Essential California: A closer look at the great California escape

Victorian houses with a city skyline behind them
The “Painted Ladies,” a row of historical Victorian homes, in San Francisco. The city ranks first in the U.S. for outbound moves; Los Angeles ranks second.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Aug. 4, 2022. I’m Anabel Sosa, the Sacramento bureau intern, writing to you from the foggy East Bay.

Just under a year ago, I moved across the country from Brooklyn to pursue a graduate degree at UC Berkeley, and the first thing I was warned about was the “coldest winter,” as Mark Twain famously wrote about San Francisco’s reputation for having a brisk summer. Although I do miss swimming in the ocean without a wetsuit and those sticky summer nights back home, I’ll admit there are plenty of upsides to living out West that you just don’t get in New York (sorry, in advance to my friends and family) — like the meandering drive along Highway 1, the mysteries of all of the microclimates and, as the coastline continues to disappear, the gargantuan seaside cliffs.

Some Californians, however, aren’t as sold on the Golden State.

There was a mass exodus from coastal California that ramped up during the early days of the pandemic, and a new report shows that it only got worse as COVID restrictions were dialed back. California ranks second in the country for outbound moves, with 352,000 residents leaving between April 2020 and January 2022, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, which tracked data from moving company United Van Lines.

There are a few reasons why this might be.

The housing crisis, the quality of public education and the freedom of working remotely are apparently at the core of this mass departure. Many fear that with rising housing costs, California is becoming a place that only the very wealthy can enjoy.

According to the report, residents cited adjustments to their work-life balance, with people able to seek out remote work and others deciding to just outright quit their jobs. The report found that some Californians were moving into roomier homes in places like Texas, Virginia, Washington and Florida.


San Francisco and Los Angeles saw the most people leave; they rank first and second, respectively, in the country. Residents are reportedly leaving due to the cost of living and housing prices that continue to soar. San Francisco suffered the largest drop in population, showing a 6.3% decrease between July 2020 and July 2021.

Safety has also been cited as a major concern. One Bay Area resident told The Times that he and his wife moved there to work in tech and start-ups. But after their Oakland house was broken into four times, they asked, “Why are we here?” They decided to move to downtown Miami, where the roads are paved and skyscrapers are plentiful.

As for me, I think I’ll give this place a chance. Although New York and California are on opposite sides of the country, there’s a stark similarity to the obstacles they’re facing — with the pandemic prompting an exodus of its own in major cities across the U.S. And so, I can’t help but ask: If not here or there, then where?

[Read “California exodus continues, with L.A., San Francisco leading the way: ‘Why are we here?’ Los Angeles Times.]

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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The McKinney fire is big enough that it’s creating thunder and lightning storms: The wildfire, which erupted Friday and has taken the lives of four people, has hit the stratosphere, generating lightning and thunder due to the intense heat and dry conditions. Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the 55,000-acre fire, which grew rapidly in hilly, challenging terrain. It was uncontained as of Tuesday. Cadaver dogs and forensic specialists are expected to do a sweep through devastated communities in the next few days, emergency officials said. Los Angeles Times

Track the California drought: The Golden State is in its driest period ever. Californians are being urged to conserve as much water as possible. Use this map to explore water use in your area. Los Angeles Times



Los Angeles County declares a local emergency after a Long Beach child is infected with monkeypox: The declaration, which the Board of Supervisors unanimously ratified, is an effort to bolster the county’s response to the outbreak. The day before, California declared a state of emergency because of the virus. The child in Long Beach is the second in California to contract monkeypox and the fifth known pediatric case in the U.S. There are roughly 800 cases of monkeypox in California, with the most per capita in San Francisco. California has received 61,000 vaccine doses and distributed 25,000; they are being given to people who know they have already been exposed, since the vaccine can help prevent infection even after exposure. Los Angeles Times

A Southern California city will consider banning abortions: In the coming weeks, the San Clemente City Council will decide on a resolution that would make the city an abortion-free zone. Councilman Steven Knoblock, who wrote and proposed the resolution, has asserted that “life begins at conception” and aims to enforce the rule by all of the “power and authority” of the council. San Clemente Mayor Gene James, who seconded the motion of drafting the resolution at last month’s City Council meeting, said he was “appalled” and “embarrassed” while reading the resolution draft late last week. The resolution will be discussed Aug. 16 at the next council meeting, where as many as 15 people are scheduled to speak. Los Angeles Times

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a group of people crowd near a fence opening
Protesters confront California Highway Patrol officers at a fence erected around People’s Park in Berkeley, where crews cleared trees Wednesday to start construction of planned housing.
(Stuart Leavenworth / Los Angeles Times)

