Remote Work Is Reshaping San Francisco, as Tech Workers Flee and Rents Fall

Katherine Bindly, The Wall Street Journal

For years there’s been talk of a potential exodus from the San Francisco Bay Area, spurred by the exorbitant cost of living and long, slogging commutes. But before coronavirus, leaving the area meant walking away from some of the best-paying and most prestigious jobs in America.

There are signs the exodus is finally happening. Silicon Valley, America’s signature hub of innovation, may never be the same.
Tech companies are giving their employees more freedom to work from anywhere. Employees are taking the up on the option to relocate, forming the beginnings of a shift that could reshape not only the Bay Area, but also the cities where these tech workers are making new homes.
It's early days, and information about who's leaving and where they're heading is just starting to come in. But for those who are looking, the evidence is there.

Two things suggested to Justin Thompson and his wife that they weren’t alone in deciding to move out of San Francisco this summer. After five years of renting an apartment, the couple had decided to buy a three-bedroom house in Phoenix.
First, their landlord offered to reduce their rent by $250 a month if they’d finish out their lease through October. (They declined.) And second, when Mr. Thompson went in for a dental checkup and said it would be his last, his dentist was unsurprised.

“He said, ‘I have people coming in almost daily telling me the same thing,’” said Mr. Thompson, who works for a data analytics firm.

Google-parent Alphabet Inc. last month said employees won’t be returning to the office until at least the summer of 2021, in part so they can sign one-year leases somewhere else. Facebook Inc. recently said its employees could stay away for that long too. The social-media giant, which has 52,000 employees, expects to shift to a substantially remote workforce over the coming decade, and is now recruiting a director of remote work. Other companies including Twitter Inc. and Slack Technologies Inc. have declared most of their employees can work remotely for good.

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