Cheap Quirky Neighborhood in Los Angeles
July 23, 2012 8:01 AM   Subscribe

I am looking to transplant to Los Angeles to take care of my mother who recently got very sick. I need to find an apartment for the two of us, but I have one constraint and one hope: 1) money problems are going to be a very big deal, so keeping rent cheap is a must, and it needs to be wheelchair-friendly. 2) I would like to be in some kind of artsy, young neighborhood, just so I can stay sane and keep this up for as long as possible. My mother is extremely abusive, and I would like to try to live an actual life as much as possible. I am still young, and a fun neighborhood would change the picture significantly.

Looking at Craigslist has me feeling very lost. I have heard the names of certain neighborhoods before that seem like what I am looking for, but the prices look beyond my means. (Los Feliz, Silverlake, Echo Park.)(Other neighborhoods have the word 'Beach' in them, which sounds fun, but I don't know much else about them. A hippie-ish atmosphere would be fine too. My mother does love the beach.)

Is there a neighborhood that sounds like it could work, based on these constraints? Is Craigslist misleading? I used to have good luck with it in different cities, but maybe I am living in a fantasy world? I was thinking a 2 bedroom apartment or tiny house, for maybe 1600 or less (if only it could be significantly less!) I am guessing that is wildly impossible. I can take a dressing much do I need to totally recalibrate?

I have lived in all kinds of sketchy places, and am not looking for sleek and shiny, just affordable and reasonably safe, and as quirky/artsy (for lack of a better word) as possible, for the least amount of money. There is additional family in Westwood, so I don't want to be hours and hours away in the hinterlands, but I know I will need to be far-ish away. Still, I'd like to minimize avoidable distance if possible. Any ideas would be very welcome.

If you have a perfect secret neighborhood but don't want to advertise it to the internet at large, you can email me at

posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Venice, Playa Vista, Palms, West LA, Hermosa or Redondo Beach.
posted by Rash at 8:16 AM on July 23, 2012

A friend of mine, who is very much tied into the culture of Los Angeles and well connected with people, recently got kicked out of her san fernando valley home and had to move. After much searching, she was able to find a two-bedroom in a decent neighborhood for 1700. Anither friend of mine is in a Glendale house for 1740, but she would move if she could match the amenities at that price, and her landlord is terrible. So your budget is likely close, but going substantially less with a reasonable amount of artsy hipness would require, say, living in Highland Park or thereabouts. Which is to say, there are some new restaurants and bars catering to a younger crowd, but you would still be pioneering somewhat.

My recommendation to you would be to focus on your mother for the first year; find a neighborhood near or in that has the kind of amenities she needs, and that you can afford, in that order. Perhaps someone else here can help you with the list of amenable neighborhoods, then you can start hunting in those to see which are cheaper.

Live in a place like that while you get settled in, so you have your family's support, including easy access to someone who can check on your mom while you spend a lot of time in Los Angeles proper, having a social life and learning about the neighborhoods. During this time, avoid accumulating a lot of stuff, and keep yourself move-out ready (within reason) so that a year from move-in you will be ready to relocate where you really want to be (plus seei some stuff in boxes will remind you that this is temporary, to help retain your sanity.)
posted by davejay at 8:29 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Er, near or in Westwood, is what i meant to say in the second paragraph.
posted by davejay at 8:30 AM on July 23, 2012

What I'd do is see if your mom is eligible for any state assistance or agency assistance.

Here's a link to a promising site.

You'll find pockets of what you want in lots of So Cal communities. Venice is both sketchy and artsy. But you can live in Burbank if you have to.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:37 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Here's a listing of Accessible houses in LA County. Many seem to be in LA proper.

One place I like to go to see what kind of neighborhood it is is Claritas Prizm. You pop a zip code in and it will show you, using market segmentation, the kind of folks in your neighborhood.

Good luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:41 AM on July 23, 2012

Is your mother's case assigned to a social worker via a hospital or rehab or home care? That person might have some resources to which they can refer you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:15 AM on July 23, 2012

A lot of the hip artsy places are going to be out of your price range (which you were not actually explicit about but I assume is low compared to here unless you are coming from Manhattan or something). That puts you in a cheaper place next to a nicer place. Not a walk, but a short drive.

