Where should we live?
April 27, 2006 1:52 AM   Subscribe

DC-FILTER: Where should a group of Southern California-native 20somethings live in the Washington DC area?

So two friends of mine are considering transferring to American University in the fall and my SO will be doing some non-profit work in the DC area begining in late July. I figure it'd be fun to live on the opposite side of the US for a while. Depending on how many people go, we are looking at about $2400 to $3200/mo for a 3-4 bedroom apartment/house. None of us mind taking the metro to work/school.

*Lively, urban atmosphere (gotta have something to do on the weekends!)
*Safety (I like my wallet right where it is, thankyouverymuch)
*Price (it'd be nice to be able to afford food, too)
*Ability to utilize metro system (damn tired of driving everywhere)

C'mon, DC MeFites, where should we live?
posted by ThFullEffect to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Okay, I'm no expert on renting in DC, but here are some places to start you off on your search.

Places downtown to look into: Tenleytown (this would be near AU), Adams Morgan, Cleveland Park, Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle. That's just based on looking at a Metro map and where it goes in the "nice" residential areas. (Northwest is the the "nicest," Northeast less so, Southeast the least. Southwest is mostly government buildings, I think.) However, I have no idea what prices would be like in those places -- possibly (probably?) over your range.

If you don't mind being in Maryland, you might also want to look at Silver Spring (going through revitalization as we speak), Takoma Park (hippie and cute) or Bethesda (yuppie but lots of restaurants, very safe) -- but again, I have no idea what prices are for a large apartment like that.

The cheapest place that I know of that is Metro accessible (I'm mostly only familiar with NW DC and Silver Spring and the surrounding area in MD) is Greenbelt in PG County. I know that a lot of the graduate students at UMD live there. However, I'm pretty sure it doesn't meet any of the rest of your criteria. It's pretty out there.
posted by puffin at 4:25 AM on April 27, 2006

Also note that especially once you get out of DC (and probably within DC), everything tends to get more expensive the closer you are to a Metro stop.
posted by puffin at 4:25 AM on April 27, 2006

Dupont Circle is the area I'd recommend, but I don't know the AU campus well enough to know what, specifically, is affordable in that area. I have family in the area, and when I swing by to visit, I see more and more AU students who've gotten together and rented a house in one of the neighborhoods bordering AU's campus.
posted by Yeomans at 4:57 AM on April 27, 2006

Out of your first three priorities, you really have to pick two. The safest lively metro-accessible urban areas -- Clarendon, Bethesda, Ballston -- are all fairly expensive, though you can cut your expenses a bit if you're willing to have a long walk to the Metro.

Dupont and Adams Morgan are the liveliest and least safe neighborhoods out of puffin's listings. They're not Anacostia unsafe, but the DC police are fairly incompetent, so car theft and the like go pretty much unchecked, and every once in a while there's a late-night fatal mugging. Those neighborhoods are not really cheap, either.

Cleveland Park and Tenleytown are in between Dupont and Bethesda, both literally and in terms of safety. They're also closer to AU.

Van Ness, in between Cleveland Park and Tenleytown is quieter and cheaper, but a short walk (or a single metro-stop) to the livelier neighborhoods.

Silver Spring is an up and coming area, but may be simultaneously too yuppie and too transitional for your wants. The U-shaped red-line makes it a long train-ride, too, compared to, say, suburban Rockville.

Foggy Bottom is technically metro-accessible, but it's on a different line, which makes late-night commuting a pain in the neck. I'd stay on the Red Line.

NB that non-penthouse super-large apartments are hard to find near lively urban Metro stations. But check rent.com.

How critical is it that you live where your lively, urban atmosphere is?
posted by commander_cool at 5:09 AM on April 27, 2006

I might add Woodley Park, in a short walk from Cleveland Park, Dupont, and Adams Morgan, as an option. Only three Red Line stops from AU.
posted by commander_cool at 5:11 AM on April 27, 2006

I only lived in DC for a semester during college, but I found Capitol Hill liveable, and the eastern market is pretty nice on the weekends. As other commenters mentioned, southeast gets seedier the further out you go, but around 8th street where I was it was an acceptable compromise.
posted by Brian James at 5:35 AM on April 27, 2006

If you're up for living in the (gasp) suburbs, Arlington is a nice place. Some of the areas mentioned above (Clarendon, Ballston) plus others (Courthouse, Rosslyn) have their own bars/restaurants (some pretty decent ones, I might add) while being a short metro (or cab) ride into the city.

Having 3-4 people, if it were me I'd try to rent a house in Arlington (again, in one of the areas noted previously). You should be able to find something in your price range, that isn't too far from a metro. One word of caution, don't take a realtor's word on how far from a metro something is; always punch it into google/yahoo maps.

