Tesla CEO Elon Musk and other tech luminaries have moved to Texas in recent months, and many have been here – relocated from the San Francisco Bay area – for far longer. At some point, many Texas transplants may ask themselves, “Was it worth it? Any regrets?”
One writer, a Texan now living in San Francisco, talked with several new Austin transplants about their experiences. Most of what they said they miss about their former California home has to do with the culture around tech in the Texas capital.
“When I lived in Austin,” says Dan Gentile, a reporter for SFGatte.com, “I didn’t really hear people use the phrase, ‘they work in tech’ and in San Francisco, you’re in tech, you’re inside it. It’s all around you.”
He says in Austin the tech job doesn’t define you.
“If you would ask someone what they do, I feel like more often for me, they would say, ‘Oh, I’m a coder, I’m an engineer.’ We’re in San Francisco, It’s just like, ‘I’m just part of this. I’m in tech. I’m part of it.'”
What has been the chief complaint about Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay area from those who have left it?
“Well, it might be obvious,” he says, “but affordability is definitely people’s number one complaint. It’s just very expensive to live out here. And when I moved to San Francisco from Austin, the first thing I heard from most people was,’well, why are you doing that?'”
Now that some of them have had a chance to enjoy the Texas lifestyle, albeit under pandemic conditions, what are you hearing from those California expats?
“Everyone likes it. Austin is a wonderful place to live and work, and that seemed to be the consensus from the few tech workers that I spoke to. It seems like people have a little more free time. Your job defines you a little bit less. There’s less of kind of the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley. And people seem to find that really refreshing.”
So you don’t see necessarily a wave of people turning around and going back to California in the foreseeable future?
“I don’t know. I think most of the people who are moving there who were, you know. Two of the people I spoke to were CEOs of startups. I think those people are going to be going back and forth between San Francisco and Austin still. And, their networks in San Francisco are still a big part of their lives, but I feel like everyone that I spoke to in terms of lifestyle and quality of living, they were very, very excited about, how things work in Austin.”
In a tweet, you apologize to Austinites. I saying, ‘sorry, if this story raises your rent.’ That’s a real thing that many in Austin are dealing with and not just rents. Obviously, housing prices have soared, and lots of Californians are taking the heat for that.
“Yeah, and I kind of regret the tone of that tweet. But yeah. Affordability in Austin. I mean, I lived in then Austin since the nineties. Before I moved to San Francisco in 2019 and I saw it happen. Home prices and affordability becoming a real issue. I’m sure it’s only, getting worse. And that’s one of the negative consequences of this. And on Twitter, I took a lot of backlash for that. However, you know, it seems like it’s something that’s kind of outside of everyone’s control, I guess.”
As rents go up in Austin, and go down in San Fransisco, according to some accounts, do you think people will want to return to the Bay area sometime?
“Well, everyone I spoke to who moved to Austin was very happy with the decision. The rents in San Francisco, it’s been interesting due to the pandemic and so many people leaving the city of San Francisco because they’re no longer tied to a job via a commute and they can go move to Austin and work remotely. There’s been incredible vacancy in terms of like rental units.”
Gentile says that most people have been negotiating with their landlords or moving to new less expensive places. But rents are still comparatively expensive.
“But there is kind of a hope that maybe this lowered rental market might bring some of the artistic class back to San Francisco who might’ve been pushed to other areas of the Bay area or have left because they thought it wasn’t affordable enough,” he says.