Los Angeles living with a family
January 5, 2005 2:11 AM   Subscribe

Los Angeles living with a family. [+]

The kids are homeschooled, so that's not an issue. The home can be purchased or leased. The family is large. (10 members plus pets.) All other things being equal, where in the greater L.A. metroplex would you recommend that this overstuffed household (with no particular preferences vis-a-vis beach vs. valley or commuting issues) look to dwell?
posted by Dreama to Society & Culture (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are there any other criteria?
posted by shoos at 3:01 AM on January 5, 2005

Not particularly. We're not picky; we'd obviously prefer not to live in the 'hood, but we don't need to live in Beverly Hills either. I have ideas of places that were visually interesting as I drove througha month ago, but I have no clue if they're actually good places to live or if it's window dressing, so I'm trying to remove the filter of preconceived notions. Let's say, for the purposes of this inquiry, that we're looking for a house, and money isn't at issue for the moment.
posted by Dreama at 4:18 AM on January 5, 2005

Maybe the area along the Santa Monica mountains, on the east side, from Studio City up to Calabasas. It is "the valley," but it does have a lot going for it. Vitality, youth, people from all sorts of backgrounds, and tons of good restaurants. Along the other side of the mountains is nice, too, but wouldn't strongly recommend it for a family, except for maybe ... Belair or Beverly Glen, which are coin

Pasadena (where I live now) or the Santa Monica/Pacific Palisades area wouldn't be bad either.
posted by shoos at 5:09 AM on January 5, 2005

Which places that you drove through did you find visually interesting?
posted by shoos at 5:10 AM on January 5, 2005

The only drawback to the Valley is that (thanks to its valley-nature) it tends to trap heat and smog. Even if you don't have any particular love of the beach, you'll probably find that the air is cleaner the closer you get to the ocean.

I have some friends who live in Santa Monica near Montana avenue, and they find it very nice and much more neighborhoody than other parts of LA--people actually stroll along the sidewalks.

Wherever you live, you might want to have a structural engineer check the building for earthquake safety--certainly if you're going to buy, possibly if you're going to rent and can afford to hire a structural engineer.
posted by yankeefog at 5:28 AM on January 5, 2005

I like South Pas and Claremont in L.A. County, big old trees arching over residential streets. For beach cities, anywhere from Corona Del Mar south to San Clemente would suit me fine, especially around Little Corona beach.
posted by planetkyoto at 6:37 AM on January 5, 2005

My friend picked up a nice house in San Pedro for under $300k (which, I'm sure you know by now, is quite cheap). A great deal, all in all, if you can get past 200% higher rates of respiratory illness due to the horrendous air pollution from the port.

But hey it's a nice view and a colorful sunset :).
posted by basicchannel at 7:59 AM on January 5, 2005

My grandparents lived in Westchester, which is just on the west side of the 405 from Inglewood. Not too bad, and close to the beach, but I doubt many of the houses there would be able to accommodate the size of your family.

Eagle Rock/Pasadena are other good options.
posted by LionIndex at 8:16 AM on January 5, 2005

If I had the money [which I don't or I'd already be there], I'd live in Santa Monica.
posted by birdherder at 8:23 AM on January 5, 2005

I lived in several LA neighborhoods, and the one I liked best was Playa del Rey. Unlike most places in LA, it's not on the way anywhere, so the only reason to go there is to go there, which lends it a small-town feel not often found in LA.

One city north of there is Marina del Rey, which is ritzier, dramatically more expensive, and free of the airport noise that is the only downside to Playa.
posted by bac at 8:46 AM on January 5, 2005

I second Pasadena or the more interesting, hippy neighborhoods of West LA: Venice and Santa Monica. Another great neighborhood, very vibrant and kid-friendly, is Los Feliz.
posted by luriete at 9:15 AM on January 5, 2005

Given the housing market and the size of the family, it's a tough question to answer without having an idea of how much you can afford to spend. The area is just so big that there isn't really just a few decent places to live. One thing that might help simplify is whether you're the type that prefers to live in the middle of things, or away from the action. Also, do the quality of the public schools matter?
posted by drpynchon at 9:19 AM on January 5, 2005

Last I looked, Santa Monica's pretty expensive. Any alternatives nearby? Malibu? (Full disclosure: Looking at moving near there for work. Was hoping to possibly move somewhere more rural, but...).
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:49 AM on January 5, 2005

Damn, Dreama, I've been trying to figure out how to answer this question for the last hour. It's really difficult without having any deal-breaker criteria.

