Moving to L.A.? Let’s Talk Neighborhoods

Founded in 1781 by a small group of Mexican settlers, Los Angeles is the second-largest city in the U.S with over 14 million residents. The Westside of Los Angeles, which comprises the area West of Downtown Los Angeles, is the area I have lived in and served for over 33 years.  I was born and raised here, and know it like the back of my hand.  The beaches of Santa Monica Bay, the mansions of Beverly Hills and the glamour of Hollywood that define LA’s image are all clustered in a relatively small section of Los Angeles. Our nearly year-round sunshine, a casual lifestyle and a shot at Hollywood fame continue to draw newcomers to the area. (Not to mention the population surge each January after the Rose Bowl Game, played in 68° sunny weather, is broadcast to the freezing Midwest on New Year’s Day!)

How do you know what is the area for you?  What qualities define each neighborhood?  These are the questions home buyers always ask, because it’s a daunting task getting to know a city like LA.  Let’s start by describing the types of neighborhoods you’ll find here, and give some examples of each.  That way, when you begin your search, you can identify the type of neighborhood that suits your personality, and we can point you to the particular neighborhoods that are a match.  In a city the size of Los Angeles, whether you like big yards or hip nightclubs, there’s a community type that fits your lifestyle.

Farthest east, you’ll find the area known as Downtown LA.  It’s small by most large cities’ standards.  The downtown area is home to The Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, Symphony Hall, Staples Sports Center, The Convention Center and various theatres.  Aging single family homes and apartments, modern luxury lofts and condos converted from old warehouses and above businesses will be the living choices available to you.  There has been a real resurgence of young urban professionals moving to downtown LA, along with and ethnically diverse mix of young single professionals, low to middle income families and seniors who have been a part of the neighborhood.  What you’ll like about the area is the proximity to culture and nightlife, and the eclectic mix of people, housing styles, and affordability.  What you might not enjoy is the density and the lack of street parking.

Moving west, you will find many different ethnic neighborhoods. Like many big cities, Los Angeles has its share of ethnic pockets where those from far off lands congregate to live. Los Angeles has the highest concentration of Mexicans outside Mexico, Koreans outside Korea, and even Samoans outside Samoa. Tiny Russian, Ethiopian, Armenian, and even British enclaves also coexist throughout L.A.  We have a rainbow of diversiy, reflected in charming neighborhoods throughout its Westside.  Koreatown, Little Tokyo, and Little Ethiopia are just 3 of the ethnic areas you will find gracing the LA streets.  What you’ll love about living there? The affordable housing, interesting cuisine and products will tempt you, and your neighbors will typically be immigrants, young couples, and budget-conscious singles.

Los Angeles has several old and historic areas, including Pasadena east of Downtown.  On the Westside, near Koreatown, you’ll find the Historic West Adams District.  This area lies in close proximity to University of Southern California (USC). West Adams is known for its large, well-preserved, older single family homes with architectural styles ranging from Victorian/Queen Anne to Colonial Revival.  The best thing about living in West Adams?  The scale of the homes is grand, and you get a lot of home for the money.  The neighborhood is stable, and even the lanscaping is mature.  Driving down the street, you’ll take pride in the character and curb appeal of the neighborhood.  The homes often stay in the family for generations.  Your neighbors will most likely be style-conscious middle-aged couples, adults who grew up in the neighborhood, and home-improvement buffs who appreciate the character of the area.

Sprinkled throughout the ethnic, historic, and downtown areas are the neighborhoods that are up-and-coming.  These neighborhoods are made up of fixer uppers, older single family homes ranging in style from traditional to ranch to modern, and garden-style apartment buildings.  In addition, you’ll find small owner user duplexes and triplexes built from 1920 to 1940, often in the Spanish Style.  The bonus you get in these neighborhoods comes from the fact that these homes are likely to increase in value, and there is a working-class sensibility that allows for a comfortable neighborhood feel.  What you may not enjoy is the disparity that exists between those homes already improved, and those more run down.  In addition, you will contend with the noise and traffic of construction as neighbors fix up their properties. In Los Angeles’ up-and-coming neighborhoods, your neighbors will typically be a mixture of young singles and couples, recently divorced and single parents, aging retirees who have lived in the neighborhood for years, and immigrants; in other words, a perfect cross section of our community.

Throughout the Westside you will find areas, located near the business hub of each local community, known as the new urban locales.  You’ll find housing in a variety of styles, including single family homes in retro styles, upscale apartments and condos, and lofts above businesses.  These areas are generally high energy and in the heart of the action, but still offer a small town neighborhood feel in the heart of city living.  The only drawback is that the hip, urban lifestye can lead to inflated prices that drive some buyers out of the market.  The Fairfax District in central Los Angeles and the Montana District in Santa Monica are great examples of the new urban neighborhood.

Perhaps you like lots of curb appeal, playmates for your children, and active neighborhood associations.  Then you’ll be looking for a bedroom community, such as Pacific Palisades or The Canyons in Brentwood.  The homes are charming and well manicured, and your neighbors will generally be other middle-aged soccer moms and dads whose lives revolve around their children.  Private schools are plentiful in theses neighborhoods.

Looking for a neighborhood with a little more edge?  You might want to consider a pedestrian community, so named because you don’t need a car to get what you need.  These small pockets in major metros are designed to have tiny shops, bakeries, stores and boutiques in easy walking distance.  A lovely example is Sunset Plaza in Hollywood, and the Melrose area of central LA.  If you like activity and don’t mind noise or a lack of parking, this type of neighborhood may be for you.

If your dreams lie in the hills or mountains, by water, or behind gates, you are dreaming of the status neighborhood.  The Westside has plenty of these, each with a flavor all its own.  For the purist, there is always Beverly Hills, the ultimate status address.  Hugh Hefner makes his home in Holmby Hills, where properties lie behind gates on large plots of land.  Prefer water?  Head on out to Malibu, with its beautiful private beaches and laid back attitude.  The hip and trendy prefer Hollywood Hills, while sophisticates prefer Bel Air.  Brentwood Park is an enclave within a bedroom community, well loved by families. The old line status area near downtown is known as Hancock Park, where the lots and houses are large, and in the grand style.  Your neighbors in status neighborhoods will run the gamut from affluent high-powered executives and stars, to upper-middle income achievers, celebrities, and even millionaires.

If outdoor activities fit your lifestyle, and your dream is of places to get a tan, then you might want an active beach community.  Santa Monica, Venice, and Marina Del Rey cater to an oudoor, beachy lifestyle.  The housing is comprised of large single-family homes in newer architectural styles and luxury, upscale condos.  Biking, roller skating and walking are preferred means of transportation, and Marina Del Rey has boat slips for those who love to get out on the water.  Ahoy!

All of these neighborhood styles have pros and cons, but if you can identify which sounds most like you, you’ll go a long way towards finding the right place in the City of Angels.

To talk specifics about any Westside neighborhood, call The Bremner Group at 310-571-1364.  I’m a local, and a native- and there aren’t a lot of us in LA!

Get your Instant Home Value…