I’ve lived in LA twice.
The first time was in 1997. I packed up my things, and moved here on a whim from Seattle with excitement and nervousness that I was about to start my “dream job” as a movie trailer editor. I lived in Studio City (the Valley), worked in Burbank (also the Valley), and hated every single second of the six months I lived and worked here. Everything from the job to where I lived, didn’t mesh with who I was and what I liked to do. I moved back to Seattle with my tail between my legs, and vowed never to live here again. Ha!
The second time I moved here was in 2003. I was working at a great job in video games in Seattle, however, they were shutting down the offices there. A lot of us had a choice to either stay in Seattle and take a layoff package, or relocate to LA. Since my awesome boss, my boyfriend at the time who also worked with me, and a couple other people I liked, all decided to relocate, I decided to take a chance and move there again. This time I lived on the Westside in Marina del Rey, but eventually I ended up in the South Bay in a cute little town called El Segundo, which is known as the “Mayberry” of LA.
This time I loved where I lived. I’m a laid back beach girl at heart, and love the relaxed vibe, recreational activities, and the fact that it felt very un-Hollywood, even though Hollywood is only 30 minutes away with no traffic (which is never).
My thoughts on LA:
Having lived both in the Detroit area and Seattle, I can tell you some differences: LA is geographically huge! 3.58 million people live in an area that is 503 sq miles. And every area is entirely different from one another, from the culture, to the lifestyle, to the geography and weather. It can sometimes be 20 degrees hotter in the Valley from where I live in the South Bay, and it’s only 22 miles away give or take.
Compared to Detroit, the cost of living is outrageous. Compared to living in Seattle, it’s more expensive. My last one bedroom apartment in Seattle in the great neighborhood of Ballard was $750. A quick Craigslist search showed me I can get a two bedroom house in the area I grew up in in Detroit called Downriver for $775.
I pay $1,400 for a no-frills one bedroom. Everything is old, and I still have to go to the laundromat to do laundry. But I also live in a great neighborhood a half mile from the beach.
But as much as I love living here, there are many times I consider relocating to a different state because of the cost of living. In fact, 90% of the respondents I polled said the same thing.
Lots of outdoor recreation, but not much green:
Another thing you’ll notice when you move to LA is it’s hard to find green. When I fly into Detroit I feel like the metro area looks like I’m out in the country. LA is sprawling and it feels like a lot of cement everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, we actually have beautiful scenery, lovely vistas, and an abundance of outdoor recreation, but it’s wall-to-wall with buildings, freeways, and houses. Even places like Griffith park are very brown-ish in color.
Culturally it’s a huge mix depending on where you go. I would dare to say LA is actually pretty friendly (except on the crowded freeways), and easy to talk and get to know people. That’s because it seems over 70% of the people I meet here are not actually from LA. In fact there is a huge Michigan contingent out here. I guess you either stay in the Midwest, or go as far west as possible.
You can also find every restaurant imaginable, and there is no debating it, LA has THE BEST Mexican food in the world.
In a nutshell: LA is what you make of it. There is something here for everyone, but it really depends on which area you live. If you love the beach, you best not call the Valley home. If you love going to the latest super trendy clubs and stalk celebrities, you don’t want to be tucked away in Palos Verdes (South Bay). Why?
95% of the people I surveyed for this article cited LA traffic as the absolute worst thing about living here. The other 5%, and I’m truly surprised it wasn’t more, were discouraged by the cost of living, and how much of a pipe dream (85% of the respondents rent versus own) it feels like to actually own something, or just to raise a family period. Don’t believe me? Check out this site and enter some calculations based on your income.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Even on a very tight budget I’ve made living here work, even living by myself! LA has an incredible amount of fun, frugal, and free activities to do, which makes living here great.
And don’t believe everything you read about what LA people are like. We are not all skinny blonde models, actors, people who work in “the industry,” shallow hipsters, and people who have had plastic surgery and have fake boobs.
But, judging by my respondents answers, we seem to be a group of fairly health conscious people who really love their farmers’ markets (probably because there is one pretty much every day of the week nearby to where you live).
So, in an effort to help people who are considering moving here, especially those where money and budget might be a concern, I’ve compiled some info and tips of what it’s like to live in various areas of Los Angeles, from people who actually live here.
*Disclaimer: This will be a growing series which will be updated as I get new areas covered. If you see any broken links or serious misinformation, please do not hesitate to let me know. I did my best, but this is a free resource that will hopefully help people thinking about moving here!
Also, remember these are my opinions and the opinions of those I polled. There are millions of people in LA who probably have a different perspective on living here.
Check out the various regions of LA:
The Westside (includes Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Marina del Rey, Venice, Brentwood, and Westwood)
The Valley (includes Woodland Hills, Sherman Oaks, Sylmar, and Northridge)
The Verdugos (includes Glendale and Pasadena)
South Bay (includes El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Torrance)
Central Los Angeles (includes Hollywood, West Hollywood, Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Echo Park, and Downtown LA)
Santa Monica Mountains (includes Thousand Oaks, Malibu, Calabasas, and Topanga).