When you say you're moving to LA, the first thing people ask is: "Where you going to live?"
They often go on to answer their own question with, "I always thought Santa Monica was nice. I love it there."
People who already live in LA approach the issue differently. They tell you where to live.
“I live in Mar Vista. It’s great. You should live in Mar Vista, too.”
A friend of mine, James, said this would happen right before he told me there was no place like Silver Lake.
This informal neighborhood advocacy program is born out of the very real - and always present – fact: LA is a vast, vast land.
I suppose this would be one way to judge how much someone likes me – the stronger the advocacy, the stronger the relationship - but I prefer to look at it as a way to understand the personalities of each neighborhood.
Like the aforementioned James – and his wife, Jessica – they are San Francisco people. They like hills and walking and funky bohemian stuff. Their neighborhood in SF was Cole Valley – a nicer, less grungy part of the Haight (if you’re from Chicago, think of Lincoln-Paulina area in the early 90s).
Silver Lake is just like that. Only with less walking – a phrase that can be attached to any comparison of LA to another city. (I.e., “That LA diner is just like Sarge’s in NY, only with less walking.”)
My old friend Abby and her man John live with their two kids in Santa Monica. They’re laid back people, actors and writers both, who occasionally stress themselves out trying to avoid stressful situations. And they like nice stuff.
Voila! A passable description of Santa Monica.
The bad thing about this word-of-mouth real estating is that it can be a little self-segregating. If you don’t know anyone in Korea-town, no one’s going to tell you to live there so you don’t look there and you don’t live there.
You end up in Silver Lake. Or Santa Monica.
At best, you might look in an adjacent area to those neighborhoods being advocated – which is one way undiscovered areas get hot. But, if you’re not friends with someone who might be deemed a social pioneer for your set, well, there you are.
In Silver Lake. Or Santa Monica.
(About the only people who didn't do this were Aram and Sarah who have given me their couch while I search for places to live. They live off the 210 between Pasedena and 5 and they know that the only people who live there beside them are horse people. They are beatiful people and terrific musicians that I will write more of later - but here are links to their band-sites: Aram's Orphan Train and Sarah's Ladytown Check them out. You will not regret it.)
All that said, I do like this “Hey, you should live here” chatter that I’ve come across. It tells me people really like where they live in LA and that the city, despite its vast vastness, is not some big impossible to understand welter of streets and places run by Vic Morrow and other thugs on The Shield.
That does not mean, however, that you’ll be able to find a suitable place in any of those areas friends have told you to check out.
Moreover, the other major, major thing to consider when looking for a place in LA is where you work. Turns out that being too far from THE MAN is a huge disadvantage. (Thus, someone’s address also starts to make suggestions about what is done for a living – the West side has a lot of commercial production, etc.)
The areas my peeps pushed were already quite full, and quite expensive. And, being naturally cautious, not having a job, and not knowing who I really am or really knowing anything, I put all the advice of friends into a bubble gum machine with handfuls of information from Craig’s List and the apartment agency everyone recommends (after they tell you where to live), West Side Rentals.
What came out was a place at Olympic and Hauser – about 6 blocks from LaBrea – an area near Miracle Mile that is conveniently (or not) located in the sort of middle of everything.
And it’s a roommate situation. Naturally, he’s an actor - Louie - who’s bicoastal and going back NY to do a play at the Rattlestick. (Can you believe?)
There’s a big pine table for dining and even a refrigerator (which not all apartments in LA come with, shockingly enough).
But more importantly, it seems to be a neighborhood you can leave a car in and where many people like me land when they first arrive in LA because, due to it’s “in the middle of everything” area code, it’s not a commitment to any lifestyle whatsoever.
It’s what Minnesotans call “nice.”
And so, this is where I’ll start. In the middle. To look for work. To look for more people like me. And the place from which I’ll continue to look for a more permanent apartment.
In Silver Lake. Or Santa Monica.
5 THINGS YOU NEED TO FIND AN APT IN LA
1. The Thomas Guide (leant to me by Armando, living here without this would be like trying to get around NY with a blindfold on - you'd have to figure out where you were by the sounds alone)
2. An account at West Side Rentals and some serious Craig's List time
3. Patience - you'll be driving, so, uh, you need this big time
4. A couch while you look (thank you Aram and Sarah!)
5. Intelligent Trust OR a refrigerator - whichever you need more/first