What do you like about your neighborhood & community in the LA/greater LA area?
July 29, 2008 9:17 PM   Subscribe

For those of you who live in LA or the greater LA area (Long Beach, especially) -- what do you enjoy most about your neighborhood, and how have you created a personal space for yourself in this sprawling city?

I am currently a court reporting student, 27 years old, single, and live in the suburbs with family to save money. I *can't wait* until i'm actually licensed, which I'm guessing will be in about a year, and want to look into different agencies now so that I can possibly work for them even before I can start reporting.

I want to live in a place with lots of life and community and want to base my search for agencies around this. I'll have some flexibility, to be sure, because you take depositions from all over and aren't actually restricted to the area you live in, but ... I guess I'm a little impatient and would love to start looking into possibilities of where i'll be able to live now. :-)

Would love to hear how you've created your own personal community, how you've met new people, what kinds of people you've met, what you like/don't like about your neighborhood ... any details you care to share on how your neighborhood suits you and how you've had to adjust to it. AND, if you've lived in any other bigger city, how it compares as far as creating your own community.
posted by tinygiant to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I live in Silverlake. I love just about everything about it, except maybe the lack of good restaurants compared to the westside. The main adjustment has just been fighting traffic to see my friends in Venice (and learning not to go over at rush hour). it is a little more "colorful" than the westside but I have never felt afraid of crime at all.

I don't know about "creating a personal space." I don't really have that many friends over here yet since I lived so long on the westside. But I feel like I run into a lot of people who are on the same wavelength as me. Sure there are a few posers, but for the most part I feel surrounded by people who are genuinely creative, artistic, and interesting.

I previously lived in Baltimore and DC. people are just so hostile there. Contrary to some of the stereotypes, People in L.A. are amazingly friendly compared to just about any other big city in the U.S., maybe in the world. It's been like 10 years and it still blows my mind.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:31 PM on July 29, 2008

Lived in LA for going on 10 years now.

Trust me when I say this: live near your work. Live near your work. Live near your work. Which community of LA you live in is largely unimportant, especially compared to living near your workplace.

If your workplace is in downtown, live in Silverlake. If your workplace is in Century City, live in Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, or the Fairfax district. If your workplace is in Santa Monica, live in Santa Monica or Venice. If your workplace is in the South Bay, live in Manhattan/Hermosa/Redondo. If your workplace is in the Valley, I'm sorry. (Live in the Valley)

But for the love of god, the last thing you want to be doing is commuting from, say, Venice to Burbank, or from Fairfax to Long Beach. It will kill you. It will suck all of the goodness out of your soul, and leave you a shell of a human being. There is nothing good about commuting in Los Angeles. You remember that song "nobody walks in LA"? Bullshit. If you can find a place in a decent neighborhood within walking distance of your work, your life will be much, much more enjoyable. You'll have an hour or two each day to do what you want, because you won't be stuck in your car.
posted by mark242 at 10:38 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I hate my neighborhood. My family hates our neighborhood. Our neighbors are hostile schemers. They move their cars to minimize street parking for my family and me. Sometimes I fear for the lives of our three dogs.

Sorry to be such a downer, but mark242 has it right—live where you work. This can be difficult if you have multiple people in your household who work in different distant areas. In that case, live where the billboards are in your primary language and where there are not farm animals waking you up at dawn. I speak from experience.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:50 PM on July 29, 2008

I agree on the "live near your work" thing, but not *too* near. I have friends who work and live in Burbank and never leave it... and personally I think it's important have separate work and home environments. I like living 15-20 minutes from my job, but I have had to commute before. The key with an acceptable commute is WHAT you have to look at on the drive. I lived in Beverly Hills and had to commute to El Segundo. Years later, I commuted from Beverly Hills to Toluca Lake. The distance was the same, but the VIEW was waaaay different. The first commute was through Inglewood and by the airport. The latter was past the Beverly Hills Hotel and through the greenery and fancy homes of Coldwater Canyon. I *HATED* every day of the first commute, but the other was beautiful and almost meditative. By the time I got home, I was more relaxed than when I left work. The good or bad of a commute is in the details. It's about what's on the path, not purely about distance.