UC Berkeley begins fencing off People’s Park for housing after judge’s ruling: In the ongoing battle over what should happen to the historic People’s Park in Berkeley, angry protesters faced off with police hours after UC Berkeley construction crews built a fence around the symbol of 1960s counterculture. The university plans to construct housing and dorms over the plot of land that has long been the home of unhoused people and a site for free meals. Los Angeles Times

United Farm Workers to launch 24-day march: The union will be marching to raise awareness about a bill that would make it easier for California farmworkers to vote in union elections. The Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act would allow the workers to choose how to vote and help them feel safe during union elections. Farmworkers are some of the only workers who aren’t protected by the National Labor Relations Act. Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a similar bill last year, citing “various inconsistencies.” Sacramento Bee via Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Californians with criminal records still face housing barriers. Advocates across the state say not nearly enough is being done to stem the flow of formerly incarcerated Californians onto the streets. This year, Assemblyman Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles) introduced a bill to allocate $200 million to launch a program that goes beyond what California already has in place for formerly incarcerated people who are at risk of experiencing homelessness. But he’s still fighting for funding. Even those who are able to get housing assistance despite their criminal records face discrimination, months-long wait times and other hurdles in California’s competitive and costly rental market. Los Angeles Times



Gov. Gavin Newsom calls California a ‘freedom state’ amid Hollywood antiabortion concerns: Amid his bid for reelection, Newsom is calling on Hollywood to keep business in California, where workers won’t be at the mercy of strict abortion laws, he says. The governor, in a political advertisement, touted the perks of keeping Hollywood in California instead of red states that have already restricted abortion rights. Georgia is one of those states, and it offers generous financial incentives for Hollywood productions. California has reportedly lost almost $8 billion and 28,000 jobs due to film and television productions moving out of the state. Newsom is also pushing for legislation that would extend the state’s film and television tax credit through 2030 and invest $1.65 billion in the program. Los Angeles Times

In other abortion news, Kansas voters rejected an effort to pass a constitutional amendment that would have overturned a ruling protecting the right to have an abortion. Los Angeles Times

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Californians are conserving more water: Officials are calling new data on recent water consumption “encouraging” after discovering that Californians are successfully cutting back on their usage, leading them to believe restrictions might actually be working. In June, cities and towns across the state decreased consumption by 7.6%, short of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 15% goal last year. This summer, the drought has placed most of the state’s reservoirs below historical averages. Lake Shasta, for example, is at 54% of its average, and Lake Oroville is at 62%. Los Angeles Times

Long Beach City Council votes to set a $25 minimum wage for healthcare workers: The vote was unanimous; the wage increase will apply to all healthcare employees, including clinicians, nursing assistants, janitors, pharmacists and laundry workers at private healthcare facilities. That accounts for about 11% of the Long Beach workforce — or 19,000 jobs. The city joins Los Angeles and Downey, which adopted the wage increase earlier this year. Long Beach Post


4 California women row from San Francisco to Hawaii, breaking the world record: It took the women more than a month to row 2,400 miles across the Pacific, beating the record set last year by a different team. They alternated turns at the oars, working on rotating sleeping shifts two at a time. San Francisco Chronicle

dogs look out of a cage
The Chesterfield Square animal shelter in South L.A., where these dogs awaited adoption in June, has been a focal point of complaints about conditions in city shelters.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The pets in L.A.’s animal shelters need help. Here’s what you can do: City leaders are trying to address the issue of cruel conditions coming out of L.A. city animal shelters. Many shelters are overcrowded, and staffing shortages have led to improper care, which has resulted in some dogs going weeks without a walk. Residents can help in a number of ways, including volunteering to play, walk and groom animals; greet customers; and assist with adoptions. Los Angeles Times

Need a good laugh? Here are 60 of the best places to see comedy in L.A.: Prioritize your happiness and get some belly-aching laughter in. The Times put together a comprehensive list of stand-up comedy venues. Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles: sunny, 84. San Diego: cloudy, 76. San Francisco: partly sunny, 68 San Jose: sunny, 86. Fresno: partly sunny, 106. Sacramento: sunny, 99.


Today’s California memory comes from Marianne Mika:

In 1950 my Dad was a carpenter working in below-zero Chicago weather. His sisters, recent transplants to Santa Monica, made it sound like heaven, and he was ready to move. Mom, born and raised in Chicago, didn’t want to leave. She had her fur coat for protection. Nevertheless, after Christmas, we piled into our Hudson Commodore, said a tearful goodbye to family and friends and headed to California. Route 66 to the coast was a challenge that winter. We were snowed in in Grants, N.M., for three days. Mom was still in that coat when we reached San Bernardino. After driving through miles of orange groves, sunshine and warm breezes, she finally took off that coat and never looked back. She was a Californian now!


If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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