Moving to Los Angeles
Are you moving to Los Angeles? The sprawling city of Los Angeles, more commonly known as LA, is the second most populous city in the USA and the largest in California. It is, undoubtedly, the entertainment capital of the country and is famous for hosting major award shows. It is one of the premier centres of cultural and economic activity in the world and if it were a standalone country it would have the 20th largest economy.
Our free, in-depth Moving to Los Angeles report includes info on:
• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city
Putting Los Angeles on the Map
Located in a desert basin, surrounded by the San Gabriel Mountains and divided by the Santa Monica Mountains, LA County has 75 miles of coastline, with altitudes from 9 feet below, to 10,080 feet above, sea level. Since 1781, when 44 village settlers from Mexico made their home here, the village was declared a city in 1835 and became part of the US in 1847.
LA has the second largest transportation system in the US. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority (Metro) operates both buses and commuter trains.
- LA Metro Rail is a subway and over ground network within the metropolitan area.
- Amtrak transports its customer base between LA and most cities in the country.
- Metrolink links Orange County with the surrounding areas, including the Los Angeles, San Bernadino and Riverside Counties.
- LA Metro Bus operates 1500 buses within the area. Several other agencies run buses through the city and suburbs.
- The Metro trains are the best way to get around the city.
- There are Bike Share programmes operating throughout the city. Bright green bikes are for rent by the hour.
- Although Los Angeles International Airport or LAX, is the biggest airport, there are other airports in the area. These include Burbank, Long Beach, John Wayne and Ontario.
- Free shuttles operate within LAX to connect transit hubs for public transport to the city.
- FlyAway shuttles run from LAX directly to downtown Union Station, Westwood (UCLA), Van Nuys and Irvine.
- Limousines and shuttles serve the major airports.
- LA is rated as the worst city for traffic congestion in the world.
- Drivers here almost never indicate and love to tailgate.
Central Los Angeles features the most ethnically diverse and oldest neighbourhoods of the city, along with vintage suburbs. These areas were abandoned when the residents moved into some of the newer, more modern areas, post-World War II. However, the district has renewed interest for city dwellers, ready to look past the grime and instead focus on architecture, history and culture. The cost of living in Los Angeles is on much of a par with London. Fridges don’t often come included in rental apartments.
Be warned, LA dog owners often ‘forget’ to clean up the pavement after the dog has done its business.
LA’s oldest cemetery, Evergreen Cemetery, includes names such as Van Nuys, Bixby and Lankershimm – influential old residents of the city. There is even a jogging path for those who favour a creepy run.
CENTRAL LOS ANGELES
The void left by the exodus of movie studios and their type in Hollywood has been filled by condos, restaurants, shops and nightclubs, with most of the new activity being far below the famous Hollywood sign. Streets that were known for being dangerous, or the hunting grounds of pimps and drug dealers, have been cleaned up, and two subway stations make life easier for commuters to reach the downtown area or the San Fernando Valley. Nowadays, the vintage buildings are new luxury apartments and lofts, a great place to live for singles and young couples.
Unlike the central downtown area, leafy Pasadena takes pride in its past of tradition and history. New residents are attracted by the old restored houses and shopping areas. South of the 210 Freeway is the place to be, with all new condominiums and apartments in downtown Pasadena, Old Pasadena and the Playhouse district, close to museums, theatres, shops and markets. Add to this the ease of a light-railway line, this area attracts a mix of singles and well-to-do retirees.
From Whittier in the north to Long Beach in the south, this is a popular area for families.
Originally named the City of Dairy Valley in the late 50’s as cows outnumbered humans by 9 to 1, the cattle have gone, to be replaced by tidy tracts of housing, a public library, a mall, a performing arts centre, and a sculpture garden. In the 60’s the city was renamed after a large Spanish-era rancho which were land grants.
The area is now inhabited by more than 50% people of Asian descent, a middle class and mixed ethnicity neighbourhood of mainly cul-de-sacs with contemporary housing. Great transport links, with three motorways and the Orange railway line, make this popular with commuters. The population is mainly families due to the excellent schools and efficient city services.