I don't have time to write more right now, so I'll revisit this thread tomorrow.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:58 PM on July 29, 2008

Response by poster: thanks for your replies!

I didn't make this very clear in my question, but I will be able to live anywhere once I am able to start working. Reporters are in very high demand and agencies will be seeking *me* out once I get licensed.

So what I'd really like to hear about is *details* about different neighborhoods in LA, the kinds that drjimmy11 started to go into. I know the areas in LA more generally, but would love to hear more about what it's like to *live* in those different areas.
posted by tinygiant at 12:03 AM on July 30, 2008

Long Beach was fun when I lived there. I specifically lived in Belmont Heights. Anywhere around Belmont Shore is pretty nice.. You can walk around and get to different places. We used to walk to a coffee shop and other places.

Good luck!
posted by majikstreet at 7:09 AM on July 30, 2008

I personally love Burbank. I'm a native (3rd generation) of Los Angeles and husband and I bought a house in Burbank about 1.5 years ago. First off, Burbank is unincorporated (not a part of the City of L.A.) and has it's own sanitation, police, fire, parks/recreation, etc. I find that when I have lived in unincorporated cities more people are involved. There are more festivals and fairs that I have gotten involved in and I can call the city for a problem without feeling like I'm lost. Also, I patronize a lot of the mom/pop stores in the area (Handy Market, Frenchy's Beauty, Michael's bar and grill) rather than the chain stores. Makes a huge difference. Finally, I love the Chandler bike path. Plenty of people walking, rollerblading, biking, etc.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:36 AM on July 30, 2008

I live in Westwood; I like that it's got a reasonable amount of good food (although it's definitely not a standout in that department), and it's very walkable. Street parking is tough but not impossible. The downside is that it's very expensive--I'm only there because I wanted to be close to UCLA during grad school (I agree 100% with the "live near your work" thing), and now that I'm done, I'm getting the hell out. So I think it's definitely a nice place, but not quite worth the money. It probably doesn't meet your "lots of life" criteria, either, although there is life nearby, if you just drive a little ways up Santa Monica.
posted by equalpants at 9:34 AM on July 30, 2008

Best answer: Here are a few basic guides to LA neighborhoods. There are *SO* many great little pockets to discover, there really are. And a lot of what makes the difference between a good and bad living experience in LA is in the details of the *exact* place you're moving into. You could live in Los Feliz and have great neighbors, a kickass apartment and a lovely life there... but if you moved into a building one street over or even just eight doors down, it might be a nightmare for you. You could live in Beverly Hills and hate it. You could live in Little Tokyo and LOVE it. It's hard to really predict until you look at the exact living situation and all it offers or doesn't offer. And then you need to trust your instincts and follow them. Try to look at a place during the day and drive by it at night to really get the personality of the neighborhood and if you like it. Talk to neighbors if you can. Your home is your sanctuary, so don't choose one lightly. You may love love love the inside of a place but have your gut tell you not to move in when you find out (as I did once) that your potential downstairs neighbor is a serious nutjob under house arrest. Or you may think a place is in a neighborhood you'd never want to live but then find (as I also have) that this particular apartment is a hidden diamond you'd never have expected existed, or that your preconceived notions of a neighborhood were off.

I've lived in Pasadena, South Pasadena, Glendale, Los Feliz, and Beverly Hills.. I loved living in all of those apartments except for the one in Beverly Hills... I loved my neighborhood there, but I hated the apartment. It was too dark and narrow. The other places I enjoyed life in more -- because I loved the apartment and felt more at home. Make sure you love your apartment inside, don't just move somewhere for the neighborhood alone... find something you enjoy inside and out. It'll really make a difference on your quality of life. I'm moving to Valley Glen right now, which is a place I never thought I'd ever move to. But the place is adorable, the price is right, and the location is convenient for things that I want to be near. You really do have to look at the big and small picture to find the right place in LA. It's such a huge place, there's just a lot out there.

