Los Angeles is not a city. It’s a concept, an idea. If you will: it’s a “build-your-own” city.
Every person who comes to LA discovers it anew, in a million different permutations, becoming something wholly unique, either wonderful or terrible. A lot of this lies in the fact that it is a vast suburb, a collection of neighborhoods, some pretending to be a city within themselves, others not even trying to fit into any citified concept.
If you’re from a small town, then Los Angeles may feel overwhelmingly big. If you’re from a big city, LA may feel disappointing. If you’ve taken for granted basic things like: walking from point A to point B, enjoying fresh air, and having many reliable places you can go to (i.e. restaurants, bars, etc) that stay consistently good, then LA can be frustrating on occasion.
Finding a place to live is all about compromise. As everyone knows, the smaller the budget, the greater the compromise. In the end, the majority of people will choose neighborhood over amenities, which is the first step in making LA a city you can call home.
With the consideration that money is what makes all of our world’s go round, especially since you’re probably moving to LA to pursue an ambitious dream – I’ve broken down these select few and popular neighborhoods according to budget and price.
Rental Price Approximations
$$$ – (1500 – ∞ for a studio to a 1 bedroom)
$$ – (1000 – 1400 for a studio to 1 bedroom)
$ – (750 – 950 $ for a studio or a rare 1 bedroom)
So here we go:
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
Recommended for: Um…the rich and famous.
Rodeo Drive. Mansions. High-end restaurants. Celebrity Lunches. People awkwardly taking pictures with Bugatti Veyrons. The only practical advice if you were considering Beverly Hills is that you can find more (relatively) affordable options on and near its fringes. If you’ve come to a moving to LA advice website, you’re probably considering things reasonably, which would probably exclude Beverly Hills from consideration. Collect the $500 you’ll save in rent and pass “Go.”
The well-rested friend you hate but would love to be.
Recommended for: Easy-going, heat-stroke hating, sons (and daughters) of beaches.
Simply put, Santa Monica is not Los Angeles. Not only technically, but also in practice. The air is cooler and cleaner. The beach makes people calmer and in less of a hurry. Much of it seems ideal and the perfect choice for someone wanting a place to unwind after the hustle and bustle of a day’s work. This idyllic setting however, becomes considerably less so for certain people.
For one, the location (west of the 405) makes it an impossible commute during certain times. Performing Artists can find this maddening, especially since the majority of auditions are not in Santa Monica. Those looking for a vibrant city-atmosphere will also find Santa Monica disappointing. The tourist friendly 3rd street promenade may be your idea of a perfect hangout, but those looking for more local flavor will find it lacking. The exception: The cusp between Santa Monica and Venice, (Between Main Street and Lincoln) is one of the most desirable places to live – full of pubs, cafes and shops.
The more blatant downside in all of it is the price. A one bedroom in the more affordable West LA/Santa Monica area can average around $1500, but anything below that, say near the desirable main-street neighborhood, you’re looking at paying closer to $1850, and apartments there don’t come easy. If you go south of Highway 10, and north of Lincoln, you’ve got a whole host of cheaper options in family friendly neighborhoods, and even a small hipster hood near the 405( google: unurban café.) Less of a beach breeze, more highway exhaust however.
The well rested friend who does too many drugs.
Recommended for: The bold, the beautiful, and the bong-voyagers.
Living in Venice is without a doubt a divisive issue. If you’re wealthy, it may not be a problem. Abbot Kinney is a little posh hipster heaven, and many pockets of Venice are pleasant, clean, and very desirable to live in. If not, the affordable options are there because they come with a side of crazy. Venice is still a favorite hangout for the most unfortunate drugged out people in Los Angeles. For some, this flavor (like a hot sauce dabbed in a random meal) gives it an edge, and preserves the funkiness, for others – it makes a stroll through town and down into the boardwalk less of a good trip and more of a bad one.
Venice’s colorful character however may just be the place for the tortured artist looking for inspiration. Rent in the desirable neighborhoods can run even higher than Santa Monica, while those in the more undesirable neighborhoods can actually run cheaper. They draw you in with the allure of the beach, but they don’t tell you how many syringes may be buried underneath the sand…
The sharp divide.
Recommended for: Home-business people, the fast-paced workaholic, Japantown lovers.
Downtown can also be a contentious issue. Here you’ll find the most luxurious restaurants in the world, and sadly, only steps away from their front door, the most horrific of circumstances. Skid Row is a tragic reality that creates a sharp contrast to the opulence of some of the high-rises and neighborhoods such as Japantown – which is shiny, happy and remarkably well-kept. Unfortunately, walking around downtown you can’t have some of the most elite things Los Angeles has to offer: a remarkable library, The Disney Concert Hall, restaurants, shops; without encountering some of the most inhumane conditions you’ve ever seen in a major metropolitan US city.
Some choose to live in a high-rise and simply drive out their parking garage. Others would choose to face it head-on. Clearly there are neighborhoods of great interest and charm, but don’t commit to Downtown LA until you’ve really had a good walk around. You hate walking you say? Maybe this is the place for you. Start budgeting those valet and parking fees though.
Hipsters! So many hipsters!
