Moving to LA in a hurry: help me figure out where I should live!
June 12, 2015 5:49 PM   Subscribe

It's very likely that I'll be moving to LA for work soon. If so, I'll only have a few weeks to find a place. I know very little about LA, so I'd love to get some insider info to help narrow my search.

So- I'm a New Yorker who's spent the past six months in SF, but now I might be moving to LA for work. It's not quite official yet, but am pretty sure that it will be, and when it happens it's going to happen fast. I have no firsthand knowledge of the area, so I thought I'd ask you lovely people. (I've read past threads on the topic but didn't see one that helped me with what I'm specifically looking for.)

Me: woman, single, straight, mid-30s, leftie, nerdy, slliiighly to the yuppie end of the hipster-yuppie spectrum. Not really interested in a club scene. Will be working at a startup. I can go up to $1800 for a place but would love to keep it around $1500. Prefer a small, older place to a giant modern apartment complex.

What I'd really like:

-a walkable downtown with lots to do; shops, bars, cafes, bookstore, that sort of thing.
- the kind of place where I can hang out by myself in a wine bar with a book and nobody will think it's weird
- treelined streets, greenery (I know this sounds dumb but man I have seen some areas of LA that looked like Brutalist heaven)
- demographically, more 30s professionals than millennials.
- somewhere that doesn't take itself too seriously - meaning, I don't think I'd be comfortable in a place where people spend three hours on their hair and makeup just to go to Trader Joes
- a farmer's market would be great
- a sane commute to Sherman Oaks, where the job is. I take it that that's a reverse commute for almost everywhere I'm looking at, but still. I have a feeling I don't want to live in Sherman Oaks itself because it would be too suburban.
- And speaking of that - don't want a suburban feel, because I know hardly anyone out there and I think it'd be lonely, and plus I'm too much of a city girl. But I know I don't want to live in Downtown LA either- seems dumb to leave Manhattan because I wanted something new and then basically move straight to semi-Manhattan.

Some places friends have tossed out as options:

- Los Feliz - sounds great, looks gorgeous, but I'm sure I'm missing something. Too pricey? Pretentious?
- Santa Monica - why NOT be on the beach if you're moving to Southern CA? Except some people have said it might be too yuppie-scenester for me
- Venice - ditto re the beach, but I can't get a sense of what it's really like to live there.
- Echo Park and Silver Lake - probably too young and maybe a bit grimy?
-Culver City - it seems, seriously no offense, to be kind of ugly and soulless, and yet tons of people said to consider it
- Pasadena - pros, lots of Caltech nerds, nice downtown. Cons - too suburban?

So given all that, are those assessments correct? Is there anything on that list, or anywhere I don't know about, that might fit what I'm looking for? Please note- I'm not looking to duplicate New York or SF, and I'm kind of really excited about being in LA and having a very different lifestyle, but the above stuff is what I want to be a part of that new lifestyle. If possible.

Thanks in advance!
posted by Dormant Gorilla to Grab Bag (36 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You need to specify what you consider to be a sane commute. Right now (like right this instant, 6 pm on a Friday), for instance, it'll take you at least 45 minutes to get from Sherman Oaks to Pasadena. Is that sane?
posted by mr_roboto at 5:57 PM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you're working in Sherman Oaks, you may as well live close to work. Commuting from Venice, Culver City, downtown, Silver Lake, Pasadena or even Santa Monica is going to be hideous. Maybe Toluca Lake, but no place in the SFV is going to have a cute little walkable village square vibe.
There's 100s of farmer's markets, there's always very done-up people and old hippies at the same places. Even in the suburbs.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:59 PM on June 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Ah, fair point. A half hour to 45 min is what I'd call sane, I guess. If I'm going north in the morning and south at night I'm hoping that will mitigate this "405" thing I've heard so much about.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 5:59 PM on June 12, 2015

I was going to say Pasadena before I got to the end of your question. I lived in Pasadena and it's the only place in LA I would consider moving back to. It's beautiful and old and has trees and cute shops and restaurants and real character, and it's close to lots of stuff too. It didn't feel suburban to me at all. I would move back there in a second if a decent one bedroom house didn't cost $800,000. And if it wasn't in the middle of Los Angeles.
posted by something something at 6:03 PM on June 12, 2015

