Thursday, April 5, 2012

Article - Where Should I Live In LA?

As many of you may have heard, I took a year off from Los Angeles to move back to Chicago and reclaim my soul. But I'm moving back in August and as I started looking for places, I realized, like Liam Neeson in Taken, that I had a particular set of skills. I’d lived in LA for 8 years, bounced all over, been to every neighborhood at least once. If there was anyone who could help future LA screenwriting transplants find the right neighborhood to live in, it would be me! So even though this KIND Of article has been written before, it’s never been written Carson-style. So buckle up beanbags. Shit’s about to get square footage.

3rd street Promenade in Santa Monica

SANTA MONICA ($$) - Santa Monica is one of the best places to live in Los Angeles because it has one of the most active beaches in LA, one of the best shopping areas in 3rd Street Promenade, and it's the most centralized beach town in the city. Now you will be taking most of your meetings in the Hollywood/Beverly Hills area, and Santa Monica is about a 30-40 minute drive from there, but it’s a small price to pay for being close to the beach, right!? The only real downside is that Santa Monica is the homeless capital of the United States. I don't know if this is official or anything but it's impossible to go anywhere without running into homeless people. And be careful, since LA’s homeless crowd is the best dressed in the nation, they often look like normal people. I once thought I’d made a new best friend only to have him screaming at me five minutes later that I was working for the government. Very embarrassing. Especially since I had just bought him ice cream.

BRENTWOOD ($$) – Brentwood is a really cool place situated just west of UCLA, about 20 minutes from the Santa Monica beach. It’s sectioned off from the university by the notorious parking lot known as the 405 freeway. Very clean and pretty. It has this nice (if humongous) central street with all these nice little shops around it. The crowd here tends to have a young, slightly upscale feel to it. I love going here every once in awhile but my impression of the community is that they’re a little stuck-up. Maybe I’ve just had bad experiences there but I didn’t quite gel with the people. However, if you consider talking to others overrated or you're stuck-up yourself, Brentwood is perfect for you! (p.s. Conan lives in Brentwood)

If anybody can find me a place here, I'd love you.

VENICE ($$) - Venice is one of the places I'm looking at. It's another beach town, just south of Santa Monica. It’s less pretentious, and the clientele reflect it. You'll find a lot more tattoos and piercings here. Venice is also home to the famous Venice Boardwalk. And if you Google that, you’ll get a feel for what you can expect. There's a community further inland in Venice that's a little more sophisticated, yet maintains that sort of rebel edge. This is where I’d like to live, unless I have enough dough to live beachside or on Venice’s famous moat-river thing. That will depend on how many of you buy my book. I should start a slogan. “Books for beach!” Someone go trend that on Twitter right now! (I still don’t know what trending means btw). Keep in mind Venice is even FURTHER from the Hollywood/Beverly Hills area (45 min), so meeting transit times might become an issue.

PALMS/WEST L.A. ($) – (about 25 min from Beverly Hills) I lived in Palms for a while. It's about a 20 minute drive directly east of Venice Beach, and since you're much further off the water and south of high priced Santa Monica, the property is cheaper. Like a lot of places in LA, you can weave in and out of Palms and find some pretty nice buildings as well as some pretty not-so-nice ones. This is a great starter neighborhood though, because you’re right next to the two major highways in the city (the 405 and the 10), allowing you to get anywhere you want to go.

CULVER CITY ($$) – Culver City is located adjacent to West LA. Much of Culver City used to be the MGM lot, so it's a really neat little place, tucked into the trees, with a lot of history to it. I like it because it has sort of a Midwest suburban vibe to it, how I grew up. And recently, within the last 10 years, the downtown area has really picked up. The Sony lot is right in the heart of Culver City, so you have lot of young hip people coming from over there. I really like Culver City but since I lived there already, I want to try a new area.

