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  • snitzoid

Calif's Coast Cities mass exodus. WTF!

I'm sorry I don't understand? Why are people leaving in droves when they don't live in Chicago, NYC or Jersey? I'm feeling some apprehension. What if these woke idiots come to live near me.

OK, I need to relax, meditate and smoke some Tibetan Salad Oil.

PS. I'm sorry about the "smart" remark about woke idiots. If you're an idiot but not woke, I didn't mean to categorized you.

Californians Flee the Coast to Inland Cities in a Mass Pandemic-Era Exodus

The state’s Inland Empire tied the Phoenix region for 2020’s biggest gain in households from migration nationwide, adding about a quarter-million people

By Christine Mai-Duc and Paul Overberg | Photographs by Alex Welsh for The Wall Street Journal

Nov. 21, 2021 2:08 pm ET

Since moving out of the Los Angeles area, Eva and Randy Fluker say they miss summer weekends at the beach, monthly trips to Disneyland and their favorite Mexican food and ramen joints.

They don’t miss trying to squeeze their work life, two stuck-at-home kids and Ms. Fluker’s 98-year-old grandmother into a 1,700 square-foot house in Norwalk, Calif. They joined a pandemic-era exodus of Californians to the Riverside-San Bernardino metropolitan area known as the Inland Empire, the biggest movement of people in the most populous state in America.

The Flukers followed some quarter-million others who last year moved east to the 27,000 square-mile swath of Southern California that stretches from the Los Angeles County border to Arizona and Nevada.

The Inland Empire effectively tied the Phoenix region in 2020 for the biggest gain in households from migration nationwide, according to U.S. Postal Service permanent change-of-address data. Phoenix-area migration gains shrank last year from 2019, while the pandemic accelerated the flow of humanity into Riverside and San Bernardino counties by 50%, the postal data show.

The migration is shuffling California’s demographics. Increasingly, the state’s middle class is moving to inland desert and mountain communities. Its coastal cities such as L.A. and San Francisco are housing more of its affluent residents and low-income people who can’t afford to move.

In-state migration: Where households moved from California’s big metros in 2020

Source: U.S. Postal Service

The drive from the Inland Empire to jobs in Los Angeles and Orange counties is long but bearable, a price many newcomers have long been willing to pay in exchange for less expensive houses and better-performing schools. The pandemic provided remote workers one more reason: a chance to dodge sluggish freeway commutes altogether.

Nearly a half-million California households—both individuals and families—moved from one metropolitan area to another throughout the state, and many left coastal regions, where home prices have jumped to new highs.

The median price for existing single-family homes in California hit a record $827,940 in August, more than 17% higher than a year earlier, according to the California Association of Realtors. In Riverside County, where the Flukers moved, the median figure in August was $570,000, compared with $830,070 in Los Angeles County and $1.85 million in San Francisco.

“People say over and over again, ‘Oh, the millennials are going to stay in the cities.’ They are not,” said Doug Shepherd, a real-estate broker based in the city of Riverside.

The Flukers found a five-bedroom, 3,700 square-foot house with a Jacuzzi and a yard big enough to grow strawberries, bok choy and kale. They paid $670,000 for the property, located in a former dairy town called Eastvale. They are a two-hour drive to downtown Los Angeles in rush hour and half that during other times of the day.

Last year, a net of 129,000 households left California, according to postal data, a small share of the state’s 13.5 million households. Separately, the state Department of Finance said California logged its first yearly population loss in 2020.

Most Californians aren’t fleeing the Golden State, said D.J. Waldie, a cultural historian who has written extensively about Los Angeles. Instead, residents are spreading out.

Clockwise from top, Eva and Randy Fluker playing a board game with their children; the couple at home; Ms. Fluker caring for her 98-year-old grandmother, Antonia Garcia; the Fluker children, Zaiden, 11, and 8-year-old Leilani in the front yard of their home in Eastvale, Calif.

“California is changing because of a desire of many millions of people to have something that looks like the conventional, traditional California Dream: a house on a lot in a neighborhood of similar houses on lots,” Mr. Waldie said.

The pandemic boosted the flow of households from California’s coastal counties to other parts by nearly 50%, postal data show.

A net 97,000 households left the Los Angeles metropolitan area, and the San Francisco metro area lost about 67,000. The city of San Francisco lost a net of 44,000 households last year, about one-eighth of its total. Many from the city settled in the Sacramento metro area, about 90 miles northeast.