How about Eagle Rock or maybe the Eagle Rock side of Highland Park? Kind of like where Echo Park/Silver Lake was about ten years ago in terms of neighborhood vibe...
posted by mr_roboto at 6:12 PM on June 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

There is no such thing as a reverse commute, especially not related to the Valley.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 6:13 PM on June 12, 2015 [8 favorites]

I could recommend Pasadena. It is a pretty nice area with a lot to do, and depending on where you are, might find a nice blend between not-suburban and not-big city. I know people who live there who like it a lot, and we're in the age range you mention. The Huntington Library is nearby, which has a beautiful botanical and historical ambiance. Also, in terms of farmer's market and other fun things, check this out:

Reseda is close by also, but that is where Daniel LaRusso from the Karate Kid moved, and he got into all kinds of trouble, so I can't really recommend it.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:13 PM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I lived for 10 years in Studio City, and it was quite nice. Lots of trees, parks and restaurants, great public transit to downtown and Hollywood, and at the intersection of 2 major freeways. It's also a very economically and racially diverse part of LA. Lots of single family homes and small apartment complexes.

It's also just East of Sherman Oaks, so it's a bike-able commute if you're so inclined. ...and since it's in the Valley, it'll be a bit cheaper than other parts of town.

I suggest making it your first stop when moving out here, and explore from there.

There is no place in LA with a walkable downtown like NY, Chicago, SF or any "real" city has. The closest approximations are all more like big, outdoor shopping malls - each with their own unique charm. You may love Venice or Pasadena or Santa Monica or Echo Park, but they are all very different, and less walkable than what you're coming from.
posted by Anoplura at 7:03 PM on June 12, 2015

Putting aside the commute: you sound like a cultural fit for Eagle Rock/Highland, Culver City (it's not ugly; it's actually quite nice in a humble residential way and has plenty to do downtown), or Pasadena (specifically near California and Lake; that way you're outside of Old Town but still close, and surrounded by neat walkable stuff.)

I have no comment on your commute. I live in Pasadena (it really is quite pleasant) and take the Gold Line downtown, and I still spend 45 min each way. Oh how I miss my SF commute...
posted by samthemander at 7:15 PM on June 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Get a short-term rental in Sherman Oaks or very close to your job, then use your spare time over the first few weeks to explore some of these neighborhoods.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:55 PM on June 12, 2015 [8 favorites]

I used to live in Los Feliz and think it could be a pretty good fit (aside from the commute). Granted, I lived there a decade ago, but I was there a few weeks ago and think it's still fairly similar. Walkable, tree-lined, farmers' market, good shops and bars, plenty of 30s people, not suburban feeling, near one of the city's few subway stops, near Griffith Park, great old apartments in your price range.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:20 PM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Your budget might be an issue given some of your requirements. For example you mention Santa Monica. The median rent for a one bedroom in Santa Monica is $3200 a month. In Venice its $2600 a month. I think you probably want to stop thinking about living close to the beach.

If you are willing to do $1800 you might indeed want to look at Los Feliz. If you're pushing for $1500 your options become much more limited and Culver City might be your best bet.

To be honest with a $1500 budget I think you're going about this backwards. Instead of saying "where do I want to live?" you should be saying "where can I afford to live?" and then looking at the best option among those.
posted by Justinian at 9:15 PM on June 12, 2015 [7 favorites]

This might be helpful: Median rents in May 2015 for 30 Los Angeles Neighborhoods.
posted by Justinian at 9:18 PM on June 12, 2015

Los Angeles is getting worse each year for commuting in cars. I know people who commute 2-1/2 hours each way. You should be as close to the place you work as possible, to save wear and tear on your nerves.

I recommend the back side of the Hollywood Hills: from Tarzana/Encino to Toluca Lake. Ventura Boulevard as your Main Street. Go up the canyon roads from Coldwater to Hayvenhurst. Browse the LA Weekly online -- The Beauty of the San Fernando Valley,

You may end up driving to Pasadena to see the Huntington, or into mid Wilshire or downtown to see art, but that's your own time.
posted by ohshenandoah at 9:21 PM on June 12, 2015

The type of area you want to live in, and the day-to-day lifestyle you want, are found in Silver Lake & Echo Park (adjacent areas), Eagle Rock, Highland Park and to a lesser extent, Mount Washington and Cypress Park (adjacent areas), and Downtown Los Angeles (but you won't find trees there). That's it. Unless you want to get granular and talk Frogtown or Angeleno Heights, but they're pretty much included above. I'll throw in Atwater Village too.

