State Fund Heading Out of 'Dumb' San Francisco

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You'll move to Vacaville, that's what you'll do...
This morning, the Chronicle broke a good one: The State Compensation Insurance Fund is moving 755 jobs out of San Francisco because it's too damn expensive here. Also, per the Chron, our city's workforce is "too dumb."

That kind of sentiment is certain to get local chauvinists pounding their chests and please the paper's out-of-town, red-meat commenters. That's always fun -- but, in this case, it really doesn't seem accurate. No, San Franciscans are not "dumber" than workers in the hinterlands. It's just that you're going to have to spend a lot more to find a lot less when it comes to college grads able and willing to work for $3,100 a month here.

That, by the way, is what the starting pay is for a State Fund claims adjuster. So, when agency spokeswoman Jennifer Vargen states that vast amounts more outreach was required in San Francisco than elsewhere to attract college-educated workers for a job that tops out at $50,000 -- it's not necessarily due to a collective layer of stupidity hanging over the city like fog.

Claims adjusters in the State Fund's Vacaville office -- where 422 city workers are headed -- earn the same pay. That kind of money goes a lot further in Vacaville than it does here. You get more applicants, and more qualified applicants, with less in the way of outreach.

Even a dumb San Franciscan can figure that one out.

And it's not just San Francisco that's feeling the State Fund's pinch. The agency is pulling workers out of Santa Rosa, San Jose, San Diego, and Oxnard; it's also shuttering offices in Glendale, Burbank, City of Commerce, and San Bernadino. Locally, more employees will be shunted to Vacaville, Pleasanton, and Sacramento. Statewide, similarly low-rent towns will soon see an influx of moderately paid State Fund workers.

"One of the drivers behind our strategy is to move into areas of the state more in-line with the cost of living," said Vargen. "When we're bringing people into our offices in San Francisco, cost often makes it a prohibitive move for our employees."

By the way, for those who'd curse the city and its infernal rents for driving the Fund out of town -- the Fund owns its building on 1275 Market. All 16 stories of it. But costly seismic and data upgrades are pending -- so that structure will be sold off, and the 75 staffers remaining here in the city will work out of a "more modest" office.

The workers slated to stay in the city are largely attorneys who make daily appearances in San Francisco courtrooms. State Fund lawyers earn between $4,674 and $7,828 a month. Nice work if you can get it -- but not exactly tip-top pay for an insurance lawyer.

Finally, Vargen, the agency's spokeswoman, will be leaving the city as well. She's slated to be transferred to Vacaville. Now we know who to ask about how the Fenton's in that town stacks up.

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