In Southern California, the center of the state’s shift, the Inland Empire had a net gain of 25,000 households last year, according to the postal data. That figure doesn’t count immigration, a longtime source of new Californians.

Over the past 30 years, the population of the Inland Empire has grown by 78% to 4.6 million, more than twice as fast as the state during that time. Financial data firm CoreLogic recently reported that more home buyers had moved into the Inland Empire last year than any other metropolitan area in the U.S.

The local economy is booming with dozens of warehouses for e-commerce companies like Walmart Inc. and Inc., which operates a two million square-foot fulfillment center, one of the company’s largest.

The stampede of new arrivals has bid up housing prices and pushed out some working- and middle-class families. For every 10 households that moved to the Inland Empire, nearly eight moved out, largely to less expensive locales in Arizona, Texas and Nevada, part of a march east. Some older residents are selling homes to help fund retirement elsewhere.

The view from Fontana, Calif., toward Beaumont.

The Flukers sold their house in Norwalk for $632,000 and bought a place more than twice as big in Eastvale, on a fifth of an acre, for close to the same price.

Ms. Fluker’s employer, a healthcare recruiting company based 60 miles west in El Segundo, Calif., allowed her to work from home permanently. Mr. Fluker’s commute to Los Angeles County’s San Gabriel Valley will be roughly the same once his in-person work schedule resumes.

That made the family move a no-brainer, Ms. Fluker said: “Being able to purchase what we consider our final home—for us, it’s a very big accomplishment.”

Trading places

Decades ago, as postwar suburbs boomed around Los Angeles, Portuguese and Dutch dairymen moved out of the way, relocating their herds east to former citrus groves in Riverside County.

Since 2000, about 15,000 homes have been built in Eastvale, making up 92% of its housing. The population grew to 70,000 from 4,000. New tracts, top-rated schools and landscaped thoroughfares covered former pastures. By the end of 2020, the city’s last dairy farm closed.

The rapper Kendrick Lamar purchased an Eastvale home in 2013, not long after his first album went platinum. He recently sold the house for $825,000, about $300,000 more than he paid, records show. Representatives for Mr. Lamar didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“It’s safe, it’s family-oriented and also diverse,” said Jocelyn Yow, the city’s 26-year-old mayor. About 40% of residents are Hispanic, 30% are Asian and 9% are Black, according to census data, and Eastvale ranks among the highest in median household income—$119,213—of any city in the region.

Sprouts supermarket in Eastvale, Calif.; new housing under construction in Chino, Calif.; a U.S. flag outside a home in Eastvale.

Ms. Yow compared her city with Irvine, Calif., the affluent master-planned community about an hour’s drive away in Orange County. “We have everything that Irvine has to offer,” she said, “but half price.”

Among the eight retail businesses that opened last year were a Sprouts supermarket, a ramen restaurant and a yoga studio. Another two dozen businesses are expected to open in the next year, Ms. Yow said.

Pastor Mark Lee, whose 1,800-person congregation at VantagePoint Church is the city’s largest, commemorated the opening of a 600-seat church building last year. Indoor services at the Protestant church began in January, and he said he estimated it has drawn twice as many first-time visitors this year compared with pre-pandemic services. Many, he said, have come from cities closer to the coast.

Jamie and Yulia Morris left Santa Monica, Calif., the locale of one of Southern California’s most popular beaches, to live in Riverside, the Inland Empire’s largest city. The couple recently paid more than $1.2 million for a six-bedroom house with a rooftop deck and Jacuzzi on a 2-acre lot. They had been paying $1,680 a month for a 475-square-foot studio apartment in Santa Monica.

Since moving to Riverside, about 20 miles from Eastvale, they have been visited by wild donkeys. Bobcats hunt rabbits on their property.

Jamie and Yulia Morris by the beach in Santa Monica, Calif., on June 28, the day before they moved to Riverside, Calif.

“We’re definitely giving up a lot,” Mr. Morris said. His wife, a photographer, loved daily strolls on the beach. Restaurants, shops and grocery stores were all walkable. Yet, Mr. Morris said, he has felt as though a weight has been lifted, and that with more space, he and his wife can move onto the next phase of their lives. They are thinking more seriously about having children, he said.