This ex-Quaker colony was founded over 100 years ago by those seeking the sunshine and warmth. It is now more diverse, with many yuppie Latino families joining the old families that have been here for decades. There are still suburban 50’s and 60’s era homes, mainly in the Whittier Hills and East Whittier. In the north end are the three historical areas, including Uptown Whittier – the social and commercial heart of the city with its Friday Farmers Market and Wednesday evening Family Fair from spring to autumn, with food, crafts and live music. President Richard Nixon started his law practice here. Residents are now an ethnically diverse mix of middle class families, including staff and students from Whittier College.
The foothills and the valleys form a broad section, far from the beach and coastal basin. The foothills and valleys of Santa Clarita, San Fernando, San Gabriel and Antelope valleys are popular with those looking for better value for money housing and a quieter way of life.
An eastern suburb of LA, you may think you’re in the Midwest. Downtown is called The Village, residents greet each other on the street and meet up for coffee. The graceful homes line the shady streets and, a little further on the historic Claremont Colleges grounds, built in 1887, dominates the town and its culture. Claremont is clearly different from other suburbs by retaining its old-world feel, but maintaining great road and rail links for commuters. New townhouses close to a shopping centre and cinema has starting attracting younger people, but this area is defined by soccer mums, dads and kids.
35 miles north of the city, Valencia belongs to Santa Clarita, a family oriented city with top-notch public schools, church groups, a low crime rate, and a relatively new downtown area with a commuter rail line. Not a lot to do for singles and young couples without children, the residents are mainly conservative middle-class families, enjoying suburbia.
Close to the beach, this area is home to masses of middle and upper middle-class families who aren’t attracted by the flash and dash of Malibu or Santa Monica. Mainly executives and technical people who are employed in the aerospace industry and, more recently, entertainment people who commute to the Westside.
Close to the city, but with a holiday-feel, Manhattan Beach is along Santa Monica Bay, south of LAX. The public-school system is one of the best in the Los Angeles area. It is safe, has great restaurants and has an outdoor, healthy lifestyle with its proximity to the beach. Expensive, sleek and urban, comparisons could be made to its namesake in New York City. Residents are mainly affluent, conservative families.
PALOS VERDES ESTATES
Located on a peninsula between beaches with a view of Catalina Island and San Pedro and Long Beach. It’s peaceful and residential during most weeks, with occasional tourists, cyclists, hikers, and the star-struck gazing at the mansions. But the amazing ocean views, great schools, plenty of things to do and an abundance of restaurants make up for the intrusions.
Bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Mountains, the west includes glamourous and expensive areas, like Bel Air, Santa Monica and Malibu, and Rodeo Drive, UCLA and the Getty Centre.
A long-time home of the major movies studies but without the flashy, glitzy attraction of the Westside’s northern neighbours, this has changed with a recent revival which attracted cutting-edge design, media and high-tech companies to take over the old factories and warehouses. Along with this, vibey wine bars, restaurants, cinemas and top-class performances at the Kirk Douglas Theatre definitely attracts the crowds. However, Culver City, in the main, retains its peaceful streets lined with ranch-style houses and condos. Situated midway between downtown LA and Santa Monica, the commuting convenience attracts middle class couples, families and singles alike. Culver City Park has lovely walking trails and ballparks.
An affluent area, Pacific Palisades appeals with its more conservative, small town atmosphere. The Village, with shops and restaurants, banks, post office and medical facilities, is relaxed and friendly. Good public and private schools attract affluent executives, lawyers and other employees in the entertainment and other well-paying industries, those who want to enjoy a laid-back lifestyle near the beach and the mountains.
Who Live and Works in Los Angeles?
With an estimated population of around 4 million people in the city and approximately 9 million in Los Angeles Country, this multi-ethnic, diverse community comes from more than 180 countries, speaking 140 different languages. With 50% Latino or Hispanic, the balance is made up of white, Asian/Pacific Islander, African-American and Native American. This diverse employment pool has a wide range of education and skills which, including the high number of immigrants, provide a steady source of labour.
LA has one of the busiest ports in the world, is the largest manufacturing centre in the western USA, is a major banking and financial centre, and has the largest retail market in the country. The many universities in the region graduate more engineers than anywhere else in the States and the hi-tech and entertainment industries are growing, with Hulu and Netflix having their offices here.
Only Detroit manufactures more vehicles than Los Angeles, and most auto manufacturers have design centres here.
The three traditional economies of tourism, aerospace and entertainment have become a multi-tiered economy driven by access to world markets.
