Thursday, December 21, 2017

Wildfires Aren't the Only Threat to the So-Called 'California Dream'

It's too expensive to live here.

This is a great piece, at NYT, "Quakes and Fires? It’s the Cost of Living That Californians Can’t Stomach":

OAKLAND, Calif. — Russel Lee and his wife spent the past few years going online to do the depressing math of how much less housing costs pretty much everywhere that isn’t California. They looked at Idaho, Arizona, North Carolina and Kentucky, but Mr. Lee, who was born in San Francisco and has lived in the Bay Area his entire life, could never quite make the move. Then the fires came.

In October, as the most destructive wildfire in state history swept through Northern California, Mr. Lee’s three-bedroom home in Santa Rosa was consumed by the flames. He lost everything: his tools, his guns, his childhood report cards. Forced to confront the decision of whether to stay and rebuild or pick up and go somewhere else, Mr. Lee finally decided it was time to go. He used the insurance payment to buy a $150,000 home outside Knoxville, Tenn., and will soon leave California for good.

“It was like ‘Welp, it’s time,’” Mr. Lee said. “It’s kind of like ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ in reverse.”

For the half-century after World War II, California represented the epitome of middle-class America on the move. As people poured into the state in search of good weather and the lure of single-family homes with backyard orange trees, the state embarked on a vast natural engineering project that redirected northern water southward, creating the modern Southern California and making the state the most populous in the nation.

Those days are long gone. For more than three decades, California has seen a net outflow of residents to other states, as less expensive southern cities like Phoenix, Houston and Raleigh supplant those of the Golden State as beacons of opportunity. California still has a hold on the national imagination: It has lots of jobs and great weather, along with the glamour of Hollywood and the inventiveness of Silicon Valley.

Still, for many Californians, the question is always sitting there: Is this worth it? Natural disasters are a moment to take stock and rethink the dream. But in the end, the calculation almost always comes down to cost.

Last Friday was Saul Weinstein’s last day at work, and the start of his last weekend as a Californian. Mr. Weinstein, a 67-year-old commercial banker, retired and moved to Nevada. He has lived through several fires, and the 1994 earthquake that killed 57 people and shook him and millions of other Southern Californians out of bed at 4:30 in the morning.

But what finally sent him packing was money. Mr. Weinstein is selling his 2,000-square-foot house in Baldwin Park, east of Los Angeles, for $570,000. He paid less than half that for a similarly sized place in Pahrump, Nev., about an hour’s drive west of Las Vegas. He moved on Monday.

“When you retire you have to watch your money,” Mr. Weinstein said. “The San Andreas Fault is what they politely call ‘overdue,’ and I will be much more comfortable when I’m away from that. But if it wasn’t for the cost of living I probably would have stuck around and taken my chances.”

California was once a migration magnet, but since 2010 the state has lost more than two million residents 25 and older, including 220,000 who moved to Texas, according to census data. Arizona and Nevada have each welcomed about 180,000 California expatriates since the start of the decade. Next week, as people start decamping for the holidays, airports throughout the South and Southwest will fill up with people who are from California and are now traveling West to see the family they left behind...
In the end, it won't be the astronomical cost of living that drives me out of state. It'll be the soul-crushing radical left-wing politics. It's already intolerable. I'm just not ready for retirement yet.

Keep reading, in any case.