MARINA DEL RAY ($$) – Oh, the stories I could tell you about Marina Del Ray. My first girlfriend in Los Angeles lived on a boat in Marina Del Ray. Wasn't the brightest bulb on the tree. Once, while in the boat, we started shaking, and she said, “Oh, here comes another earthquake.” I looked at her and I said, “Huh?” And she said, “Yeah, there's a lot of earthquakes in Los Angeles. Sometimes like ten a day.” I said, “That was a boat passing us.” She kind of squinted at me and went, “Ohhhhh.” Anyway, Marina Del Ray is south of Venice and is sort of an unknown spot in Los Angeles. But it's got some really cool beachfront property that's reasonably priced. And it's reallly quiet there. The downside is that you’re on the southern tip of what would be considered “reasonable driving distance” between everything in LA. It will take you an hour to get to Beverly Hills.

IN AND OUT ($4.99 – double double and a fry) – In and Out is the most popular burger joint in LA. It sells just burgers and fries, nothing else. Nothing is frozen and everything is made to order. It’s ridiculously delicious. Now while you’re not technically allowed to live inside an In and Out, you can sit inside for a few hours before an employee notices you. And even once you do get kicked out, they have tables outside that you can sleep under. There are about 50 of these stores throughout the city and the last time I checked, about half are available.

BEVERLY HILLS ($$$) - There's no doubt that Beverly Hills is prime real estate. The houses are a lot bigger, the lawns are a lot wider. It even makes you ignore the insane amount of concrete that dominates the city (some streets in LA will take you 3 minutes to cross they’re so wide). Having said that, there are a few places on the fringe of Beverly Hills that aren’t too expensive. They're pretty small, but you can have that coveted Beverly Hills zip code if you really want it. There's also an area called “Beverly Hills Adjacent” that’s basically like the ghetto of Beverly Hills. However, the ghetto of Beverly Hills is still pretty nice! I lived there once. And what I found is when someone asks you where you live, you can just say “Beverly Hills ashsushaa,” and slur the last part. If you’re lucky, they’ll think you just said Beverly Hills. Oh, and Beverly Hills Adjacent is also the central hub for the Orthodox Jew community. So if you want to live here, you gotta grow a beard and get a top hat.

WESTWOOD ($$) – (25 min or less to Bev Hills) Westwood, or “Tehran East” as I like to call it, is a strange place. There are two types of people you’ll see here – college students from UCLA (where the university is located) and Persians, who make up 60% of Westwood’s population. I just made that number up but it’s reasonably accurate. Westwood is the first town east of Santa Monica, so it’s about a 25 minute drive to the beach, straight down Wilshire Boulevard, which is the biggest street that’s not a highway I’ve ever seen. The area itself is pretty nice. It has an okay downtown area whose highlights include large old-school movie theaters that are great for premiere parties. And if you’ve got a sweet tooth like yours truly, it has two GREAT places to get your fix – Diddy Reese (where the cookies are always fresh) and Stan’s Donuts (which has the most unique donuts in town. They actually bake a reeses peanut butter cup into one of their donuts. Need I say more?).

PACIFIC PALISADES ($$$) – (55 minutes to Beverly Hills) Pacific Palisades is one of the nicest areas in Los Angeles. It's the main beach area north of Santa Monica. You gotta take this windy twisty road to get there so it’s a bit of a hassle to commute. But this place is like a prettier Beverly Hills (at least in my opinion). It’s hilly and vegetative (is that a word?) and has places on the beach. If you’re drowning in money and don’t need to drive a lot, this place is for you.

THE VALLEY ($) (BURBANK, STUDIO CITY, OTHER TOWNS) – In Los Angeles, you have these hills that split the city in two. On the south side of those hills, you have proper Los Angeles (which I’ve been talking about) and to the north, you have the valley. I'm just gonna come right out and say it. I hate the Valley. I worked there once (in Burbank) and I didn't like anything about it. The heat gets trapped in the valley so it's always hotter there. The smog also gets trapped in the valley, so you’re sucking down soot wherever you go. And there's just this feeling of depression whenever you’re in the valley. Like it never made it out of the 70s. The huge plus side of living in the Valley, of course, is that it's a lot cheaper. So it’s a good starter place. And if you absolutely have to live in the Valley, I’d recommend Studio City. I can't say I know much about it but the few times I've been there, I liked it better than anywhere else in the valley, probably because it actually has current stores. Plus it's right across the hill so should you wake up one day and realize you’re actually in the valley, you’re just a 15 minute car drive from freedom.

