Former residents reveal ‘why we left California for good’

Former residents reveal 'why we left California for good'

It’s official: California dreamin’ has become a nightmare.

According to the California Policy Lab, which is affiliated with the University of California, the number of people leaving the state is up 12 percent since before COVID-19.

In fact, there are more people heading out than coming in.

Even before the pandemic, a survey from Edelman Intelligence found that more than half of residents in California said they wanted to high-tail it to another state. Among millennial residents, it was almost two-thirds.

Chalk it up to cost of living — the 13.3 percent max income tax rate is the country’s highest — as well as safety and other quality of life issues. And then there are the housing prices: Per Zillow, the median home value in San Francisco is almost $1.4 million. (No wonder “Should I move out?” has topped the Google search rankings there.)

Here, California ex-pats explain why they gave up on the Golden State.

Ali Wolf on Broadway in her new hometown of Nashville.
Ali Wolf on Broadway in her new hometown of Nashville.
William DeShazer

Ali Wolf

Left San Francisco for Nashville, Tenn.

Wolf, 32, grew up in California and had spent the bulk of her career working there as a TV anchor and reporter, most recently in San Francisco. Fed up with quality-of-life issues there, she — along with her husband and one-year-old daughter — now live in Nashville, where Wolf hosts the Mom’s Calling podcast.

“Growing up in Del Mar, Calif., my best California memories are by the ocean. I’ve always cherished taking leisurely morning beach walks with the perfect weather.

I started thinking about moving away shortly after moving to San Francisco for a job at one of the major Bay Area stations. That was in 2019. I covered issues as a news reporter: affordability, housing, homelessness and safety. I also experienced the effects of those same issues on my quality of life daily. 

My husband and I lived in a very expensive, very small one-bedroom apartment in the Nob Hill neighborhood. On the streets surrounding our home, it wasn’t uncommon to see people passed out in tents or on the sidewalk, using orange needles to shoot up. Several of my friends were mugged, attacked or assaulted on city streets. And traffic: I remember it once took me 45 minutes to drive two miles home from a simple errand in Palo Alto. I wanted to live somewhere where daily errands weren’t a hassle. 

My rose-colored glasses came off.

After a short stay in Seattle, we left the West Coast in January 2021 and moved to Nashville.

Finding a house was more difficult than anticipated, but we are extremely happy with where we live. We love our leafy, traditional community where the houses are spread out and private. It’s family friendly.

I wanted to settle down with my family in a traditional, safe, suburban community. In California, this American Dream felt increasingly unobtainable.”

Thomas Davoren and Kelly Ritchey-Davoren at the Pineapple Fountain in Charleston, SC.
Thomas Davoren and Kelly Ritchey-Davoren at the Pineapple Fountain in Charleston, SC.
Stacy Howell for NY Post

Thomas Davoren and Kelly Ritchey-Davoren

Left El Segundo for Charleston, SC

Thomas, 55, is a retired member of the LAPD bomb squad, while his 52-year-old wife, Kelly, works in banking. They lived in El Segundo, a small beach community outside Los Angeles, but a high cost of living and overpopulation drove them to decamp for the Gadsden, a luxury condo complex in Charleston, SC.

Kelly: “We moved to El Segundo when it was the perfect fit for us — it was known in the area as ‘Mayberry.’ But with the popularity of the Silicon Beach area just north of us, crowds and high-density housing in the surrounding areas made the freeways impossible.”

Thomas: “We thought about leaving California three years ago — knowing we would be retiring in 2020 — for a number of reasons: Too many people. It takes forever to drive anywhere. Once you get there, it is crowded and too expensive, whether it’s taxes, consumer goods, you name it. It all cost too much.

We decided to move to Charleston after we visited a friend who lived there. We fell in love immediately. People were friendly. It’s close to the ocean, safe. And it’s a beautiful city where the cost of living is cheaper. 

When we left, it was hard to get a moving truck because too many people were leaving California. 

When we told family and friends [in California], 90 percent were jealous of us. A good majority of friends and family have or are going to move out of state. We have two friends from Los Angeles staying with us now.

