Moving to LA...help!
December 15, 2006 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Within the next year I will most likely be moving from Central New Jersey to Los Angeles, CA. I need a lot of insight, suggestions and recommendations in all areas. This is going to be a big big question with lots of little questionlets.

It's about a 90% chance, and I'll know next Wednesday for sure. I would be working as a supply-chain-logistics manager for a distribution company (for companies like Aeropostale, Gillette etc) I've never lived anywhere besides New Jersey and New York state (for 4 years of college at Syracuse) but I really feel it's time to get out of this state. I'll be training here for 6 months, and then moving out there to get settled.

Map out the basic layout of Los Angeles. I understand it's an "urban sprawl" but the basics. What's north, south, east and west? My job will be in North LA I believe. What areas/neighborhoods would be good to live in? Is it easy to get a studio apartment for reasonable rent there? My salary will be around 100k, so that factors in. Are there good guidebooks I could get to start learning?

I would love to also hear from people who have taken a similar "plunge" and moved from suburbia to LA. Why did you move? What was most shocking that you found after moving? Most enjoyable? What difficulties did you have in the move?

A big concern of mine is that I will effectively be picking up and moving away from everything I know. I know maybe one person from college who lives out in LA, so it's basically a dive-in situation for me. What are the best ways to meet people out there? New friends, clubs, groups etc. I'm a very social person but I feel I need opportunities to meet people, (preferably ones where they're out there to meet people too!) Anyone know any good online groups or support kind of things I could start to get involved in before the move?

What is the economy and prices like out there? Gas prices, commodities, entertainment, utilities? How long would it take for trips to get to San Diego, San Francisco/San Jose? What is the mentality of society? I've heard many different things/ Why is San Fernando Valley "looked down upon" by a lot of people?

Any and all recommendations, tips, tricks, and general life advice you can offer will go a long way to helping me prepare for this life-changing event.
-Pete
posted by PetiePal to Work & Money (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
You'll be able to get a lot better than a studio on 100k a year--it just depends on what you think is "reasonable". My husband and I had a 1500 sq ft, 2 bedroom apartment for $1500 a month near Culver City and Santa Monica (although that much space is kind of rare). It's not a cheap town, but you shouldn't have any problem living well on that kind of salary (I supposed it depends on what your criteria for living well is though). In terms of specifics like utility prices and times to get to other cities, that is easily mapped and googled.

"North" LA doesn't really help, that could be a number of areas. A zip code might help. The San Fernando Valley has a bad rep because it's hot (like, really hot), boring, and very, very suburby. My favorite area to live in while I was there was near Santa Monica, primarily because its proximity to the ocean which made it about 15 degrees cooler than the rest of LA. There's also a lot going on in West LA--especially if you like to go out.

I lived there for six years and if there's one thing I found out it's that living in LA is what you make of it. I did not like it--I found it hard to meet new people, I didn't like a lot of people I met, I missed the seasons and nature, and so many people in one area drove me kind of batty.

However, I know people who adore LA--have lots of fun, meet lots of people, and love the adventure and excitement of living there. In some ways it was a really great place for me to be during my early to late twenties because there are a lot of fun things to do, but unless you're really pretty it's a city that takes a lot of initiative.

How you'll react to LA really depends on the kind of person you are and what's important to you. Do you like new things? Do you like a fast paced life? Do you like warm weather all year round? Do you like being around lots of people? Do you want to own a house and start a family?

Anyway, I wish you the best of luck!
posted by Kimberly at 10:07 AM on December 15, 2006


i'm from asbury park, moved here in the same situation two and a half years ago for a job, didn't know anyone. i'm at work so ill cover your qs breifly. you can email if you like.
north, the valley, suburbiaish, straight north is echo park, silver lake (hipsters, slightly ghetto) south is ghettoer, usc, casinos, the OC, west is santa monica, santa monica mountains, malibu further north, ucla is over there too. if you're in north LA, i'd recommend silver lake, but it depends more specifically on where your job is becuase commuting can and will suck. i would suggest you try to live close to where you work. other nice neighborhoods, IMO westside, downtown has some new buildings with some nice studios, hollywood if you're into that. obviously you're doin ok financially, but expect to pay at least 800 for a decent place.

