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California Exit Interview: Fleeing $17 salads and ‘general lawlessness’

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 2/14/2021 By Joe Garofoli

The story of why people are leaving California will dominate upcoming political campaigns. We’re beginning a regular feature called California Exit Interview where we ask some recent ex-Californians why they left.

Kieran Blubaugh dreamed of living in California when he was growing up in Indiana. He played the Tony Hawk Pro Skater video game and envisioned himself skateboarding down San Francisco’s crazy hills.

After paying off his student loans four years ago, he landed a job with a tech company and moved to San Francisco. At first, life was heavenly. He had a seven-minute commute on his motorcycle. He could pay $30 to see Incubus, one of his favorite bands, a short walk from his apartment.

Soon, however, his California dream soured. Thieves broke into his locked garage and did $8,000 worth of damage to his motorcycle, doubling his insurance rates. His dog nearly died after eating human feces on the sidewalk. Seeing people either getting arrested or being treated for an overdose outside a nearby building was a regular occurrence.

“And I live in a nice part of town,” said Blubaugh, 33.

Not anymore. On Saturday, Blubaugh moved out of the $4,000-a-month two-bedroom apartment he shared on Russian Hill and moved to Dallas, where he will pay $1,300 a month for a place the same size.

It’s not that he set out to ditch San Francisco for Dallas. “But it was the financially responsible thing to do,” he said. Fortunately, his employer has an office there.

The final insult: Blubaugh paid $3,000 to rent a van for the move out of town. It cost him $300 when he came here from Portland, Ore., four years ago.

The last overpriced item he paid for: “Lunch today.” A $17 salad.

What would make it better in California: “We need more police. There’s a general lawlessness that’s just scary.”

Bay Area experience he wished he had: hiking Muir Woods. It was always too crowded. “I’ve never been to a place where you get in a traffic jam just to see the nature parts of it.”

What he will miss most: quick access to snow and nature.

What will he miss least: being “yelled at by three different people” on a two-block walk near his apartment. “I feel bad that I sound like (I’m) complaining about the homeless population, but I will not miss that.”

Joe Garofoli is The San Francisco Chronicle’s senior political writer. Email: Twitter: @joegarofoli


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