Accessibility links

Recession Slows 'Californization' of the West

In the 1980s and '90s in thriving western, techno-savvy cities like Seattle, Washington; and Denver, Colorado, you'd see signs all over town. Hand-made, most of them, but a few printed ones and even a billboard or two.

The signs read: "Californians, Go Home." That's because people who sold their homes in booming California were getting three or four or times what they had paid for them. By the hundreds of thousands, newly rich Californians nearing retirement or just wanting less-crowded places with cleaner air flocked elsewhere, bidding up house prices, clogging roads and opening trendy California-style wine bars and yoga studios in distant western towns. California became a distinctly dirty word in many surrounding states.

But now some California transplants are seeing how the not-so-fortunate live. In neighboring Oregon, once flooded with Californians, for instance, unemployment tops 12 percent - second in the nation.

Because California money had driven prices sky high in places like the timber town of Bend, Oregon, ex-Californians are being blamed for the recent housing crash there as well.

"Some of them came up here without a job, and now we can't absorb them and they're competing for my job," an Oregon economist told the New York Times.

The paper also talked with the publisher of Bend Living, a slick magazine that just folded. Its former editor says, "Bend Living was about Bend's emergence into 24-7, go-go, irresponsible construction and people living beyond their means."

Many of its readers lived in a fancy new neighborhood that locals called "Little California." Its streets are now filled with home foreclosure signs.

Read more of Ted's personal reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's America.