San Francisco exodus is real, Nob Hill has the most move-outs

Image: U-Haul Box Store of Downtown via Yelp
By Joe Kukura - Published on November 17, 2020.

The “Everyone is leaving San Francisco” article has been a journalistic genre since long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Even SFGate’s “Bay Area exodus” reporter herself bolted from the Bay Area in 2019. These are catchy stories that capture our imagination and frustrations, though they’re usually more full of anecdotes than data.

A new San Francisco news site called Public Comment has sifted through some of the most reliable data available — United States Postal Service change-of-address requests. They found a definite migration out of San Francisco, either temporary or permanent, with more than 124,000 change of address forms processed since March 2020.

Nearly 34,000 of these moves were to elsewhere in San Francisco, so those aren’t really “exodus” moves. But the analysis of zip code data, that leaves about 90,000 moves to addresses outside San Francisco. The author does note that “The USPS data showing moves within San Francisco zip codes did not include instances with 10 or fewer requests,” so the 90,000 figure is not a certainty. And remember that these are “households” requesting change-of-address forms, with no indication of how many people moved, or whether the request was for an individual or a family. 

Digging deeper into the data, which is organized by zip code, we see the most frequently moved-from zip code during the pandemic has been Nob Hill/Polk Gulch (94109), followed by one in the Mission District (94110), and South Park and Potrero Hill (the oddly shaped 94107). Zip codes and neighborhood boundaries do not correlate, but there are certainly conclusions to be drawn.

There’s a flip side, though, that Nob Hill also has the most people moving in right now of any SF neighborhood (3,276 households). The low-rent bargain hunters are moving across town, or in from elsewhere in the Bay Area, to take advantage of the renter-friendly market that is surely not going to last.

There are some other fascinating tidbits in these findings. Las Vegas, of all places, was the most popular out-of-town destination that San Franciscans have relocated to. This is oddly followed by Palm Beach and Seminole Counties in Florida, and Denver, Colorado. 

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