By Jamie Joseph
Terry Gilliam, founder of the Facebook groups “Leaving California” and “Life After California,” has garnered more than 250,000 members combined who are looking to join the thousands fleeing the state or who have already left.
Since the first group was started in 2018, he said the groups have been rapidly gaining more members.
“I believe a million people will leave California this year. And I don’t see it slowing down if they keep doing what they’re doing,” Gilliam told EpochTV’s California Insider host Siyamak Khorrami in a Sept. 10 episode.
Around 367,000 people left California in the year leading up to July 2021, representing the highest domestic migration loss in the nation, according to Census data.
Gilliam said the reason people are moving is multifaceted. The cost of living, crime, homelessness, and climate policies are a few reasons families say they’re making the big move.
Nationwide, San Francisco and Los Angeles rank first and second, respectively, for cities with residents moving to other locations, Redfin reported in July. New York City, Washington, D.C., and Seattle round out the top five.
Cost of Living
California has one of the highest costs of living in the country. The average cost to own a home in August was more than $839,000, up from $707,000 in 2020, according to the California Association of Realtors. The U.S. national average is around $430,000.
“Most of the rest of the country you can go to a restaurant on a regular basis, because you have disposable income, because you’re not taxed to death,” Gilliam said. “And there’s not the regulation that they have here that that causes everything to be so expensive.”
California has an 8.8 percent corporate income tax rate, a 7.3 percent sales tax, and its highest individual tax rate comes in at 13.3 percent.
“What California is doing is they’re eliminating the middle class. There’s not going to be a middle class anymore,” he said. “You have the super wealthy who don’t care how much it costs to live here, because they love living here, and you’re going to have the poor who get everything subsidized.”
Crime and Homelessness
Safety is a major concern for many California residents.
“I will tell you that 98 percent of the people are thrilled that they left,” Gilliam claimed. “They can’t believe how great life is outside of California, just from being able to relax more, have a friendly neighbor, you know, walk down the street and not worry about a homeless person coming up.”
The Public Policy Institute of California examined the state’s crime trends in 2021 and found an increase in property and violent crime numbers—with homicides up by 17 percent—in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, and San Francisco.
“An increase in property crime in 2021, driven by car break-ins and auto thefts, returned property crime numbers close to pre-pandemic numbers,” the policy institute memo read. “The need to continue monitoring crime trends, investigating underlying causes, and identifying effective solutions remains high.”
Gilliam recalled an incident where a homeless person threw a cup of coffee at him as he was strolling through San Francisco. He has since moved from the Bay Area to Orlando, Fla.
Wildfires and Water Management
California’s management of its environment is also cause for concern, he said, pointing to the state’s wildfires as reason to be critical of the policies in place.
“In the 80s, when I first moved here, they had lots of controlled burns,” he said. “We had a thriving timber industry that cut down trees, but they ended all of that.”
Policy, not climate change, is causing the fires, he claimed. He also said the state is not building enough reservoirs amid drought conditions.
If leadership doesn’t make a drastic change, Gilliam said he believes more and more people will continue to join the so-called California Exodus.