The runners-up are Pasadena, Toluca Lake and Studio City, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice, Culver City.

Pasadena is perfectly passable. There's a walkable downtown. There's some art.

South Pasadena is pretty nice, definitely lots of trees, though the walkable part is about three blocks long and your commute would be devastating. But you did say you're on the yuppie end of the scale, so these might be your people.

Toluca Lake and Studio City I haven't spent much time in in the last decade, but I'm pretty sure you'll find the exoskeleton of what you want - walkable neighborhoods, wine bars, coffee shop - but I'm not sure they're culturally what you're looking for. And the Valley is not so much suburbia - it's not, say, like the peninsula up by the bay. It's definitely urban, just mostly low-rise and nothing happens.

Hollywood is kinda okay. Walkable oases, peer group, etc.

Starting around Hollywood and going all the way to the sea, you'll be running into more and more capital-H Hollywood: people in the industry, who want to be in the industry, people who think famous people are cool, rich people, douches, etc.

Venice I don't know too well. Judging by what I know about Santa Monica, I think in both areas you'll find extremely high rents and people who look like stock photos of Beautiful Caucasian Person Walking Down the Street with a Yoga Mat Under One Arm. But if you're also into the nitty-gritty of local politics, in particular urban planning and development, and want to speak at city council meetings about average yearly car trips, streetlights, and hedge heights, Santa Monica is your place.

Culver City is meh. There's some cool stuff, some decent restaurants. I can't get excited about it. In any case, you do not want not only the 405, but the Sepulveda Pass no less, between home & work. That disqualifies all of the west side, in my view.

Downtown you'll find more under-30s. I won't say "millennials," because technically some millennials are in their 30s. Downtown is pretty good, living-wise, though. The only place in LA where you can walk among the tall buildings, visit the local bar and coffee shop and smell the garbage and feel like you're in a big city. But no trees. And pretty far from Sherman Oaks.

I would look at the area near Sunset Blvd. and Vermont. You'd be right on the edge of Silver Lake & Los Feliz, and there's a Metro station. You could get to Sherman Oaks on a train and a bus transfer in probably 45-50 min during rush hour.

Good luck.
posted by univac at 9:42 PM on June 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ha ha ha ha wow! That "Median Rent" thing is just truly insane. Over $3000 for a one bedroom!!! Ha ha ha ha. I have literally never heard of anyone in L.A. paying that much, let alone for a one bedroom. I can't emphasize enough how ludicrously wrong those numbers are!

For $1800 for 1 BR, the question is, where *can't* you afford? Maybe right on the beach in Santa Monica- like literally you open the door and there's the beach- but nowhere else comes to mind.

To give you an idea, I live in what most would consider the most desirable part of Silver Lake, within less than a block of Sunset Junction, and I pay well below the median they list. And I just moved to this location last year. At my old place, further away from Sunset but still in Silver Lake, I was paying about $600 below their "median."

As far commutes, Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Echo Park to Sherman Oaks is easy, as long as you're near the 101. Probably about 25-30 minutes in the morning, 35-40 home, with maybe slight increases for things like Hollywood Bowl concerts.

I personally think of Los Feliz - Silver Lake - Echo Park as being like Goldilocks and the Three bears:

Too gentrified - just right - not gentrified enough.

It really depends on your personal tolerances- some people will tell you even Echo Park is too gentrified now, and some people will say Silver Lake is still shady. Personally, I never give a second thought to crime in Silver Lake. I mean, there are bars on my window, but I've never heard of an apartment robbery anywhere I've lived here.

In general, Santa Monica and the Westside will have that surburban feel you want to avoid. So Los Feliz-Silver Lake-Echo Park is probably your best bet. I personally find Eagle Rock incredibly remote, so much so as to be barely part of L.A. Highland Park is a less remote "up and coming" area. If you want to avoid Downtown, that's fine, but it's by no means Manhattan. It's really only been three of four years since it stopped being a ghost town after 6pm.

By the way, the Eastside tends to have older buildings, which a) is your preference and b) means you have rent control, if you're in city of L.A. and the building is pre-1978, I think. There's an allowable increase of about 3-4% per year, and it doesn't carry over from tenant to tenant, but as long as you stay they can't randomly jack up your rent.