Ref to drpynchon's comment, if you decide to buy, the quality of the public schools will matter, in terms of re-sale value of the house. Good public schools = better return on investment, regardless of whether or not your kids actually attend them.

All that being said, we enjoy living in the South Bay. Close enough to the beach without beach prices, good community feeling, plenty to do. But I doubt it would be easy, at least in my neighborhood, to find a house that would accommodate 10 people+. Can you give us a little more direction as to what you're looking for? What do you like / not like about where you're currently living? Do you need 9 bedrooms and a yard for under $500K?
posted by vignettist at 9:49 AM on January 5, 2005

I imagine that Malibu is going to be at least as expensive as Santa Monica. Most of the people I know who are buying a first home are having to go very far east into the Inland Empire or very far south into southern orange county because anything closer to the city is way too expensive.

They're doing that even though that gives them an hour commute each way, so I suspect somebody who didn't have to worry about a commute would certainly be looking to take that route. To say for sure though, how much are you looking to spend, and how many people to a room (I'm assuming with a family of 10 that there will be some doubling up, so do you need 2, 3, 4 or more bedrooms?

A 2 bedroom 2 bath condo in my area (South Bay) is currently going for over $300K plus monthly association dues of $200+. In Santa Monica, I'd guess your starting point would be closer to $500K. Homes are obviously much more expensive than Condos.
posted by willnot at 9:59 AM on January 5, 2005

I grew up in Long Beach, and rather enjoyed it.

Consider the South Bay -- it's not as much as Malibu and the like, and it's relatively mellow. Torrance, Cerritos, etc.

Plus, if you're lucky, there are some fabulous giant Craftsman homes in the middle of Long Beach...
posted by Katemonkey at 12:02 PM on January 5, 2005

I lived in Thousand Oaks 10 years ago. It's just over the northern LA County border in Ventura County. Commute to the San Fernando Valley is half an hour or so in light traffic, about an hour into LA proper. There's probably more population (and new homes) now as people flee the LA area, but I can't imagine that it's changed all that much. Nice suburbs, that "almost" rural feel, plenty of shopping, an hour to Santa Barbara, smog level is lower than the Valley or LA. It's about a half an hour to the beach (ZUMA!) over the Kanan-Dume road. The only negative I can recall is a heightened threat of brush fires in the summer and fall.
posted by deborah at 12:09 PM on January 5, 2005

i think it would help a bit to know what types of activities the family enjoys. i like pasadena, parts of west la, and santa monica for a more urban feel.. lots of shopping and movie theaters and bars and restaurants. lots of people walking around in the neighborhood.

or if you're looking for more sleepy suburbia where people drive everywhere... rancho palos verde, glendale, anything in a valley, really.
posted by mileena at 1:23 PM on January 5, 2005

The valley really isn't that bad. Almost everywhere in the line running between Northridge and North Hollywood (except NoHo itself) is not 'bad' and some areas are pretty nice, with non-exorbitant prices. Encino is also nice enough. Not many people seem to agree with me, but I rate Glendale pretty well too.

That said, I know people who commute in from Lancaster and live pretty cheaply up there.. if it's an option.
posted by wackybrit at 1:28 PM on January 5, 2005

I'll fourth or fifth Pasadena, which is reasonably affordable (a lot of junior faculty at CalState LA and CalTech purchase houses there). And it's got amenities, as they say. I spent most of my childhood in Westchester, which has some very nice areas and some very not-so-nice areas--be careful. (Warning: you're also likely to wind up in LAX's flight path.) Ditto Long Beach, another part of the world that veers from really lovely to really dangerous. Northridge could work.
posted by thomas j wise at 1:52 PM on January 5, 2005

The problem you're going to run into is that there are very few places in LA proper that can fit that many people comfortably (YMMV, I have a big apartment...), at any price. If you aren't completely set on living in the city, you might want to consider some of the outlying suburbs, like western San Bernardino County or Orange County.

Big differences between the two - OC is dramatically more expensive, and SB County has more smog, a longer drive to LA itself, and less culture (assuming shopping malls != culture). I lived in Rancho Cucamonga for 7 years or so, and there's quite a bit of space in most of the homes there, especially so with the newer ones.
posted by DoomGerbil at 3:22 PM on January 5, 2005

Don't count out areas like Long Beach and esp. the area around USC, there's a lot of houses that started out as tiny 600 sq ft. crackerboxes and, over the past half-century, grew to an amazing size capable of accomodating a large family. (Someone I dated for a short while lives in such a house in Riverside, but I wouldn't want to commute to LA from Riverside.)
posted by SpecialK at 4:46 PM on January 5, 2005

A few comments on previous suggestions:

1. Claremont. I went to school there, and got the impression that the town is mostly populated by older folks. Quiet with tree-lined streets, but not much going on... probably pretty expensive, too.

