picking crops and working jobs where they need to commute.
Disparities in income are extreme in California, which houses millionaires in Silicon Valley and Hollywood, while the rest of the state is increasingly a service economy.
Median income in the state is $75,277 and the median home price in San Francisco is $1.3million million – nearly twice that of Los Angeles.
Three years ago, state lawmakers approved the nation’s second-highest gasoline tax, adding more than 47 cents to the price of a gallon, forcing service workers to move farther inland and into fire country, leaving them paying more income on fuel to commute to work.
Disparities in income are extreme in California, which houses millionaires in Silicon Valley and Hollywood, while the rest of the state is increasingly a service economy. Median income in the state is $75,277 and the median home price in San Francisco is $1.3million million – nearly twice that of Los Angeles. Beverly Hills mansions above
Long commutes and high real estate that force people to live away from work also undermines the state’s goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2045 – a necessary measure to alleviate extreme weather.
San Francisco is seeing a slew of tech workers flee thanks to the ability to work remotely amid the pandemic.
‘The tech workers weren’t necessarily attached to the city, they came here because there was opportunity,’ Peter Alvaro, a professor of computer science at the University of California at Santa Cruz, said.
‘I hope the city can regrow some of the unique character that was lost in the last boom. The fact that young, wealthy adults are fleeing is good for the culture,’ he added.
Last month Gary Cook and his wife packed their three rescue cats into a rented SUV and drove from Napa to Idaho, to build a new life after 18 years in Wine Country.
Some people say they left the state for its liberal politics. Gov. Gavin Newsom above during a tour of the North Complex Fire in Butte County on Friday
Cook says it wasn’t the fires that drove them out but the high cost of living, high taxes, power outages and politics. He said that as a conservative, he felt he no longer had a voice in California politically.
‘There were significant changes going on that changed our outlook on the whole California dream,’ Cook said.
Scott Fuller, who runs a real estate relocation business, says his business is booming as locals flee for a new life elsewhere.
His company called Leaving the Bay Area and Leaving SoCal helps people move away, sell their homes, and find others.
He says that Nevada, Arizona, Texas and Idaho are the top four states his clients are buying in.
He adds many tech workers are trying out smaller industry markets like Denver, Austin, Phoenix, and Seattle.
‘For a lot of people, [California’s] losing its luster. For the average person who maybe came out here for the weather, I think they’re saying the trade-off is just not worth it any longer,’ Fuller said to the Post.