Anyway, welcome, it's a great city. And I can't emphasize enough how absurd those "median rent" numbers are.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:43 PM on June 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

drjimmy11 is right - those "median rents" look a little wacky. We have a two bedroom in a desirable area and pay hundreds less than the lowest two-bedroom rent on the list.
posted by univac at 9:51 PM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

(Looking again at that graphic, it says "homes," so either it includes houses as well as apartments, or is totally about houses. "1BR house" sounds odd, but L.A. is full of bungalows and cottages)
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:53 PM on June 12, 2015

Mine's a house. I think we have a particularly good deal, which you'd probably need to be local in the first place to find, but our rent's still not that close to anything on the chart.
posted by univac at 9:57 PM on June 12, 2015

I was going to say Long Beach, right up until I got to the point where you mentioned Sherman Oaks. I wouldn't even recommend that commute to an enemy.

I agree with others that you should live close to work, at least initially. Once you've had a chance to explore the city you'll find the right fit. I have a ton of friends in Culver City and while I think it hits some of the points you're looking for, for me it's definitely more of a "family-friendly" area than a great place for a single person to hang out. Unless you really like being around families. Pasadena kind of reads the same for me. It has a walkable downtown district, but not an interesting one.

The other usual suspect neighborhoods - Silverlake, Los Feliz, Santa Monica, Venice - they all have a specific vibe that, imho, you really need to spend time in before you commit to living there full time.

I would try to find a sublet or some other short term situation until you'very had a chance to check things out for yourself.
posted by vignettist at 9:59 PM on June 12, 2015

Everything said here is true. Two cents from someone similar to your A/S/tax bracket:

- Sherman Oaks has merit. IMO it's worth living close to your job for a year's lease to experience how glorious a short commute can be. If you end up hating the suburbs more than you love the proximity, you've got the Westside in painless weekend exploring distance.

- Culver City rules. Walkable, affordable, safe, clean, pretty. Weekday farmer's market. Lots of adventure (art walks! Indiecade! Museum of Jurassic Technology!) Bike path to the beach. Baldwin Hills steps for maximum PT.

West side of Culver City gets you walking distance to Sunday Mar Vista farmer's market on one side and rapidly developing Culver Village on the other. Just north of Culver City is Palms with cheaper apartment options (YMMV).

But, yeah, you'd have to love the hell out of it to tolerate that commute.
posted by AteYourLembas at 10:03 PM on June 12, 2015

Look at freeway interchanges as extra time and hassle. If you live along Westside Beach area and drive to Sherman Oaks you want to be North of the 10 freeway. If you live east of Sherman Oaks you don't want to be too far past the 134.

But your budget really will be the biggest constraint. Areas of the Valley fit your needs yet you may have to leave your hood for nightlife.
Try North Hollywood.
posted by Lil Bit of Pepper at 10:19 PM on June 12, 2015

I live in Santa Monica close to downtown. It's very walkable, the weather is more moderate than inland areas, plenty of stuff to do -- culture high and low, pubs, good sushi restaurants, farmers markets, great library system, amazing urban forest (not just palm trees!) and a whole lot of attention to the needs of bicyclists by the city planners. The ocean air is nice to breath. There's light rail opening next year that will connect us to Culver City, USC and Downtown LA, which is sort of nifty.

You 'd need to be someone who likes or doesn't mind many tourists about if you want to spend time happily in some areas of downtown. On the street there is in general a vibe of mainstream creativity -- smart people on the make in one way or another -- but I miss a sense sometimes of more authentic arts culture or funkiness. It's definitely not a pretentious place in terms of being posh, though, either.

As noted above, there is a lively and somewhat combative local political culture, in a small town way, which imo is a very good thing. City Council members are very approachable. There are several local newspapers, some of which do actual reporting. You might check out the Daily Press to get a feel for life in the city. (You can download any backissues by date if you hack the pdf url a bit.) There's also a guy who writes a perceptive blog about urban issues here, whose archive of posts is worth checking out, too, called The Healthy City Local.
posted by bertran at 11:34 PM on June 12, 2015

Best answer: Now, apart from your commute, Pasadena, Los Feliz, or perhaps Santa Monica. Given your commute into the Valley? Los Feliz. Find Skylight Books on Google Maps and check out the street view around it. I think it'll fit the bill.

Santa Monica is really rich, and it's super nice. But I prefer the east side where there is a greater variety of people. Santa Monica (and a fair amount of the west side) can be a bit precious. (Sorry, west-siders!)

