You may have read the article a few weeks ago on KQED.org, on the minimum annual income a family of four in San Francisco needs for a “secure yet modest living standard.” It’s $84,000. Assuming Suzy and Billy (or rather, Emma and Ethan) get their own bedroom, a quick unscientific survey of craigslist shows that if you want a 3bdrm for less than $4k per month, you’re gonna have to live in the outer edges of the city, you know, in the fog: Bayview, the Outer Sunset, the Outer Richmond, Visitacion Valley. Even then, it’s a lot of dough. Kids are expensive. Daycare and preschool are astronomical, and some parents find it cheaper to have one parent quit their job and stay home, assuming the other makes at least $84k of course. And even then they’re scraping by. By my calculations, net monthly pay at that salary comes out to something like $5,500. Assuming there are no student loans, car payments, or other debts, a big assumption, that leaves around $2,000 a month to cover all expenses. Hmm. Who needs a savings account anyway.
So no surprise that cost is a big reason families have been leaving the city in droves: San Francisco has the lowest percentage of kids under 18 — just 13.4% — than any major city in the country. And that’s really too bad. Diversity, be it ethnicity, sexual orientation or age, is a big part of what makes a place interesting and enriching, and contributes to the quality of life. San Francisco will always be physically charming, but when its residents are all of the same demographic – older rich white people – it loses something. It’s part of why Oakland has a far more interesting and thriving arts scene right now – the East Bay can accommodate up and coming (and often struggling) artists. (Does SF even have an arts scene!?)
The story made me wonder what other factors make families move away. Would a parent want to take their kid on Bart/Muni? Probably not; most adults I know don’t enjoy that experience. The 38 Geary gives me nightmares. Then there’s the general grit, grime and vast urine-scented concrete expanses of the Tender-whatever, Soma, and other pockets that aren’t exactly kid-friendly (i.e. the Haight). Quality of life for kids means especially having parks and green space nearby. The Marina and Pacific Heights rate high, but they’re too expensive, which is why most young families are relegated to either the ‘outers’ or higher-cost pockets such as Noe Valley and the Inner Sunset. Or, like most families, just pack it in and head East. I don’t know what money/housing/school policies the city can enact to keep families from leaving, but they could start with smaller things like cleaning up Muni and making it a pleasanter experience. At least then everyone wins.