Where are the best places in LA to live with a family?
April 15, 2013 8:29 AM   Subscribe

You're considering a move to Los Angeles for a job in Irvine. You and your (stay-at-home) wife are both in your early 30s, and have two young (under two years old) children. You were raised in the midwest, and prefer the suburbs. You want to live in an area that has lots of other young families and easy access to eating and shopping and preschools and other things like that. You don't want to spend more than 30 minutes or so commuting. You want to spend about $3,000 per month on rent for a 3+ bedroom single-family-home (or condo, you suppose). What areas of Los Angeles do you focus on?
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Um, Irvine? And quite a few of its surrounding communities, like parts of Tustin, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, etc. Irvine is technically not in LA and you don't really want to look for places in LA, and probably not north of Anaheim or Santa Ana. If you want a sub-30 minute commute, you're probably going to be living in Orange County.

It's a safe suburb with lots of shopping and malls and all that and obviously close to your job.
posted by LionIndex at 8:37 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


First off, stop looking in Los Angeles. With your specifications, you definitely want to live in Orange County.

Orange (the city itself), Fullerton, Irvine, Anaheim Hills (not Anaheim), Newport Beach, and Huntington Beach all have areas like you're looking for. Lots of places in South Orange County will also have areas like what you're looking for. I'm sure you'll find a great place for your family!
posted by erst at 8:37 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you're going to work in Irvine, you do not live in Los Angeles. You live in Irvine, Newport Beach, Mission Viejo, or one of the other areas just south of Irvine. Irvine is flat and boring, but it has great schools, no crime, and a great family atmosphere, and good housing there costs less than anyplace in Los Angeles that has decent schools. I live in and love Los Angeles, but if I worked in Irvine I would live in south Orange County and probably never goto LA if I didn't have to.
posted by The World Famous at 8:38 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Irvine is far too south to want to live in LA proper. Erst's advice is going to do well by you, but I'd add in Costa Mesa as well.
posted by bswinburn at 8:39 AM on April 15, 2013


Irvine is SO FAR from LA. The traffic will make you miserable is you live outside Orange County.

I have a cousin who lives in Irvine, and I rarely see her. It is that far, and the traffic sucks that bad. They don't call the LA/Orange County border "The Orange Curtain" for nothing.

If you can afford to live in one of the beach cities, do it! Much more fun than Irvine. Newport Beach and Huntington Beach have a lot more life in them than Irvine, and they are still safe, family-friendly places to live.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 8:43 AM on April 15, 2013


Yeah, just seconding everyone else: you want stay in Orange County. As a datapoint, I used to live in Pasadena, just north of downtown LA. It once took two and a half hours to drive to my friend's house in Laguna Beach, which is just south of Irvine. Live as close to your job as you possibly can. Southern California traffic has its reputation for a reason.
posted by something something at 8:52 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know everyone is already piling on, but yes - Irvine is far enough south in Orange county that you don't want to be looking in Los Angeles. Not long after moving to Los Angeles (the San Fernando Valley specifically) I landed a job interview in Irvine - looking at the map, 55 miles was further than I really wanted to go, but I really needed a job and said to myself, "Eh, 55 miles on the freeway? I can deal with a 45-60 minute drive for a while."

It took me over two hours to get there, and that wasn't even during peak traffic. I was glad not to get the job! Granted, the Valley is an extreme example but in general: If you can manage it, move as close as you possibly can to your place of employment; Otherwise you're going to spend a lot of time in your car. I did that for a year or so (driving from the Valley to Santa Monica, 3 hours a day in the car was not unusual no matter how many shortcuts I tried) and it gets old really, really fast.
posted by usonian at 9:10 AM on April 15, 2013


Irvine is 2+ hour drive to LA.

Are you confusing Los Angeles the city with Los Angeles County? The latter has a larger geographical area, but in any event, you would want to live in Orange County (which is where Irvine is).
posted by dfriedman at 9:21 AM on April 15, 2013


Hey guys - I think it should be pretty clear to the OP at this point that they should look for a place in Orange County.