Pasadena is where I will retire to. Now, it's rich, too. But damn it. I love it. It's not just JPL/Caltech types. Look at South Pas while you're at it. I wouldn't want to commute from Pasadena to Sherman Oaks, though.

I'm a native Chicagoan. It took me a number of years to get LA and SoCal. But now I love it fiercely and never would want to leave.

LA is full of all sorts of people, and for the most part we don't care what other people are doing in public. There are tons of college professors with books (I am one!), and no one looks askance at us. It's a city and region with tons of culture. It's not NYC, but it's pretty impressive. (And nowhere is NYC.). The LA most people think of: plastic surgery and shallow airheads, and three hours to go to TJs; well, it exists, but there are a thousand LAs. I never see or think about that LA.
posted by persona au gratin at 3:37 AM on June 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Btw, I'm told by many people I trust that Culver City has flourished with the light rail going in. I've not been in a number of years. So maybe look at it, too.
posted by persona au gratin at 3:39 AM on June 13, 2015

rainydayfilms above has it about it being a collection of neighborhoods (or cities). And yes: your own house with a fruit tree that you can raid at Thanksgiving to cook with!

Before I post this (last post!) look at Glendale, too. It'd shave 10 mins off your commute compared to Pasadena, and it meets some of your desiderata.
posted by persona au gratin at 3:49 AM on June 13, 2015

One other thought on Los Feliz- not sure where you lived in NYC, but LF reminds me a little bit of Cobble Hill in Brooklyn. Or, if you know the East Bay, a shade more like Rockridge than Temescal. For me, it's maybe a tiny bit too yuppified (in L.A., I moved to Silverlake) but it sounds to me like a better fit for you. When I was visiting LA last month, staying in Echo Park without a car and walking around Sunset, I was thinking about how much grimier it was even than SF (and definitely grimier than most of present-day NY). I like neighborhoods a little rough around the edges, but Los Feliz is a fairly nice balance between the overly-groomed Westside and the overabundance of hipsters further east. And not too far from 101, as others have said.

Another thought: Franklin Village is pretty nice, and a shade closer to Sherman Oaks. I also like Laurel Canyon, though obviously things get less walkable (or walks take longer) as you get up in the hills. I wonder what the commute is like on least the view would be spectacular if you were stuck in traffic (or maybe you could take Laurel Canyon up to Ventura Blvd...).
posted by three_red_balloons at 6:20 AM on June 13, 2015

Wow, no love for Burbank yet?

Disclaimer: I don't live in LA, but visit often and have many friends there, including some who live in Burbank, one of whom works in Sherman Oaks. I used to make it a point to stay in Burbank any time I visited LA*, and I really enjoyed it. It looks like there are plenty of reasonable (for LA) apartments. There are lots of tree-lined streets. "Beautiful downtown Burbank" (to quote Laugh-In... ok, I'm old) is actually pretty cool, if not really a "downtown" by Eastern standards. I always said that if I were to move to LA (and couldn't afford to be near the beach), then Burbank is the first place I would consider.

Also, you would be leaving Burbank at the same time all the studio workers are coming in, and vice versa. Along the same line, it seemed to me that after 5 or 6pm, once all the studio workers were gone, Burbank was very a very quiet place. Olive Avenue turns from a crowded mass of vehicles into a nearly empty expanse of asphalt, unless that has changed in the last few years.

(*The only reason I haven't stayed in Burbank my last few trips is because I found a decent hotel in Calabasas I like, for way less money.)
posted by The Deej at 6:34 AM on June 13, 2015

Best answer: Definitely try and get a short term rental so you can scope out these neighborhoods and find a good match for you. Its so hard to tell what will click with you, and they really are very different from each other. I also strongly echo the advice to try and minimize your commute time. I live in Santa Monica and love it to bits, but if I worked in Sherman Oaks I would want to move (and that's with a reverse commute). I've done the soul-destroying 45 minute LA commute every day, and I will never do it again, it made me a very unhappy person.

I feel like you could get a short term rental, check out these neighborhoods to narrow down your preferences a bit, then come back to Ask MeFi (or a meetup!) in order to get some more targeted advice.
posted by Joh at 8:13 AM on June 13, 2015

Best answer: I lived in Sherman Oaks for years. My partner and some friends work there now. I'm very familiar with the commute. I'm seeing some very optimistic commute estimates up above, based on my experience and my partner's.

