Loading up the truck and move on to Bev-- er, Oxnard.
January 15, 2011 10:58 AM   Subscribe

I'm considering a move from middle America to the northern Los Angeles, CA region. What do I need to know?

A few specifics...I'm coming from Springfield, IL and if I do this I'd be working in the Thousand Oaks, CA region. In looking at a map, I'd think I'd live north or west of Thousand Oaks to get further away from LA and the extreme housing costs, so perhaps Oxnard or thereabouts... A lot depends on housing and costs.

I'm looking at about a 60% increase in base salary, which according to online salary calculators should be about "break even" for quality of life and expenses.

Having a house is a must for me and my family. Apartments and the like would be too small.

If I take this job, my wife would also need to then find work in the Los Angeles area.


1) How's the housing market out there?
2) How's the job market out there?
3) Is 60% increase in pay too much, too little, just right?
4) What else do I need to know? Any extreme things that make this a "don't do"?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A 60% increase to what, is the question? If you were making six figures and got a 60% increase is a different story than if you were making $50K and got a 60% increase.

I temporarily moved from NYC to an LA County suburb (Santa Clarita) and damn was everything expensive. Seriously, I lived a working-class life in New York, but never wanting and had plenty of variety. When I was in LA, I had quite literally one supermarket I could shop at in my city without going broke. It was not a good supermarket.

Also, remember that you are living in a desert. Always keep a sweater in the car; it'll be about 100+ in the AM and drop to a chilly 50 at night, regularly.
posted by griphus at 11:07 AM on January 15, 2011

Oxnard? Why? You'll spend most of your life on the freeways. Are you buying or renting? There's quite a few foreclosures in the SFV and points north--check the MLS or CL.

California has very high unemployment, but the chances of your wife finding work depend on what field she's in. Be prepared to pay more in taxes.

I think Santa Clarita is more expensive than LA proper, because you've got less choice. Here in the actual city, there's ethnic markets, Costco, supermarket chains, farmer's markets, etc..

And yes, it's a desert, but the closer you are to the ocean, the less severe the heat.

Thousand Oaks is really more Ventura County than it is Los Angeles. It's a collection of big suburbs, more than small towns/cities, which you find in the San Gabriel Valley, like Pasadena or Glendale.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:21 AM on January 15, 2011

Oxnard is predominantly Mexican, fwiw.
Schools are not well regarded. Gang problems (although this isn't too uncommon in CA.)

If you have kids, California public schools might be a shock to you in terms of class size and resources. You need to pick your neighborhood based on schools and commute. If your kids are small, childcare is very expensive.

Job market is not great.

Houses are much smaller than you're probably used to. Kids share bedrooms.

If you can give real numbers and more info (kids, wife's field), we can probably help more.
posted by k8t at 11:28 AM on January 15, 2011

Santa Clarita is not more expensive than LA proper (and there is no "LA proper," really). I was out there for the first few years I lived in California after moving here from Kansas. I didn't own a home, but I house-shopped. Property is still expensive out there, but not nearly what it is in LA. Rent is even cheaper.

But, yes, it is a desert, and while there are some absolutely beautiful views out there, it really can feel like you're out in the middle of nowhere, depending on which part of Santa Clarita you're in. I would avoid Canyon Country, for instance. Valencia is nice, though uber suburban. Expect a long commute from anywhere in SC to just about anywhere else. I spent an average of two hours on the road every day when I would commute to the San Fernando Valley from Valencia. In short - it's not a bad place to live, but it wouldn't be my first choice.

Unfortunately, there's no way for us to guess the benefits of a 60% salary increase without knowing what you're jumping up from. The job market out here is iffy. It's better than it was, say, a couple of years ago, but this is also somewhat dependent on the industry. What do you do?
posted by katillathehun at 11:35 AM on January 15, 2011

You need to get clear on the that that you will be nowhere near Los Angeles. Thousand Oaks is a minimum of an hour's drive each way in terms of a weekday commute. You need to consider that when thinking that your wife will find work in the "Los Angeles area."
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:39 AM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would avoid Canyon Country, for instance. Valencia is nice, though uber suburban.