i moved here because it was a job here or in NY, and i figured i would try living somewhere besides the east coast for a while. the hardest part is definitly not knowing anyone, i was comfortable exploring things on my own, and eventually met people (took about 6 months to a year) i met people initially by joining a home poker game i found on the interwebs of los angeles, and by going to stuff ala create:fixate i didn't really look specifically for ways to meet people, so i can't really suggest anything, but i'm sure you can find things if you look (even just craigslist)

it's expensive. 4.30 apprx. for gas, 5 bucks for a beer in a bar, etc.
posted by keame at 10:19 AM on December 15, 2006


we may be thinking of a similar move (dream job) but from the northwest us to los angeles. we own a house, we're raising two young kids and we live in a walkable neighborhood. is there anything like this in l.a.?

i'm worrried that a) i'm going to spend my life behind the wheel; and b) that we won't be able to afford a house anywhere near the city. (our current house value is about $450-500k, and that's peanuts in/around l.a.)

part-time telecommuting is an option for us as well, which means actual office visits may be necessary only 1-2x/week. so we could move to the far outskirts if there's anything interesting out there...thanks.
posted by diastematic at 10:26 AM on December 15, 2006


keame - where are you buying gas?!! $4.30??!! More like $2.30.

And $800 is going to get you a whole lotta nothin as far as apts. go. But as Kimberly said, you can do way better than a studio with your salary.

Image counts a lot out here, so be prepared to buy a new car. You'll want to drive what everyone else is driving.

The SF Valley is north Los Angeles, so I hope your new job isn't too far north. Although if you lived just on the other side of the hill (Brentwood maybe), and drove into the valley for work, the traffic would great for you.

Good luck. I moved here from Chicago, but I was 14, so it doesn't really count.
posted by clh at 10:31 AM on December 15, 2006


I agree that LA is what you make of it, but you can definitely make some great things. Diastematic asked about walkable neighborhoods. Downtown has lots of new development, and connections to transit. A little pricey.

Other fairly walkable neighborhoods - Echo Park, parts of Silverlake, parts of Hollywood, Santa Monica, parts of Venice, parts of Highland Park, parts of Pasadena.

I'd definitely recommend, thinking about where you're living in relation to where you're working. You'll need to get more specific than "North LA" for where you're living and then I could offer some more specific advice.

Contrary to popular belief, there is a growing transit system, but for it to work for you, you have to live and work close to the main transit lines. If you live near a transit line, I would really recommend picking a spot to live that is close to one as well. Traffic is definitely a problem in LA, but you can structure your life so it is a much smaller problem.
posted by krudiger at 10:40 AM on December 15, 2006


You can have a great time in LA if you're making 100K/year and are reasonably outgoing. Just be prepared to spend more money on rent than you're accustomed to, and more time in your car than can be reasonably expected of humans.

The only point of concern is that your office will be pretty far away from LA proper. Do you have a zip code for the location? If you're way the hell north in the SF Valley, it's going to be a non-sweet commute from any of the fun places to live, which are generally by the beach and south, or northwest of downtown.
posted by mzurer at 10:44 AM on December 15, 2006


ha yea...umm typo i was apparently focused elsewhere. and to reply further, 800 will get you plenty, i've never paid more than 850, and have lived in more than a whole lotta nuthin.

image is only as important as you want to make it.

and don't get a new car, get a motorcycle

(sarcasm (i hope) duly noted)
posted by keame at 10:48 AM on December 15, 2006


Also, aside from rent and increased gas costs (and not the made-up $4.30 figure, that must be a typo), it's really not that expensive if you're willing to make a miniscule amount of effort. There are tons of cheap restaurants, farmers' markets every day year round with very cheap high quality produce, tons of bars where a beer costs closer to $4 than $5 (though I've never seen the $2.50 beer of smaller eastern cities), Trader Joe's for reasonably priced dairy and bread, and many fun and cheap venues such as the Upright Citizens Brigade theater.
posted by mzurer at 10:50 AM on December 15, 2006


If you leave at the right time to avoid traffic and take the fastest routes, it's gonna be 5-6 hours to San Jose, 6-7 to SF or Oakland/Berkeley, and 2 to San Diego. Keep in mind that there is plenty to do before you hit those other metropoles, like Santa Barbara, Monterey, Joshua Tree, Mammoth... California is big and diverse. If you visited neat places in order of proximity, it could take years to get all the way to the Bay Area.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:21 AM on December 15, 2006