Are there any Orange County mefites with helpful suggestions? Specific neighborhoods?
posted by ablazingsaddle at 9:27 AM on April 15, 2013


[This is a followup from the asker.]
I was considering "Los Angeles" to be the giant city in southern California.... not LA specifically. Sounds like Orange County is where I should be looking -- but where specifically?
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:55 AM on April 15, 2013


Yes, Irvine itself, Mission Viejo, Newport. I wouldn't even recommend Huntington Beach (no freeway access, not the easiest commute, though nice enough schools) or Orange or Fullerton (too far). To put things in context, when I was younger, my mother worked by John Wayne and we lived in Anaheim. The commute in traffic was easily 45 minutes.

Now personally, I cannot imagine any job that would make it worth moving to South County to me, so I recommend strongly you go visit before you take the job.
posted by dame at 9:58 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Irvine or Tustin are my votes. There are some nice areas around the Irvine/Tustin border (near the Tustin Metrolink station).
posted by luckynerd at 10:00 AM on April 15, 2013


Irvine. It's very nice for a suburb.

Any particular reason you're not starting there? Trust and believe, a great commute is going to make a HUGE difference in how you perceive the success of this move.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:05 AM on April 15, 2013


I lived in Tustin for about five years, right on the border with Irvine. Nice enough area, if boring. The Tustin Ranch part is the nicest and spendiest, but downtown Tustin is kind of charming with some good restaurants, etc. The whole area around Irvine is kind of soul-crushing in a completely manmade sort of way. Lots of HOA places with restrictions about what you can do to your house. That kind of thing.

But Orange County can be an interesting place, once you get past the conservative politics and superficiality. You just have to be prepared to dig.

If I was forced to move back there, I'd live in Costa Mesa or Huntington Beach.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:06 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just want to point out that the OP is from the Midwest and prefers the suburbs, so a lot of the characteristics that might make some of these areas seem "soulless" to some - lots of big-box retail, HOA-run neighborhoods, chain restaurants, etc. - might be a plus for them.
posted by jeoc at 10:32 AM on April 15, 2013


I'd stick to Irvine itself, especially if you're raising a family. The schools are good, especially University High School, and there's a lot of local parks and a big regional one. There's the Irvine Spectrum for your touristy mall needs, and the usual big box stores everywhere. Irvine has a strong Asian and Iranian population so it's relatively easy to find places to eat that aren't chain restaurants.

You'll need a car to go nearly everywhere, but when my family moved to Irvine, we lived in a neighborhood (Northwood Village) that was just down the street from my elementary school. My best friend lived on the next street over, and we were allowed to ride our bikes to school and to the swimming pool. The community, with its shopping center within walking distance, had a small town feel and the independence was kind of cool for a seven-year-old.
posted by book 'em dano at 10:43 AM on April 15, 2013


It might be useful to check out the LA Metro and Orange County transportation networks for commuting purposes, proximity to home and work and fun, etc. For example, I recently moved to Claremont, which is at the far east end of LA County. It's 30ish miles from downtown LA, but there's a train a few blocks from my house that takes me direct to Union Station, and from there most anywhere.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:50 AM on April 15, 2013


Just want to point out that the OP is from the Midwest and prefers the suburbs, so a lot of the characteristics that might make some of these areas seem "soulless" to some - lots of big-box retail, HOA-run neighborhoods, chain restaurants, etc. - might be a plus for them.

South County is pretty different from any other suburb I've been to and very different from the Midwest. And that is why I would say visit. It is odd and can be awesome or off-putting, but if someone is calling Orange County "LA", they probably don't know enough to know what it's like.
posted by dame at 10:51 AM on April 15, 2013


I agree with those who suggest visiting first. I don't like Irvine, but you might. Or you might hate it and put up with a longer commute to live in Costa Mesa.

All of the places people suggested are suburban, but the flavor of suburb in Southern California is a little different than in the Midwest.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:59 AM on April 15, 2013


I live in Irvine and work in Orange. Irvine is super boring and everything closes at 9pm (except Korean food, which is open 24/7). But it is safe and family friendly.

If you're looking for a sub-30 min commute to Irvine you're limited to mainly the surrounding cities. Irvine has a huge number of employers, so almost everyone on the roads during normal commute hours are coming to Irvine for work and leaving Irvine to go home, so you want to live closer than you think.

