Los Angeles Neighborhood Guide: Part One by Katherine
Ah, L.A., La La Land, Hollywood, the City of Angels. So sprawling is this metropolis that the task of finding your first apartment can feel daunting, if not downright impossible. From beachy Santa Monica on the west side to funky Silverlake on east side, Los Angeles is one big monkey. But never fear, you have MFA’s LA Guide! The updated version! Part one!
Below are some of the best (most reasonably priced) neighborhoods for first time renters. Part 2 of this guide will include the rest of the eligible neighborhoods in SoCal for you ritzier readers. These will include Los Feliz, Silverlake, Santa Monica and Venice which tend to be a little more pricy than the ones listed below. That being said, you can find a deal in any neighborhood, with the proper amount of web surfing, shoe leather or tire wear, as it may be.
Most apartments are low, neutral 2 and 4 level buildings, but high-rise buildings from the twenties and thirties are rapidly being restored in places like Koreatown and Downtown. First, make a list of features that you’d like to have in the apartment. Laundry on site? Dishwasher? Parking Space? (Um, yes) Building-wide high-speed internet access? Balcony for all that outdoor entertaining you’re planning on doing? Write these down. (MFA’s guide is helpful for this).
Second, make a list of neighborhood features. If you have a job already, proximity to your place of work should be number one on this list. Trust me, you may fall in love with Echo Park, but if you’re working in Santa Monica that 2 hour commute may just kill you. Also look at things like nightlife, restaurants, recreational activity options, and sense of community.
A great guide for checking out any neighborhood in LA is the LA Times’ “Neighborhood Guide.” It will give you stats on crime, population and a specific area map of each neighborhood. L.A. Times Neighborhood Project
Note: all rents below are averages for the neighborhood and do not take into account the number of bedrooms. Use them only to estimate the relative rent level of each neighborhood. (Source: neighborhoodscout.com/ )
Echo Park – Do you like baseball? I hope so, because the Dodger stadium is right in your backyard. Minutes from Downtown and Silverlake, Echo Park is a vibrant community of artists and creative types of all races and sexual preferences. Citizens of Echo Park have long been socially active and culturally aware. Here, you’ll be able to walk to your favorite local bars and restaurants, which in my book is always a plus. Hilly terrain and a lake with a beautiful view of the tiny LA skyline set Echo Park apart from other neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Situated right near the 101, it’s easy to get to Downtown, Silverlake, Koreatown, Miracle Mile and Hollywood. But good luck getting to Santa Monica.
Pros: Minutes from Downtown. Hip, trendy, creative. Sense of community. Unique bars and restaurants. Fresh water. Cons: Exceptionally far from the Westside. A lot of nighttime activity. Crime can sometimes be an issue.
Average Rent: $1,085
Koreatown/Mid-Wilshire – Vintage buildings and a metro stop that is actually accessible by foot? Tell me more. Koreatown, officially located in the Mid-Wilshire district is home to the best Korean BBQ and karaoke outside Seoul. There are a number of apartment buildings from the 1920s which are charming and artiste. And nearby are two (yes, two) metro stations: Wilshire/Normandie on the purple line and North Hollywood on the red line.
Pros: Soot Bull Jeep, enough said. Strong sense of community. Easy access to Downtown, Miracle Mile, and West Hollywood. Subway stations. Reasonable rents. Cons: Parking is terrible. Crime is a little higher than other neighborhoods.
Average Rent: $945
Downtown – The home of LA’s only real “skyscrapers” and the setting for 500 Days of Summer is getting a facelift. Yes, it seems to have been gentrifying for the last decade and has no plans of stopping now. Abandoned buildings are becoming gorgeous lofts and swanky bars are cropping up all over the place. More and more it’s starting to resemble a real US city, with a grid system and everything! However, it is still on the sketchy and deserted side at night and on the weekends, and also houses one of the highest homeless populations in the country on the famous Skid Row.
Pros: Skyscrapers and the grid system (lovely if you’re a Manhattan ex-pat). Downtown art walk on Thursdays. Great bar scene (that you can walk or stumble to). Staples Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall, USC Football Games. You can actually take public transportation to places. Cons: Shady at night and deserted on the weekends. Like really, Saturday and Sunday it’s a ghost town. And it’s very concrete, with nearly no green space. High vacancy rate.
Average Rent: $520
Miracle Mile – Miracle Mile is also centrally located, situated right next to the LACMA (remember that scene in No Strings Attached with the lamp posts? Yeah, that’s here). Reasonable rent prices and charming 1940s duplexes make this a nice option of first time renters. However, if you’re an out-on-the-town party-till-you drop kind of lad or lass this may not be the place for you. It gets very quiet at night. But it’s also a hop, skip and a jump away from West Third Street which is home to the gourmet goodies of Joan’s on Third, Magnolia’s and Fonuts.
Pros: Um, museums? Close proximity to restaurants, gyms, and grocery stores as well as easy access to all the shopping of Beverly Hills. Centrally located. Cons: Quiet quiet at night. Horrible street parking.
Average Rent: $1,470
Studio City – Uh, oh you’re over the hill. This can mean two things in LA, neither of them good. In the real-estate sense, it means you’re in the dreaded valley which can mean hotter weather and a slower than molasses commute. But it can also mean a more relaxed pace of life, great shopping along Ventura Blvd and easy access to studios (it is called Studio City).
Pros: More suburban feel. Slower pace of life. Easy commute to Burbank and Universal City. Shopping on Ventura Blvd. Cons: Hot, hot, hot. Usually around 10 degrees hotter than the “other side of the hill.” Kind of boring.
Average Rent: $1,790
West Hollywood – Technically not part of the City of Los Angeles, West Hollywood thrives in the middle of it all, located minutes from Beverly Hills, Miracle Mile, Studio City and Hollywood. However, with that centrality comes traffic, traffic and more traffic, but also stellar shopping, poppin’ nightlife and charming restaurants. Here squat stucco apartment buildings seem to outnumber the pretty historic ones making for a disjointed look. Often these buildings come with paper-thin walls letting the party into your house whether you want it or not. And the parking is some of the most restrictive in the city. But the sense of community and access to entertainment, food and nightlife can’t be beat.
Pros: Walk to: grocery stores, bars, shopping, restaurants. Strong sense of community. Clean. Cons: The parking situation just might make you a public transportation convert. The central location also leads to heavy traffic all the time.
Average Rent: $1,385
That’s part 1 of this guide. For Part 2 of the guide click here. Remember, even though the task may be daunting at first, don’t fret – there are gems in every neighborhood, and it is possible to find something in your price range. And once you find that perfect ’hood, you’ll wonder why you were ever worried in the first place.