If you do want to live in the city, places like Dupont and Adams Morgan are decent options, but I don't know how easy it is to find a bigger place (for 4 people) like you're looking for. (They're probably there, I just don't know.) Cleveland Park / Van Ness are both nice places.

Georgetown isn't really near a metro (plus it tends to be more expensive) so I'd avoid that.

(If you start to find places online -- craigslist, realtors, etc. -- post them up if you have questions about the locations.)
posted by inigo2 at 5:44 AM on April 27, 2006

The U-shaped red-line makes it a long train-ride, too, compared to, say, suburban Rockville.

Although you can always take a short bus ride to Bethesda or Friendship Heights, and then take the Metro to AU from there. I did this over the summer when I had an internship in Dupont Circle until I decided I liked doing the long Metro ride because the first half is scenic (well, above ground).
posted by puffin at 5:48 AM on April 27, 2006

Arlington and Alexandria are probably nice places to live, but if you want to live in the city (especially northwest) you're going to pay a crapload of money. You can't get ANY one bedroom for less than $1200 around here, though I'm not all that sure about houses. There are plenty for rent around AU in Tenleytown though, and it's pretty easy to get to the metro from there.
posted by borkingchikapa at 6:00 AM on April 27, 2006

The suggestions that everyone's giving are all really nice neighborhoods, but I'll be honest, your price expectations may be too low. People pay $2400 for a TWO bedroom in the areas mentioned above. Given your price range and other requirements, your best bets for an affordable group house are Mt. Pleasant, Petworth, Columbia Heights, or Shaw.
posted by echo0720 at 6:31 AM on April 27, 2006

Oh, and Glover Park - I know people who have a group house in Glover Park and that's actually really close to AU. Not as metro accessible, but bus accessible. The buses in DC are great, and underutilized.
posted by echo0720 at 7:12 AM on April 27, 2006

posted by electroboy at 7:15 AM on April 27, 2006

arlington or alexandria. particularly arlington.

dc is great, but the taxes and real estate (at least on a house) there are rediculous. alexandria, being older than dc, has rich history and is very charming. prices aren't too bad there either.

arlington has really incredible transit, is very walkable, is home to lots of single twenty-somethings, incredibly safe (it seems like we average about 2 murders per year lately, in a city of almost 200k people), there are tons of bars, cheap restaurants, and neat things to do. anything on the orange line in arlington is going to be great. if youre looking to live a little cheaper, i would also like to suggest falls church, a small suburb right outside of arlington. they have 2 metro stops, lots of busses, lots of multicultural restaurants, and some of the best rental house deals around.

ballston is, in my opinion, one of the more convenient neighborhoods around. there is a mid-sized indoor shopping mall, tons of retail, short walking distance to the nightlife in clarendon, 2 grocery stores, and it is a transit hub for the area. i am sure you might think similarly about pentagon city, although it has a different, less urban (although technically probably just as dense, population/stuff-wise) feel.

welcome to dc. feel free to email me if you have any other questions. (email is in profile). youre going to have a lot of fun here!
posted by kneelconqueso at 7:28 AM on April 27, 2006

There are a lot of big, group houses in Adams Morgan. They might be somewhat outside your price range, but I think you'll find it's worth it. I think you can do $3200 for a 3-4 bedroom apartment. I seem to remember people paying as low as $500 per person to live in Dupont or Adams Morgan, in group houses with about 5 ppl, so I think you can definitely find something for 3 or 4 people for $3200.

Having lived in various sections of the city, I think Adams Morgan, U-Street area would be good. The prices are lower than Dupont, etc., bc they're not directly on the red line, but you can walk to metro stations in about 10 minutes, or you can take the various shuttles that run from those areas to the nearest red line metro stops. Especially in the summer that should be fine. Those areas are lively and fun, and also close to Dupont. Lots of young people live in those areas. U-street, by the way, can be quite cheap. The downside is safety, but I never felt particularly unsafe, you just have to be smart. (DC is a city of muggings, for some reason, but just be alert, and take cabs when alone after dark.) Of course, Cleveland Park (between Woodley and Tenleytown) is safer, and Arlington is safer, and probably parts of Maryland I don't know about, but I don't think you have to worry too much about Adams Morgan and U-Street.

I've lived in Arlington for 2 years - I found it visually boring (lots of high rises) and felt really isolated from the city. Especially from Adams Morgan/AU/Dupont, etc. That would be at least a 45 minute metro ride. At least. $15-18 cab ride. The Hill has lots of redeeming qualities, but it is somewhat isolated, and I always felt it was one of the more dangerous areas of the safer neighborhoods.

Good luck, though - DC is a great city and lots of fun in the summer!
posted by Amizu at 8:40 AM on April 27, 2006

Yeah, but the Angelenos are gonna hate DC in the summer. (Hello, Humidity! Where you been all my life!)

