Thursday, May 27, 2010

Matching Your Personality to Your New Neighborhood

I loved West Los Angeles. It fit me. When I first moved here, it was thrust upon me, as that was where my aunt lived and I was moving in with her. I stayed there for over five years. I literally had to be kicked out (new ownership) to move. I decided to broaden my horizons and try the hip new area, Silverlake. Hip it was, but perhaps I am not as "hip" as I thought. We were mismatched. I had plenty of friends who lived near there who were totally in love, but I just couldn't get into it. I spent a lot of time that year in Downtown Burbank, where my boyfriend lived. I immediately knew that area was not for me, reminded me too much of the suburban, generic chain restaurants and petite, lacking interest houses that seemed just like Maryland. However, compromising when we moved in together, the small village of Toluca Lake reminded me in many ways of the sweetness of Brentwood and the proximity I required to areas outside my neighborhood.  I was home again.

Los Angeles is the epitome of urban sprawl. Neighborhoods and "cities" and villages spring up from block to block, each with their own personality and set of rules. This specific blog entry is dedicated to all the new LA transplants, whether you intend to make this home forever or you're just trying it out, it's important to find a neighborhood that feels inherently "YOU." I hope this information helps.

You have options. Yes, Pepperdine is in Malibu, but I will warn you now, it is almost as far from the LA Basin as one can get. Some facts about living in Malibu:

- It's gorgeous.
- It has temperate weather all year round.
- The apartments that most students could probably afford are going to be insanely tiny, especially if you want one on the ocean.
- Shopping and city amenities are get what you get. It is 25 miles of Pacific Coast Highway and there are intermittent strip malls with grocery stores, banks, etc. A lot of it caters to the upper class because that is who primarily lives there. If you want to shop elsewhere, you'll have to drive to Calabasas or Santa Monica or maybe Pacific Palisades (which is as equally upper class).
- There is limited public transit to get you into the LA Basin. So if you are living in Malibu without a car, understand you will probably rarely leave. Which is fine for some.
- It is definitely the place to be if you are a beach person. If you have no interest in city amenities, pull out a beach towel, a fruity cocktail and enjoy.
- You will be nearest to campus.
- There is limited parking in some neighborhoods, so just be aware.

As I mentioned above, if this does not sound good to you, you have options. The most obvious choice after Malibu is Santa Monica. Some facts about Santa Monica:
- It is also near the beach.
- It is not nearly as beautiful.
- It is a city designed around "beach-going" tourists. This keeps the area bustling and busy, and not always in a good way.
- This means there is a homeless population, riddled with so-so street performers and obnoxious teenagers who took the bus to get away from mom and dad.
- It has amazing weather. It is a cool 70-some degrees most of the year. It can get cool at night, so you will almost always need a jacket or sweater. But it's lovely.
- Compared to Malibu (or Calabasas which I'll discuss in a second), it has the best access to the rest of "real" Los Angeles.
- The bar scene is top notch and has great variety. There is stuff near Main Street and up Wilshire and Santa Monica Blvds.
- It is EXTREMELY difficult to park here. Many neighborhoods are permit parking only, which is fine if you live there, but hard to have guests over.
- There are "bad" parts of Santa Monica. I personally would suggest not living south of Olympic Blvd. Stay closer to Wilshire and Santa Monica Blvds...also easier to walk to many, many things. Stay away from apartments that boast close proximity to Santa Monica College! Not a good area and too far south anyway.
- You should have a car or at least share one with another student/roommate because the public transit to school is a nightmare. However, there is plenty to walk to, lots of variety, and good public transit around Santa Monica and surrounding neighborhoods (so won't need to drive all the time).
Surrounding Neighborhoods
Almost as easy to get to Malibu (about a 20 minute drive from Santa Monica), for a bigger bang for your buck (Santa Monica can get pricey too), try West LA. Yes, as I mentioned above, I'm a bit partial. But if you stay just south of Brentwood, you can hop on the 10 to the PCH and get to campus almost as quickly. You will have a less touristy feel, still near plenty of bars, less permit parking, and bigger apartments/nicer apartments for the money. You are also closer to UCLA and the nightlife that Westwood has to offer. I would suggest staying out of Westwood as they start to jack up the prices for UCLA students. Again, if living in West LA, stay North of Pico Blvd, West of Veteran, and East of 26th Street (which is the Santa Monica border) for the best deals and quality neighborhoods. 

One more main option, and less discussed, is Calabasas. Here are some facts about Calabasas with the caveat that I have spent less time there, however, I did ask many friends and coworkers to compile this information.

