With influx, we must work to avoid Golden State’s worst mistakes

It’s only a matter of time before Oregon starts acting out the latest remake of the long-running cultural series, “Californians go home!”

Bemoaning the arrival of interstate migrants from The Golden State — mostly due to impacts on housing costs — has been a favorite theme in Western states since at least the 1970s. Some Oregonians half-seriously joked about building a border fence on Interstate 5 south of Ashland. Many vehicles sported bumper stickers bragging “Native Oregonian” or “Washington Native.”

John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath about the Dust Bowl-era influx of “Okies” making their way to California. Its modern equivalent might be The Grapes of Wealth, a tale of Californians cashing-out bloated home equities and heading north to pay cash for homes in places like Astoria and Cannon Beach.

Columbia-Pacific homeowners — especially those who have waited years to sell houses in a market that stalled following the 2008 real estate bust — are delighted to finally be able to make a profit. Sales agents and brokers report a great year. Anecdotally, a noticeable fraction of sales are to newly arrived Californians.

California cash is premium fuel for Pacific Northwest real estate. Along with urban residents moving here from elsewhere in our region, they are a significant part of why home rentals have become so tight. Houses that had been rented out to produce enough to pay their mortgages are now instead being sold outright. Scarcity of rentals is swirling through the market. Rents and selling prices are trending upward.

For now, there is relatively little angst. We all view our area’s growing popularity as endorsement of our own choice to live here. Rising home prices make us feel wealthier — provided you already own a house.

Although controversies over incoming Californians have come and gone over the years, this time might be different. An Oct. 24 New York Times column by San Francisco writer Daniel Duane (www.tinyurl.com/CADarkDream) suggests a deepening gloom about insanely high property prices, pollution, drought, failing schools, congestion and other growing flaws in the California dream.

Most of us will continue to welcome new neighbors from California. But we’re going to have to actively plan how to avoid importing California-like problems. Recent arrivals may themselves be some of the best sources of insights about how to avoid the worst mistakes.

Preserving our premium-quality lifestyle won’t happen by accident. Every decision we make must take a long-term view of how to preserve this as a place where our children and grandchildren will still want to live and afford to live.

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