December was a record month. I’ve said goodbye to five different households of friends and neighbors. Two more are on the fence – and the fence is leaning precariously. I’m pretty aggressive when it comes to reaching out and making new friends. I practically drag people off the street and force them to eat dinner in my kitchen. But even I can’t make friends fast enough to keep up with the attrition. San Francisco is a tough town these days, even for the comfortably prosperous.
No, this isn’t going to be another tiresome rant against the evils of bubble capitalism run amok. Nor will it be an affirmation that the city is a temporary stop between college and childbirth as people make their inevitable way towards the cul-de-sacs of Real Life.
Instead, I’m asking questions. First, where are these people moving to? In these five cases: Seattle, Washington. St. Petersburg, Florida. New Orleans, Louisiana. Toledo, Ohio. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Second, what are their new neighborhood destinations like? In short, a place that comes close to the qualities they love about San Francisco, but at a lower price point: older, funkier, walkable, mixed use, and lively. It seems that almost every city in America has a tiny sliver of pre-World War II Main Street urbanism left in a little pocket somewhere. And that’s where these folks are headed.