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Charted: Silicon Valley’s migration to DC started in 2017

This photo taken May 14, 2014 shows people walking along southeast Washington’s Barracks Row. While small, older buildings might not make for an impressive skyline, they may be better for cities than massive, gleaming office towers, according to a study released Thursday. Neighborhoods and commercial areas with a mix of older, smaller buildings make for more vibrant, walkable communities with more businesses, nightlife and cultural outlets than massive newer buildings, according the National Trust for Historic Preservation's study. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
  • Michael J. Coren
By Michael J. Coren

Climate and emerging industries editor

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

It’s never been easy living in the boomtown that is San Francisco. Escalating housing prices, which have doubled since 2011, are sending residents fleeing to cheaper cities. Most people who leave the Bay Area stay on the same coast, in cities like Sacramento, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle, according to data from real estate brokerage firm Redfin. Beyond the West Coast, the top destinations include Austin, New York City, Denver, and Chicago.

But a new city started attracting more Bay Area residents in 2017.  Redfin found in the second quarter of 2017, more people from the Bay Area began searching for homes in Washington DC than the reverse. While the total number remains small (just 1.8% of Redfin’s Bay Area users), it’s a steep incline when compared to earlier years. Before, the number of people moving between DC and the region were nearly equal. Redfin sampled 1 million users each quarter looking for new homes, and compared their search destination with their hometown based on their IP addresses, over the last two years.

It’s impossible to say exactly why this has started happening. Although Seattle has also seen more Bay Area emigrants for years, according to Redfin, the net emigration to DC only took off recently. Housing prices (half of those in the Bay Area) probably have something to do with it—if politics does not.

During the Obama Administration, hundreds of staff shuttled between the White House and Silicon Valley. At least 251 individuals moved between Google’s parent company Alphabet and the federal government, Congress, or national political campaigns during President Obama’s tenure, reports the Campaign for Accountability. Under Donald Trump, relations have been more strained. Former staffers of PayPal founder and Trump-backer Peter Thiel have assumed positions in the executive branch, while the non-partisan agency, the United States Digital Service, continues to attract coders and technologists. Yet the days when tech enjoyed a “revolving door” in Washington DC do seem to be over, for now. The lobbying industry, however, has seen a Silicon Valley boom: Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft spent a combined $64 million in 2017.

Correction: The top destinations for Bay Area residents are Austin, New York City, Denver, Chicago, and Washington DC. It does not include Philadelphia and Miami.

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