Sonoma Housing Bubble

Pulling the cork out of Sonoma's bubbly housing foolishness

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sonoma Hostile to Working Middle Class

A bittersweet goodbye
by: Amy Amormino Woods

"The enormity of my life situation truly hit home yesterday, when they came to take my car. No, I am not talking about the “repo” man from the bank; rather, it was an 85-foot long tractor-trailer and a sign on the side of the cab reading “Mother of all Haulers.”'

"My car was, in fact, being loaded and shipped off to the East Coast. In 11 days, my family and I will also be loaded onto a plane and shipped back East as well. But unlike our recent visit there, we won’t be coming back."

"After months of debating and bantering back and forth, my husband and I came to the conclusion that we simply cannot, for economic reasons, chose to stay in Sonoma and raise our family. Simply put, it is financially impossible. Well, I shouldn’t make such absolute statements. It’s not impossible, if we believe that an acceptable standard of living for our children is renting an apartment. For us, that’s not okay. "

"So here I am, writing my last column and saying goodbye to the town in which I was born and raised.It is a bittersweet goodbye, because as much as I love Sonoma, as much as I love her people, her mountains and her weather, she has become a hostile and unfriendly environment for people like me: the working, middle class."

"She has become a town that is now somewhat foreign to me. While I used to find Sonoma friendly and laid-back, now I find her exclusive and somewhat snobby. While she used to be the slow, sleepy, one-stoplight town with no fast food, now she is the over-populated, traffic-congested, high-density development town of the future."

"It saddens me deeply, for not only am I saying goodbye to my hometown, but I am also saying goodbye to my grandparents, my father, my three siblings and their children, my best friend since first grade and my countless other wonderful friends and acquaintances. I’m not the only local leaving either. My friends, Dean and Suzy Shouse, who both grew up here, are saying goodbye to family and friends and moving with their two small boys to Fernley, Nev., a town they described to me as “the way Sonoma was 20 years ago.” And they aren’t the only ones."

"Both my sisters now live far north in the more affordable town of Redding. Another friend and her family moved to Middletown, an affordable place to buy a home and still close enough to drive into Sonoma every few weeks. Countless others whom I know have migrated to Oregon, Colorado, Texas, Arizona, Washington — even Idaho and Montana — just so they could buy homes for their families."

"There is a common denominator among all of us locals who are choosing to get out: We are all regular, working middle-class families who hold down good jobs but nonetheless cannot get ahead because we are not pulling in high-end salaries like so many who live here now. We want more for our children than apartments and condominiums with no yard. We want more than the shoddy schooling that this state tries to pass off as public education."

"We want our children to grow up feeling they are not at the bottom of the barrel because mommy doesn’t drive a Land Rover or a BMW SUV. We want what’s best for our children and their future, as well as for ourselves. Unfortunately for so many of us that means getting out of Sonoma."

"It’s sad, really it is, that so many of us local kids can’t stay and raise our children in the same town in which we were born and raised. I might go so far as to call it socially unjust, but then that sounds like discrimination and pointing the finger. But the sadness of having to leave remains, the bittersweet goodbye remains in the knowledge that this town is no longer playing friendly hostess to those of us who grew up here. Oh, she’s friendly all right, but it’s to the almighty dollar. As money and development increasingly roll into this community, the locals increasingly roll out. So I guess I’ll be rolling out too, in 11 days."

"We will be moving to the south of Boston, where my husband is from and where he will be working at a local Trader Joe’s. We see the move as the right thing to do; if we can afford to buy a house somewhere and live by one of our families, then that is where we should go. Of course, the weather is less than thrilling and culturally I feel they are about 20 years behind the times. (Example: When I lived there four years ago, I went into a Dunkin’ Donuts, which I absolutely hate, and asked them if they had soy milk with which to make me a soy latte. The teenage girl behind the counter looked at me blankly and then asked me if that was baby formula (TRUE STORY)."

