Revealing a difficult truth: The Escondido Youth Exodus

Published Sunday, June 2nd, 2013 by Dave Woods

There’s something seriously wrong with this picture:

An old photo of Think Grand Founder Dave Woods in 8th grade with ten of his closest friends. The ten friends are displayed as white silhouettes to demonstrate the fact that they have since left Escondido as adults.

See the ridiculously tall kid surrounded by a bunch of silhouettes? That’s me, standing on a residential cul de sac in Escondido, on the day of an 8th grade "graduation" party organized by a group of parents. Those silhouettes around me are some of my closest friends that I grew up with.

Now you may be wondering why all my friends look like ghosts. The answer is simple and startling: Every single one of them grew up here in Escondido and have since moved away as adults, most likely never to return.

Where have they gone? Well, most of them now live elsewhere in San Diego County. Some have gone elsewhere in California. A few even went out of state. In fact, I was a ghost myself for about five years during my twenties when I lived elsewhere.

The thing that saddens me about this picture isn’t the fact that I’m not located as physically close to my childhood friends anymore. Even though we’re spread all over the map, most of us are still in regular contact, so it feels like we’re as close as ever.

No, what saddens me about this picture is the loss it represents for our community. These friends are some of the best and smartest people I know. Some have started businesses, all have graduated from college, and some have advanced degrees. The majority of them work in science or technology-related jobs — the very kinds of jobs and professionals we’ve been hearing for years that Escondido is trying to attract. I can’t help but think how much better Escondido would be if they, and more like them, lived here today as adults.

But the picture literally gets worse…

For all the silhouettes shown above, I personally know of at least 10 to 20 additional Escondido natives I graduated high school with who no longer live in Escondido and have either no desire or no ability to come back.

Furthermore, in my adult life, I’ve met a number of other young professionals in the San Diego area who did not grow up in Escondido but also have no desire or ability to relocate here. Other young outsiders did move to Escondido, but they later felt the need to move out and relocate elsewhere in San Diego County.

The departure of all this young talent and energy is a condition I call the Escondido Youth Exodus. With high school graduations happening all around Escondido this month, I can’t help but wonder — how many of these graduates will also depart Escondido in the near future, likely never to return? Indeed, the timing seems perfect for someone to sound the alarm and expose this massive yet rarely-discussed problem that has serious implications for the health and vitality of our community.

Now let me be clear: My goal isn’t merely to focus on something negative. Rather, as is always the case with Think Grand, my goal is to share this information in the hope that it can spark some kind of positive change for our community.

As a result, during the month of June, we’re examining the youth exodus via a series of four articles. This first article merely introduces the topic. Subsequent articles will verify the existence of the exodus by examining census data, then uncover why the exodus is happening, and what needs to be done to fix it.

Intrigued? Then I invite you to continue on to article two: Examining & Verifying the Escondido Youth Exodus...

Join the discussion! 4 comments so far...

  1. I would love to have my daughter, granddaughter and son-in-law come back along with his family. None of them are interested in returning to Escondido, or California for that matter. It's not the beautiful weather, or amazing beaches that keep them away. It's the lack of decent pay and gangs. I wonder if my son will move away when he graduates from college. Maybe I should move too?

    Comment by Giselle Embry on June 3, 2013 at 6:16 PM

  2. I live and work in Escondido and am in my late 20s, and did not grow up here. My husband and I are planning to move soon because there are few other young, educated adults here and we want to have access to better public schools once we have children in the next few years. We moved here so I could be closer to my previous job, but have been disappointed in the overall 'tiredness' of the city and amount of crime. Many areas look run down and unkempt, are covered in graffiti and/or trash, or occupied by homeless people. We love to walk but can't walk far around our neighborhood because there aren't many sidewalks and the traffic is heavy. Escondido has a lot to offer, but when there are so many better options in North County, it's easy to see why people move away.

    Comment by Lauren Prust on June 3, 2013 at 7:47 PM

  3. I live in Escondido and love my neighborhood. You might want to live there, too. A neighbor's house just went on the market @ $1.2 million. Fortunately I've been skimping and paying off debt most of my life and I'm approaching 50 now. In my 30's I could only afford to buy a house in the Westside Neighborhoood. It was solidly built, had a great view and a nice yard, but as Lauren posts, the City did little at the time to improve the neighborhood. There were no sidewalks, the utility poles were everywhere, you could keep two code enforcement inspectors busy full time in just a couple square miles with the chickens, cars parked in the yards, and plywood fences. I would have happily paid a few hundred dollars a year more on my assessment to get those things because I would figure they were an investment, but when the accepted policy is for the City never to raise taxes and that it's exclusively up to the individual homeowner to improve their own property and ignore what's next door because of sovereign property rights, then of course things are going to decline unless you can afford to move to a neighborhood of million dollar homes. Now that I live where I do, do I want to raise my property taxes to improve the area? No way. Should I have a vote on what someone in my old neighborhood wants? No. But for some reason I suspect they'd ask me to vote for it and ask me to pay for it. Unless the City changes their tactics, I don't imagine things will change and there will continue to be an exodus of young professionals.

    Comment by David Frazee on June 5, 2013 at 12:55 PM

  4. <This young professional will be moving back to Escondido next month after a 5yr hiatus!
    However, I head back because of the family and friends still in the area, not because of the city itself. I come back for the familiarity and expected work opportunities, and because it's in North County.
    If I didn't specifically have friends and family here, I could easily see myself choosing a different North County residence.

    Comment by Robert Jungman on June 7, 2013 at 7:24 PM

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