More than one-third of Bay Area residents say they are ready to leave in the next few years, citing high housing costs and traffic as the region's biggest problems, according to a poll released Monday.
Of the 1,000 people polled by the Bay Area Council, 34 percent said they are considering leaving. Those who have lived here five years or less are the most likely to want to leave.
"This is our canary in a coal mine," said Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council. "Residents are screaming for solutions."
In another grim result, the number of residents who believe the region is on the wrong track has increased sharply in the past year, the poll found.
This year's poll found that 40 percent of respondents felt the Bay Area was on the wrong track, while 40 percent felt it was headed in the right direction. Just one year ago, only 28 percent felt the Bay Area was on the wrong track, and 55 percent thought it was headed in the right direction.
"This survey underscores that we have a choice," said Carl Guardino, president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which is pushing to raise sales taxes by a half-cent in Santa Clara, San Benito, Santa Cruz and San Francisco counties to fund transportation. "We can be enraged, or we can be engaged. We can engage the broader community on solutions that actually tackle these seemingly insurmountable problems."
Among the solutions that have been proposed is creating high-density housing close to job hubs, along transit corridors or in both locations.
Some observers say the Bay Area's challenges, which have arrived amid the job boom in the tech hubs of Silicon Valley, is pushing low- and middle-income people out and could transform the region into a Manhattan-like megalopolis.
"The economic divide in the Bay Area is real," said Russell Hancock, president of Joint Venture Silicon Valley. "We will lose low-income earners, and they will be replaced by high earners. We are losing the middle class as well."
People in Santa Clara County and San Francisco are feeling the least optimistic about the direction of the Bay Area.
Just 37 percent of Santa Clara County residents believe the Bay Area is headed in the right direction, and only 33 percent of San Francisco residents think the region is on the right track. What's more, 52 percent of San Francisco residents say the Bay Area is on the wrong track.
Optimistic and pessimistic attitudes didn't vary much by income group.
Among people with household incomes of $125,000 a year or more, 46 percent said the region was on the right track, while 40 percent said it was on the wrong track. Among those with incomes ranging from $75,000 to $125,000, 42 percent said the Bay Area was on the right track, while 38 percent said it was on the wrong track. And among those with less than $75,000 in household income, 38 percent said the Bay Area is going in the right direction, while 43 percent said it's on the wrong track.
The survey also found that people who spend more of their money on housing were more likely to seek an escape from the Bay Area in the next few years.
Despite the number of respondents who said they're ready to go, 54 percent said they had no plans to defect from the Bay Area.
File photograph: Housing development in Brentwood, Calif. (Bay Area News Group)
"We can whine about this, or we can win by solving our traffic and housing problems," Guardino said. "The last time the Bay Area had seemingly solved its traffic problems was the worldwide recession of 2008. A recession is not how we want to solve our traffic and housing problems."
Contact George Avalos at 408-859-5167. Follow him at Twitter.com/georgeavalos.
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