I moved to San Francisco in 1984 with my husband and we absolutely loved the city. However, after years of witnessing the increase in crime and disorder, we made the difficult decision to leave and now reside in Healdsburg, California. This as-told-to essay is based on my conversation with Lisa Mirza Grotts, a former San Francisco resident who shares her experiences and reasons for leaving.
During the pandemic, my husband and I spent more time in Healdsburg and realized that we wanted to make it our permanent home. The lifestyle here is simpler and allows us to spread out and even grow our own vegetables. It’s a peaceful change from the chaos we witnessed in San Francisco.
One of the main reasons we decided to leave was the rise in crime and disorder in the city. San Francisco had been experiencing a decline for years, but in recent times, lawlessness seemed to have taken over. It became an anything-goes city, but not in a positive way. Chain pharmacies such as Walgreens closed due to consistent losses caused by theft. Major stores like Whole Foods, Nordstrom, and Williams-Sonoma also pulled out of the city. The passage of Proposition 47, a law that recategorized nonviolent offenses and raised the felony shoplifting threshold, exacerbated the issue.
Having worked in politics in San Francisco for many years, including for a city supervisor and as the director of protocol for former mayor Willie Brown, I had not only been a resident but also had an inside perspective on how things worked in the city.
The disorder and lack of consequences made it increasingly difficult to live in San Francisco and even visit the city. I witnessed brazen thieves walking out of stores with puffer coats stuffed with clothes and security guards unable or unwilling to intervene. This sense of lawlessness created an unsafe environment for residents and visitors alike.
The situation became so concerning that my husband and I witnessed two individuals wielding switchblades at a Safeway one night. We even had someone who overdosed on drugs in the park near our house. Retail stores in Union Square started distributing brown paper bags to cover shopping bags to prevent robberies. These incidents, coupled with the rising crime rates, made us realize that we couldn’t continue living in San Francisco.
We decided to make the move to Healdsburg, a small town in wine country with a population of about 11,000. It offers a peaceful and secure environment, free from the worries of car break-ins and heavy traffic. As an etiquette expert, I now have the flexibility to work remotely and meet with clients through Zoom. My husband, as a managing director, can either conduct virtual meetings or travel to see his clients.
Living outside San Francisco has allowed us to detach from the problems of the city. We no longer bear the burden of being taxpayers and can now visit the city to see friends or go out for dinner without feeling overwhelmed by the chaos. We can enjoy San Francisco more because we have a place to return to at the end of the day.
Leaving San Francisco was not an easy decision, as I never thought I would see myself leaving the city. However, I am now comfortable and content in my new world in Healdsburg. We have found a sense of peace and tranquility in our new surroundings, and I appreciate my former city more because I have the option to go home when I need to.
If you have recently left San Francisco or have a moving story to share, you can email Lauryn Haas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Overall, my decision to leave San Francisco was driven by the increasing crime and disorder that made it hard to live and even visit the city. Moving to Healdsburg has provided me with a simpler and safer lifestyle that I didn’t anticipate but have no regrets about.