The hip artsy place by the beach is "Venice Beach". That will be pricey for not much space. Places near that might work... like Mar Vista, Playa Vista, Culver City.

The hip artsy place inland is typically Silverlake. Near-ish to that would be cheaper places like Echo Park, Glendale, and Eagle Rock.
posted by milqman at 9:22 AM on July 23, 2012

Highland Park & Eagle Rock are two relatively cheap neighborhoods (adjacent) that are developing into artsy/cool the way Echo Park & Silverlake did over the last decade or so. Echo Park, Silverlake, Highland Park, that whole vertical stripe of Los Angeles is really hilly too. It's usually configured with a main road down the bottom of a canyon and residential streets snaking up the sides, which I mention for reasons of accessibility. Hollywood is still fairly hip, moreso as you move west along Sunset/Santa Monica Blvds. The rents rise exponentially in the same direction though. It's also relatively flat.

I'm sad to report that the rental market here has gotten really incredibly bad/expensive since 2007/8. You can likely find something within your budget, but it'll take some patience and a whole lotta looking.

To that end, here are two sites that are worth using:
PadMapper, free, lets you save lists and searches, great graphical interface, does halfway decent job keeping up with Craigslist ads.
West Side Rentals, not free (but you can usually 'sublet' a membership if you look on Craigslist), not as excellent as it used to be, but still very useful. Powerful search criteria, large selection of properties.
posted by carsonb at 9:26 AM on July 23, 2012

Eagle Rock was my thought, too, for a neighborhood that's developing in the artsy direction but is still (relatively) affordable. (Silver Lake and Los Feliz are totally out of your price range; Echo Park may still be possible.)

Just over the hill in the very eastern part of the Valley, there's a cool neighborhood on the west edge of Burbank around Magnolia Blvd; there's also a cool-ish strip a little further west on Magnolia in North Hollywood (aka NoHo), but the majority of NoHo is still pretty dodgy. (I live nearby in Toluca Lake, so if you do start looking for listings in those areas, feel free to send me the addresses or coordinates and I can try to assess if they're in a decent area or not.) The Valley in general is more affordable, so it's more likely you could find a 2-BR apartment or duplex unit for $1600.
posted by scody at 10:19 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The San Fernando "Valley" is also terminally unhip, FWIW.
posted by carsonb at 10:30 AM on July 23, 2012

Try Eagle Rock, Highland Park, and Atwater Village. I'm not sure of your price range, but to give you an idea of what you're looking at, you are unlikely to find a decent two bedroom apartment for less than $1500 in these areas. Silver Lake and Los Feliz are more expensive than that, and Echo Park is - sadly - getting more expensive, too.

If being close to your family in Westwood is a priority, and your mother would get something out of living near the beach, Mar Vista is also a good option. I am a stubborn East Sider, but I have a lot of friends who live in Mar Vista and it seems affordable, unpretentious, and hip in places.

Craiglist sucks in LA. West Side Rentals is where it's at, but don't discount just driving around and calling the numbers on "For Rent" signs.

The rental market here is insane. Good luck!
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:33 AM on July 23, 2012

For folks who didn't catch anonymous' price range:

I was thinking a 2 bedroom apartment or tiny house, for maybe 1600 or less (if only it could be significantly less!)
posted by Rock Steady at 10:42 AM on July 23, 2012

Well I commend your willingness to take care of your mother during this time it concerns me that you say she is "extremely abusive." Considering her abusive nature, and the fact that you are not a trained medical or home care provider (or maybe you are), I am thinking maybe the money spent on a move and new place might be better spent hiring outside help to care for her supplemented with regular phone calls and a visit or two from you?

Just a thought! It is hard enough to be a live-in caretaker let alone in an abusive situation. And if she wears you down with her abuse, you might not be in the best frame of mind to take adequate care of her anyway.
posted by click at 10:46 AM on July 23, 2012 [8 favorites]

$1600 for a two-bedroom in Los Angeles is not impossible, but requires some searching. I don't know about wheelchair-accessible. Does that just mean "no stairs", or does that mean that the hallways need to be wide and the bathrooms need to be accessible?

Others have noted the high prices in all the obvious hip places, which I (sadly) agree with. You might try Highland Park, which is pretty awesome but definitely not as sanitized-gentrified as Silver Lake. You could probably do HP for less than your price range, but a) the housing you'll get there is not going to be very fancy, generally, and b) I don't know about wheelchair-accessible, it's a lot of old housing stock, and c) it is super far from Westwood. The drive out there will be pretty bad. But if that is less important to you, I would definitely consider HP. It's awesome!

