A property in Paradise Valley, Arizona, at the foot of Camelback Mountain.
David C Tomlinson/Getty Images

  • Paradise Valley, dubbed by some the “Beverly Hills of Arizona,” has seen an influx of wealthy Californians.
  • Movers come for the privacy, luxurious lifestyle, lower taxes, and quality of life.
  • They’re coming from across the state, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

Ken Sawyer didn’t initially plan to leave California.

The cofounder of Saints Capital previously lived in San Francisco with his wife, who also works in venture capital, and had a second home in Napa. But when the Napa home burned in the 2017 wildfires, they decided to get a home in Colorado instead of rebuilding.

“After being there and realizing some of the dynamics and quality of life and the benefits that were there, we decided maybe we didn’t need to be in California,” he told Business Insider.

In 2019, after considering about five cities as places to move, Sawyer and his wife settled on Paradise Valley, Arizona, and have not lived in San Francisco since. 

Sawyer is one of many Californians who’ve swapped Silicon Valley for Paradise Valley. According to census county-to-county migration data, Santa Clara County, where Silicon Valley is, has recently been losing more residents to Arizona.

From 2011 to 2015, Maricopa County, Arizona’s most populous county, received an average of 1,127 residents from Santa Clara County each year. From 2016 to 2020, that average increased nearly 38% to 1,555.

Paradise Valley, which has been called by some the “Beverly Hills of Arizona,” is nestled into the desert hills between Phoenix and Scottsdale in Maricopa County. In 2022, The Wall Street Journal reported millionaires from around the country were flocking to the affluent suburb.

Joan Levinson, a luxury-real-estate agent in Arizona who helped Sawyer find his home, said Paradise Valley provided privacy and spacious lots for its residents, while still being a quick drive to city amenities, including shopping, restaurants, and nightlife. It also offers natural beauty, less traffic than more-populated parts of California, and lower taxes.

The community has long attracted celebrities, such as Muhammad Ali, who died in 2016, and Stevie Nicks, as well as several billionaires, including Bennett Dorrance, the Campbell Soup heir worth an estimated $3.1 billion, and Bruce Halle, the founder of Discount Tire, who died in 2018.

The golf courses and swimming pools of Paradise Valley.
Tim Roberts Photography/Shutterstock

Of the more recent wealthy out-of-state movers coming to Paradise Valley, Levinson said the No. 1 state they’re coming from was California.

“The ability to live in Paradise Valley really provided us with a quality of life that’s far superior,” Sawyer said, adding that his kids could now run around outside with more freedom than before.

“We love San Francisco,” he said. “But it stopped providing the public education that we wanted, stopped providing the safety that we wanted.”

People are moving to Paradise Valley from several counties in California

Other wealthy California counties, such as Los Angeles County and Orange County, are also losing people to Arizona. Los Angeles County, which has a population of over 9.7 million, lost 8,614 residents to Maricopa County on average each year from 2016 to 2020 — a 48% increase from 2011 to 2015.

Kelly Jones, an Arizona real-estate agent, told BI that Paradise Valley had always been a luxurious part of Arizona. But when prices started to rise countrywide during the early stages of COVID-19, she added, the prices of the undiscovered enclave of Paradise Valley stayed firm for a while.

“Our prices hadn’t been climbing like everybody else — we were the last frontier,” Jones told BI. “That’s basically how we looked at it. We were the ones on the map that hadn’t really been discovered. And then we got hit.”

The $2.87 million median sale price in Paradise Valley is larger than the $1.19 million and $957,000 price tags in the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively, but homeowners are saving on taxes, Jones said.

“California as a whole has taxes that have been really hurting everybody, and they’re looking at the cost of living there versus here,” she said. “It’s a lot cheaper to live here.”

Taylor Graber and his wife, Amelia, moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, also in Maricopa County, from San Diego — which lost an average of 5,206 residents to Maricopa County annually from 2016 to 2020.

Taylor and Amelia Graber moved from California to Arizona for its favorable income tax and to be closer to family.
Taylor Graber

Graber, a doctor who founded an in-home IV hydration company, estimated that his household income was taxed 9.3% in California and only 4.5% in Arizona, a difference that could result in substantial savings.

Sawyer noted the taxes in California but said the issue was that he did not feel like the money was being well spent, adding that public schooling, police, and infrastructure were still lacking. “I think San Francisco squandered much of its opportunity for good governance,” he said.

Arizona also has a growing tech scene, making it easier for people like Sawyer to make the move.

“Every month, there are more and more people both in the tech world as well as from California more generally,” he said, adding that part of the appeal of Arizona was that it’s still close to California, compared with tech hubs such as Austin and Miami.

Sawyer still thinks California is an amazing place and that things may change if the state decides to become more business-friendly, he said.

But for now, his family is happy in Paradise Valley, and he and his wife are still close enough to visit San Francisco and Los Angeles as needed.



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