"So it’s safe to say that my heart will always be for Sonoma, but not the Sonoma of today. I will remember the Sonoma of my childhood, the late ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s. I will remember my grandpa’s shop, Les’ Auto Parts, on First Street West."

"I will remember the Happy Dog and Moosetta’s Piroshkis. I will remember swimming at the Golf Course and Aqua Caliente swimming pools. I will remember the Dragon’s Pit, the eucalyptus trees on Broadway and the minestrone soup at the old El Dorado restaurant. I will remember the old French Bakery, movies at Sebastiani Theatre and Valley Mart. I will remember the old duck pond, drinking beer in Mission Highlands, and the Old Sonoma Creamery. I will remember, more than anything else, my family and I will miss them like no other."

"I wish I could stay in Sonoma, I really do, but we just can’t hack it anymore. We’ve been beaten down and discouraged by the inflated economy and housing prices for long enough that I am anxious to say goodbye and get to a better place for my quickly expanding family. I’m a dying breed; a bona fide, born and raised Sonoma local."

"We are a disappearing group, and once we’ve gone the way of the dodo, I’m afraid that Sonoma, the small, European-esque town that has always charmed visitors with its local color and character, will be gone, too. I guess I’ll just have to come back from time to time to test whether or not my theory is actually correct. As the strains of “Another one bites the dust” play in the background, this is Amy Amormino Woods signing off. Goodbye California. Goodbye Sonoma. Goodbye."


At 9/26/2006 12:29:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey,we don't need no middle class here.our cops and firemen can commute from siskiyou county,and for the rest we can use illegals.

At 9/26/2006 12:33:00 PM , Blogger Athena said...

They DO commute from Siskiyou, and Placer and Shasta counties... a whole buttload of them sold their houses and moved out buying up in the northern counties.

At 9/26/2006 12:38:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Both my sisters now live far north in the more affordable town of Redding."

And, according to a couple friends from Redding and Anderson, all these Marin/Sonoma expats are turning Redding into just another Bay Area Yuppieville. They flee the Bay Area only to bring everything about it with them. Die Yuppie Scum.

At 9/26/2006 01:02:00 PM , Blogger Athena said...

That is true... but something tells me places like Redding are going to have a hard time keeping the Yups happy. Have you driven out there? It is on the way to nowhere. There aren't many jobs for the college educated, so the yups will have a hard time keeping themselves in the money without being able to use the house as an ATM.

It is pretty, and the newer houses are great... but it certainly doesn't have an economy to support Yups without serial refinancings.

At 9/26/2006 05:02:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Have you driven out there? It is on the way to nowhere."

Actually, haven't been to Redding in over a decade. Closest I've been recently was on the way to Clear Lake & Lakeport. (Went back by way of Willits & Ukiah, including an Anderson Valley Nightmare (Boont-turned-Yuppie-theme-park), insane Napa valley traffic, and acres of "investment" McMansions sprouting all over the Delta.)

My information comes from friends of mine who lived in and/or around there. Note that none of them still live there. Die Yuppie Scum.

At 9/26/2006 05:09:00 PM , Blogger Athena said...

well.. Redding is full of sonoma and napa ex-pats that is for sure. People who grew up in both towns have adapted the habitat for rednecks and meth users/suppliers. There is some yuppifcation, but I can't imagine it will last long. Being 3 hours away from everything and on the way to nowhere doesn't have much panache when one can no longer charge everything to the house.

At 9/26/2006 05:29:00 PM , Anonymous tom stone said...

nowhere! it's on the way to yreka!where men are men and the sheep are nervous.

At 9/26/2006 05:32:00 PM , Blogger Athena said...

bahahaha... ;-D Nice Tom! LOL. However, I have been reminded to point out Redding has a nice supply of astoundingly CUTE smarty-pantsed bass player/scientists with real CDs and everything. ;-)

(Happy now, Baby?)

At 9/27/2006 10:50:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Athena, I make $80k a year (in computers) and have liquid assets of more than a year's gross. Because of my age, income, and profession, I get lumped in with Yuppie Scum all the time.