Although for years I had the impression they were sketchy places I wouldn't want to live, I now have friends who live in Highland Park, West Adams, and Echo Park and really love it. Highland Park in particular is really up and coming, I think. Getting to be more of an arts/local hangout neighborhood. Neighborhoods like Larchmont, Silverlake, Los Feliz, Tujunga Village, and Toluca Lake all have a local village mindframe and atmosphere. There are also pockets of Burbank, Studio City, Brentwood, Santa Monica, Sawtelle, Beverly Hills, Hollywood (and others) where there are little mini-neighborhoods... really cute places to live that are within walking distance of all sorts of local resources you'd love.

My advice to you is to get on craigslist and figure out how much you want to pay. Then look at everything you can. Drive around the city, aimlessly. Go up and down streets. Find out where the local hangouts are, and go have a cup of coffee there. Ask the people at the coffeehouse where a good area is to live, or how they like the neighborhood. They won't bite. See it as a fun adventure to discover what LA has to offer you. Treat the whole city as your potential home, and you'll gravitate to what corners make you feel the best and most comfortable.

Then nest there.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:08 AM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

Oh, and Sophie1 has a good point about communities... find out if yours is independent or is lumped in with the City of Los Angeles. This will make a difference in regards to how your neighborhood functions. When I lived in Hollywood, if someone needed a police officer's assistance they had to wait for the LAPD to show up and they're pretty busy so that often took hours. Even though their job is to protect and serve everyone, I remember in my 20s feeling guilty calling and bothering the police for things like fighting neighbors... it felt as though nothing was important enough to bug them unless someone brandished a gun or something. I felt like the LAPD had so much on their plate that I was probably overreacting and taking the police away from more important matters of saving people who were seriously in danger. And really, that's ridiculous... because even for small things, every citizen needs to feel they can be protected at the drop of a hat if necessary. That's what the police are *there* for.

For this reason, I prefer knowing there's some kind of local community watch going on. For example, if you live in a place like Beverly Hills, they have their own private force that will show up within like ten minutes to assist residents with even the smallest civic disturbance. A neighbor's blocking your driveway? Someone's car alarm won't stop? They're on the job. Street cleaning, trash pickup, etc. etc. is run much differently depending on whether your area has a local community controlling things or is lumped in with a zillion other residences into a behemoth city system, too.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:27 AM on July 30, 2008

Oh, one last thing... you asked about how other big Cities compare. Bear with me because I'm talking only from my own experience here. Other people may think differently. But this is what I've observed in my own life.

I'm from So Cal so I have a support system there that's bigger than anywhere else. But I'll say this... I've made more *new* friends in LA just during my visits down this year than I have in the last four years in the Bay area. I think the biggest difference is that people in Los Angeles LOVE to talk. Yeah, sometimes too much and some people just do it to hear themselves. But still, they really are into conversation. I know more about the people I met just while looking at apartments in LA than I have ever learned about my neighbors or landlord in four years here. Also, although people are very very busy in their lives (being "busy" is what living in LA is all about), they do make TIME for eachother, and they're very supportive of eachother. I have "close" friends in the Bay area who have been promising to have lunch with me for five months and I know never will so I've just stopped thinking about them. Yet somehow in LA my friends, acquaintances and former co-workers find time to meet up and hang out with me on a pretty regular basis, without much effort. The phone rings and spur of the moment they might meet you at the swap meet or for breakfast if they can. Or if I call and say I'll be in their neighborhood later, they're likely to ask me to stop by for a cup of coffee and a chat. Maybe they want to go to the market and I'll tag along to keep them company. I love that relaxed attitude. Because of the fast pace and energy of the city, spur of the moment isn't considered rude in LA like it is elsewhere. You don't need to plan things forever in advance just to get people to show up.

