70% of Bay Area residents think the region's on the wrong track

More than seven in 10 Bay Area residents believe the region is on the wrong track, more than three-fourths think the quality of life here has declined in the last five years, and more than half say they’re likely to move out of the area in the near future, according to a new report.

Large majorities in the region also see the cost of housing, homelessness and the cost of living as “extremely serious” problems, according to the report Tuesday from Joint Venture Silicon Valley, a local think tank. Majorities see crime and the state of the region’s three major downtowns as extremely serious issues.

“There’s no single culprit and yet there is a headwind of factors that are keeping us on edge,” Russell Hancock, Joint Venture’s CEO, said in a news release.

The findings come from a survey administered by the organization and the Bay Area News Group of 1,951 adults in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties from Aug. 29 to Sept. 6.

Among the residents queried, there was a generally pessimistic view of the state of affairs locally, regionally and nationally.

Some 71% believe the Bay Area is on the wrong track. Although that result was up from 64% last year, it still trailed behind the sentiment about the nation as a whole. Some 76% of survey respondents believe the country is headed in the wrong correction, the same portion as last year.

Residents had a slightly more positive view of the state; 62% said they thought California was heading in the wrong direction, up from 59% last year.

Meanwhile, 39% of respondents believe that the quality of life in the Bay Area is “much worse” than it was five years ago. Santa Clara County residents were the least pessimistic among the five counties surveyed; 34% of residents there said the quality of life in the area was much worse. Alameda County residents were the most pessimistic; 45% of respondents from there said the quality of life was much worse.

Many expect to leave the area

Some 52% of respondents said they’re likely to leave the region “in the next few years.” Among those who said they expected to depart, two-thirds cited the region’s housing costs as among the top three reasons they would leave. Half named quality of life concerns as among those top three reasons and 41% included the prevalence of homelessness.

Respondents’ connections to the area had no impact on whether they expected to leave. Long-term residents were just as likely as newcomers to the region to say they expected to depart.

The report found other signs of financial stress among residents. For example, 44% of respondents said they were not financially stable. For the purpose of the report, that meant they could not afford to pay their monthly expenses while also putting aside money for savings or investments.

Homelessness remained among the top concerns among Bay Area residents, although they had seemingly conflicting thoughts about how to address it.

Some three in four respondents believe many area residents are “just a few bad breaks” away from being unhoused, and two-thirds see the cost of housing in the region as being a key factor. More than 70% of residents are willing to willing to contribute tax dollars to finding a solution, including building short-term housing. Some 75% said they would support a program to build so-called tiny homes for homeless people while 71% supported an increase in the supply of affordable housing.

At the same time, 72% felt that communities should be able to prevent encampments in public spaces.

Homelessness also played into residents’ views of the region’s major downtown areas. For San Francisco in particular, homelessness was the most cited concern for why respondents didn’t visit its downtown.

Safety concerns were the other top reasons cited for not going to San Francisco and Oakland.

Overall, though, only a small percentage of residents polled visited any of the downtowns regularly. Three-quarters of residents said they lacked a reason to visit San Jose’s downtown area.

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