Silver Lake

LOS FELIZ AND SILVER LAKE ($$) – (I think 35 min to Beverly Hills?) These are two places I'm thinking of moving to. The crowd here is young and hip and artsy, but, from what I've been told, not the pretentious kind of young and hip and artsy. The people are more genuine. It's kind of a hilly interesting area with some unique houses that date back to a long time ago. It's just northwest of downtown, so you're not gonna like this place if you're a beach person because it's a good 45 minute drive to the beach, but I'm hoping that the energy and the people here will make up for that because I want to find some cool folks in my second stint in LA!

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - Up until I left, there was a huge push to make downtown Los Angeles trendy. And they have put a lot of cool lofts up, which is nice because you don't really have many loft options in LA. But when I went down to look at these places, it was as dead as a door nail and you would walk one block and find yourself in a sketchy part of the city. Also, I'm 95 percent sure they hired actors to walk around with dogs in order to make it look like cool hip people lived there. It has been a year though, so maybe that’s changed.

HOLLYWOOD ($ - $$$) – Oh boy. I have mixed feelings about Hollywood. Here’s the thing. Los Angeles is so messed up and their layout so confusing, that I’m not even sure where Hollywood extends to. But the part of Hollywood I’m familiar with is dirty, grimy, and desperate. Because it's one of the most popular town names in the world, it's where all the clueless people live when they first arrive in LA. All these people care about is becoming famous. So there’s a dominant young narcissistic vibe on top of all the dirtiness. However, if Hollywood does extend as far west as I think it does, there are some places at the west end of Hollywood, off Sunset, that are nice. But that area might actually be “West Hollywood.” I don’t know. It’s confusing.

West Hollywood and the Sunset Strip!!

WEST HOLLYWOOD ($$) - West Hollywood is one of the cleanest nicest most centralized areas in LA and, like I said, where most people want to have meetings. So very little driving (except when you’re going to the studios, which are freaking spread out all over Los Angeles). I don’t like it though. It’s just packed so tight, I feel like a sardine whenever I’m there. But it’s right next to the famous Sunset Strip so if you’re a partier, this is a good area to live in. West Hollywood is also the central hub for the gay community in LA. Which may explain why it's so clean. And last I checked (which admittedly was awhile ago) there were some rent control areas. So you might really luck out with a sweet affordable pad.

ORANGE COUNTY ($ or $$) - I actually really like Orange County, which is South East of Los Angeles and the home to Disneyland. There are a lot of nice little apartments and houses there, many of which are very affordable. And if you don't like the pretentious LA scene, Orange County is a great alternative because many of the people there don’t even consider themselves Los Angelites. But if you expect to be taking meetings or coming to Los Angeles a lot, I'm gonna save you a lot of time and tell you to steer clear of Orange County. On an average day, it can take you an hour and 45 minutes to get to town. Or longer!

OTHER - Los Angeles also has a bunch of tucked in tiny areas that are really nice. For example, further inland from Marina del Rey is Mar Vista, which is like this secret little perfect community with all these awesome places that only a few people in LA know about. There's Pasadena, which is really nice but a bit of a hike out east so I’d stay away from there unless you’re only planning to come to LA every couple of weeks. And if all else fails, Los Angeles is a great place to be homeless. The weather is always nice. The thrown away clothes are often designer-quality. And if you fall asleep on the sidewalk, you’ll wake up with seven full burritos from Baja Fresh laying by your side. Yes, homeless people in Los Angeles get fed well! Maybe next article I’ll highlight the best park benches in Los Angeles to sleep on. They have some great ones up at Griffith Park.

So guys, where should I live?? And where do you live now?? Pros? Cons?