The motorcycle is not a bad idea if you're safe and well-insured. Bikers can elude traffic pretty well.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:22 AM on December 15, 2006


Interestingly, I think the "mentality" of LA is the closest to East Coast (specifically Jersey/NY) thinking you'll find on the west coast, but my impression of that way of thinking has to do with conventionally defined professional success and mainstream acheivement of consumerist goals and appearances being paramount. "Mall people." With artistic/political potential. Note that I am "SF values stinking academic hippie" people.

okay I'll stop now.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:29 AM on December 15, 2006


North LA is really vague. That might mean the valley (San Fernando, or Simi), or it might mean north of downtown? So avoiding area specifics for now, The valley is looked down upon because its generally very suburban, and as Kimberly says, very, very hot. Like, 110F+ in the summer. Its also cheaper housing, but your AC bills may mke up the difference. For $100K you can definitely do better than a studio, or if you like compact living, you can get a really kick-ass studio apt in a wonderful area.

The westside is a great place to live, especially Santa Monica if you are renting (buying is insane right now), assuming its within reasonable commuting distance of your job. The westside, hollywood, silverlake/los feliz areas are all great for a single person to find lots to do and enjoy life. Oh, "the westside" means the beach cities north of LAX airport generally. Downtown is weird. It is having something of a gentrification at the moment, so there are lots of nice lofts springing up there, but I don't see the appeal personally, its pretty dead nights and weekends. Its not like a traditonal city downtown, its just offices, sweatshops, municipal buildings and homeless people, without all the nigthlife, cafes, restaurants and urban living etc.

You will drive a lot, LA wasn't built for anything but traffic, and there is way too much of it. Don't buy a car to fit in, that's silly. Just have a reliable car you enjoy being inside. There is a bus service, but of course buses get stuck in the same traffic cars do. There is a subway system, which is pretty good, except that it only covers a very small part of LA, but if you happen to work near a subway stop, then that's a decent alternative to consider living near. However, I recommend you try and live near your work, because commuting really is the biggest downside of LA, much more so than housing costs IMO. I survive because I work weird off-peak hours. Traffic is never quiet, just less busy.

Diastematic, there are walkable neighborhoods in LA, but of course housing tends to me more expensive in those. For the westside Santa Monica, Westwood, Silverlake, Beverly Hills ($$$ haha) all spring to mind. In the valley Encino, Sherman Oaks and Studio City are good too. I haven't lived in hollywood, silverlake, los feliz etc. Eagle Rock is up and coming, near los feliz, may be cheaper, I have friends with families that live there, might be worth checking out. Any ides where your job might be?
posted by Joh at 11:58 AM on December 15, 2006


Joh: it would be in Santa Monica. But, like you, alt hours or telecommuting a few days a way is completely an option. So I don't need to be right there in the same hood. (Would love to be, but it's financially out of reach, or so I assume.)
posted by diastematic at 12:22 PM on December 15, 2006


Wow thanks for the insightful responses so far.

A few clarifications:

-100k is the assumed low-end, I could be making a good deal more so it's possible I could strive for a bit more.
-I know "North LA" is kind of vague but it's all I've got to go on at this point. I do highly doubt it's in "the valley," as it's a supply-chain logistics warehouse, so more likely central/north LA.
-I'm planning on getting a Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV. I've got a '96 Chevy Blazer now with iffy AC, and it's nearing the end of its life. Stop and go traffic is very good for hybrids, and I'm an SUV man, so that's most likely to be my choice.
- I'm a very social person, when given opportunities to be social in. So it's more a matter of finding a club or group to get involved in. If there are hiking groups, or even better young professional groups anyone could recommend I'd be set.

I'm part of www.njyp.org here, the New Jersey Young Professionals group here in New Jersey. Is there anything like that out there that anyone knows of?

If people are interested in following up or continuing to offer advice, bookmark this question and as of next Wednesday 12/20 I will have much much specific details and perhaps even use my weeks question and link back to this one, or just add the info here. Or of course reach me by email phonysoprano at gmail.