Cost:$$ – $$$
Recommended for: Mustache twirlers, Mustache riders, and Mustache stylers.
Silverlake, for good or ill, is defined as the hipster haven (not heaven…Hipsters are way too ironic for that concept,) but if you don’t identify, don’t let that scare you. Instead, let the prices scare you! Because of the gentrifying influx into this hilly, leafy suburban spot, Silverlake and its surrounding areas (Los Feliz, some of Echo-park) are not as cheap as one would hope them to be. Even neighborhoods with used couches laying about can surprise your budget. If you’re dead-set on being amongst the young and pretentious (I mean hip :-)) however, and can handle the quickly rising prices – Silverlake may be worth its weight in fine-espresso-bean.
I Ho! You Ho! We Ho!
Recommended for: The Happy Gay-lucky, Adrenaline Junkies, and Lala-heads.
Contrary to popular belief, one doesn’t have to be gay for West Hollywood to be a smart choice. Since it covers a wide swath of leafy neighborhoods, you could be someone simply looking for a nice central location for work, and the accessibility of shops and nightlife. That said, WeHo and the Sunset strip above it can be a loud party. While Santa Monica Blvd has all the gay-friendly establishments, the Sunset Strip has some of the most well-known rock and comedy venues. For someone who loves the glitz and the glamour of Los Angeles, this is the place to be. It can be very hard to find an affordable place, so you really want to consider how much of the glitter and glam is right for you. That said, its not like the Gay Pride Parade is happening every day of the year, though depending on your background – it might seem that way sometimes.
A different world or maybe a too familiar one.
Recommended for: Pupusa loving, Boba tea drinking, Adventurers who are budget conscious.
Koreatown (K-town) is, as its name suggests, largely a part of town with Korean owned businesses, populated by Korean-Americans. The majority population however, is Latino – which makes for an interesting consortium of purveyors of Kim-chi and Pupusas. Among the diversity of ethnicities and cultures, there is also a diversity of neighborhoods and income brackets. Near Wilshire and Western, as well as other parts, gentrifying is happening at a rapid pace, with shiny cafes and high rise apartments sprouting up for young professionals. Some neighborhoods are clean, quiet, and family friendly, while others may feel a little aggressive and grimey for your taste. My Los Angeles born brother-in-law swears by the affordability and accessibility of K-town, and many agree with this equation. It can be too different a world for some, or perhaps it’s the one you’re most comfortable in. Either way, if you’re up for it, K-town is a good choice to look for somewhere affordable and accessible. Adventurous spirits may love the culture clash.
Holly probably wouldn’t if she was still around.
Recommended for: Improvisers, people who want to tell people back home they live in Hollywood.
Clearly, I’m not a fan. I think Hollywood is terrible. What are the bright spots? Second City and IO west are on Hollywood Boulevard, and Upright Citizens Brigade is not too far down Franklin – making it a good choice for someone committing to spending all their time at a particular improv theatre. Clearly, proximity to work would also be a good choice. You’re also near The Valley and centrally located to everything else. Rent can be cheap for buildings that are questionably maintained or quite pricey for newer buildings.
Look, my girlfriend loves Hollywood – so I’m not making too terrible a judgment on people who like it. It’s a beautiful mess. You can get hit on by Jack Sparrow (my gf did!) there are a lot of clubs and Cahuenga (down to Amoeoba on Sunset) is a great stretch with great food and bar options. Hollywood is definitely active, but this activity can attract a lot of unwanted attention – pickpockets, reincarnations of various celebrities, and general disorder. Like downtown, take a good walk around to make sure this is what you want.
“Ugh? The Valley?” – Ignore these people at all cost.
Recommended for:The starving artist…
Pun intended. Most struggling artists in Los Angeles choose the Valley as an affordable and pretty comfortable option. “The Valley” refers to many different cities and neighborhoods: Burbank, North Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, the list goes on. Lumping all these places into one category doesn’t help much except to say that they can all be relatively cheap options with a few more amenities than you’d get in LA proper. Temperatures peak a little higher up here, and neighborhoods vary from family-friendly and safe to pretty dingy and dilapidated. The point is, you have much to choose from and can negotiate your price by how far you can tolerate to commute to and from. There is sadly only one Metro stop in North Hollywood and one in downtown Burbank, so unless you’re living in those areas, you’ll most likely prefer having a car to taking public transport. Whatever your transport situation, the valley has an assortment of neighborhoods that are self-contained to entertain and appeal. It’s a reasonable option you shouldn’t discount due to the casual snobbery of those who can afford more luxurious neighborhoods.
The real secret to finding the right neighborhood for you?
Don’t spend all your time on the internet. Go out and explore and put in the time discovering the varied splendor of greater Los Angeles. Depending on what your life will be, your commute, your budget, your family life, your tolerance for pain – there are many ways to think outside the box that aren’t included here. There are way too many neighborhoods (Over 134!!!) to include here without being incredibly overwhelming to the newbie.
Use these “hoods” as a starting point and venture (safely) from them. My girlfriend and I found our ideal neighborhood and apartment by doing the legwork. Many apartment owners are old-school and don’t even bother posting on Craigslist, especially when their apartment is a catch and all they have to do is put out the old “for-rent” sign.