Honestly, before you take ANYONE'S advice, see if you can do a short-term rental so you can really get a feel for the area and the commute. When I moved here I committed to a year lease and would up living somewhere that was...not ideal. (As in: police helicopters every night.) My ex and I looked at LA with Boston eyes when choosing where to live, and a lot of the "nice neighborhood" signifiers in Boston (and New York) are different in LA. Example: tree-lined boulevards may sound great, but the local dry conditions don't support them very well. Also, we're in the middle of a drought here and thus trees are dying off at a staggering rate and greenery is mostly brown-ery.

"Urban" and "suburban" are very different here than they are back East, in a way that is hard to get when you first arrive. You can be in a neighborhood that feels like a suburb, but go one block and you're on an avenue with cafes and bars and shops and so forth. Also, you may not find many charming older buildings outside of DTLA from the East Coast perspective of "older" - most of the buildings you'll be looking at are from the 1960s or newer. It's just how the city evolved. And when you do look at apartments, you'll notice many of them just have one gas heater in the wall in the living room. It's not a sign of a slum; since it doesn't get very cold here there's less need to put in the kind of heat that you're used to on the East Coast. Heat is not important but air conditioning is. Check to see if your place has central; if not, make sure you've got someplace you could actually put a window unit. There's some super-cute apartments in Los Feliz from the 1950s without central air conditioning, but all the windows angle out and it is literally impossible to put an air conditioner in them. A ceiling fan helps when it's 80 degrees out, but not when it's 110. And oh god, cockroaches. They're a thing here and they are worse than East Coast cockroaches. We found the cutest vintage 1950s apartment. Then we opened the cabinets and found a graveyard of cockroaches. If you see a cockroach in an empty apartment that's a sign there are hundreds more. Also, about half of LA apartments don't come with a fridge. This still baffles me.

First, the recommendations!

Lived in Sherman Oaks for years and if my job moved out there I'd gladly live there again. It actually has some quite walkable areas with exactly what you're looking for. The thing about Sherman Oaks, and large portions of LA, is you don't have a "village" per se - it's more like an extended avenue. In the case of Sherman Oaks, Ventura Blvd. between Kester and Laurel Canyon (there's a couple of dead blocks in there, but only a couple) is the avenue that has the requisite shops, bars and cafes (no bookstores spring to mind but they're pretty thin on the ground in LA in general). If you live near Hazeltine Park you have a lovely tranquil area to hang out in, a short walk to the Trader Joe's with the worst parking lot in all of LA (which is why you want to walk there, see), and a 10-minute walk to all of the shopping on Ventura Boulevard. The Local Peasant seems like it would be right up your alley for the whole wine thing. If you live near the Laurel Canyon side of Ventura Blvd. you're walking distance from the Trader Joe's with the second worst parking in all of LA, plus you can walk to the farmer's market on Sundays.

As others have said above, North Hollywood is an easy commute to Sherman Oaks (just down Magnolia - if you organize your life right you could even take Metro!) The area around the Lankershim/Magnolia intersection of North Hollywood, known as the "Arts District," is great; LA Weekly doubled down last year on it being the best neighborhood in LA. It has everything on your list including the bookstore (Iliad). North Hollywood in general has a serious case of good block/bad block (good god do not live on the strip behind Circus Liquor) so it's important to take a good hard look at the block you're considering living on. But I think you would be quite happy here.

But my strongest suggestion would be Burbank. There's really two bits of Burbank that fit your needs, the "downtown" bit by San Fernando Boulevard and the area west of the 5 along Magnolia Boulevard. I think the latter would be a home run for you. There's been column inches written about the "retro cool" of Magnolia Boulevard lately, and for a reason It ticks off every item on your list. Like, EVERY item. In a huge way. Just being able to go to Handy Market for their Saturday tri-tip barbecue alone! (and I'm a vegetarian, but I can still inhale the smell...) The Magnolia strip has great bars, fabulous shopping, cafes and even a couple of small theaters. And the Saturday Burbank farmer's market is my favorite farmers market in town.

