17 Reasons Not to Move to Fresno, California (Voted by the locals!)

California is the beautiful Golden State, home to beloved Hollywood and the monumental Golden Gate Bridge. However, not all of California is nice.

Fresno is home to over half a million people, it is an agricultural city in the middle of California that does not have a good reputation.

1. Meth

National data has proven that the psychostimulant problemOpens in a new tab. has increased by 48% from May 2020 to April 2021. Meth alone accounts for a quarter of all overdose deaths and has been proven to be the leading cause of death in Fresno California. According to the coroner’s unit, there were more meth overdoses than any other drugs. In 2020, there were even more meth-related deaths than suicide, homicide, automobile accidents, and fire/accidental deaths (falls and drowning) combined.

The average age of heavy users was reported to be around 23 years old. While there are many drugs being misused in Fresno, meth is the worst. Cocaine is almost 5 times as expensive as meth is, and the general population of heavy drug addicts in Fresno is poor people.

More than just a drug usage problem, Fresno also has a major issue with drug dealing. A police officer discussed a case where they had to take the entire front end of a car apart and found 40 pounds of crystal meth in the frame’s rails.

Fresno is not actually that far from Mexico so it is common for drugs to be smuggled across the border and into the city. At the time that this account was published it was July and police reported that they had confiscated over 300 pounds of meth for just that year, a little over half of the year and they had already encountered that much meth.

On a personal note, right before I moved out of Fresno there was a case all over the news where a police officer was alone and had confiscated meth from two prostitutes. He then went back to his police car where he used the meth. He then proceeded to crash the police car into other vehicles… in the parking lot.

Meth is a bigger problem than it seems in Fresno. It doesn’t seem that anyone living there is safe from it, even the ones enforcing the laws. 81% of the people enrolled in Fresno’s Rescue Mission are there solely because of meth use.

2. Unemployment

In Fresno, only 6.7% of adults have bachelor’s degrees. So while there is not a shortage of jobs available, there is a shortage of qualified people. This makes the unemployment rateOpens in a new tab. worsen, from data collected in 2018 it was reported that the rate is 7.5%.

3. Poverty

Imagine that you’re driving. It’s hot outside, you have your A/C on. You’re in a somewhat unfamiliar area of town and driving 25 in the residential area. You take a turn and are now driving down a street lined with tents, the scent of urine fills the car. You have to drive slow because of the number of people present in the street, but if you drive too slow you’ll have people walking close to your car shouting obscenities at you. There are at least 20 wrong turns that you don’t want to take in Fresno.

In a study done in 2018, it was estimated that Fresno was the second-highest ranked city for the number of people in poverty. The poverty rate is 28.4%. 2 out of every 7 people live in poverty (1 every 3.5 residents). This comes out to 144,946 people living in poverty in Fresno out of 510,489 residents.

4. Crime Rate

On the same topic of taking wrong turns, there are several well-known streets in Fresno. I remember once I was 16, just starting to drive on my own. My friend and I were driving somewhere at night and I accidentally missed my exit. I had to get off at the next exit and the moment that my car came out of the exit ramp I was surrounded on both sides of the street by prostitutes and their pimps.

You could visibly see the weapons hanging from their pants and hear them shouting at other people and trying to gain business from people driving by. This is fairly common in Fresno.

The crime in Fresno is insane. I grew up here with parents who worked in CPS social work and law, so growing up I saw and heard everything.

I remember there being several shooting and bomb threats in my elementary school years. I went to public school in Fresno and I knew an incredible amount of people whose parents were constantly in and out of prison. In high school, there were constant fights with several stabbings. At 14 I knew several gang members. There have been several cases of teachers fraternizing with students. There are over 2,400 registered sex offenders.

5. Location

If you are not familiar with California’s geography, the best way I have found to describe Fresno is between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It is part of the San Joaquin Valley that’s surrounded by the Sierra Nevada and Diablo Range Mountains, this makes every climatic condition worse because the mountains trap it in. Its elevation is 308 feet above sea level making it a humid place.

Fresno is part of the biggest agricultural areas in California and the nation. When in an airplane you can see all the plots of land and dirt as far as the eye can see. Because it is a valley there are no beaches or fun things like that close by. The mountains are close but barely receive snow and it is about 1-2 hours away.

6. Weather

Fresno is notorious for being really hot. As early as March, it hits temperatures ranging from 85-105 degrees. This pattern continues all the way through October. So for 8 out of 12 months of the year, it is over 85 degrees. Once May comes it is typically 90-105 degrees. Once June is present though the average temperature rises to about 95-115 degrees until October.

The forecast is purely ‘sunny’ for 271 days of the year. The average amount of rainfall in the United States is 38.1 inches, in Fresno, it is 12.6 inches. Google says that Fresno receives 48 days of rain a year, but having lived there my whole life that seems incredibly inaccurate. I would say it rains probably closer to 20-25 days of the year, maybe 30 if that year is generous.

7. Fire

Fire season in California goes hand in hand with the weather. March through May (sometimes June) is when there is a drastic increase in temperature, because of this all greenery and trees die. This is quickly followed by fire season because of the dry and hot climate.

While Fresno itself hardly ever burns, because it is surrounded by mountains when they burn it is so bad in Fresno that sometimes there is ash falling from the sky for a period of days. The sun will be red and the sky is just a blanket of gray. For several years in a row, the fires were so bad that they physically burned your lungs to be outside. So unless you like sweltering heat, barely being able to breathe, and your car and head covered in ash for 6 months of the year, Fresno is not a good place to live.