I lived in a shitty apartment complex off the highway literally on the border of the two and I completely agree with this. Being out in the middle of Canyon Country at night was spooky as hell, whereas Valencia was where they shot the affluent-suburbs scenes in Weeds (the overhead shots of "little boxes" included.) It's literally nothing but cul-de-sacs. A day trip to downtown LA was three hours each way, and it wasn't even during rush-hour.
posted by griphus at 11:43 AM on January 15, 2011

Scratch that, Weeds was filmed in Stevenson Ranch, which is part of Santa Clarita (along with Valencia, Canyon Country and Newhall.)
posted by griphus at 11:47 AM on January 15, 2011

Mod note: This is a followup from the asker.
The original asker said they are going from 95k per year to 155k per year, wife makes 55k and has extensive experience in management and telecommunications (call centers, cell phone companies, 11 years experience in management).

Thanks for any help you can offer.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:57 AM on January 15, 2011

Ventura or Camarillo might be worth a look.
posted by k8t at 12:04 PM on January 15, 2011

I moved from St. Louis to Santa Clarita and I don't remember noticing that groceries were more expensive. Housing, yes, but our other expenditures didn't noticeably increase. I was in my early 20's at the time and my husband and I lived comfortably (albeit in one-bedroom apartments) on $45,000 a year.

I would definitely not want to drive from Santa Clarita to Thousand Oaks every day. Things that look close on a map in southern California can take much longer than you'd expect on the freeway. Before you commit to living anywhere, do the drive from your potential office in rush hour.
posted by something something at 12:06 PM on January 15, 2011

Valencia was where they shot the affluent-suburbs scenes in Weeds (the overhead shots of "little boxes" included.)

Actually, that overhead shot is of Calabasas, near the LA/Ventura county line on the 101. But you're correct otherwise.
posted by LionIndex at 12:34 PM on January 15, 2011

Look north, northeast, or southeast. The San Fernando Valley has its pockets of goodness. (I spent most of my 20's near Universal Studios.) I've heard nice things about Moorpark, which has a train station.

Commuting long distances by car in SoCal is a right foul b*^(h. Commuter rail in SoCal has been slowly evolving for nearly 20 years, and isn't too bad.
posted by luckynerd at 12:39 PM on January 15, 2011

If I were you, I'd come out here to take a look. Visit the office site -- is it in Thousand Oaks proper? A little north or south? Visit some supermarkets and restaurants -- are the prices comparable to back home?

You're talking about an enormous urban area and the range of lifestyle choices is really limitless. Yes, you can find affordable housing somewhere, but it might be a hellacious commute. Or maybe you can find reasonable housing right there in Thousand Oaks. Or not. There's no right answer here and because the area is so gigantic it's really hard for us to give you a specific answer.

And to respond to what someone said above -- there is an LA-proper, and Thousand Oaks, Oxnard, Santa Clarita, Valencia et al are not it. Thousand Oaks isn't even in Los Angeles county.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:00 PM on January 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

I moved to the same area from the Midwest. Agreeing with others that you will not be in LA. Housing prices will be much more expensive, other costs moderately so. I'd look for houses in Thousand Oaks (pricey), Camarillo (slightly less pricey), Oxnard and Ventura.
We lived in Oxnard and later Camarillo. My morning commute was about 20-40 minutes. Evening commute was 45-60. You'll learn to plan trips around the traffic.
Produce will be much better and cheaper than you are used to. They have huge strawberry fields in Oxnard with lots of roadside stands so be sure to take advantage.
Take road trips up the coast a bit to Santa Barbara. Beautiful drive to a beautiful city.
When you need to drive to LAX, it can be faster to take the PCH along the coast instead of having to deal with the 405.
posted by Eddie Mars at 1:30 PM on January 15, 2011

Oh, and as mentioned, the closer to the ocean you are, the cooler it will stay. If you are close enough to the coast you won't ever need an air conditioner but up in Thousand Oaks the temp will hit 100 occasionally. The only drawback is that the coast can be covered in low clouds and fog for months at a time: "June Gloom".
posted by Eddie Mars at 1:34 PM on January 15, 2011

I grew up in Peoria and now live in LA (proper, at least that's what my DL says). The shock was a bit muted for me, though, because I spent 5 years in Chicago between the two.