Neighborhoods I would rule out:

Los Feliz/Silverlake to Sherman Oaks is a commute that only works if you're living right by the 101 and as previously noted a lot of that area isn't the greatest. If you're living over by the 5 the only way you'll get your commute down to an hour is if you're commuting at 3am....after the Rapture has happened. The whole reason my partner and I shacked up within six months was because I lived in Sherman Oaks, he lived on the Los Feliz/Silverlake border near the 5, and it regularly took TWO HOURS for us to get from one house to the other. And it was a really awful two hours.

Culver City, or indeed anywhere on the Westside, will be well over an hour unless you're willing to commute at 6am. (2 hours from Santa Monica or Venice.) Rush hour kicks in at about 6:15am on the Sepulveda Pass. I love Culver to death, but it's only a reasonable commute to other places on the Westside. Any time you have to go over a hill in this town you're adding 30-60 minutes to your commute. It would also be difficult to find a cute, walkable place that fit within your rent parameters. Some of the apartment complexes in Palms, maybe, but not Culver. (I know this because we had your basic parameters three years ago and Culver was not achievable, nor any desirable and walkable place in Santa Monica or Venice.) Pasadena to Sherman Oaks would also be a rough and lengthy ride.

It's a thing in LA for people to sneer at the Valley and people regularly discount it out of hand. Because of that, it's possible to live in the neighborhoods I listed above (Burbank near Magnolia; NoHo Arts District, Sherman Oaks near Ventura) at a reasonable rental rate. There's lots of creativity going on because of the affordable factor and your commute would be easy and enjoyable.
posted by rednikki at 10:10 AM on June 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

On reflection, everything rednikki says seems right to me. Definitely look at Burbank and North Hollywood, too. I'm not super familiar with either, but I am enough to know they're worth looking at.

Also, suppose your drive usually takes one hour, but occasionally takes two (if accident or whatever). If you need to be somewhere at a certain time, you leave two hours. So that's not time in traffic, but it may mean time on the other end that could be better spent.

Really minimize the commute first. Then look at places to live.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:10 PM on June 13, 2015

I currently live in Sherman Oaks and have been here since 1991 (also ex-NY). Why not just move here (at least for a year). I think it's great. People above are mentioning Burbank, Studio City, Toluca Lake.... they are just like Sherman Oaks in my opinion. People here dream of a job with no commute. Just come here. You can still find reasonable rents here. Seriously, if you try it for a year, you can't go wrong.
posted by Ella Megalast at 2:03 PM on June 13, 2015

Response by poster: God, this is amazing stuff. This is exactly the kind of stuff I was hoping to hear and I am taking copious notes. Thank you so much, all of you.

One thing: getting a short-term rental is absolutely the smart thing to do for a variety of reasons. The only things that would stop me from doing that are A. I've been looking and there seems to be a serious dearth of them- east side, everything seems to be hugely expensive, and west side, it seems like there was some ban on Airbnb etc so there's just a whole lotta nothing. Reason B. is less logical, and just has to do with the fact that I've been couch-hopping for months and am sort of desperate to get into my Own Actual Apartment. (Also I have a cat, which causes Issues).But that's not a good enough reason to jump into what could be a bad committment. Anyway, I will definitely try to.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 10:23 PM on June 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: PS I'm basically picking best answer at random at this point because otherwise I'd have to check off almost everything that's here. Drinks on me at the next LA meetup if this move does actually happen.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 10:24 PM on June 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd never had more than a 35-minute commute until this year. I live in Los Feliz (which is near where most New Yorkers I know end up - Atwater, Glendale, Silverlake, Echo Park) and work in Santa Monica and it's really really tough.

A year goes by pretty quickly - take that time and rent near work, get into your job and don't worry about traffic. Work early, work late, get the hang of it. Explore different parts of the city. After a year go month-to-month and start looking in a new location. I think that's a really smart way to go.

When I started this job I wanted to be around and work as late as everyone else and even if I "left early" I sometimes wouldn't get home until 7:30 or 8 and I was always worrying about my commute. It has calmed down a bit but it was (and sometimes still is) stressful.

Good luck!
posted by buzzkillington at 11:04 PM on June 13, 2015

Nthing the advice to find a place within easy commuting distance that you can afford. I work in Westwood and live near the 57. It's only 38 miles each way, but I spend 3-4 hours a day in my car, commuting. Do not be me. I hear you about wanting your own place, but seriously: move close to work initially, then explore neighborhoods for the next six months-year. Then decide what neighborhoods you like.
posted by culfinglin at 12:47 AM on June 15, 2015

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