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Postal Service Data Underscores Tech Exodus

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People are leaving San Francisco. Since the onset of the pandemic, which has significantly diminished so many of the amenities that have long convinced renters to pay top dollar for comparatively small living spaces, this flight has been observed in the many moving trucks criss-crossing the city. It has also been borne out in the falling median price of one- and two-bedroom apartments — both of which are going for 21 percent less than what they commanded a year ago. Now another metric underscores the trend.

According to United States Postal Service data obtained by Public Comment, change-of-address requests originating from San Francisco zip codes between March and November 2020 suggest that nearly 90,000 households have relocated outside of the city since COVID-19 swept into the United States. Over the past six months, the USPS received 124,131 requests, with just 28 percent listing new addresses in San Francisco. According to the local blog’s analysis, the most popular destinations were Las Vegas, Palm Beach County, Fla., Seminole County, Fla., and the Denver metropolitan area.

The exodus is likely attributable to multiple factors beyond the coronavirus, including homelessness, rising rents and a relatively high cost of living compared to areas not far from the city. But the pandemic might have accelerated some residents’ decisions to leave the city sooner rather than continuing to quarantine in pricey apartments.

The USPS received the most change-of-address requests in July and August, coinciding with the two biggest spikes in California’s COVID-19 numbers — until this month.

Tech-oriented neighborhoods experienced the most depopulation, with the greatest number of requests originating from zip codes including Polk Gulch/Nob Hill, Inner Mission, Mission Bay and SoMa. However, Polk Gulch/Nob Hill was also one of the three most popular areas for folks to move to, in addition to Haight-Ashbury and Lower Pacific Heights. A San Francisco Chronicle analysis of apartment vacancy rates suggests that these neighborhoods might be attracting relocators because of the city’s recent rise in housing inventory.

An estimated 1.3% of requests listed new addresses within California, suggesting a desire to stay in the greater Bay Area region or more northern counties, but perhaps in areas with more space to spread out during the pandemic. The most popular destinations were Marin, San Mateo and Alameda counties. A handful of residents also relocated to Contra Costa County and the cities of Sonoma, Sacramento and Truckee.

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Olivia Tucker

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