As good as life can be for many in Southern California, there are still lots of people who think about pulling up stakes and moving out of state. Maybe it's to find an affordable house to buy, a better paying job, or they're just wear of spending hours of their lives stuck in traffic on the freeway.
When people do decide to leave California, many are choosing to live in Texas. In a recent five-year period the state received a net gain of 100,000 people from California. And a steady stream of California businesses are also trading Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Jose for Dallas, Houston and Austin.
In a special two-part series in collaboration with KERA in Dallas, KCRW talks to people who are about to leave California and those who've already made the move.
Patrick and Dava McCoy live in Mission Viejo, in a five-bedroom suburban tract home that used to feel much more spacious.
“Well, when we first moved in, we only had one son,” said Dava. But now we have two.”
In addition to their two children, Patrick’s mother lives with the couple who are both in their mid-30s.
Dava owns a small company that plans children’s parties, and Patrick works in the hospitality industry. They’re both native Southern Californians and their extended families live nearby.
Dava and Patrick thought they’d live in California their entire lives, but then they started noticing something. Families about their age with children were moving out of state, often to find a better and more affordable life.
“Everybody hears about that,” said Patrick. “And it's been difficult for us being as successful as we are to see people like our family leave.”
Now, the couple’s joining this mini-exodus by planning to move to Texas.
Patrick’s dreamed of going into law enforcement his entire life and was recently offered a job with the Dallas Police Department. To prepare for the move, the couple took an exploratory trip to Texas.
“I just fell in love,” said Dava, who was impressed by the size of houses they could afford to buy in Texas compared to Southern California.
The couple put their Mission Viejo home up for sale and set their sights on Frisco, a suburban community north of Dallas, where they’ll get more house for their dollar.
“In Texas, they have media rooms and bonus rooms and games, all these rooms we’ve never even heard of, “said Dava.
But in a conversation around their kitchen table, Dava and Patrick said their move is about much more than real estate and square footage. They want lifestyle that’s more centered on neighborhood activities and a sense of community that they can’t find in Southern California.
A “Let's walk the kids to school kind of life,” said Patrick, “more let's cook at home on Friday night kind of life, more spend time of family kind of life.”
For Patrick, life in Orange County has become too much of a rat race, with people’s lives tied up in paying off their mortgage payments.
Meanwhile, Dava is tired of the “keeping up with Joneses” lifestyle in her community.
“I think as a woman, as a mother, there is this silent obligation that you feel like you have as you are aging to get the Botox, and get hair extensions, and have your nails done all the time and, you know, be that like Newport Beach mom who has it all together in her Mercedes,” said Dava.
She says that after she moves to Texas she won’t have the same pressure to keep up appearances.
“I just feel like if I drove up in a minivan there,” said Dava, “I would be more at home than I would here. I don't currently have a minivan, but I want one.”
And it may be no surprise in this increasingly partisan country, politics and ideology also play a role in Dava and Patrick’s decision to move.
As California gets more liberal, the couple say they feel less at home here, especially when it comes to openly expressing their conservative Christian faith.
Dava says she sometimes gets asked why she wears a cross around her neck and tries to steer conversations around religion so she doesn’t offend anyone. She feels like in Texas she won’t have to be bashful about her religious views.
“I’ve already looked into some of the churches, and there are some great churches there,” said Dava
The couple have a for sale sign up on the front lawn of their Mission Viejo home and are just just waiting for an offer at the right price. Dava already has an idea for what she’d like to see in front of her new home in Texas.
“You know, if we have a flag pole at our house, I’ll will proudly wave a Texas flag,” said Dava