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.The movers are 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 potential 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 swapped Silicon Valley for Paradise Valley. According to census county-to-county migration data, Santa Clara County, where Silicon Valley is located, has been losing more residents to Arizona recently.
From 2011 to 2015, Maricopa 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 provides privacy and spacious lots for its residents while still being a quick drive to city amenities like shopping, restaurants, and nightlife. It also offers natural beauty, less traffic than California, and lower taxes.
The community has long attracted celebrities like 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.
An aerial shot of the golf courses and swimming pools of Paradise Valley, Arizona.
Tim Roberts Photography/Shutterstock
Of the more recent wealthy out-of-state movers coming to Paradise Valley, Levinson said the No. 1 state they are coming from is California.
“The ability to live in Paradise Valley really provided us with a quality of life that’s far superior,” Sawyer said, adding his kids can 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 like Los Angeles 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.
Arizona real-estate agent Kelly Jones told BI that Paradise Valley has always been a luxurious part of Arizona, but when prices started to rise country-wide during the early stages of COVID, 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 $2,870,000 median sale price in Paradise Valley is larger than the $1,190,000 and $957,000 price tags in the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively, but where homeowners are saving is 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, which is 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.
Graber estimated that his household income was taxed 9.3% in California and only 4.5% in Arizona, a difference that can result in a substantial amount in savings.
Sawyer also 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.
There’s also a growing tech scene in Arizona, 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 is that it’s still close to California, compared to tech hubs like Austin and Miami.
Sawyer said he still thinks California is an amazing place and that things could change in the future if the state decides to become more business-friendly.
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.