San Francisco’s tech millionaires are leaving the city for London
A growing number of San Francisco tech executives are abandoning the city to move to London, fueling an American-led boom in foreign home sales in the UK capital city.
‘Tech workers have grown disenchanted with San Francisco,’ Annie Ingram, a private banker at Coutts, told The Telegraph this week, citing concerns about rising crime, homelessness and open-air drug use in the Golden Gate City.
Last year, Americans became the largest group of overseas buyers in prime central London, replacing Chinese buyers in the top spot the prior year, and the French in 2020, according to data from real estate agency Knight Frank cited in the report.
The trend has been helped by favorable exchange rates, which gave dollar buyers an effective 30 percent discount on purchasing property in London during parts of last year, according to a January study from Beauchamp Estates.
Last year, Instagram head Adam Mosseri made a high-profile move from the Bay Area to London’s posh Kensington neighborhood, although he has been recalled by bosses at parent company Meta and will return to the US later this year.
Instagram head Adam Mosseri made a high-profile move from the Bay Area to London’s posh Kensington neighborhood, although he has been recalled to the US by bosses at Meta
People openly abuse drugs on the sidewalks of the Tenderloin area of San Francisco, where overdose deaths have rocketed upward in recent months.
Meta’s chief marketing officer, Alex Schultz, has also relocated to the UK, and lives in London’s West End.
Last year, former British MP turned senior Meta executive Sir Nick Clegg also returned to London after three years living in California, saying he wanted to be closer to his parents, now both in their 80s.
It’s unclear whether Meta’s recent reorganization and cost-cutting moves will prompt Schultz or Clegg to return to California. A Meta spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday afternoon.
In London’s real estate market, the American influence has been felt most strongly among super-top-end property transactions.
Beauchamp Estates estimated that last year, 50 percent of the deals in prime Central London for homes valued over £15 million ($18.6 million) had been to American buyers, who bought around £620 million ($769 million) worth of luxury property.
The study found that after Americans, Swiss, French, Indian and Middle East buyers were the other key foreign acquirers of luxury homes in London 2022.
It’s unclear what share of the American buyers originate from Northern California, but real estate agents say they have noticed a growing influx from the Bay Area.
‘America’s West Coast is definitely a factor in the London prime property market in a way it wasn’t five years ago. And once you get a cohort of owners in London, their friends come,’ Rupert des Forges, Knight Frank’s head of prime central London developments, told the Telegraph.
‘A lot of it is actually tiers below the chief executive too. Top-performing developers can make fortunes at very young ages on shares. While it’s tax-efficient to take debt against the property, all of these buyers can do these transactions in cash,’ he added.
Last year, former British MP turned Facebook executive Sir Nick Clegg also returned to London again after three years living in California
In San Francisco, this seven-bedroom, 9,190 sq-ft home in Pacific Heights is currently listed for $14,950,000.
In London, £12,250,000 ($15.2 million USD) will score this five-bedroom home in Chelsea
Des Forges said 1 Grosvenor Square in Mayfair was one popular location among US tech buyers, along with other sought-after neighborhoods including St John’s Wood, Regents Park, Kensington and Belgravia.
Although San Francisco’s population shrank by more than 65,000 since the start of the pandemic, to 808,437, international migration has not been the primary driver of the trend.
From 2020 to June 2022, the city gained 7,679 residents through net international migration, but lost 70,929 people to net migration within the US, according to Census data.
For discouraged San Franciscans, the city’s high cost of living combined with a declining quality of life, particularly for families, is driving many residents to consider a move.
A recent study found that San Francisco is the most expensive US city in which to raise a child, costing more than $35,000 per year.
At the same time, residents say San Francisco feels increasingly like a ghost town, with scores of retailers pulling out of the city due to crime and low foot traffic.
Twitter CEO Elon Musk, who spends much of his time at the company’s downtown San Francisco headquarters, summed up the mood in a tweet earlier this month.
‘So many stores shuttered in downtown SF. Feels post-apocalyptic,’ he tweeted.
A disturbing recent report showed 95 retailers in downtown San Francisco have closed since the start of the COVID pandemic, a decline of more than 50 percent.
Out of 203 retailers open in 2019 in the city’s Union Square area, just 107 are still operating, a drop of 47 percent in just a few pandemic-ravaged years.
Sleeping people, discarded clothes and used needles are seen in San Francisco in a file photo
Homeless encampments are shown along a street in San Francisco in a file photo
Major stores continue to back out of crime-ridden San Francisco, with a disturbing report showing 95 retailers downtown – more than half – have closed since the start of the COVID pandemic. This map shows a small selection of the big-name departures
Out of 203 retailers open in 2019 in the city’s Union Square area, just 107 are still operating, a drop of 47 percent in just a few pandemic-ravaged years
Among the heavy hitters, Brooks Brothers, Ray Ban, Christian Louboutin, Lululemon and Marmot have all packed it in. At least one more is set to close, with Williams-Sonoma announcing they’ll shut down in 2024.
Whole Foods’ flagship San Francisco store also shut its doors just one year after opening because of rampant drug use in restrooms, violence toward staff – and theft of all 250 shopping baskets.
While many of the issues facing San Francisco are tied to property crimes and quality of life issues, last month the brutal stabbing death of CashApp founder Bob Lee in the city shocked the nation.
The man charged with the murder, 38-year-old Nima Momeni, appears to have had a personal dispute with Lee, who was reportedly dating his sister, and police say the murder was not a random attack.
Still, footage showing Lee staggering down a San Francisco sidewalk as he bled out only served to underline concerns about the city’s safety.
Recent crime data shows a mixed bag in San Francisco, with murder up 25 percent and robbery up 15 percent from last year, while rape is down 22 percent and larceny theft, by far the most common major crime, is down 11 percent.
Overall, San Francisco’s crime rate is down 7.5 percent in 2023 from last year, and the city’s per capita murder rate is well below that of many other cities of a similar size, including Indianapolis; Columbus, Ohio; and Jacksonville, Florida.
San Francisco saw a staggering 41 percent surge in the number of drug-related deaths in the first quarter of 2023.
However, San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins acknowledged last month that crime statistics don’t tell the entire story about public safety.
‘I think San Franciscans are still very much concerned about public safety, and we still have a long way to go to make San Francisco as safe as it needs to be,’ she told KTVU. ‘And so, this isn’t always necessarily about data. It’s about the way that our residents and business owners and even visitors feel.’
Scenes of rampant open-air drug use and squalid homeless encampments also remain tragically common in the Golden Gate City.
Recent data from the city’s medical examiner revealed a 41 percent surge in the number of drug-related deaths in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the same time last year, as fentanyl ravaged the city’s homeless population.
San Francisco saw 200 people die due to overdoses between January and March, compared to 142 deaths in 2022.
That amounts to one overdose death every 10 hours, and the victims were disproportionately black and Latino men, and frequently based in the Tenderloin area, a gritty downtown neighborhood where a drug treatment center was shuttered in December.