Debra JonesI do not have “plans,” I have dreams. San Francisco is my home. It’s where I was born and raised. I am a graduate of SFUSD, SF State and UC Berkeley. I bleed blue and gold. I rep the Warriors, Raiders, even though my heart belongs to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But I ache for another 49er championship. I miss Muni, BART, flaming hot days in September, foggy damp mornings, the fog horn, the siren on Tuesdays at noon. As I age, my income level will not allow me to age in the place that shaped and molded who I am and my world view. less
Photo: Max Whittaker/Prime, Special To The Chronicle
The weekly music art scene, the abundance of everything delicious (whatever you crave: ice cream, shawarma, burrito, poke, acai bowl, banh mi, artisanal cocktails) all within walking radius, the convenience how easy it is to get around (walk, bike, Muni, BART, ferry) and last but not least, my rent-control apartment. less
Photo: Steve Yeater, Special To The Chronicle
Sacramento is seen in a file photo.
Sacramento is seen in a file photo.
Photo: H. LORREN AU JR.
SFGATE is exploring how people’s lives change after leaving the Bay Area, for better or for worse, in a new series. Today we’re focusing on those who have relocated to Sacramento. We’ll explore other relocation areas in future articles, so follow SFGATE for more.
“I lived in a Victorian, four blocks from work, one block from a grocery store and next door to a wine shop and bar,” said Briana Mullen of her first room in midtown Sacramento.
Mullen spent the first 22 years of her life in the Bay Area, having grown up in Concord before attending UC Berkeley. Upon graduation, she moved to Sacramento for a job in the state superintendent’s office.
“Everyone at Berkeley was really skeptical of the move,” she said.
Two years later, Mullen is still in Sacramento, and she considers herself somewhat of an ambassador for the city that many of her Bay Area friends consider a “cow town.”
Why did she uproot from her dreamy midtown digs?
“I just bought a house,” the 25-year-old said. “And my mortgage is only a couple hundred dollars more than my apartment’s rent.”
Click through the slideshow above to read the stories of people who left the Bay Area for Sacramento. See what they like better and what they miss about the Bay. Responses have been edited for clarity and length.
Is the grass really greener? People who left the Bay Area for the Pacific Northwest tell us why
The grass isn’t greener: Why people regret leaving the Bay Area for the Pacific Northwest
San Francisco refugees go from ‘Hell no’ to ‘Hello Sacramento’
When asking people why they left the Bay Area for Sacramento, the stories can begin to blend together.
“Moved from a basement apartment in East Bay to a whole house in Sac for less,” said Nichole McKenna, 33, a dentist with three years of Sacramento living under her belt.
Aminah Ikner, 42, shared a similar tale: “I was able to buy a house, something I could never do in San Francisco.”
Then there’s Katheline Tran. She’s 26 and “bought a spacious house for the price of an old, dated condo.”
Anecdotes such as these reveal the obvious: Sacramento boasts an affordable housing market, at least compared to the skewed standards of Bay Area residents. That’s enticement enough for many to pick up and move to the state’s landlocked capital.
The median home value in Sacramento is slightly short of $300,000, according to Zillow. San Francisco’s median home value is nearly quadruple that number, at $1,194,300.
Cow town stereotypes aside, Mullen said such a cheap cost of living was an undeniable draw, especially as a recent graduate with hefty student loans.
“I knew I wanted to work in public service,” she said, “but even earning a higher salary in the Bay Area, the cost of living would totally negate what I earned.”
In Sacramento, she has disposable income and the opportunity to save money.
“The financial stress of living in the bay just wasn’t worth it to me anymore,” she added.
VIDEO: Things you’ll miss if you leave the Bay Area
You may be thinking of leaving the Bay Area in search of a more affordable to live… but think of all the things you’ll miss!
A city on the rise
While Sacramento hasn’t always been a glimmering refuge for those sick of the pricey Bay Area, the winds have begun to blow northward. Real estate prices aside, many of those who made the leap from the Bay Area to Sacramento have discovered a city coming into its own, with a burgeoning food, arts and culture scene.
When Michael Bauer visited Sacramento in 2016, he discovered an explosion of new restaurants, some of which were run by chefs trained in Bay Area kitchens. Despite a handful of restaurants lacking “focused execution,” Bauer says he discovered a “fresh energy in the dining scene” and “some things to love.”
Bauer also points out Sacramento’s position as a vibrant agricultural sector – it produces 80 percent of the world’s almonds and caviar – which has inspired the Sacramento Visitors Bureau to promote the city as the “Farm to Fork Capital.”
Outside of up-and-coming restaurants, hints of an oncoming hipster makeover are scattered across the city. When the monthly art walks, microbreweries and third-wave coffee shops begin cropping up, the young and hip can’t be far behind.
For a 20-something like Mullen, the city offers “everything I could want,” including trendy shops, bars filled with young people, and farmer’s markets — all accessible by foot or bike.
“You could be at a beer garden playing cornhole behind a giant mural of John Stewart, then you walk to the art pop-up, then on your way you pass the arcade bar,” said Mullen, describing the trappings of a typical night on the town.
Mullen thinks the “scene” is undeniably geared to a “younger crowd,” and U.S. Census data backs up her observations.
Between 2014 and 2015, the most recent years for which census data is available, nearly 170,000 people moved to Sacramento, the majority of which (25 percent) were aged 25 to 34. In just five years, Sacramento’s population has grown by six percentage points.
In the most recent influx, 12,000 people came from the Bay Area; according to Trulia’s annual “migration report,” those looking to leave the Bay Area are most likely to move to Sacramento.
Besides the “outstanding quality of life in Sacramento,” the Greater Sacramento Economic Council says the city has begun to attract non-agrarian businesses, including a handful of startups.
While San Franciscans were consumed with drama at Uber and the NBA Finals, Sacramento’s mayor was striking a $100 million partnership with Verizon to upgrade the city’s tech infrastructure and create a more connected, less digitally divided city.
Not everyone is happy with the Sacramento’s shifting identity.
Hunter Watkins, 25, is a native Sacramento resident. He says he’s watched rent prices “skyrocket in the last five years.”
“There’s more people, there’s more traffic,” he said. “And, unfortunately, there are a lot of people here that can no longer afford to live where they grew up.”
It’s hard not to draw comparisons between Watkins’ sentiments and those of Bay Area natives, who have also watched a city morph before their eyes. Watkins said his early attempts to purchase a home were foiled by quick-closing sales and buyers paying in cash – sound familiar?
Despite his city’s growing pains, Watkins is staying put for now. He was finally able to purchase a house – it closed in just 12 hours on the market – and is getting accustomed to all the newcomers.
One thing hasn’t changed for Watkins: “Sacramento has always been a place I’m proud to be from.”