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Panoramic view of famous Golden Gate Bridge from scenic Baker Beach, San Francisco, CA. (Photo: canadastock/Shutterstock)

Leaving San Francisco: Three Tales Of Business Owners Who Left And Why

The Globe talks with San Francisco business owners and why they left the City

By Evan Symon, April 19, 2023 2:30 am

With businesses continuing to scramble out of San Francisco, the Globe talked with business owners leaving the city for one of three options: In a new city nearby San Francisco, elsewhere in the state, and outside the state. Each one told of pros of leaving, cons of leaving, and if they would ever go back.

Here is what they told the Globe.

Nearby San Francisco

In 2019, before the pandemic, fourth-generation San Franciscan Frank Russo left San Francisco due to the rent to his business finally getting to be too much, they moved an hour away to Concord. He and his family did not want to be too far from other family deciding to stay in the city.

“Leaving wasn’t that hard of a decision,” explained Russo. “We rented an apartment, rented a storefront where we got a lot of BART commuter traffic, and got out when both leases were set to expire. Rent on the apartment was going up 5% and rent for our restaurant was going up, I’ll say more than that. My wife wanted to be close to the city because her parents are still there, but besides that, we could leave. And we needed to.”

“It just wasn’t the same city it used to be. In the 80s and 90s, there was still something to it. People were proud of the city, and while there was crime and everything, it wasn’t that big of a worry. You could also walk down the sidewalks, as no tents were there.”

“It all began changing about 10 years ago. It was gradual, but one day you notice that there ae homeless people outside your store. . That customers come in complaining that their car was broken into. The worst thing was that my daughter, a waitress at the time, allowed someone off the street to use the bathroom, and thirty minutes later, we had an ambulance there because the guy had gone in to shoot up and he overdosed. We went from being well reviewed on yelp with a lot of commuter traffic, to a place being panned solely because of the societal problems outside in an area so full of problems that we had our menus posted outside be stolen at least once a week.”

“We had to move to Concord. It’s a lot better. Rent prices are slightly better, and we don’t have to worry about homeless or crime here nearly as much. I do miss San Francisco itself, especially the views and the great historical buildings all around us, but in Concord we can actually make a living again. We struggled during the pandemic, but we’ve been roaring back and even paid off all debt remaining from then. It’s been a new lease on life here.”

Elsewhere in California

During the pandemic, Susan Chang’s rental store in San Francisco had an uptick of business as many people opted for more in-home entertainment. However, as her store rents higher-end products, it was also the subject of break-ins, forcing her to keep upgrading security and pouring more money into her business, until an opportunity to move to Los Angeles came up in 2021. She took it, and hasn’t been back in the city by the Bay since.

“All of my friends asked why Los Angeles, because they have many problems too and it’s expensive. But it turned out to be a much better market for rentals. I rent audio visual equipment, and as soon as my brother introduced me to a few guys in the film industry, I soon made more in a month in LA than three months in San Francisco.”

“Plus, where I am in LA, there is surprisingly not a lot of crime. There are things like homeless people, but they aren’t really a hindrance. But, in San Francisco, I was worried about a lot. I didn’t feel safe walking back to my place at night. One time I was probably going to be robbed if it wasn’t for a police car that just happened to park on the side of a street. It was scary.”

“LA isn’t perfect, and there are problems, but it’s better here. The weather is better too, and there is a lot to do. Looking back, I should have moved out sooner. There are a lot of people from San Francisco and Oakland and other Bay cities here, and they all talk about, not how they left there, but how they escaped from there. That’s the word we all use. Escape.”

Outside of California

During the Pandemic, Douglas Matthewson had to close down his food supply business. Supply chain issues made the situation worse even once the business started back up. However, for Douglas, none of that, nor the high taxes, broke Douglas into leaving. That came in the form of his car being stolen in June 2021, his wife’s car being stolen in November 2021, and the catalytic converter being stolen from his new car in February 2022. Fed up, he moved to Tucson, Arizona in April f last year.

“We looked at other places in the state, but every place seemed to have car thefts, high taxes, and a lot of other factors working against them. We nearly moved to San Diego, but we were outbid on 4 houses down there. Finally we bit the bullet and looked out of state. We couldn’t do the Texas heat or the Florida humidity, and we never wanted to see snow again, so Idaho and Tennessee were out. Nevada we didn’t do out of principle. But then came Arizona.”

“We called a few local restaurants there on their businesses, and within a few hours, we already had one place ready to use our business if we should move down there. It’s been a great thing since we did.”

“San Francisco, yeah, at times I miss it. I do miss going to Giants games, and the excitement of the city is something we all miss. But all that crime has been left behind. Someone steals a car in San Francisco, all the cops do is tell you that they’ll look into it. Do it out here, and the cops will actually do something. Our neighbor here said they had some packages stolen off their porch, and the cops not only tracked them down using a video, but they also had the packages returned in tact.”

“I will tell you this, it might have been a sign. They day we left and got everything into the U-Haul, we were driving out going South. As soon as we got to the city limits sign where it says “You’re now leaving San Francisco,” we saw an SFPD officer arresting someone, putting him on the hood of his car with the lights flashing. All around him, people were screaming and filming with their phones. As soon as we got out of the city, I looked in the rear view mirror, and the whole scene was blocked by a building, as if all that was now behind us. It’s still there, but for us, it’s now gone.”

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Evan Symon
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11 thoughts on “Leaving San Francisco: Three Tales Of Business Owners Who Left And Why

  1. Unfortunately, due to family dynamics, and deep roots in the L.A. area, we are not able to move. So, we need to stay and fight. Good luck to all whose situation improved significantly after moving. We lost many friends to AZ and other states.

  2. I’ll be leaving in 3 years…its not one thing, but an overall sense to remain a law abiding taxpayer in the State of California is to be, simply, a “Chump.”

    it is demoralizing to work hard just to fund the myopic and narcissitic policies which pour from Sacramento , and only serves to make our lives more difficult…as potential victims of crime, property or business owner punished for a modicum of success, dysfunctional gov agencies meant to serve ALL citizens of CA, DECADES deteriorating infrastructure, only matched by DECADES of increasing taxes that were to have funded said infrastructure…yes, we who remain, are chumps. But, I know there IS life after California…just may have a tad more humidity!

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