Are tech workers priced out of San Francisco?

By Marissa Lang

Updated 8:11 am, Friday, March 4, 2016

LiveOps CEO Vasili Triant recently moved his company from Redwood City to Austin, Texas, where the cost of living is much less.

LiveOps CEO Vasili Triant recently moved his company from Redwood City to Austin, Texas, where the cost of living is much less.

Techies and startups have long been blamed for helping to push families out of San Francisco, with skyrocketing property values and the highest cost of living in the country. But a study released Monday found that even tech workers may not be able to afford to raise a family in the City by the Bay.

It’s raising a familiar question for San Francisco: Is the city doing enough to attract and keep families?

The Indeed Hiring Lab study, which tracked job searches by tech workers, saw the number of workers age 31 to 40 looking for a job in a different part of the country increased by 12 percent in the past year.

The research institute, which tracks patterns in the job market, said it was the biggest increase of any age group, though overall the number of tech workers looking for jobs far away from the Bay Area grew by about 8 percent.

That’s likely because workers 31 to 40 are at an age when they’re likely to have a family to worry about, which can add to financial stress and cost of living, researchers said.

A similar survey by Redfin, a real estate agency, found that over the past five years, the number of people searching for homes outside the Bay Area has multiplied: In 2011, the agency found, 1 in 7 people searched its website for homes elsewhere. In 2015, it was 1 in 4.

Economist Daniel Culbertson, who conducted the Indeed research, said he hasn’t polled the workers to find out their specific reasons for wanting out, but given the places they were looking to move — San Diego, Austin and Atlanta among them — he guessed that cost of living was a driving force.

“The biggest thing is the housing market in San Francisco is among the most expensive in the world,” Culbertson said. “Based on what we’re hearing anecdotally, that’s a factor.”

The median asking rent in San Francisco is $4,225, and rising. According to the Children’s Council of San Francisco, full-time child care for a family with an infant and a 4-year-old costs an average of more than $40,000 a year.

By some estimates, a family needs about $200,000 per year to live comfortably in the city.

Though techies are often assumed to make that much and more — most don’t, said Gabriel Metcalf, president of the urban policy research group SPUR.

“A lot of the people that we think of as working in tech don’t have so much money that they can just live wherever they want to live, without worrying about cost,” Metcalf said. “Fundamentally, they’re subject to the same trade-off that other middle-class families are in this city: San Francisco is a wonderful place to have a family — if you can afford it.”

Tech jobs in San Francisco and Silicon Valley pay more than in other cities, according to Indeed’s data, but it may not be enough to offset how much it costs to live here.

A software engineer in San Francisco makes an average of $128,000 per year, according to Indeed. Comparatively, software developers make about $95,000 in San Diego and $119,000 in Atlanta.

But the median price of a home in San Francisco has risen to more than $1.1 million, while a home in San Diego costs an average of $531,000 and in Atlanta the average price is $182,100.

“By far, the greatest problem for families in this city is cost of living. Full stop,” Metcalf said. “If it weren’t so expensive, we would have more families being able to make the choice to stay here.”

The number of San Francisco families with kids has long been notoriously low.

In 2000, about 14.5 percent of San Francisco’s population was under the age of 18. Today, according to the latest census numbers, kids make up about 13.4 percent of the population — far fewer than the 25 percent statewide.

Mayor Ed Lee has introduced a variety of efforts to aid San Francisco’s families and shrinking middle class — proposing housing for public school teachers, offering loans to 1,500 middle-income families seeking to purchase their own homes, constructing 30,000 housing units by 2020 and earmarking half for low- and middle-income families.

He also meets monthly with the city’s newly created Our Children, Our Families Council, a body of politicians and residents that sets benchmarks and facilitates programs designed to improve the quality of life for the youth and families of San Francisco.

Maria Su, director of the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families, said the city has made strides in the past several years toward becoming more welcoming and livable for families.

She pointed to the city and school district’s collaboration on after-school programs and pre-K. She highlighted the city’s network of public parks and recreation as benefits to families.

“I do believe things have gotten better,” Su said. “There’s an understanding across different departments that these are our children. They’re not city children, they’re not school district children, they are ours, and if we want to serve and improve the lives of all our children and their families, we need to have hard conversations.”

But, she added, the impact of San Francisco’s rising cost of living is impossible to ignore.

“Cost of living is of course extremely high,” she said. “I live in the city, I’m raising two children in the city. I understand, and I feel it too. And we’re all just trying to do the best we can.”


Marissa Lang is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @Marissa_Jae

Mayor Lee Announces Creation of New Council

mAY 21, 2015

Mayor Lee & Supervisors Announce $690 Million in Funding for Public Education & Programs to Support City’s Children & Families

23 Percent Increase in City Investment will Include Increase to Rainy Day Funds & After School, Pre School, Summer School & Increased Services for Transitional Age Youth & Increased Oversight

Mayor Edwin M. Lee and the Board of Supervisors today announced over the next two years the City will contribute and invest $690.4 million in programs for children, focused on improving educational outcomes. This represents a 23 percent growth over the next two years in funding for programs serving children and families, which includes $34.6 million to the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD)’s Rainy Day Reserve account, targeted investments for 860 additional slots for Preschool For All, additional $1.8 million to eliminating the waitlist for summer programs, $2.5 million to fund 820 slots to eliminate the waitlist for After School programs, increasing investment Transitional Age Youth (TAY) to create pathways to success through supportive employment and training opportunities coupled with educational support and creation of the Our City Our Families Council approved by San Francisco voters as part of November 2014’s Proposition C.

