Feb 17, 2021 - Economy

Where San Franciscans are really going

A view of the Oakland Bay Bridge from San Francisco

From this San Francisco neighborhood, it's possible to look longingly across the Oakland Bay Bridge to Alameda County. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

We've all seen countless stories about San Francisco tech workers decamping for Texas and Florida — but according to U.S. Postal Service change-of-address records, they're mostly moving to Bay Area suburbs, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The big picture: The Chronicle analyzed postal service records and found that "the top six destinations for those fleeing the city were all Bay Area counties: Alameda, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and Sonoma."

  • After that came Los Angeles, San Diego, Napa and Riverside.
  • The No. 1 destination — Alameda County, where Oakland is the biggest city — is directly across the bay from San Francisco.
  • Austin and Denver were the "only two out-of-state destinations that made it into the Top 20," per the Chronicle.

Details: It is true that lots of San Franciscans moved away from the city during the eight-month period between March and November (which is what the Chronicle examined).

  • "While the influx of new residents coming into the city remained constant between 2019 and 2020, the number of households leaving skyrocketed by more than 35,000 — from 45,263 in 2019 to 80,371 in 2020."
  • Roughly 41% of the change-of-address requests were moves within San Francisco.
  • Those movers were taking advantage of falling rents — and the lower-rent trend could be a happy and lingering outcome of the pandemic, San Francisco economist Ted Egan tells the Chronicle.

Between the lines: The tally is city-specific and doesn't capture all the people coming and going from the Bay Area, which includes all the counties close to San Francisco proper.

  • Numerous real estate, moving and transportation companies have been trying to capture the migration patterns and have been feeding reporters (like me) surveys that show where people are going.
  • Those results don't always speak with one voice, but they do show consistent patterns.
  • For instance: "The No. 1 pick for people leaving San Francisco is Austin, Texas, with other winners including Seattle, New York and Chicago, according to moveBuddha, a site that compiles data on moving," Nellie Bowles writes in the New York Times.

Reality check: With companies like Oracle and Hewlett Packard Enterprise moving headquarters out of the Bay Area (to Austin and Houston, respectively), it makes sense that some workers will follow.

  • But as Axios' Scott Rosenberg writes, "Silicon Valley's powerhouses aren't putting out the "moving sale" signs, even as a handful of high-profile departures raises questions about the region's status."
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