When one thinks of LA, the images that usually pop in the head are long wide streets with fancy buildings and dotted with palm trees on the side, hip downtown filled with busy (and attractive looking) young professionals, or the impressive skyline with the Hollywood sign on the background. Surprisingly, these are but a fraction of what LA really is, and if you want to live in this awesome city you better get familiar with its vastness and its diversity.
LA is Not Your Typical City
Sprawled in area of 503 square miles, LA is the second largest city in the U.S. and the most populous city in California. The city itself has several incorporated communities and even cities within the city. Beverly Hills and its famous Rodeo Drive, for instance, is a city of its own which is located inside the city of LA. Hollywood, on the other hand, often thought to be a city of its own when in fact it is a district in the city of LA. And then there’s North Hollywood (a neighborhood in San Fernando Valley area) and also West Hollywood (a city bordering Beverly Hills). To add to the confusion, the city of LA shares its namesake with the county it is situated in, LA County.
Which area is a district and which area is an independent city might not really concern you, especially if your heart is already set in a certain area in Los Angeles (or part of it). However, if you are a visitor or planning to relocate to LA a basic knowledge on how vast Los Angeles is will be helpful in your quest in searching for housing/accommodation. Just because a job is listed as located in LA it doesn’t mean that it will be in the part of LA that you were thinking of, or if it’s even in the city of LA. Seeing how big the city of LA is, where you stay could be miles away from where you work or where you want to spend your leisure time at.
LA = Diversity
The vastness of the city also offers diversity in each area/neighborhood. Some neighborhoods are more densely populated than others, or have a strikingly different demographic. For instance, the Westlake area has more than 4 times of people than the neighboring Downtown area even though it is only half the size of Downtown, yet Tujunga has roughly half the people compared to Downtown area even though it is twice the size of Downtown. Some neighborhoods clearly explain the demographics of the area, like Little Tokyo or Chinatown or Little Armenia; while others are not so distinct but you can easily tell the difference. Some have a very city-like feel to it due to the buildings and/or the population density of the area, some feel more like a tiny US suburb when in fact they are actually still a part of the city.
My Best Advice
With so many areas to choose from, it is important to choose wisely when it comes to where to stay in LA. The general rule of the thumb is to choose somewhere that you would spend the majority of your time. If you work more than regular people, choose somewhere closer to your work. If you prefer nature and peaceful quietness, choose somewhere closer to a park where you can hike in the weekend or take a quick stroll in the evening (e.g. Los Feliz area).
If you like entertainment and nightlife, choose somewhere close to where the action is (e.g.Downtown area). As with any big city, you will soon find out that a compromise should or could easily be made. Chinatown area, for example, is not as expensive as Little Tokyo even though they are basically bordering each other. And of course, wherever you stay, you need to put LA traffic into consideration. There is nothing worse than having to commute in bumper to bumper everyday just to get to your work or home.
Keep in mind that even though each area has their own pros and cons, the most important thing of all is safety and your comfort. If you feel safe and comfortable enough in one area, then it is a keeper even though it might not be the neighborhood that you had wanted to be at. Happy hunting!