Crystal Chandler has big weekend plans.
She’s moving away from the Bay Area.
Chandler was the last contestant on my top-rated game show, “Who Can Really Afford to Rent in the Bay Area?” In August, all of the tenants in the 28-unit building on Parkside Drive in Concord where she lived were served 60-day eviction notices by new owners who want to renovate the place.
Chandler, a single mother of a 12-year-old girl, works as a full-time dental assistant. Chandler told me she earns about $2,600 a month, maybe $2,800 if the dental office is busier than usual, like during the holiday season when people are booking appointments to use their insurance benefits before they expire.
Chandler sometimes worked extra jobs to keep food on the table and afford the $1,200, two-bedroom apartment she lived in for seven years. She moved out of her apartment on Nov. 28.
She’s moving to Arizona on Saturday.
“I know it would be the best move for me and my child to go somewhere I don’t have to work three or four jobs just to survive and pay rent,” Chandler, 33, told me recently. “I know it needs to be done as a parent.”
A lot of people are leaving the Bay Area in search of cheaper housing. They’re being replaced by people with higher incomes, people who can afford to pay market rate for housing.
According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released March 22, the Bay Area lost about 46,000 people more than it gained during the year that ended July 1. Still, as my colleague Kathleen Pender pointed out, “net immigration — people coming from and leaving for other countries — is still positive in the Bay Area.”
“About 58,000 more people came here from abroad than left last year, surpassing the nearly 46,000 who decamped for other states,” she wrote.
Chandler and her daughter, Nevaeh Chappell, have been staying with a friend in Pittsburg. She waited to move so she didn’t leave her dental office understaffed. She also stuck around to work her annual shift at the New Year’s Eve party at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco. She expects to make $700 to $1,000 at that job.
Before Christmas, I caught up with Chandler in Pittsburg. She picked me up from the BART station, and we went to Little J’s for burgers on Loveridge Road. There was a basketball game on the TV. Chandler was once a knock-down shooter, but her mother, a Jehovah’s Witness, didn’t allow her to play basketball in high school.
For her 13th birthday, Chandler got her ears pieced. Nevaeh, who turns 13 on Jan. 29, wants to dye her hair black.
The stress from getting evicted caused Nevaeh’s grades to drop, Chandler told me. Nevaeh searched for apartments on her phone.
“Mommy, we can live here,” Chandler recalled Nevaeh telling her.
As we ate, Nevaeh, who likes anime and wants to learn Japanese, showed me pictures of her impressive, hand-drawn sketches on her phone.
“Show him the eye one,” Chandler said.
Nevaeh also wants braces, but she’ll have to do a better job of brushing her teeth before going to sleep. Chandler makes her get out of bed if she hasn’t brushed her teeth.
“That happened to me two nights ago,” said Nevaeh, who drew a dramatic, glinting eye on my notepad as she watched a YouTube drawing tutorial on her phone.
Soon Nevaeh will be brushing her teeth in her third home in three months. Chandler, who was raised in Nebraska and moved to California when she was 25, will stay with a friend in Arizona until she finds her own place. She already has three job interviews scheduled.
She’s sad to leave.
Chandler’s apartment complex and an adjacent single-family home were purchased in July by PTLA Real Estate, a Walnut Creek investment and management company. In September, Peter Wilson, PTLA’s president, told me residents would have the opportunity to move back into the Parkside Drive complex once renovations are completed, but they’d have to qualify financially and pay a higher rent. He said a two-bedroom would cost $2,000.
That was more than Chandler could afford. Residents were also offered apartments at other properties owned by the company in addition to a $3,000 payout. Some residents accepted the offer, while others, including Chandler, negotiated a better settlement with the company.
“I was very upset in the way they handled things,” she said. “I was very vocal.”
Chandler was paid $5,000, and she was given two extra months to move out. She left a month early. Now she’s moving out of California.
“It’s bittersweet, because I’m leaving my job and leaving my friends, stuff that I’ve created for the last eight years,” Chandler said.
San Francisco Chronicle columnist Otis R. Taylor Jr. appears Mondays and Thursdays. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @otisrtaylorjr