95k in Springfield is practically living like a king. 155k in LA is doing well, but I don't think it scales up that well. From my central IL experience, housing costs are more than 60% higher out here. I've pretty much given up on the idea of buying real estate in Southern California. If you're going make the move, do it because you like the area or the weather because there is a cost involved with having both of those things.

And just an FYI, I'm currently sitting outside on my patio in a t-shirt and shorts. The winters are comparatively awesome.
posted by hwyengr at 1:35 PM on January 15, 2011

My parents live in Thousand Oaks. It's very pretty there (it's a "desert scrub on the hills" pretty, but it is pretty. But they have hills. Oh yes they do). It's a bedroom community (pretty much everyone commutes to their job rather than working in TO) and fairly affluent.

And welcome to California seasons. We have the warm one, the hot one, and the cool and rainy one.

One odd part about CA along the coast is the microclimates. Don't assume that because it's hot here that it's going to be hot ten miles away (it might be unbelievably hot there. Or quite nice). You have all sorts of hills and canyons in between you and the ocean and this can make a difference of 10-20 degrees in your daytime temperature. Pick your region carefully.

Housing prices have dropped, but it's still mind-meltingly expensive. I really hope you've already looked at housing prices or else you are in for an ugly shock.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 1:37 PM on January 15, 2011

Without knowing anything more, I don't think you should do it unless there's some other extenuating reason behind wanting to come here - just a little more money and a different job doesn't feel like enough of a reason to uproot yourselves and move halfway across the country to a place where your quality of life has the potential to be much worse, and if you're coming here wondering about it, it seems like you have major doubts yourself. And this is coming from someone who loves Los Angeles.

If there's another factor in the move; you don't like where you are now, you're originally from California, you've had a bad run of things in your current location, your kids are having trouble in school or under negative influences, you've just lost your job, you really need a change of pace, then yeah, I'd say go for it. But if you like where you are now, why move?

Everything will be more expensive, but $155k a year should be enough to provide for a family of 4 if you aren't a spendthrift. It's hard for us to know what your current lifestyle is like, though.
posted by incessant at 1:37 PM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Use map-based sites like padmapper and redfin to get an idea of rental and housing prices. Redfin also overlays school info, which makes it useful even if you are only looking to rent. Commuting here really is a huge pain, so really think hard about that before you consider moving somewhere that's a good distance away from your job. Consider townhouses as well as single-family homes.

I'm not familiar with prices of anything in IL to be able to give you a comparison, but I think its safe to assume that everything is more expensive. However, there has to be more to this equation than just money. Weather, lifestyle, the new job, all of those things should be considered too.

Honestly though, with the figures you quoted in your follow-up I think you will be just fine. Plenty of people live around here on much less and have a good lifestyle, just don't expect to be moving into a 4 bed 3000 sq ft mansion. Houses are smaller here, but the upside is the amazing weather and the access to beaches, mountains and parks.
posted by Joh at 1:59 PM on January 15, 2011

To highlight a point made by others, buying homes in SoCal is challenging, to say the least. You'll be renting likely, if you're okay with that.
posted by k8t at 2:40 PM on January 15, 2011

I grew up in Oxnard and have lived in Thousand Oaks, Calabasas, and Oak Park. Since I lived in my parent's house while I lived in Oxnard and was in school/an apartment while I lived in the other places I can't provide too much help on your specific questions, but please feel free to memail me if you have more general questions about the area.

