Los Angeles – City Guide

Population: City 3.8 million, Los Angeles County 10 million
Housing Cost Index: 199 Very Expensive (US Average 100)

Central Los Angeles area

The metropolitan center of Los Angeles forms an arc stretching west from Downtown to Santa Monica. L.A. is urban in character and is among the most densely populated areas of the nation. Rentals are typically found in two-to-four-level earth-toned apartment buildings.

Popular first time renter neighborhoods are Santa Monica, West Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Silverlake (the Williamsburg of LA), Los Feliz, Echo Park, and Venice. Culver City, called a “nascent Chelsea” by the New York Times, and the rapidly gentrified Palms are some promising neighborhoods undergoing development.

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Apartment Hunting Tips for LaLaLand

Moving to Los Angeles? It’s a jungle out there for sure, but if you’re armed with neighborhood knowledge and price guidelines, the task isn’t so daunting — in fact, finding an apartment can be downright FUN.

First things first — identify what the most important neighborhood features are to you. Proximity to a job or a school? Lots of low-income housing options? A young and hip vibe? Nightlife options galore? Make a list of the must-haves, followed by a list of would-be-nice
options, and you have a fabulous starting point. All of LA’s neighborhoods are known for different pluses and minuses, and let’s face it — this city is huge. The more you can narrow down your options, the easier the apartment hunt becomes.

Next-up, make a list of features you must have for the apartment itself. Can’t live without hardwood floors? Need a place to park your ride? Have four dogs and seven cats? Not every apartment will accommodate your special needs, so know what these are out of the gate.

Now that you know the general necessities, let’s hit the pavement! Here are the best neighborhoods for a first-time renter, with the top features and price ranges for each. Good luck in your search for the dream pad, and remember — this is LA — everything is entertaining!

Downtown — LA’s downtown region is experiencing an unprecedented revival. What was once a desolate wasteland is now once again becoming a thriving, incredibly hip, artistic hideaway. This area features the highest concentration of lofts, gorgeous old buildings, and high-rise living. You’ll also love:

  • Walk to work! Thousands of business call Downtown home
  • Public transportation options
  • Unique living spaces — artist’s lofts, etc.
  • Close proximity to USC

Starting monthly apartment prices:

  • Studios/lofts – $750
  • 1 Bedroom $900

Hollywood — Live in the middle of the action, near the infamous sign, walk-of-fame, and the most eclectic, interesting neighbors you’ll ever have. There’s an energy and vitality in Hollywood that’s unmatched by any place in the world. If you’re in the entertainment industry, or you aspire to be, this is the place. You’ll also enjoy:

  • Awesome bars and nightlife
  • Centrally located — close to everything
  • Celebrity sightings galore
  • In the eastern part of the neighborhood, the rents are some of the most reasonable in the city

Starting monthly apartment prices:

  • Studios – $750
  • 1 Bedroom $950

Manhattan Beach — The northernmost city in the South Bay, Manhattan Beach is a laid-back, friendly, and vibrant neighborhood. It’s got great shopping, easy surfing access, and it’s just a quick jaunt to all southern California beach cities. Additional pluses:

  • Close proximity to LMU
  • Freeway-friendly (405, 10, 105)
  • Awesome beaches
  • Easy access to LAX

Starting monthly apartment prices:

  • Studios – $775
  • 1 Bedroom $975

Pasadena — Only about a fifteen minute drive from the valley, Pasadena is a gorgeous haven for trendy types and artists. Home to the Rose Bowl and many other fabulous city attractions, this area is often overlooked by the first-time renter, and can be a treasure trove of beautiful apartments. You’ll also find:

  • South Pasadena — awesome restaurants and night life
  • Easy access to public transportation
  • Unique and beautiful architecture

Starting monthly apartment prices:

  • Studios – $725
  • 1 Bedroom $975

Silverlake — One of LA’s trendiest, funkiest ‘hoods, Silverlake hosts tons of boutiques, bargain shopping havens, and fantastic live music venues. Residents here are proud to march to their own beat, and it’s considered one of the premiere up-and-coming areas in the city. Additional assets:

  • Reasonable rents
  • Lots of duplexes and houses available
  • Silverlake reservoir — great recreation spot
  • Young and hip neighbors

Starting monthly apartment prices:

  • Studios – $950
  • 1 Bedroom $1,150

Studio City — Ask any LA native about the valley, and they may tremble in fear. But you need not be afraid — the valley has all kinds of perks, including lower rents and plenty of entertainment options. Studio City is by far the most dynamic and thriving neighborhood. You’ll love it because:

  • Close proximity to all the major entertainment studios
  • Easy access to Hollywood
  • Less money gets you more apartment features
  • Ventura Blvd. — shopping, baby!

Starting monthly apartment prices:

  • Studios – $700
  • 1 Bedroom $925

Venice — Home to one of the most famous beaches in the world, this West Side hot spot has all price ranges, funky architecture, and a vibe all it’s own. While it’s not exactly the easiest neighborhood to get in and out of, residents tend to become very Venice-centric — there really is no place like it. Other fabulous pluses include:

  • Did we mention the BEACH?
  • Lofts and the canal
  • Cozy coffee shops and cafes
  • Great dog neighborhood

Starting monthly apartment prices:

  • Studios – $850
  • 1 Bedroom $1,100

Westwood — Although traditionally a pricier neighborhood, Westwood is popular due to its proximity to UCLA. You won’t find a lot of low-income housing here, but you will find some very new, very nice pads, a huge percentage of college-aged residents, and more food and fun options than you can shake rent check at. Other ‘hood features include:

  • Tons of theaters and eateries
  • Many apartments come furnished
  • Freeway-friendly (405)
  • Walk to everything!

Starting monthly apartment prices:

  • Studios – $1,000
  • 1 Bedroom $1,300

A final word-to-the-wise — if money is the biggest issue, consider renting a room in an otherwise occupied apartment or home. You’ll likely get a much nicer place for less money, and if you vibe well with the other inhabitant(s), you certainly won’t suffer from loneliness!

Los Angeles is one of the greatest cities in the world —the land of beautiful people, unprecedented opportunities, and non-stop nightlife. Welcome home!

* Tips contributed by Tina “kitty” Courtney, a full-time writer living at the base of the Hollywood sign. Visit PoetKitty to say hi.

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