8. Air Quality

The average air quality in Fresno is so bad that statistics and scientists guarantee that if you live there long enough you will become sick with things like asthma, lung cancer, developmental delays, and even premature death can be a result.

The air quality is caused by the fire season taking up so many months of the year. I remember in elementary, middle, and even high school we hardly ever had rainy days where we had to stay inside for recess, we definitely never had snow days. Instead, we had days where we had to stay inside because the air quality was bad enough that it was deemed unsafe and could even pose a health threat to some people.

9. Pollution

Fresno has one of the highest PM2.5 concentrations in the country. It is so severe that it causes holes in the ozone layer. Because of these holes, the sun is much more aggressive in Fresno, this highly increases the chances of contracting skin cancer.

When you drive down the highway in Fresno instead of seeing pretty trees, shrubbery, or walls with murals, you get a beautiful view of trash. Trash litters the freeways and streets extensively, it is a huge problem in the city. Fines for littering are $1,000 because of how desperate they are to decrease it.

10. Cost of Living

The cost of livingOpens in a new tab. in Fresno is actually relatively low because nobody really wants to live there, but it is still higher than the national average by a decent amount. The cost of living in Fresno has increased by 16% yearly.

The housing prices in Fresno range anywhere from $35,000 to $9.5 million. The median price of a sold home is $332K. Transportation and utilities are anywhere from 35-45% higher than the national average no matter what area in Fresno you live in. The median rental cost is $1,041 a month.

To live somewhere nice like Woodward Park will drastically increase your cost of living. To live in an area like this, the cost of living is 13% higher than Fresno’s average and 22% higher than the national average. For utilities, the cost is 18% higher than all of California and 45% higher than the national average.

For the housing itself, it is 46% higher than the average cost in Fresno. Groceries, health care, and ‘goods and services’ rank slightly lower than California’s general average and are pretty close to the average across the nation.

11. Housing Market

When looking at houses in Fresno it is incredibly difficult to find something fit for raising a family. There are many homes but if they are affordable then they are mainly going to be in really bad areas. While the average cost of living is low it is due to the poor and unsafe neighborhoods. There is no shortage of homes for rent or sale, it is just hard to find a good home in a good area that isn’t outrageously expensive or far from everything (schools, work, ‘town’).

To live in a home that is in a nice, safe, and quiet neighborhood, you’re looking at paying around 46-50% higher than the national average and 45% more in utilities.

12. Neighborhoods

There are some safe neighborhoods in Fresno. The only problem is that they are safe because they are really expensive. So although the housing market is considerably cheap in Fresno, it’s because the crime rate and unsafety are so high. For safe and secure neighborhoods, you’re going to have to dig into your pockets.

Growing up here I remember living at my grandmother’s house and the neighborhood kids that I played with often came from awful homes. It was very much so a family-oriented neighborhood.

Everyone on my street went to school with me, but we got robbed several times in the few years we lived there and each time was by a different neighbor, usually the parents of my friends. When we moved it was into a very nice home but still in a poor location. I remember literally watching my neighbor smoke meth and then immediately abuse his dog (we rescued the dog later).

It wasn’t until we moved out of the city altogether that we stopped having experiences like that. Even in really nice homes in family-oriented neighborhoods, our neighborhoods were usually a little bit scary and dangerous.

13. Schools

The schoolingOpens in a new tab. in Fresno is interesting. There are a few schools that are still public but they test for and only accept academically advanced children so the student population is highly filtered. These schools experience much fewer issues with things like threats of violence, fights, or drugs. The average Fresno school elementary through college, will experience several bombs or shooting threats and the fights can be severe.

I remember going to a pretty nice middle school and these two 7th grade guys got in a fight at lunch. It escalated to the point where they were stabbing each other severely in the abdomen. This was only in 7th grade.

When my brother was in 6th grade there was a huge ordeal where students were performing sexual acts during class, in the classroom. On his first day of 7th grade, there was a girl who opened her backpack to show him her drugs. There were way too many cases of inappropriate student and teacher relations both consensual and not.

The average graduation rate is 86% and Fresno is home to 16 high schools and 100 schools in total. It possesses over 70,000 students. 59% of people rated the schooling to be below average. When you look at the best-rated schools they are all either private or specialized schools that only accept certain students based on academics. The school district received a 3.9-star rating.

14. City Layout

While some places have beautiful downtown areas with cute shops and family businesses and restaurants, Fresno’s downtown is called the Tower District and it is a scary place to be. Further elaborating on the layout, Fresno is a place that is large, it is 116 square miles.

So walking places is not ideal or very common. You would need public or private transportation to navigate the city. A downside to this is that while biking would be a good cheap compromise, it is so hot that you would be drenched in sweat anywhere you went.

15. Transportation

Public transportation is primarily busses. I remember being a kid and taking the bus with my mom. I remember it being absolutely foul. It smelled like pee, you couldn’t touch anything because it was visibly dirty or sticky to the touch. There was never a time that I took the bus and didn’t fear that I was going to get diseased.

16. Taxes

The total sales tax rateOpens in a new tab. in Fresno is higher than all of California, it stands at 7.98% for 2022. This accounts for the state, county, and city taxes. The California sales tax is currently 6% with a county tax rate of .25%. It just isn’t ideal.

17. Family Friendliness

I left this subtopic to be last because after reading this article, do you really think that this place is family-friendly? There are activities you can take your kids to but it is highly questionable if it is safe both atmospherically and physically.

Nathan Aydelotte

Hello! I'm Nathan, the lead editor for Suggested by locals. I grew up in the Boise, Idaho area and have lived here most of my life. I enjoy being close to the mountains where I can go hiking, camping, and mountain biking.

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