“I’ll keep saying it over and over again, the best investment that we can make is an investment in our education and our youth and families,” said Mayor Lee. “With our strong economy and growing City, we are committed to making investments that will help all our families succeed in our City.”

“We are grateful to the Mayor, Supervisors and San Francisco voters for investing in the critical connections between the City and our schools,” said SFUSD Superintendent Richard A. Carranza. “We know from past experience that when the next inevitable downturn in school funding comes, the rainy day reserve will help us maintain vital programs and avoid teacher layoffs.”

Mayor Lee’s proposed two year budget includes $140 million to the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD); $68.9 million in FY 2015-16, a 17 percent increase over the FY 2014-15 contribution, and another $71.1 million in in FY 2016-17. Through the new structure of the school district Rainy Day Reserve there is an additional $36.5 million available for SFUSD to draw on. The City will spend $513.9 million on services for children over the next two fiscal years, including $127 million through the Department of Youth, Children, and Their Families (DCYF) Children’s Fund revenue and $61.5 million for the Preschool for All initiative. Through the Children’s Baseline and new Transitional Age Youth (TAY) baseline the City is set to spend $325.5 million.

In November 2014, with the passage of Proposition C voters approved the renewal and growth of the Children’s Fund for an additional 25 years and reauthorization Public Education Enrichment Fund (PEEF) for another 26 years.

The Children’s Fund property tax set-aside will grow incrementally from 3 percent to 4 percent over a four year period ending in FY 2018-19. Proposition C notably expands age criteria to serve Transitional Age Youth (TAY), disconnected youth up to age 24 years old. Transitional Age Youth face multiple challenges in making meaningful connections with education; entering the workforce; and creating strong, positive support networks. They often have limited educational achievement and may lack the basic academic and work readiness skills needed to obtain and maintain employment. DCYF will engage in comprehensive needs assessment over the next year. They will thoughtfully assess the need and plan for expanded services to meet the needs of TAY. 

Mayor Lee today announced that he will invest $700,000 to create pathways to success through supportive employment and training opportunities coupled with educational support for the TAY population. This investment will focus on both immediate and long term approaches. For this summer, the City will increase available employment and training opportunities for disconnected young people in programs with a proven track record in providing high quality services to TAY youth. For the long term, the City will create and strengthen pathways for disconnected TAY to reengage with their education and employment. 

Some notable changes to PEEF include restructuring of the reserve funds. Prop C revised the structure of the Rainy Day reserve, dissolving the single current reserve and creating two new reserves – a City Reserve and School Reserve. Withdrawal from the School Reserve is now allowed by a majority vote of the School Board when there is a shortfall in inflation it is adjusted to pre-pupil revenue. The City’s emergency “trigger” option to withdraw from the reserve in years in fiscal hardship was removed with the provision of the two separate reserves. This will help make the funding available for the school district in the reserves for predicable and stable. Additionally, the option for the City to count in-kind services toward meeting the school district’s PEEF baseline have been removed and will result in an additional $4 million for SFUSD.

After school programs provide meaningful and relevant learning opportunities that foster children’s curiosity, build their social skills, and creatively reinforce and expand on what they learn during the school day. Currently, there are 26,005 K-5 youth enrolled in SFUSD. The latest data available indicates that 62 percent or approximately 16,000 elementary school students who want an after-school program have access to one. The infusion of $2.5 million of additional funding for after school programs will allow DCYF and SFUSD to provide access and cut waitlists for school and community-based programs. The added funding will increase the program capacity of school and community based organizations thereby, creating approximately 820 slots for families Citywide.

Mayor Lee also announced the creation of the Our City Our Families Council, a voter mandated advisory body led by the Mayor and the Superintendent that brings together leaders across the City and SFUSD with appointed community members to work together in a different way to leverage resources to create a policy agenda that puts children and families first. The Council will aim to increase data-sharing across and between all the agencies to enhance coordination of efforts, especially for those children and families most in need.

In 2013, the Mayor and Superintendent led a community engagement process to learn what stakeholders thought would help children and families in San Francisco thrive. With input from more than 1,000 people—youth, parents, teachers, community-based providers, business leaders, and other community members – the Mayor and Superintendent recommended creating the Our Children, Our Families Council and included it in Proposition C, which also renewed the Children’s Fund and the Public Education Enrichment Fund which will support the increased investment in Preschool for All, Summer Programs, After School Programs and TAY Employment. In November 2014, voters approved Proposition C by 74 percent.

Applications for appoint to the Our Children Our Families Council are being accepted through Friday, June 5, 2015. For more information about the Council, please go to: