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Families Flee San Francisco Bay Area In Search For Better Quality Of Life

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- On paper, Candice Lamarche and her husband Kyle had it pretty good: One new baby, two solid jobs, and a beautiful rent-controlled apartment in the heart of San Francisco. As it turns out, even perfect wasn't sustainable.

They gave up on buying a home as they got priced out of the market and then soaring childcare costs ate into what was left of their income.

"All that adds up," says Lamarche, "And it's a tough place to make it, even with two solid incomes."

In the end, the decision was an easy one.

"There's no place for us to go in San Francisco. We have to leave," Lamarche explains, packing up the apartment for a move to Sacramento.

It's not just San Francisco that families are leaving.

Alan Winston was living in Concord and working in Oakland.

"Spending a bunch of money on our commute, spending a bunch of money on our mortgage," he says.

Winston grew up in the Bay Area, but home lost its appeal.

"For us, it didn't seem like it was worth it to stay," he says. So the family headed for the end of the Oregon Trail, just outside of Portland.

While the weather may be a bit dreary, Winston says the upside was "better education for our children, a safe neighborhood, and a house with some space."

The Winstons got a much larger house for just a third of the price of their Concord home.

The Winston family is just part of a larger migration; people fleeing the Bay Area in numbers large enough to help drive up home prices in neighboring states.

To be clear, the Winston family didn't have to leave the Bay Area.

"No, we made the choice," Winston says. "We could have found a way or we could have settled, but we wanted a better quality of life."

Quality of life is something a lot of people are thinking about these days. At this point, there's only one county left in the Bay Area where a family earning a median income can afford a median-priced home. However, if you move to Solano County trying to reach affordability, you're going to spend a lot of time trying to reach your job because with Bay Area traffic up seventy percent in the last six years, the morning commute out of Solano now starts well before dawn.

"We have the highest number of mega commuters in the United States, explains Matt Regan, vice president of policy at the Bay Area Council.

"That's someone that commutes 90 plus minutes a day to get to work," Regan said. "It reduces the quality of life, family time; it's bad for your health. It's more than just an affordability crisis, it's a societal crisis."

That crisis isn't getting any better, it's just spreading out, past the Tri-Valley and into San Joaquin County, which is now the fastest growing county in California. When those resident commute to jobs in the Bay Area core, they're using a highway and transportation system built for the Bay Area's population circa 1975.

"At the end of the day, these decisions will have to be made by voters of the Bay Area," says Regan. "You can sit in your car for four hours and not move, or you can approve money for our transportation system so we can loosen up the gridlock on our roads and our transit systems."

Some people aren't willing to pay that price. They're packing up, and finding a new place to call home.

As Winston explains from his home in Oregon, "I do love the Bay Area, I grew up there. But it got to a point where it wasn't worth it to stay."

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