Friday, August 1, 2008

Where to Live in LA?

Chris emailed me to ask where he should find a place when he moves to LA.

This one's all about personality and what's important to you. Lots of new kids to LA live in the valley since my school (Ithaca) and others like Emerson house their semester program students in the Oakwood apartments across from Universal. Once we moved out here for good, we felt very comfortable with that area, so a lot of my friends ended up in the valley - Burbank, North Hollywood, Valley Village, Sherman Oaks, etc. Maybe you can manage Studio City if you're lucky - but it's small and probably the most expensive spot. That's the other thing about the valley; you can generally get a lot more for your money there. Do you want space and a pool, or do you want to be near cool restaurants and bars? Also remember that the valley will always be 10-15 degrees warmer than everywhere else. Not humid, but hot: Often 95 or 100 (don't rent a place without AC). I would say that west of Sherman Oaks is too far, and north of maybe Burbank Blvd is too far. If you have to be in the valley, I'm a fan of ShOaks because it's fairly nice and I lived at the intersection of 405 and 101 - which in rush hour is the busiest interchange in LA, but every other time is a convenient gateway OUT of the valley. If you need to go to BH or the like for work, take Laurel Canyon, Coldwater and Beverly Glen/Benedict (I <3 Benedict).

I have a huge aversion to Burbank, but it's actually got a lot of stores and restaurants (and three AMC movie theaters - I will never figure that out). Free parking too. Maybe my hatred is totally unfounded, like my hatred of Tribeca in NYC. But the valley is just so boring and suburban to me - and Burbank epitomizes this. There is also zero nightlife, save for the occasional dive bar (I have enjoyed $3 beers at the Blue Room - and I assure you that on the other side of the canyon you'll be happy to pay $5.50). It's just...if I wanted to live in the suburbs, I would go home to Buffalo and live with my parents for free, you know?

There are lots of industry jobs in the valley, as many big studio lots are there: Warners, NBC Universal, CBS Radford, Disney, etc. Agency jobs are generally all in Beverly Hills/Century City. Production companies and smaller studios are spread around the map...Lionsgate's in Santa Monica, Dreamworks Animation is in Glendale, Imagine is in Beverly Hills. It's really hard to pick a place based on where you work, since most leases are for a year and many jobs (especially in production, or if you work on something short-lived like a pilot) are temporary. It's probably best to pick something fairly central that you can afford, in a neighborhood you like. Santa Monica is gorgeous, but generally too expensive for entry-level people (I tried). Same with the Beverly Blvd/La Cienega area that my roommate and I liked.

There are different attitudes everywhere. Pasadena is really mellow and feels like Northern California or something. Silverlake is for hipsters. Echo Park is for aspiring hipsters. Los Feliz is for grown up hipsters. Downtown is for optimistic hipsters who swear it'll be cool in a couple years. WeHo is for beautiful gay men. Santa Monica is for athletic, effortlessly pretty people with dogs. Venice is for free-spirited, pot-smoking hippies. All the Del Reys and Beaches are for surfers. Beverly Hills is for people with trust funds. Orange County is for Republicans with trust funds. Of course these are stereotypes, but you'll see what I mean.

 Affordable areas you won't get shot in: The Valley, Hollywood (but it's generally seedier the further east you go), West LA (my roommate and I almost lived here - it's the area between Century City and Santa Monica), Park La Brea/Miracle Mile, Mar Vista/Culver City, Pico & Robertson (aka Beverlywood or Beverly Hills adjacent - I didn't like it, but there are decent parts). I also know some kids who live well in Playa Del Rey - but it seems a bit far to me. Keep in mind this is all general - there are expensive places everywhere, and also affordable places sprinkled throughout (like mine in WeHo). It just takes some looking. Try Westside Rentals for sure - it's like $60 for a 6-week membership, but you can share the password with someone, and I generally find it's worth it since Craigslist is such slim pickins compared to NYC. Also try driving around where you like and calling numbers on signs. You may get some people laugh at you when you say you're looking for a 2 bdrm 2 bath for $1700 (that just wasn't nice!) but keep trying. There are signs everywhere.

Also know that when Google maps estimates how long traffic will take you, multiply that by around 3. You may find a great place that's only 6 miles from your job, but 6 miles could easily take an hour in the morning. Welcome to LA; I hope you like driving.

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Stephen said...

I agree with everything you said. Although, I just moved from Burbank to Studio City this week (I actually like the suburban Burbank and all the movie theaters conveniently located within walking distance of each other) and if you get lucky you can actually find an affordable place in a good area. The thing is, when you find one - on Craigslist or Westside Rentals or whatever - you have to make a decision immediately and jump on it, because if you don't someone else will. Happened to me twice during my apartment hunting experience.

Kira Snyder said...

Fantastic, helpful post, Amanda! Wish I'd seen something like it before I moved here a couple years ago. I lucked into a nice spot on the Westside, but you should see some of the holes I looked at. Gack.

sandofsky said...

My first apartment here was in Little Armenia (Hollywood and Western). When I left, the landlord tried to steal my deposit, and I had to take him to small claims court. He didn't expect a tenant who could speak English.

I spent a year commuting from there to Santa Monica. That averaged an hour each way. I'd never take a job like that again unless I could do flex hours and avoid traffic.

Hollywood is a lot better than a few years ago, but it's still filthy and dangerous. Things will get better as it gets more residential, and the porn shops will close when they realize there's more money as a convenience store.

Now I'm in Sherman Oaks, also where the 405 and 101 meet. You left out it's walking distance from a 24 hour fitness and Cheesecake Factory-- a wonderful dichotomy. You can get to Hollywood or Santa Monica in 20 minutes. I commute to work in Glendale in 25 minutes.

I bought a Westside Rentals account Monday, because my place is just too small, and I'm looking for someplace hipper, like Santa Monica.

And you do need an account with Westside Rentals, but the site is absolutely horrible. I'm surprised nobody has capitalized on the need for a better pay rental site.

Monsterbeard said...

You rock, dude. Starting at paragraph 3, that's the kind of shit you don't get in a guidebook, and exactly what I wanted. said...

Better of going through craigslist or

Dan Williams said...

Fantastic blog! Totally information rich.

Josh said...

Something else I've experienced is that the daily freeway grind tends to be worse heading into the city/West side in the morning and back out to the Valley after work than going in the opposite direction.

Basically what I'm saying is...obviously try to live as close to work as possible, because no drive here is really a good drive, but it's generally better to live on the West side and commute to work in the Valley than the other way around.

Not that I listen to my own advice or anything...

brenderlin said...

This is the post I needed to read about 3 months ago. I moved here in May into a summer sublet in Santa Monica, where I actually grew to loathe all the rich people walking their dogs and driving their porsches. Go figure.

But the drive was perfect. I lived literally 10 minutes from my internship at Sony in Culver City. Now I'm lucky if I make it there in 45 minutes.

Gaye said...

Great website. My son is at Emerson now and heading out to LA in January. I told him he has to check out your site. Very helpful stuff. Thanks.

Unknown said...

This is hilarious! I'm not sure I fit in any of the descriptions of the areas in LA, which is why I just belong on the East coast. This is super helpful for us in picking a place to live. I can't wait to share it with my husband. Thanks!