Over the last week The Fabulous Wife and I started counting how many Teslas we see during our morning walks. Not long ago, the number would have been zero, perhaps one. Now we routinely spot a dozen or more. There are usually two parked just a block away, and we don’t live in an upscale neighborhood.
Or do we?
Teslas are not cheap. According to Motor Trend, Tesla’s low-end car, the Model 3, starts at over $38,000. I can understand how Teslas might appeal to eco-conscious commuters and tech geeks. But that’s way too much to pay for an automobile, at least from my perspective.
I take the proliferation of Teslas as a sign that the East Bay is becoming San Francisco’s Brooklyn. When Manhattan real estate prices skyrocketed in the 1990s, upwardly-mobile twenty- and thirty-somethings (in my youth we called them yuppies) sought cheaper housing across the river in Brooklyn. Now that San Francisco’s real estate prices have grown similarly outrageous, that cohort is seeking (comparatively) cheaper housing across the bay in Oakland and Berkeley — and, presumably, bringing a penchant for flashy cars with them.
We hold no animosity toward the newcomers or their vehicles. But their arrival is a reminder that even after a lifetime of scrupulous saving and prudent investment, The Fabulous Wife and I couldn’t afford to buy in our own neighborhood today. We could barely afford it back in the 1990s, and our place is no McMansion. It totals less than 900 square feet.
So we’re nonplussed by the spate of scare stories about people and companies fleeing California. (You can find examples here, here, here, and here.) Vaya con Dios, all of you! Your departure helps solve the state’s two biggest quality-of-life problems: the housing shortage, which drives those home-buying and rental costs and contributes to rampant homelessness, and clogged freeways. And if you’re left-of-center politically, you’re transferring the surplus of Democratic votes here to purple states like Arizona, Nevada, and Texas, which from my perspective makes your move a two-fer.
That is, if it’s even true that people and companies are fleeing California.
Some are, for sure. But in our restless society a certain amount of emigration is normal, and there’s evidence that in 2020, amid a pandemic where remote work was encouraged, the emigration rate did not increase, although emigration from premium locales like San Francisco did. But those leaving SF typically moved within California — to greater Sacramento, Lake Tahoe and environs, and the East Bay.
Other than the Teslas, we haven’t noticed much change in our neighborhood’s character. Our block is particularly stable. The property next to ours has probably changed hands the most, and it’s turned over just three times since we’ve lived here. It’s probably no coincidence that there aren’t any Teslas lining our street.
But we wouldn’t be surprised to see one soon — probably not far from the homeless encampment at the end of the block. Because that’s how California rolls these days.