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« And Then There's the Huntington | Main | Elaborate Interiors, Vegas Style »

January 06, 2010

LA Sux ... Or Don't

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

All things considered, it's probably largely a matter of scale.

The Los Angeles region is huge. And expanding geographically -- though perhaps not so rapidly as in the past.

That might be the main reason I never really cared for it and came to dislike it a lot back in the 80s and early 90s when I had to come here on sales calls or to meet with clients.

In the first place, even with a comprehensive freeway system, it can take a long, unpredictable time to get around. One of my clients observed that the system was perpetually on the verge of breakdown, traffic-wise: this was in 1983.

Secondly, the socioeconomic sub-areas are themselves large and exaggerated to the point where an observer might be tempted to think the whole place was ritzy/nondescript/scary/whatever. Once in the late 80s I had time to kill and drove Rosecrans Avenue all the way from Norwalk to near the coast. It was an interesting slice of urbanism.

But the reality is that all places large enough to strike a visitor as being a city have similar mixes of neighborhoods and so forth. One difference is that, in a smaller city, one can live in one part of town and commute to the other side without chewing up lots of time. I shudder to think of folks who live in the San Fernando Valley, say, and have to work in Irvine. Obviously, it's best to live and work in the same part of the region. But jobs seem to change more easily than places of residence, so hellish commutes can be forced by unplanned circumstances.

We are house-sitting in a part of town where we probably could not afford to live (just above the Getty Villa museum). We're handy to both downtown Santa Monica and Malibu. Drop by Rodeo Drive or UCLA? -- just a scenic cruise along Sunset Boulevard.

As in other large cities, if one has money, life can be pretty swell so long as you avoid a serious commute. As a rule of thumb for LA, pick a spot to live that's in the hills or near the water or, perhaps best of all, both -- that's where we are for three weeks.

Of course the hills do get the occasional fires and mudslides. And strong earthquakes are a threat everywhere. But the winter climate here sure beats that of Seattle, let alone that of Minneapolis, Chicago or New York City.



posted by Donald at January 6, 2010


I live in L.A. for 27 years. It is rather convenience than love of the place. It is hard to love shopping Malls which are the centers of daily lives here. L.A. doesn't offer personality, the way a New York does, but it offers excellent location. 5 hrs driving to Las Vegas if you like that. Me, outdoors guy, I could not ask for better place. In the winter, for skiing experience nothing can match Mammoth resort (only better one is Whistler in Canada or some European resorts). In the summer hiking Yosemite or rugged Sierra Nevada (6-7 hrs of driving) is owe inspiring. All year around, because of mild weather, I can bicycle along the Pacific on the Pacific Coast Highway. No, thanks, the Seattle or New York are great cities but they can't match this type of convenience. The traffic has always sucked here but with audiobooks now it doesn't bother me. Of course, the other things which can bother Natives is the fact that Los Angeles become magnet for emmigrants from the Third World countries so it is slowly emerging as a less-American city on the US soil. But this is another topic I guess.

Posted by: Mike M on January 7, 2010 2:31 AM

I tend to get island fever when I'm in LA. It's just so blasted difficult to drive out of the metropolitan area. If you go south, you head right back into another big city. If you head north or east, you have to go through endless canyons and densely populated suburbs for fifty miles or more just to reach unpopulated desert. If it were easy to get out of town, I would like it better. I've lived in so many big cities, I just can't handle them any more. I like the attractions of sophisticated cities, but the inconveniences seem to outweigh the advantages as I grow older. You're right about the weather in good as it gets.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on January 7, 2010 10:15 AM

"If it were easy to get out of town, I would like it better." As I say about London, the trick is to belong to the helicoptering classes.

If you want a sensible size of city with a climate something like LA's, try Perth or Adelaide in Australia. I don't know Perth, but Adelaide is a gem.

Posted by: dearieme on January 7, 2010 7:35 PM

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