I appreciate everyones' help so far. It's a stressful choice, and a nervous move since it's all so new and unknown, so the more past experiences and advice I hear the better.
posted by PetiePal at 12:35 PM on December 15, 2006


If it's a warehouse in "North LA," I would bet dollars to donuts it's not in the city proper, but is located north of LA in The Valley, where real estate prices make that kind of facility more affordable. That doesn't mean you shouldn't move here, but you should know precisely where your workplace is prior to deciding to move. If it's in Burbank, you could live in Silverlake or Los Feliz and literally drive through a park to get to work every day.
posted by mzurer at 12:47 PM on December 15, 2006


There isn't a "North LA". LA proper ends at the hills and then turns into the Valley, so it's either the Valley, or... I guess it could be north of Downtown? Did they possibly say "North Hollywood"? (It's the part of the Valley closest to Hollywood. People like to call it NoHo.)

Depending on where you want to live and how fancily, you should budget upwards of 1200 for a one-bedroom apartment. Yes, you can find things cheaper than that, but possibly not in areas you'd love to live in.

The great thing about LA is that almost everyone who lives here is a transplant, so *everyone* is trying to meet people. Sure, there are lots of strange people, but there are lots of wonderful folks, too, and it's an enormous city, so you're sure to find your niche somewhere out there.

Good luck to you!

PS: when I moved here years ago, I found the book "The Newcomer's Guide to Los Angeles" helpful for narrowing down neighborhoods I might be interested in.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 3:45 PM on December 15, 2006


I lived in LA (Santa Monica) for 3 months from CT. There were two things I found most difficult to adjust to.

1) the weather: I found out I like the snow and the cold weather. I got real tired of the weather being the same every day and not having some variation. I know many other people will disagree with me and take sunny warm weather over snow any day.

2) The people: It is definitely a totally different culture, especially from the ny metro area. Much slower, people are not as blunt, or in your face about things.

I wouldn't put these as positives or negatives, just things that make both places totally different.

The thing I loved about LA was the diversity, the good mexican, chinese, thai, etc. food., the beach.

You should definitely try to find a house close to your job. Traffic is a mess in LA, and something that should be 15 minutes away will take you 2 or 3 times that long. Same thing goes for San Diego, you think it's a lot closer than it is , until you hit traffic.
posted by hazyspring at 3:52 PM on December 15, 2006


hmsbeagle is right; there really is no such thing as north LA. Either it's the valley, or it's nonsense from someone who didn't know what they were talking about.

I'm your opposite; I used to live in L.A., and now I live in Jersey. L.A. sucks; I'm sorry you're going there, and I hope it's worth it. Main advantages: weather and lack of crowds. Main disadvantages: anti-culture, no public transportation, and a parking ticket mafia that you won't believe until the first time they take you down.
posted by bingo at 4:16 PM on December 15, 2006


Don't hold back bingo, tell us how you really feel!

Actually, he has a point. I actually really like LA, but if not for pursuing entertainment industry work, I'd much prefer to live back East on account of the seasons, people, architecture, and general culture. Whereas the West has beauty in grandeur and incredible diversity, the East has many more small pleasant things to offer, in compact cities and a plethora of geographically uniquely American cultures.
posted by mzurer at 5:37 PM on December 15, 2006


>general life advice

Look at the bright side. New Jersey is the ugliest state in the nation. I have not been to LA, but it can't be too much worse.

Congrats!
posted by Slenny at 8:26 PM on December 15, 2006


Diastematic, Santa Monica is wonderful. I work there, and its a great place to be IMO. Housing is expensive, so you could rent there and be very happy, or you could buy a condo unit somewhere like Culver City, which is up-and-coming and therefore more affordable. Or, you could move further afield and buy/rent in the San Fernando Valley. The commute is dreadful at peak hours, really bad, but if you can drive off peak its OK (that's my commute now) or telecommute. I recommend visiting to try and get an idea of areas that you might like, and browsing www.californiamoves.com to get an idea of house prices (I find the interface nicer than realtor.com).
posted by Joh at 12:14 PM on December 16, 2006


Thanks Joh. I'll check out the site. Apologies to PetiePal if I've hijacked parts of your answering process. I just figured it was somewhat on-topic.
posted by diastematic at 5:45 PM on December 17, 2006


Followup? Were you offered the job?
posted by mzurer at 2:04 PM on December 20, 2006


Like anywhere else Jersey has it's ugly spots, but there are beautiful parts as well. I live on a lagoon near a bay and I love it.

Got some great advice from what was written already. Am going out for interview next Thursday for a job in Pasadena. Looking to rent for around 1200 to 1500. "Walkable" neighborhood a must.
posted by jshoreguy at 12:38 PM on January 30, 2007


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