People in LA love to bitch about the little inconveniences of life, and sometimes it feels more like they're doing a comedy routine for you than anything. It's a manic depressive place where tomorrow is always going to be better, though. When you need support, these same people can be masters of the overly positive pep talk... if they like you, they can convince you that you're capable of ruling the world. (They can also easily convince themselves of the same thing.) My LA friends vocalize that they believe in me WAY more than I even believe in myself. When you go into a restaurant for lunch, if you listen to the other tables you'll hear people having full conversations about eachother's most minute or gigantic problems over lunch. Sometimes strangers will even tell you their deepest darkest secrets upon meeting you, which seems weird to people from elsewhere. Sometimes you want to say, "Why do you think I care about this. Who are you?" but instead you do what you're supposed to do... smile, nod, ask questions, share similar details about yourself, and look for an escape route where you can leave without offending the person. You never know who that person is or when you'll have to run into them again and you don't want to make people mad so that your next experience with them is unpleasant. LA is all about smiling, networking and keeping bridges intact whenever possible.

I'd say the main thing I've learned to appreciate is that people in LA all have passion for something. (There are a lot of passionless people in the world who have no clue what makes them happy... but in Los Angeles, people *definitely* figure that out for themselves.) It's full of really hard-working people who are filled with hope for the potential in their lives... perhaps immaturely but still. Life there is often about enjoying life even when it's hard (especially in the 90s, the time of earthquakes, riots, fires & floods)... that's why it's just as fun to hate LA as to love it: part of loving it is accepting and laughing at what there is to hate about it. You even learn to see the crazy people you meet and the awful stuff that happens in your life as funny stories you can tell your friends over lunch.

LA can be very, very fun. Just open up your mind to it and to the people, and you'll enjoy it.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:22 PM on July 30, 2008

Okay, I'm done. :)
posted by miss lynnster at 12:22 PM on July 30, 2008

Hi, I'm a Long Beach native, born and raised. I just want to tell you that now is a good time to move to Long Beach -- I remember when I was 10, in the mid 90s, downtown was a lot more dingy and isolated than it is now. I've never lived in LA, so this is the biggest city I've lived in, but what I can tell you is that Long Beach is a big town in its own right, with distinct and vibrant neighborhoods.

I live in Bixby Knolls, a kinda sleepy suburban neighborhood. There is a community here -- there are walkable areas on Atlantic Ave between Wardlow and Del Amo with a few coffeeshops, a Shakespeare theater company and other shops and storefronts. LB City College is down the street, so there are students and younger people around. Once or twice a year they shut down Atlantic in this area and have a street fair. Couple a weeks ago there was an event like this showcasing classic cars. It was fun.

If you lean artistic, there is the East Village Arts District, which has galleries and a monthly 2nd Saturday art walk where all the galleries and museums stay open late. There are a couple of museums here, the LB Museum of Art, and the Museum of Latin American Art which just opened a couple months ago. The beach is nearby here and a couple miles down the street is...

Belmont Shore, which is probably the most happening area in Long Beach. There's 2nd St, a bustling strip of coffeeshops, restaurants and bars. There's even a sick record store there. The rent's probably the highest in Long Beach, but with reason. Just go down there and visit for an afternoon and tell me you don't want to live there.

Honestly, though, this is all coming from a naive, wide-eyed youth who is making to move away from here very soon. I get the feeling anytime I go to LA that there is way more happening over there. Moving to Long Beach when you have the opportunity to live in LA is like moving to the east coast but settling across the river from NYC. Either way, google these neighborhoods if you're interested in Long Beach. It has its charms, and it is nice to live in a metropolitan area that isn't completely saturated with traffic like the Westside of LA, somewhere where you can find parking and escape the feeling that there are 50,000 people who are exactly like you but more hipster/well-connected/richer than you.
posted by malapropist at 5:11 PM on July 30, 2008

Oh, and if you're skittish about earthquakes, we just had a relatively big one yesterday, so you should be set for a while ;^)
posted by malapropist at 5:16 PM on July 30, 2008

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