‘Leaving the Bay Area is the Best Thing You Can Do Right Now, If You Have a Dream’

In an essay at Curbed San Francisco, Diana Helmuth explores why so many young people have left California. It’s not normal, she writes, considering a dozen loved ones have moved away in the past two years.

We are witnessing two migrations. One is the continuation of the Californian dream, where young people flock here for gold and glory, ready to hustle and disrupt, hammering to hit the motherlode and laughing at the odds. The other is the migration of young people out of California, which seems to have affected everyone I know, but which I rarely hear examined. These people want to be artists, teachers, blacksmiths, therapists, mechanics, and musicians. They want to have children, open bakeries, own a house. But they can’t. There is no room here for those kinds of dreams anymore.

Eleanor, the twelfth person in Helmuth’s life that’s decided to leave, had moved back in with her parents a few years ago, to her little hometown of Stinson Beach. North of San Francisco, it had gradually become a getaway destination of Airbnbs for rich tourists and well-off city residents alike.

“Imagine working at Disneyland, then going home to your place in the back of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride while drunk frat grads puke into the water,” she told me.

To be clear, she loved her town and its bearing in the coastal California fantasy. She wanted to share it, brag about it, celebrate it. But selling bourgeoise yogurt crocks and $100 bottles of wine to people who didn’t see her as part of their shabby-chic fantasy was becoming difficult to bear.

After visiting Pittsburgh and witnessing the success of other friends who had relocated and were living their lives, Eleanor wanted to give it a shot there, too. But this exodus from the Golden State means an influx of Californians to more affordable cities like Pittsburgh — and not all in these places are welcoming. To these residents, Helmuth wants “the record set straight about who exactly is moving where and, above all, why.”

To the angry locals of Portland, Seattle, Denver, New Orleans, Kansas City, Phoenix, Austin, and elsewhere, please hear this defense: The Californians who are coming in and “ruining” your cities are not snobs. They don’t have trust funds. They aren’t entitled. They are the opposite. They have been kicked out of their own backyards for not learning Python fast enough or not having a dad who could introduce them to VC firms or not wanting to live in their family’s in-law unit at age 30 or not being able to afford a $2,000/month studio on a $20/hour paycheck. They aren’t techies; they had the audacity to want something besides tech. They are some of our best, most creative, most hardworking people—and you are getting them. We are losing them.

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