Oxnard is a more "urban" environment, compared to Thousand Oaks, etc. There are great pockets of Oxnard and some newer areas are being developed, but, like any small city, it has some more seedy areas as well. Thousand Oaks, etc. are your more stereotypical suburbs where we, as the apartment dwellers, were the "seedy" element compared to the home owners. If you have kids/are planning on it, Oxnard schools are pretty miserable (I know from whence I speak, both of my parents were teachers and struggled with the lack of available resources, etc.) and Camarillo, Thousand Oaks, etc. definitely have better ones.

Also, when you're looking at commute distance for both you and your wife, remember that number of miles means very little. I don't know how familiar you are with SoCal traffic, but it can be horrible. For example, commuting from Thousand Oaks or Oxnard into LA proper at all would be pretty untenable, depending on your tolerance for lots of time in the car. I commuted regularly from Oak Park to USC, and it was miserable even though I left at non-rush hour times.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 4:01 PM on January 15, 2011

Drought. Mudslides. Forest fires. Smog. Earthquakes. Crowded freeways. The state, counties, cities, and schools are all in bad financial trouble. The ground isn't all level — it has mountains, valleys, hills, canyons — and the natural color of the ground is brown. You pay a big premium to live there, so, as previously mentioned, you hafta have a good reason (or at least want it pretty bad) to make it worth it. But heck, Midwesterners move to LA all the time. (I think they about balance the ones moving back to the Midwest.)
posted by exphysicist345 at 5:05 PM on January 15, 2011

total derail, but it might make you look silly if you bust out with this "fun fact" at one of your job interviews:

2. That bear on the Cali flag...apparently it was imaged after a gigantic bear that was shot and killed in the area years and years ago.

Completely not true. The design of the flag comes from the Bear Flag Revolt which took place in Sonoma county, the grizzly on the current flag is modeled after a grizzly bear captured on the the order of Wm. Randolph Hearst and kept at Golden Gate Park. His name was Monarch. He was captured in Ojai, so maybe that's the source of the rumor you heard, but he was certainly not shot there.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:12 PM on January 15, 2011

Coyotes are not scary. They attack cats and dogs, but will keep their distance from humans. If a coyote were to attack a human it would be so shocking it would make the news. OP I hope you plan to actually fly out and visit TO and see if you like the area. It's not to everyone's taste, but personally I think it is incredibly beautiful, and I'd much rather live out here than in the cold Midwest.
posted by Joh at 7:24 PM on January 15, 2011

I also grew up in Oxnard (& am there right now in fact, visiting my parents) -- feel free to memail me with any questions.
posted by changeling at 4:59 AM on January 16, 2011

I live in the area. Housing costs won't vary terribly much from town to town. Each area has pricey and cheap areas. Oxnard has been mentioned. Not a bad town, cheap mechanics, great Mexican food, gangs. Thousand Oaks itself has the least crime, unless you count white collar crime. The rest are somewhere in between.

If you live within 20 miles of Thousand Oaks, you are in short commute range. You are generally correct about the cost being cheaper west of TO than it is east. Calabasas and Agoura Hills are "nice". I wouldn't live there.

Ventura County in general is nice. You won't want to commute from San Fernando Valley, that's pushing it, and SFV isn't much to look at. You can't feasibly commute to TO from Santa Clarita either. Santa Barbara would be pushing it somewhat.

Live in Ventura, Camarillo, Simi Valley, Moorpark, Thousand Oaks, or Oxnard. Except for older west side Ventura, they are all pretty much suburban, which means they are all exactly like any other suburban town in the U.S., so it really doesn't matter. The schools are all about the same.

Ojai, north of Ventura is very nice. Not affluent white suburban nice, either, it's genuinely nice. Working class to aristocracy, hippies, bikers, etc. It's 35-45 minutes to TO from Ojai, so its doable as a commute. It's a bit off the beaten track, which keeps out the riff raff.
posted by Xoebe at 5:22 PM on January 17, 2011

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