Los Angeles is like a cluster of many towns in one sprawling metropolis. The basic public transportation system notwithstanding, Angelinos rely heavily on driving to get around. Because of this, choosing the right neighborhood to settle into is crucial and may require some advice...and patience.
If for instance, you live in Sherman Oaks, you may rarely get around to seeing your friends in Venice. If your apartment is in Culver City, it may seem like a huge trek to check out a new restaurant or club in Silver Lake.
It’s important to get around and explore different neighborhoods—whether you’re new to LA or a long-time resident—but the sad truth is that many of us end up hunkering down in our little respective towns within a city. So it stands to reason that the area you choose to live in should be a great fit for your lifestyle.
Choosing a Neighborhood in LA: A Checklist
Here are some crucial considerations when choosing where you want to live in Los Angeles.
- What is the parking situation? LA is turning into New York in this respect. As the city fills up, free parking spots become increasingly difficult to find. Great parking is a major plus.
- Be sure to visit the neighborhood you’re planning to move into at night as well as during the day. Some areas have a totally different feeling when the sun goes down; for instance, they might become a little shady, derelict or potentially dangerous.
- If you have children, consider the public schools in the area. How do they rank? Are there any well-rated magnet schools in the neighborhood?
- If you walk or jog regularly, is this an area that lends itself to those pastimes? Are there well-paved sidewalks, and is the terrain easy to cover on foot?
- Is the rent or sale price-to-space ratio decent? Do most of the apartments or homes have enough outdoor space?
- Where do most of the people you know live? It’s nice to make new friends, of course, but if you’re new in town and the few friends you have are all the way across the city, it could be challenging.
- Is this a predominantly singles or family neighborhood, depending on your preferences?
- Do neighbors seem friendly and social? Is there a sense of community, like a neighborhood watch association or a local hub where everyone hangs out?
- What is the crime statistics in the neighborhood?
- Look beyond the neighborhood’s marquis name, like Hollywood and Beverly Hills, and really dig into discovering the flavor of the area, perhaps even asking some residents in a neighborhood coffee shop.
- Is the area easily accessible? This is something to consider when you’re looking into some of the gorgeous hillside regions of LA, especially if you have someone with special medical needs or an elderly person in your household.
Neighborhood Pros and Cons
The following is a quick breakdown of a few central areas in LA. Click on the links for more detailed info on each area. Keep in mind that these locales are well established with loads of history.
Pros: Excellent school district; clean, manicured area; good for pedestrians and walking; in the flats, there are many one- and two-hour-free parking lots; parking is generally very easy, except in the retail center; very safe, highly regarded neighborhood.
Cons: Extremely expensive, of course (you're not just paying for housing, but also for the zip code); traffic and parking can be horrible around the retail center.
Pros: Beautiful, well-kept, family oriented neighborhood in a very good school district; parking is not generally an issue; and it’s a nice ride to the beaches from here via Sunset.
Cons: Not a great location for singles; beyond the main Brentwood marketplace, there is not much going on in terms of restaurants and retail locations; this is one of the most expensive residential areas of LA.
Pros: Exciting arts area with a strong sense of community and feels a bit like New York, which is nice, especially if you’re a Manhattanite who misses home; much of it is accessible on foot, which attendees of the monthly Downtown Art Walk can attest to.
Cons: At night it can get a bit shady and potentially dangerous; basically devoid of natural green space and gardens.
Pros: Charming architecture of old houses; easy to take walks in the neighborhood.
Cons: Not much in terms of convenient stores and restaurants that are accessible by foot; very expensive and tends to be insular.
Pros: Great old houses by LA standards; charming bungalows and guest cottages; rich with LA history; fairly central and packed with restaurants and nightlife.
Cons: Freeway access is somewhat limited to the 101, which locals know as one of the most sluggish freeways; depending on the area, crime and drugs can be an issue; rush hour happens at night as well as in the daytime.
Pros: Nice family community; pretty beachside setting; close to the airport; small-town vibe; sectioned into mini areas with special characteristics; great lifestyle for outdoorsy people, with opportunities to bike around easily in the area.
Cons: Lots of foot traffic especially during the summer tourist season; more expensive than you'd think and considerable commute if you work in central LA, so factor gas into your budget unless you work in the South Bay; close to the airport so there is airport-related traffic).
Pros: Great neighborhood for kids and home-loving couples; houses are generally charming 1920s architecture, with lots of duplexes and often good yard space; sidewalks are well paved for walking; close to the 10 freeway; parking is usually quite good.
Cons: Not an incredibly exciting neighborhood for going out, although there are some good ethnic restaurants; gets very quiet at night, which can be nice but also precarious for crime.
Pros: Fairly close to the beach, not far from Malibu beaches; mostly good for walking; lots of retail spaces; considered a good school district; just as suited to singles as to families but maybe a bit better for singles.
Cons: Traffic is notoriously bad; for out-on-the-town singles, the nightlife scene, usually geared toward Irish bars and pubs, can pale in comparison to, say, Hollywood or the East Side.
Silver Lake and Echo Park
Pros: Extremely hip and trendy East Side areas full of life, activity and edgy young people; also contains some very pretty rustic enclaves in the hills; loose sense of community.
Cons: Crime in some areas; parking issues; and too much nighttime activity.
Short for San Fernando Valley, the urbanized Valley includes Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, Encino, North Hollywood, Toluca Lake, Reseda and Burbank.
Pros: Suburban feel; great for kids; much more relaxed in terms of night noise and parking; lots of restaurants and retail spaces that are mostly within walking distance; convenient commute for film and TV industry people working in Burbank.
Cons: It gets extraordinarily hot, 10 or more degrees hotter than the flats, especially in the summer; feels a bit detached from the rest of LA since the Hollywood Hills separate it from the Los Angeles basin.
Pros: Incredibly charming arts neighborhood of canals, boardwalks and arcades; close to the beach; eccentric and Bohemian, with a definite sense of community and history.
Cons: Crime can be an issue; if you work in Burbank or Hollywood, this could be a longish trek; houses are generally small for the price you pay, so if you’re looking for a lot of space, this may not be the area for you.
Pros: More or less a central point in the city—not far from Beverly Hills, Westwood, Miracle Mile, Hollywood, East Hollywood, The Valley and Laurel Canyon; many restaurants and retail businesses in the area; in most areas, pretty easy to navigate by foot and bicycle, with bike paths throughout.
Cons: Terrible parking and a permit is required for much of it; in many parts, it’s extremely loud at night; many of apartments are tightly clustered dingbat-style and complexes have paper-thin walls.
Culver City and West LA
Pros: Culver City is really coming up as a fun area for nightlife and restaurants; good public schools; lots of great restaurants offering eclectic and exotic cuisines; very good for families and increasingly good for singles.
Cons: Traffic can be brutal, especially if you’re near the south end (Pico and Olympic); some parts of the West Side feel uninspiring and industrial, with lumber yards, carpet stores and the like.
Pros: Student and family neighborhood ideal for taking walks; very well kept and clean; not far from the 405, Brentwood and the beaches; excellent school district.
Cons: If you’re not a student, this isn’t the most exciting area to live in as a single; in the village, parking is a major issue.