The New Suburbs, a Plane Ride Away
Professionals Seeking Affordable Homes Move to Pacific Northwest but Keep Bay Area Jobs; Spacious Living Near Seattle
In the quest for vibrant, affordable neighborhoods, some Bay Area professionals are moving north—way north, to Portland and Seattle.
Scott McNeely is a transplant to the Pacific Northwest who kept his job in the Bay Area. Mr. McNeely, online director for San Francisco-based Internet travel company Viator Inc., used to live in the Mission District. But several years ago, he and his wife began pining for more kid-friendly environs after becoming parents.
High real-estate prices across the Bay Area made moving even to the East Bay a stretch. So about 18 months ago, Mr. McNeely and his family moved 650 miles north, to Portland. There, they bought a four-bedroom house for about $350,000 that was large enough to accommodate his two children and a Great Dane. Viator agreed to let Mr. McNeely telecommute, with occasional trips to its San Francisco headquarters.
"If we were going to move to the equivalent of the suburbs of the Bay Area, why not move to a place like Portland?" says Mr. McNeely, 40 years old.
There has been a northward migration for years by Bay Area residents looking for everything from affordable real estate to better public schools. But moving usually meant giving up their jobs, which are generally more lucrative and plentiful here than in the Pacific Northwest, especially for technology workers.
Now it is getting more practical for people to live in the Pacific Northwest and continue working for Bay Area-based companies, as more employers loosen their telecommuting policies. Technology also is making it easier to stay connected all the time, and travel between San Francisco and cities to the north has become more convenient, though hard data on Bay Area transplants to the Northwest who retain their local jobs are hard to come by.
Alex Payne plans to move to Portland with his wife next month, while keeping his job at San Francisco-based Twitter Inc. Last October, Mr. Payne caused a stir when he blogged about his frustrations with San Francisco’s quality of life, including criticisms of its public transit and high cost of living.
In contrast, the 26-year-old believes Portland is a "model of urban design." Mr. Payne is especially impressed with the revitalization of Portland’s Pearl District, a once-grimy industrial neighborhood that now teems with art galleries and restaurants. Portland’s lower property costs also are appealing, though he initially plans to rent.
"It’s actually affordable by mere mortals," Mr. Payne says. "I looked at buying a place in San Francisco, but you’re talking a half million dollars for a hovel."
San Francisco’s median home value in late February was $691,600, compared with $362,800 for Seattle and $236,100 for Portland, according to real-estate site Zillow Inc. San Francisco’s median home price increased 1.1% over the past year, while the average price fell 7.1% in Seattle and 9.9% in Portland, according to Zillow.
Mr. Payne says the short plane ride between Portland and San Francisco—about one hour and 45 minutes—was a big factor in making the arrangement work, since he plans to spend four or five days a month at Twitter’s headquarters. Twitter will reimburse him for the flights, he says. In Seattle, commuters can now bypass the city’s thick traffic by hopping on a light-rail line to the airport, while San Francisco and Portland began offering similar transit options in the past decade.
Alaska Airlines recently began running advertisements promoting flights between Portland, San Jose and Austin as "nerd birds," because of the preponderance of tech-industry commuters shuttling between those locations.
Egads. Something must be done about this. This is unacceptable – taking up Bay Area jobs, but then living sales tax free in Oregon in a cheap home? Unacceptable!
These are Bay Area Traitors.
I propose Prop 131313 – If you work in California, you must live in California. Period.