2. Calabasas. Quite expensive, and not terribly diverse. The area is beautiful, right in the foothills, but I don't know if I could stand the company.

I've always thought it would be nice to live somewhere between Calabasas and Santa Barbara off 101. Ventura, perhaps?
posted by lalas at 5:16 PM on January 5, 2005

Malibu's going to be considerably more expensive than Santa Monica, because it's less urban and has much larger land parcels.

I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley; Arcadia, where I lived, is now mostly ethnic Chinese, and if you're not Chinese you may find that disconcerting.

Pasadena remains one of my favorite places, and it's got a couple of excellent private schools, if you get tired of home-schooling. San Marino, next door, is also quite nice.

Honestly, if you're planning on a daily commute, you ought to say where to. L.A. isn't like New York - it's so much larger that many possible commute paths - even ones that look good on paper - are not physically possible at sane hours of the day, owing to omnipresent and completely unevadable traffic problems.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:56 PM on January 5, 2005

Lots of great answers. To clarify further (though I don't know how useful it is now) there will be no daily commute -- we work from home, such work that we do. We're indifferent regarding suburban versus middle-of-the-action. Currently we split our time between the middle of the city in Pittsburgh and the middle of nowhere out in the rural sticks of central Pennsylvania, so we're really acclimated to all extremes.

Some of the areas that I saw and liked included Marina del Ray and Santa Monica, and Manhattan Beach though that was more a visual appeal than a thought that it would really be suitable for a huge family. I know from prior experience that Glendale felt stifling and dreadful; is Pasadena anything like it? (Maybe I just hate it because a loathsome relative lives there.) I do like Venice, I spent a lot of time there when I visited last month, but it doesn't seem like a family-oriented community as much as a hipster enclave, am I reading it wrong? (Or was I in the wrong parts?)
posted by Dreama at 8:17 PM on January 5, 2005

Pasadena isn't that stifling in terms of activities, but it is hot.

How about some of the nicer out of the way places? Altadena is extremely nice and surprisingly affordable. It's within walking distance of the forest. Same goes with Sierra Madre, a nice older town. Sierra Madre is also near the light rail. Along the same vein are Monrovia and to a lesser extent Azusa. Azusa is building new houses on an old nursery and in the mouth of a canyon (along one of the roads leading up to the National Forest).

An affordable alternative to Claremont is Pomona. Some areas are sketchy, but many parts of the city, especially the area around the Fairgrounds and the historic districts, have the nice older homes you're looking for, and are safe. The city is really starting to revitalize. And housing prices are one half that of Claremont, but they are increasing fast; Pomona had the second highest rate of price increase in the County, after Inglewood. Homes that are more historic than Claremont on tree lined streets and a fairly stable community.

Inglewood still has a bad rap but it is starting to make a lot of inroads with the minority professionals who grew up there and are making an impact the community. The downtown is surprisingly functional, there are decent sized tracts with the houses you seek and the majority of them (especially on the north side) are not in drug addicted neighborhoods. Plus the location is great in terms of hitting the major job centers of the Airport, Downtown, and the Westside/Century City area. Unlike some of the other smaller towns in the area that have a majority minority population (think Compton, Lynwood, Maywood, all of which I would avoid), Inglewood has had a decent political reputation and is not corrupt. I would seriously consider Inglewood if you are on a budget.

Arcadia is not all Chinese; Asians are still the minority. Just wanted to correct that little misstatement there.
posted by calwatch at 8:55 PM on January 5, 2005

The valley really isn't that bad. Almost everywhere in the line running between Northridge and North Hollywood (except NoHo itself) is not 'bad' and some areas are pretty nice, with non-exorbitant prices. Encino is also nice enough. Not many people seem to agree with me, but I rate Glendale pretty well too.

That said, I know people who commute in from Lancaster and live pretty cheaply up there.. if it's an option.

Disagree in terms of the Valley. North Hills? Van Nuys? Some neighborhoods like that "Valley Village" near the Valley College are OK but the Valley is really a hit or miss option, although generally anything south of Ventura is automatically OK.

