So – you’re moving to Los Angeles. But are you really?
Los Angeles is a sprawling metropolis that encompasses over 500 square miles and nearly 300 different neighborhoods. But did you know that there are areas that are often thought of as Los Angeles, but are actually separate cities, with their own mayors and city councils? In fact, Los Angeles County contains 88 separate cities – some of them completely surrounded by the City of Los Angeles.
Furthermore, there are unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County that most people think are part of Los Angeles but actually aren’t.
Confused? Join the club.
I recently celebrated my nine-year anniversary of moving to Los Angeles. I have lived in five different neighborhoods (North Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Beverlywood, West LA and Reseda), and have worked in more neighborhoods than I can count (West Hollywood, Burbank, Signal Hill, Downtown LA and Agoura Hills to name a few). But I only just discovered that Culver City is a separate city from Los Angeles.
How is that possible? How can I live here for nine years and not know that? You might think because it has “City” in the name, I would have guessed. But “City” doesn’t mean anything in Los Angeles (I’m looking at you Studio City and Universal City).
To make matters even more confusing, some neighborhoods that aren’t independent cities have names that are used in the postal address (Sherman Oaks) and some that aren’t (Silver Lake). Why? Because each post office location determines whether or not the neighborhood name is used in the mailing address. Plug a ZIP code into the USPS website, and it will tell you what the accepted city name is.
In order to clear things up for all you recent transplants, or for those arriving soon who are deciding where to live, here are some of the most common places you will encounter when you first roll into town.
While there are 88 independent cities, the ones you’ll most likely frequent include:
While it’s unlikely you’ll be getting your first apartment in Malibu or Beverly Hills, it is helpful to know that if you move to Burbank, you technically don’t live in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Neighborhoods
It’s far more likely you’ll be living in one of the many neighborhoods of Los Angeles, where you’ll find more affordable housing, such as:
Unincorporated LA County
While most of the unincorporated communities are on the far-flung reaches of the metro area, you won’t be living in the City of Los Angeles — or any city at all — if you find yourself in:
Now that you know how each area is classified, it begs the question – why does it matter?
Do you like water, electricity and Internet? I thought you might. You’ll need to know which companies to contact to get those set up, and they vary from location to location. Once you’ve decided where to live, check the county, city or neighborhood council website for which utility companies serve your area. And here’s a breakdown of Internet service providers for Los Angeles. Enter your ZIP code to see what’s available in your area.
If you have kids that are in school, that could have a profound effect on where you choose to live. Let’s face it – there’s a big difference between a public school in Beverly Hills and one that’s in Compton. Here’s a comprehensive list of all the public school systems in Los Angeles County with links to each district and which areas they serve.
Would you like to have a say in the next election? Then you’ll want to know how and where to register to vote. Just because you live in “Los Angeles” doesn’t mean you’ll be deciding if Mayor Garcetti should be re-elected in the next election. Visit the Los Angeles County website for more information about finding your district and registering to vote.
I know that’s a lot of information to take in, so take a few deep breaths and don’t worry too much about it. You’ll get a feel for L.A.’s wacky ways the longer you’re here. And if I went unscathed for almost a decade not knowing Culver City’s secret, I think you’ll be OK, too.