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Neighborhoods in Los Angeles: A Movers Guide

How to Choose a Neighborhood When You Move to LA

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Traffic in downtown Los Angeles. A late afternoon view of traffic on the 110 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles.
Steve Lewis Stock/Photodisc/Getty Images

UPDATE (Spring 2014): You asked for it, I'm providing it—a list of up-and-coming neighborhoods to add to this LA movers guide. Check out the Top 10 Up-and-Coming Neighborhoods in LA.

Los Angeles is like a cluster of many towns in one sprawling metropolis. Our basic public transportation system notwithstanding, we rely heavily on driving to get around. Because of this, choosing the right neighborhood to move and settle into is crucial, and may require some advice.

If, for instance, you live in Sherman Oaks you may rarely get around to seeing your friends in Venice. If your apartment is in Culver City it may seem like a huge trek to check out a new restaurant or club in Silver Lake.

It’s important to get around and explore different neighborhoods--whether you’re new to LA or a long-time resident--but the sad truth is that many of us end up hunkering down in our little respective ‘towns within a city.’ So, it stands to reason that the area you choose to live in should be a perfect fit for your lifestyle.

Choosing a Neighorhood in LA Checklist

Here are some things to consider when choosing which neighborhood you want to live in in Los Angeles:

  • What is the parking situation? LA is turning into New York in this respect. As the city fills up, free parking spots become increasingly difficult to find. Great parking is a major plus.
     
  • Be sure to visit the neighborhood you’re planning to move into at night as well as during the daytime. Some areas have a totally different feeling (i.e. they become a little shady, derelict or potentially dangerous) when the sun goes down.
     
  • If you have children, consider the public schools in the area. How do they rank? Are there any well-rated magnate schools in the neighborhood?
     
  • Is this an area that lends itself to walking or jogging (if this is something you do regularly)? Are there well-paved sidewalks and is the terrain easy to cover on foot?
     
  • Is the rent/sale price to space ratio decent? Do most of the apartments (or homes) have enough outdoor space?
     
  • Where do most of the people you know live? It’s nice to make new friends, of course, but if you’re new in town and the few friends you have are all the way across the city it could be challenging.
     
  • Is this predominantly a singles or family neighborhood (depending on your needs)?
     
  • Do neighbors seem friendly and social? Is there a sense of community (like a neighborhood watch association or a local hub where everyone hangs out)?
     
  • What are the crime statistics in the neighborhood?
     
  • Look beyond the neighborhood’s marquis name (like Hollywood and Beverly Hills) and really dig in to find out the flavor of the area, perhaps even asking some residents in the neighborhood coffee place.
     
  • Is the area easily accessible? This is something to consider when you’re looking into some of the gorgeous hillside regions of LA, especially if you have someone with special medical needs or an elderly person in your household.

Neighborhood Pros and Cons: A Quick Breakdown of a Few Central Areas in LA

Click on the links for more detailed info on each area.

Beverly Hills

Pros: Excellent school district, nice clean, manicured area, good for pedestrians/walking, in the flats there are many 1 and 2 hours free parking lots, parking is generally very easy (except in the retail center), very safe highly regarded neighborhood

Cons: Extremely expensive of course (you are not just paying for a house/apartment, but also for a zip code), traffic and parking can be horrible around the retail center

Search through maps of Beverly Hills

Brentwood

Pros: Beautiful, well-kept, family oriented neighborhood in a very good school district, parking is not generally an issue and it’s a nice ride to the beaches from here on Sunset

Cons: Not a great location for singles, beyond the main Brentwood marketplace there is not much going on in terms of restaurants and retail locations, this is one of the most expensive areas to live in in LA

Downtown

Pros: Exciting arts area with a strong sense of community, feels a bit like New York (nice, especially if you’re a Manhattanite who misses home), much of it accessible on-foot which many attendees of the monthly Downtown Art Walk can attest to

Cons: At night it can get a bit shady and potentially dangerous, basically devoid of natural/garden space

Search through maps of Downtown Los Angeles

Hancock Park

Pros: Charming old architectural houses, easy to take walks in the neighborhood on foot

Cons: Not much in terms of convenient stores and restaurants accessible by foot, very expensive and tends to be insular

Hollywood

Pros: Great, old (by LA standard) houses, bungalows and guest cottages, rich with LA history, fairly central and packed with restaurants, nightlife, etc.

Cons: Freeway access is somewhat limited to the 101 which is by and large known by locals as one of the most sluggish freeways, depending on the area crime and drugs can be an issue, rush hour happens at night as well as in the daytime

Search through maps of Hollywood

Manhattan Beach

Pros: Nice family community, pretty beach-side setting, close to the airport, small town 'vibe,' sectioned off into mini areas with unique characteristics, great lifestyle for outdoorsy people with opportunities to bike around easily

Cons: Lots of foot traffic especially in the summer tourist season, more expensive than you'd think and considerable commute if you work in 'central' LA (so consider gas into your budget unless you work in the South Bay), close to the airport (related airport traffic)
 

Miracle Mile

Pros: Great neighborhood for kids and domestic couples, houses are generally charming 1920s, with lots of duplexes and often good yard space, sidewalks are well paved for walking, close to the 10 freeway, parking is usually quite good

Cons: Not an incredibly exciting neighborhood for going out (although there are some good ethnic restaurants), gets very quiet at night which can be nice but also precarious for crime

Santa Monica

Pros: Fairly close to the beach, not far from Malibu beaches, mostly good for walking, lots of retail spaces around, considered a good school district, just as suited for singles as for families (maybe even a bit better for singles)

Cons: Traffic is notoriously bad, for out-on-the-town singles the nightlife scene (usually geared towards Irish bars and pubs) can pale in comparison to say, Hollywood or the East Side

Silver Lake and Echo Park

Pros: Extremely hip and trendy East Side areas full of life, activity and edgy young people, also contains some very pretty rustic enclaves in the hills, loose based sense of community

Cons: Crime in some areas, parking issues and too much night time activity

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