Lancaster and Palmdale aren't half bad if you plan on taking the commuter train to work. Be warned that the train fares are on par with New York fares, despite offering far less service. One way fare from Lancaster to Burbank is $10 one way or so. Luckily most downtown employers subsidize the train due to air quality regulations, so the majority don't end up paying the full fare.
posted by calwatch at 9:04 PM on January 5, 2005

Some of the areas that I saw and liked included Marina del Ray and Santa Monica, and Manhattan Beach though that was more a visual appeal than a thought that it would really be suitable for a huge family.

It sounds like you want to live near the beach but otherwise I would say give Santa Clarita a chance. It's a very family-friendly area and lots of outdoor recreation is just minutes away (which is also true for many areas in LA). The views are great, but the air quality is not so good.
posted by euphorb at 11:05 PM on January 5, 2005

On the Westside, parts of Inglewood are nice, as is most of Culver City, and the "Beverly Hills-adjacent" neighborhoods. You could also look at Torrance, which is a South Bay city in between LA and Long Beach. (And Glendale and Burbank are really quite nice, if you're in the right place.)
posted by Guy Smiley at 12:34 AM on January 6, 2005

Santa Clarita is the whitest city (over 50,000 population) in LA County though. Not saying that they're racist or anything, but that might be a consideration. (see this article for demographics)
posted by calwatch at 12:54 AM on January 7, 2005

Calwatch: Here's the current ethnic breakdown of Arcadia, where I was born and happily spent my first 17 years. Chinese are not still 'the' minority; Arcadia no longer possesses an ethnic majority.
  • White Non-Hispanic (40.1%)
  • Chinese (34.0%)
  • Hispanic (10.6%)
  • Other race (4.2%)
When you consider that most of the Chinese live in South Arcadia, and that neighboring towns such as Pasadena and El Monte have <4 % ethnic chinese, it starts to become comprehensible that there are entire shopping centers in arcadia where no english signage is found - which was rather a shock to me the first time i saw it.br>
As little as 20 years ago, Arcadia was 90+% white. Property values are some of the most racist things going in our fair country of America, and this particular demographic shift depressed them considerably. Since it was a city I'd known well for years, this was my introduction to such depressing realities. I still like Chinese folks, though, lest this be misinterpreted; and in the L.A. basin the phenomenon referred to as 'white flight' has been pretty near ubiquitous.

Dreama: it occurs to me that I didn't really answer your question. If I were in your shoes, today, I'd move to Malibu, or possibly somewhere far north in the Ventura direction. But I wouldn't move back to L.A. at all if I could help it; I think it's deeply, structurally broken.

Glendale is indeed a rather stifling mall surrounded by uninspired suburb; Venice is indeed full of twentysomething drug addicts hipsters. Santa Monica is a major destination because of its slightly seedy, alcohol-sodden nightlife, which is not particularly conductive to how I'd want to raise a family. Marina del Rey was pretty much built on the gated-community model, so it depends on how you feel about that. If I were single and moving back to L.A. I'd move to Manhattan Beach; it's nice.

Air quality will be better the closer you are to the coast, as long as you stay away from LAX.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:13 PM on January 7, 2005

When you consider that most of the Chinese live in South Arcadia, and that neighboring towns such as Pasadena and El Monte have <4 % ethnic chinese, it starts to become comprehensible that there are entire shopping centers in arcadia where no english signage is found - which was rather a shock to me the first time i saw it. br>
By your own link, El Monte has over 10% Chinese population. And there are entire shopping centers without English in lots of places. Huntington Park (Spanish), Glendale (Armenian), Monterey Park (Chinese), Westminster (Vietnamese), etc. If that bothers you (or the original poster), you need to reconsider whether or not the location is good for you. And the fact is that Chinese moving in have raised property values, not depressed them through "white flight". See, for instance, Monterey Park. For the original poster, housing prices in all Southern California cities have increased and even with a minor correction (I anticipate a 10% correction in the next two years), the rate of growth (5 million more people by 2020 in the five-county Los Angeles metro area) will ensure that prices continue to increase by double digit percentages each year.

I don't like the City of Los Angeles either. I find it to be somewhat corrupt and extremely bureaucratic. Too much petty squabbling and governmental incompetence. Just look at the quality of the roads in the City. Interestingly, the unincorporated County (places like Altadena, La Crescenta, portions of Santa Clarita) is better taken care of.
posted by calwatch at 11:41 AM on January 8, 2005

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