- It's going to be a lot quieter. It's the suburbs. As one friend said "it's suburban cowboy." There are some fantastic rodeo bars in the area. Line dancing, anyone?
- It's going to be HOT. Anything in the "valley" can get hot during the day and cool, even cold, at night. The temperatures vary greatly. Make sure the apartment has central air!
- The BIGGEST bang for your buck will be in Calabasas or Agoura Hills (a close neighbor to Calabasas--most of this information goes for both).
- Parking is a breeze. It's the burbs!
- You will need to drive around here. Not a lot of walking, it's definitely more chain restaurants and shops, and you need to drive over the Canyon to get to campus. Also, as some networking events are in the LA basin, you will want to drive to those as well.
- You probably shouldn't pay more than $900 for a one bedroom or $1400 for a 2 bedroom in this area.
- Pools are a common feature for apartments in the valley.
- The drive to campus is GORGEOUS! You are also near tons of outdoors activities, such as Malibu Creek State Park which has some of the best rock climbing, tons of hiking trails, and cute watering holes.
- You are closest proximity to the valley and the 101 freeway. Which makes it easier to get to Burbank, Sherman Oaks, and even all the way to Downtown LA.

Surrounding neighborhoods
 As I mentioned above, Agoura Hills and also Thousand Oaks, but it can be a bit pricier as it starts to become "upscale cowboy." It's not Hollywood money, so it will definitely have a different feel than Santa Monica, which can have a Hollywood money sort of feel. If you want to live on the Valley side but get closer to the action in the LA Basin, Sherman Oaks or Encino have more you can walk to if you live off Ventura Blvd. You will definitely need a car from here, however, you are sort of in the middle a circle from Malibu to Santa Monica to Sherman Oaks to Calabasas. So it's convenient to many off campus activities. You are now approaching closer to a 30-35 minute commute, but if you stay just west of the 405, you should avoid some annoying traffic at rush hour. And there might be even better apartment deals.

I hope this helps you figure out what neighborhood will fit you best. Here's some advice regarding HOW to find an apartment.

Craigslist. It can be rather precarious, as there are sometimes people looking to con people (do NOT send money through bank transfer or wire transfer EVER). However, it is one of the best places to find people who already have an apartment (more likely to be mostly furnished) and are looking to replace a roommate who is moving out. These people are established and can be, though no guarantees, a great way to make friends outside of school. If you are looking for a place just for you, or 2 new students have paired up and are looking to start fresh, you can try Craigslist or Westside Rentals. I found Westside Rentals to be less successful when looking for a roommate situation, but more successful for brand new, unoccupied apartments. They tend to be screened beforehand and have more information. For either one, never give out too much personal information. Also, SKYPE or talk to them on the phone at the very least. When an ad on either website looks too good to be true, it probably is. Ask for references of past tenants.  If you are specifically having issues or questions, just leave them as a comment and I can probably add some insight. However, this blog is long enough.

For other people who were LA transplants, please leave helpful comments and feel free to disagree with me. These are just my observations and opinions. I hope you can all find a neighborhood and home that fits you.


  1. The info is very helpful, thank you Hannah, I live in East side of LA so my knowing about west side of LA is really limited.

  2. Great idea for a blog! I think that this post is going to be of use for a lot of your classmates as they begin their MBA journeys as well. For the record, when I first started in the program during the fall of '08, I got an apartment in Woodland Hills (close to Agoura Hills)and I DEFINITELY overpaid for a 1 bedroom by a couple hundred dollars per month! So, your advice to your classmates is quite valuable. From a newly-minted Graziadio MBA to a new candidate, great job!
    Kasie Okoro
    MBA, April 2010

  3. Hannah, thank you so much! It is very generous of you to give your time to helping us. I will be moving from NY, and I’m really not at all familiar with the greater LA area, so all of this info is helpful. The first question that pops into my mind is that you make no mention of possibly living in on campus housing. I was originally going to try for that, but I do understand that I would be subject to some strict rules (dry campus, etc.)… is that why on campus is not being considered a viable option in your blog, or is it just too late for that?

    Ardra “Bobbi” Baksi

  4. Ardra, I did not consider on campus housing because as someone who is over 21, I consider it extremely stifling. I also believe that, personally, I don't want to be surrounded by undergraduates in a social way. Since I'm not an expert at what the campus offers as far as amenities, I can't really say. However, most of my Malibu concerns are equivalent for the campus life.