The Best Bits
The question is where to start? With a great economy, low unemployment rates averaging at around 5%, a huge array of rental properties priced from moderate to high, plenty to do all year round and sunny weather, Los Angeles is a great city for expats and their families. There are too many highlights to mention, but here are a few:
- The Getty Centre with its breath-taking views, beautiful gardens and art exhibits.
- California Science Centre. Take the kids, view the shuttle, admire the lovely rose garden and visit the Imax theatre.
- There is a wealth of theatres including the Microsoft and Greek Theatres.
- Universal CityWalk. Stroll past the old, themed movie lots with hundreds of restaurants and shops to choose from.
- The Natural History Museum, the Griffith Observatory, Battleship USS Iowa B-61, The Nethercutt Collection and many more – plenty for the children, history buffs, car fanatics, and culture seekers.
- Venice Skate Park is fun for the whole family.
- Numerous parks including the scenic Runyon Canyon and Griffith Park, with its panoramic view of the city.
- Fantastic bays and beaches. Los Angeles is famed for its outdoor life.
- The Pasadena City College Flea Market on the first Sunday of the month.
- The annual Pasadena Rose Parade.
- The Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens is home to the largest native plant garden in California.
- Fabulous shopping districts, including Chinatown and Hollywood Boulevard.
- There is plenty of Hollywood trivia, but an old favourite from years ago is the Hippocampus, which was once a few doors down from The Viper Room on Sunset Boulevard. This psychedelic boutique sold an outrageous selection of love beads, flower power stickers, incense, cigarette rolling papers and vintage clothing. It was owned for 50 years by a lady called Dorothy. She welcomed all the regulars with sparkling wine and strawberries, such characters as Mae West, Natalie Wood, The Mama’s and the Papa’s and Janis Joplin.
- Famous sports teams include the Los Angeles Lakers, Dodgers, Kings, LA Galaxy and Derby Dolls.
- The Flower District showcases every kind of flower available at wholesale prices.
- Bunker Hill in the city centre and the Grand Avenue landmarks include The Museums of Contemporary Art, the LA Central Library, Music Centre’s Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Colburn School of Music.
- The Jewellery District, Little Tokyo, the Wholesale District for fresh fish – the list goes on and on.
Bringing the Kids
Los Angeles is a wonderful city to bring up a family, with some really good schools in great suburbs.
- With around 35 universities or colleges, offering from Bachelor’s to Doctorate’s degree courses.
- All children in the USA are entitled to free access to public schools. Although the Federal Government contributes 10% to the national education budget, local schools generally rely heavily on property taxes to meet schooling expenses, thus the educational and financial capabilities of the area determine the level of education the students receive. The wealthier the suburb, the better the education. And placement at a school is determined by location, similar to the catchment system.
- Private schools charge quite hefty fees and offer smaller classes. But there are vigorous arguments about whether the level of education is better.
- Charter schools are non-profit, receiving less funding than public schools and offering a more specialised curriculum. Waiting lists are generally lengthy.
- Magnet schools offer tuition for scholars who are more gifted in an area of the curriculum, i.e. science, medical etc. Each school determines their own admissions criteria.
- There are a number of International Schools in LA. Since there are so many good public and private schools available, generally short-stay families choose this expensive option to enable their children to continue their curriculum throughout their school lives.
Relocating to Los Angeles
This large city, with some really good schools and areas, great weather and fabulous beaches and parks, offers so much to expat families. Whether a sporting family or those more culturally inclined, there is always plenty of entertainment here.
Accommodation choices are excellent, with some really great areas to choose from. Public transport often negates the need for a personal vehicle if you live within the city centre.
LA’s thriving economy has strengths in tourism, finance, education, entertainment and hi-tech, making this the location of choice of many expats.
However, the stress involved with moving a family to a new country and city, along with new and different regulations, can be daunting. Using the services of a relocation agent will undoubtedly smooth the way, helping with rental negotiations, choosing the right area with the right schools, move management and immigration assistance.
Average Monthly Rent - Los Angeles
|1 bedroom in City Centre||$2014 (£1501)|
|1 bedroom Outside of Centre||$1504 (£1121)|
|3 bedrooms in City Centre||$3394 (£2530)|
|3 bedrooms Outside of Centre||$2698 (£2011)|