Agree with Arlington, somewhere close to the Orange Line, like Ballston. This isn't suburbia, folks -- Arlington is that section of the 10-mile DC square they gave back to Virginia -- but it's still city.
posted by Rash at 9:23 AM on April 27, 2006

I agree--group house in Mt. Pleasant. I'm paying $490, and its a decent place, a bit small. You'll do good in the group house setting here, which is they way a lot of people live in town.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:31 AM on April 27, 2006

Baltimore. posted by electroboy

Seconded. The commute is a hike, but the train is actually pleasant, and Baltimore is definitely the nice Uncle compared to D.C. When that dirty little secret gets out, you won't be able to afford to live in Balto either. If interested, email me and I can point you towards some areas.
posted by Heatwole at 9:59 AM on April 27, 2006

I Nth Mount Pleasant. Were I in your situation that would be the area I'd put #1 on my list. The Pentagon City area or Clarendon is pretty doable as well. I don't concur with others about price - I think you'll find a 3-4 if you'll go towards $3,000 a month. Doing a quick scan on HousingMaps.com in the DC area with the $2250+ criteria turns up a number of things like this
1203 N. Quincy St. . . .. . . a renovated, four-bedroom home in the heart of Arlington best neighborhood -- Clarendon -- just four blocks from the Virginia Square or Ballston Metro on the Orange Line with a bus stop at the door. [ snip ] The rent, at $2950, does not include utilities water/sewer/trash, electric, gas, cable TV). Owner seeks professional men or women, no smoking, no pets.
Looking in Pentagon City you're going to find a lot of older homes with weird layouts as people have carved them into larger homes. I've been in some open houses where the basement rooms had a bit of ductwork running the full length of the room which you had to bend over to get past. If you don't mind that it's a nice enough area and meets your safety requirement. You'll have to metro to find anything more interesting than the few restaurants and bars on 23rd St.

Clarendon has more happening and newer homes with less weird, but may be more money and the activity a little yuppy-esque, Dremo's aside. But again, there's always the metro.
posted by phearlez at 10:16 AM on April 27, 2006

I agree with the recommendations for Arlington, Rosslyn, Ballston, Clarendon-- anywhere on the orange line. Safe, urban, metro accessible, but in your price range.
posted by empath at 10:24 AM on April 27, 2006

And Courthouse! Courthouse rules!
posted by inigo2 at 11:18 AM on April 27, 2006

I highly recommend Silver Spring, Bethesda, Ballston, Clarendon, or if you want DC proper, Adams Morgan, U Street, Tenleytown, or any of the Red Line stops in NW.

Silver Spring is the place to be -- I'm somewhat bias as I just bought a condo downtown because the city is booming (Silver Sprung, as they say) and there are many people, businesses, restaurants, and culture around. Silver Spring has AFI, Discovery Channel, is 4 miles from the most densely filled restaurant section in the country (Bethesda), has a Red Line Metro and the most active bus terminal in Maryland, etc.

Ballston and Clarendon are full of college kids -- lots of fun there, but a bit farther from American, although you're not far at all from the District (NYC is The City, DC is the District). Bethesda is amazing but super pricey.

Feel free to email me too if I can be of more help.
posted by seinfeld at 12:16 PM on April 27, 2006

If you're going to consider Baltimore, you might as well also considered Annapolis. Pretty town, pretty safe (the midis add an extra level of security - I once saw them chase down a would be purse-snatcher at the mall when I worked there). Not an urban center, though.

(Suckit, PGers. Anne Arundel 4 EVAH!)
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:11 PM on April 27, 2006

I vote for U Street/Columbia Heights/Shaw. Lots of bars, restaurants, etc. Relatively inexpensive housing for the city and near the red line. Not as safe as some other parts, but I'm a 24 year old white girl and go drinking there all the time without incident.

Ignore those who mention Baltimore. I live here and the hike to DC is a long one for any kind of entertainment purposes. It's cheap for a reason, kids.
posted by youcancallmeal at 1:13 PM on April 27, 2006

We have a slogan about Bwadimo:

DC has Class but no Style,
Baltimore has Style but no class.
posted by Rash at 2:02 PM on April 27, 2006

If you don't mind a commute where you have to change trains, then Ballston/Clarendon is definitely the best bet. The Wilson Corridor has taller buildings than any neighborhood in DC, is safer than DC, and is cheaper than DC, and is closer to downtown DC than Upper NW DC is. Plus, if you have a car, you're in good shape to visit the funky ethnic restaurants in Northern Virginia, which are the best in the metro area. It's just a pain in the ass to go back and forth to AU via Metro, especially on the weekends, but a hell of a lot easier a commute than Baltimore or Annapolis would be, and not much worse (if at all) than Silver Spring.
posted by commander_cool at 5:50 PM on April 28, 2006

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