Five miles away, near downtown Riverside, Lorena Guy and her husband, Terry, learned two things shortly after moving from Los Angeles last year: Their new home lacked good Cuban food, and, judging from the Trump bumper stickers, Riverside County was a purple enclave in the deep-blue state.

Since 2010, Republicans in Riverside County have gone from having a 5 percentage-point voter registration advantage over Democrats to an 8 percentage-point deficit. The county favored President Biden by 8 percentage points in the 2020 election. Statewide, Mr. Biden had a nearly 30-point lead.

“It’s much healthier living in a politically diverse area, because you’re allowed the possibility of dialogue with people that don’t think the way you think,” said Ms. Guy, a Democrat whose childhood in Cuba was steeped in ultraliberal politics.

The couple paid $715,000 for a Craftsman-style bungalow with a covered front porch. Inside, a bookcase hides the entrance to a basement they intend to transform into a speakeasy-style den. Friends who first joked the Guys were moving to a farm have since visited, inquiring about local real-estate listings.

Yulia Morris picking peaches from her garden in Riverside, Calif.; the keys to the Santa Monica, Calif., apartment they left; the Morrises walking in the hills behind their new home.

Priced out

The arrival of newcomers like the Guys and the Morrises has changed the fortunes of many longtime Inland Empire residents.

Erin Chavez’s parents moved there from the city of Anaheim in Orange County when she was 10 years old. Like others, her parents wanted a bigger home and better schools. After they divorced, Ms. Chavez’s mother lost her home to foreclosure in 2009, when fallout from the financial crisis sank the Inland Empire’s housing market.

As an adult, Ms. Chavez, 31, has kept moving east, trying to outrun rising housing costs. Her Moreno Valley home was bursting at the seams with six family members last year, and rising prices sent her on another house hunt.

She and her family found a 3,200-square-foot dream home in Beaumont, one of the fastest-growing Inland Empire cities. They now have a backyard that bleeds into nature trails. Two community pools are a short drive away, an escape for summer days when temperatures in parts of the region can reach 115 degrees.

“Obviously, if money wasn’t an object, I’d be living on the ocean,” she said.

Erin Chavez on a walk last month with her sons and her mother in Beaumont, Calif.

Between 2000 and 2019, the state’s median rent jumped 35%, adjusted for inflation, according to the nonprofit California Housing Partnership. Over that same period, the median price of existing single-family homes statewide rose to $591,866, according to the California Association of Realtors, a 95% increase when adjusted for inflation.

Home-building has failed to keep pace with California’s population growth for decades, in part because of grass roots antigrowth and antitax efforts. The Proposition 13 voter initiative in 1978 capped property tax increases, giving local officials an incentive to favor commercial development, which generates sales tax revenue.

Upon taking office in 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom set a goal of building half a million new housing units a year for seven years. From 2016 through 2020, the state averaged 109,000 new homes a year, according to the Construction Industry Research Board, a service provided by the California Homebuilding Foundation which tracks building permits.

The nonpartisan state Legislative Analyst’s Office has estimated the state needs to build twice as many homes each year to meet demand.

Short supply has left the Inland Empire’s half-million renters with fewer affordable choices. After a divorce two years ago, Bandit Hall was priced out of Los Angeles. He moved with his two children to Yucca Valley, a desert town 30 miles northeast of Palm Springs. Rents are lower, yet the family’s three-bedroom house costs $1,475 a month, equal to about three-quarters of Mr. Hall’s pay as a grant coordinator for a local nonprofit.

Note: Distances are from the centroid of California to the centroid of each metro area. The selection of metros includes the three areas with the largest in-flow of households to California and the 15 largest out-flows of households.

Source: U.S. Postal Service

A similar home in western San Bernardino or Riverside counties—closer to his office and in neighborhoods with better schools—would cost three times as much, he said.

Last year, a half-dozen families left Eastvale for Montgomery County, Texas, a suburb of Houston near lakes and resorts.

Michele Nissen, a former city manager of Eastvale, was among them. She sold her house in June for $910,000, 3½ times what she paid for it in 2001.

Now, she and her husband own a 3,500-square-foot, four-bedroom home surrounded by dozens of trees and down the street from Lake Conroe. They paid $532,500.

Ms. Nissen, 51, said she doesn’t have to work for the couple to live comfortably, in part because of the proceeds from the sale of their California house. “It feels like freedom,” she said.

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