(You will get a certain kind of person claiming that HP is unsafe, but I don't agree. There are pockets that are less nice but mostly it's just a working/middle-class Latino neighborhood. It does not, however, look like West LA.)

You might also look at Culver City, which is having something of an arts renaissance. It's much closer to Westwood, and the housing stock is (somewhat) newer. Downside is that unless you can figure out some kind of housing subsidy, it's going to be really tough to find something in your price range.

There are parts of the Valley that are semi-arty. North Hollywood has pockets that are explicitly trying to be The Official Arts District. But it has a lot of boom apartment housing that is kind of expensive, faux loft things, and I think that drives the prices up. It might still be worth a look to look on Padmapper or Craigslist in that section of the Valley, because it's a relatively short drive (you can skip the 405 and take the canyons) to Westwood.

I have never had good luck with Westside Rentals. I've always found that most of the stuff that gets posted there is also on Craigslist. Craigslist is harder to search but nets you more of the landlord renting out their lone back house kind of thing, which may be what you want for your price range and needs.

I've found pretty good listings on the The Rental Girl.

I think davejay and Ruthless Bunny have really good advice. The good thing about LA is that it's huge, and even lame neighborhoods are going to have pockets of cool young people eating ramen at 1 AM. So maybe focus just on finding something semi-near family that you can afford (honestly... deep in the Valley is probably going to be your best option for this. Not cool, no, but if you need a $1300 two-bedroom nearish to family, that's probably going to be where you'll find it.) and work out where to find your people later? Good luck. This sounds really stressful. I hate, hate, hate apartment hunting in LA, it drives me bananas every time.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:54 AM on July 23, 2012

As usual, LA people here as elsewhere are ignoring the South Bay but inland from Redondo you could also find something acceptable in Torrance (which is even less hip than the Valley).
posted by Rash at 11:48 AM on July 23, 2012

The San Fernando "Valley" is also terminally unhip, FWIW.

95% of the Valley is a cultural wasteland, sure. But the westernmost corner of Burbank, known as Magnolia Park, really is hipsterizing/gentrifying fairly rapidly (there's been a boom in vintage/retro clothing stores, record/comic stores, yoga studios, dive bars, etc. in the past few years). The NoHo arts district also has a similar dynamic going on, plus has tons of small neighborhood theaters (plus: Republic of Pie). They're definitely no Silver Lake, but they're no Van Nuys either.
posted by scody at 11:48 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

We're ignoring the South Bay and the Valley because it doesn't sound like the OP would like - or in the case of the South Bay, be able to afford - living there.

Don't move to Burbank! Don't move to Torrance! Don't move to Noho! You can find something you'll like within your budget closer to your family (Mar Vista, Culver City) or in a hipp-ish Eastside Location (Atwater Village, Eagle Rock). LA is expensive, but it's not that expensive. If you're moving here from somewhere less massive, you don't want to be a long freeway ride away from where you want to hang out, or your family. It will bum you out for real. Getting from North Hollywood or Burbank to Westwood will make you want to claw your eyes out even more than coming from Highland Park. The Sepulveda Pass is the worst.

Honestly, I'd opt to be closer to family. You might really like the Westside, and having family within easy driving distance might make your life a whole lot easier.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:02 PM on July 23, 2012

If you have trouble finding something in your price range in the type of neighborhood you're looking for, you might consider being "public transit adjacent" to the more expensive neighborhood by living very close to a red line station in a less expensive neighborhood. That would give you easy access to hollywood, los feliz, and downtown. Lots of fun things to do in all of those places. Just a thought.
posted by heisenberg at 1:37 PM on July 23, 2012

I loved living in Glendale/Burbank. It was walking distance to a lot of places. We had a tiny house (with a fenced yard! And a detached garage/shop!) for just over $1000. This was a year ago, but I don't think it has changed that much. My brother-in-law took over our house and things seem the same when we visit.
posted by kamikazegopher at 2:25 PM on July 23, 2012

Just wanted to say that my cousin, a terminal hipster is living in Glendale.

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:04 AM on July 24, 2012

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