I'll take rednecks over Sneering Seinfelds (TM) any day. At worst you'll get a fist in the face, not a dagger in your back.

Die Yuppie Scum.

At 9/27/2006 12:08:00 PM , Blogger Athena said...

I work in the tech industry also. And because of that and the automatic association with yuppies I was a little hesitant to ask for your definition of yuppie.

to me I am just a typical Gen X'er that has to work twice as hard and make 4 x the money my parents did to have 1/4 the quality of life.

My parents didn't have to pay more than 3X their income to buy a house, and many times they didn't even spend that much. It was never about how much house could they afford, but about what house suited the family's needs and did we like it...?

I am a bit on the pissed side at so many idiots accepting a world order of paying 10-12x their income for a freaking place to live.

if that is yuppie scum... then I can't stand those people.

At 9/27/2006 05:48:00 PM , Anonymous ExNorCalBoomer said...

That story is so sad. As a native Californian, who left my home state 13 years ago, I feel for all the native expatriates of California. Only the Native Americans can claim "true" native status, but many of us are several generations deep in California. I have lived in several communities in Northern and Central California. When my wife and I were first married we lived in Stockton for a few years and she had several great aunts living in old houses downtown. Little did I know then, in my young adulthood, that these people had been there for years. My wife's family came to California in the early 1870's and has since spread out all over the state, but primarily in the Santa Clara Valley, San Joaquin County and San Francisco. My family came during the war years ( 1940's) and are relative newcomers to the state. I now live in North Carolina, we make a good living ( I am paid much better-15-20% more than what I would make in the Bay Area- go figure) and live comfortably in a town closer in character to what I remember growing up in as a youth. When I return to visit California, I have true feelings of grief, for what I and my family have lost, and is gone forever. I still have many friends and family in the Golden State, but doubt I will ever return other than to visit ( except maybe to have my ashes spread there one day) the place I so foundly remember before the massive development and sprawl of the 70's- present. God Bless the state of California and the lost dream of so many of the middle class of that beautiful state.

At 9/27/2006 07:47:00 PM , Blogger marin_explorer said...

I can empathise with these stories. You know, the overall bay area conditions are hostile to the middle class, which to me includes those working professionals below exec-level compensation. A lot of college grads still fool themselves, thinking it just takes one more promotion, just a little more income to make everything line up. Chasing "the dream" here for a decade, I'm past these illusions; it's hard for most working professionals from Silicon Valley to Sonoma. So I'm taking my business elsewhere.

At 9/29/2006 06:24:00 PM , Blogger cajun100 said...

This is all so sad -- and more sad becuase so many people don't give a damn. They have "theirs". My teen son leaves home here in Marin (where I have lived for 35 years -- before that, East Bay -- before that -- so Calif.). He is going to Ohio to live with relatives and attempt to form a life there, away from the hyper-inflated, greed-dominated, self-centered environment that California has become. Right or not, he is convinced that he will not be able to afford to live here.

I am sad. When I first saw California as a young man in the military (circa 1954), I was entranced. I loved it -- it was beautiful, it was a wonderful place to grow up -- there were opportunities, people seemed happy. I stayed. I took advantage of the terrific university system. I worked all over the state -- I know it well. I lived in urban and rural surroundings. It pains me that my only son doesn't have a chance here -- at least in his eyes -- and when I look around me and at the people who have come into this place I loved -- and the lifestyle they have imported from New York, Chicago, Boston, Texas, wherever -- it makes me ill.

I emphathize with those writing here who are being "forced out". Luckily, I am solvent, comfortably housed, and aging gracefully. But I am losing the company of and hopes for my son and that is painful.

Interestingly enough, for 4 years we considered buying a small property in Sonoma where our son might live for a while to finish college and start work -- and then we would retire there. We have never been able to find anything that was not significantly overpriced. So we are very familiar with your housing bubble as well as ours.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

My Zimbio
Top Stories Bloggapedia - Find It!

Estate Real, House New

Housing Crisis

Free Site Submit by