We will never move back to California. It’s a beautiful state that lost its way. The only thing we will miss is the weather.”

R.M.S. Thornton decamped to Tempe, Ariz., full time.
R.M.S. Thornton decamped to Tempe, Ariz., full time.
Adrian Baird for NY Post

R.M.S. Thornton

Left Carmel for Tempe, Ariz.

The 34-year old attorney and writer grew up in Carmel, before buying a part-time home in Tempe. Driven out of California by government restrictions and “wokeness,” he recently moved to Arizona full time.

“I love Carmel and the Monterey Peninsula. It’s where I grew up. It’s heartbreaking to move permanently — almost like going through a breakup. I’ve always considered California to be like that really stereotypical hot girl in high school. She knows she’s pretty, so she thinks she can get away with treating her peers awfully and they will just keep pandering to her, buying her presents, giving her praise.

However, being aesthetically stunning can only get you so far. Eventually, your peers will start to realize that enough is enough.

For me, that was in 2017. I could tell the state was starting to go downhill before that; however, I always believed it would bounce back due to its dynamism. Eventually, though, things just started getting worse: crime, homeless and the government policies.

Part of the reason I left was because of the taxes. But honestly, what it really came down to was the cultural shift there. I’m not a COVID denier. I got vaccinated. But the governments there, both local and state, have seemingly lost their minds [over pandemic restrictions]. And the wokeness and whatnot is just way too much. I would consider moving back, but the government would need to become more moderate.

Arizona just seems much more open and chill. People just seem happier there.”

Kitty Thompson is now a New Yorker.
Kitty Thompson is now a New Yorker.
Stefano Giovannini

Kitty Thompson

Left Huntington Beach for New York City

The 49-year old eXpRealty agent — who grew up in what is now known as Silicon Valley — and her husband moved to New York City from Southern California, in part, because of climate change.

“California became a bit boring and uninspiring; the perfect weather of southern California was hot and getting hotter with an occasional rainy day.

We didn’t have any children tying us down and our parents still wanted their independence and freedom.

We lived one mile from the beach in California, and our neighbors did not agree with our choice of location: “Why would you leave paradise for a city like New York?”

But it’s the place we love. New York was the hardest hit by the pandemic and we wanted to be part of the renaissance. I love the energy of the city and all the inspiration it creates.

Here’s what I’d say to anyone considering doing what I did: Leave. You can always come back but you will never be the same. You’ll be better.”

Jane Coloccia loves living on the Oregon coast.
Jane Coloccia loves living on the Oregon coast.
Dina Ávila for NY Post

Jane Coloccia

Left Laguna Niguel for Gearhart, Ore.

Jane Coloccia lived in Orange County, Calif., for several years before she’d had enough of the overpriced, overcrowded housing situation. Now, the 59-year-old, who owns a PR and marketing communications consultancy, and her husband live on the Oregon coast.

“It was the California housing for me. It was really poorly built, and the houses were on top of each other. We were renting a house that was so close to all of our neighbors that we heard everything: people having sex, loud talking at parties, you name it. Southern California people have no courtesy for those who live around them so they would be outside yelling on their phones at all hours.

We also found that people weren’t that friendly there. I lived there for seven years and really didn’t make too many close friends. I am a New Yorker and people are real and gritty and honest and in your face. People in SoCal just aren’t like that. It’s very superficial. It got to be a lonely place there.

You couldn’t buy a decent house by the water in Southern California for under a million dollars, then had to renovate it from top to bottom. We wanted to move to a coastal community where you can buy a well-built spacious house on a nice piece of land that wasn’t a million bucks.

Last year, I saw an online listing for a house in Gearhart, Oregon. It was just stunning from the outside, had a little over a half acre of land, 2,800 square feet on one level on the inside, a white kitchen — it was everything I wanted.

[People] told us, ‘You know it rains a lot there and is colder there.’ California people never understood our exasperation at the constant noise by contractors and neighbors or the housing prices. To them it was all ‘normal.’

California is not the be-all and end-all.”

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