If I was looking to move today, I'd look at Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, or Tustin.

Where in Irvine is your job going to be? Which side of Irvine you're on can impact your commute time. If you're by the Spectrum, where the 405 and 5 meet, that will open up south county a bit more, Mission Viejo, Lake Forest, Laguna Niguel, etc. If you're by the Airport that opens up different options, Huntington Beach, Orange, Westminster. It can take 30 mins to drive from one side of Irvine to the other on the 405 during rush hour, so keep that in mind!

It'd be worth a visit to get a feel for the area. Each city has its own kind of vibe to it. Alternatively, get a short-term rental and feel things out once you move out here. Good luck!
posted by Arbac at 11:08 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


What you're not going to like about Irvine is that the yards are ridiculously small. I'm from the Midwest, and one of the few things I don't think I'll ever get over about Southern California is that the weather is so nice but nobody except the super rich have any decent outdoor spaces at their house to enjoy the weather. Irvine and the other newer developed areas in Orange County are the worst culprits of this, where a 2000 square foot house sits on a 3000 square foot lot. To get more yard, you typically have to go to an older area. A lot of Mission Viejo feels a lot more like the Midwest than Irvine does. Newport Beach has some nice neighborhoods, as well, but it's outrageously expensive and everyone I know who lives there with a family is either a trust fund kid or a self-made millionaire. Costa Mesa has some good neighborhoods, but I'm not sure about the schools there - and some of Costa Mesa is a bit sketchy.

You really need to spend some time in Orange County to get a feel for it all and to figure out how each area has its own personality. You also need to spend enough time there for it to feel "normal" so you can make a decision you won't regret. Southern California is a very different place after you've been here a month than it is the first day or week. And it's very different once you've seen enough of it to start seeing the subtle differences between areas and how they affect the lives of people who live there.
posted by The World Famous at 11:11 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Piling onto everyone in this thread saying live in Irvine. Great schools, family friendly, good commute. I would look at the older areas since I like bigger lots and less McMansion-y houses.
posted by town of cats at 12:33 PM on April 15, 2013


Irvine the good: lots of good food, there are good schools (although maybe a bit more on the hyper competitive side than you might want), and it's very clean and safe.

Irvine the be careful: cost of housing is fairly high, preschools there often (and maybe even usually) have waiting lists, and the climate is hotter than communities that are closer to the beach.

There are communities where you can live in Orange County that are a little more "normal" than Irvine and still very nice in many ways, but commuting to and from Irvine from a city 10 miles away (such as Huntington Beach) can be a bit of a bear. It could easily take a half hour each way in traffic even for that short distance (although that depends on which part of Irvine you will work in - Irvine is quite spread out, and being in the central business district and being in the Spectrum are very different locations).

I don't think you can find the Midwest in California, so it's important not to expect that lest you be disappointed. People in California tend to do their own thing and not be as neighborly and as involved with community as in the Midwest. What's to appreciate in California is the weather, geographic diversity and attractions, cultural/ethnic/gastronomic diversity, dynamic economic environment, and lots of things to do for both kids and adults. No place is perfect - those are the things people tend to enjoy in California and there is a tradeoff.
posted by Dansaman at 1:05 PM on April 15, 2013


I agree with The World Famous on all accounts. Mission Viejo and Lake Forest are some good options if you want a yard. Not a bad commute to Irvine at all. For reference, I currently rent a 2br 1ba home with a nice backyard for $1900/month in Mission Viejo although I'm sure that is lower than most similarly sized properties. Some house rentals in Mission Viejo, Lake Forest, and Rancho Santa Margarita come with private lake memberships which can be a great thing for a family with young kids.
posted by scrubbles at 10:06 PM on April 20, 2013


I agree with Dansaman having lived in LA for ten years and now living in CT. there is not much neighborliness in SoCal- it is too spread out and car-centric for that as well as being fairly $$ oriented in general.
What I do miss greatly about that part of the country is the amazing weather, food, fresh produce and great live music.
Trade-offs everywhere you go. But your family won't miss those Mid-Western winters that I can guarantee.
posted by privatechef at 2:37 PM on April 29, 2013


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