It’s not hard for me to pick my favorite communities in Los Angeles. I tend to gravitate to areas that have beautiful, vintage homes and/or areas surrounded by nature. Here are a few of my favorite places to live around Los Angeles, and why:
Manhattan Beach, located in the South Bay at the coast, is approximately 30 minutes from downtown Los Angeles. The downtown area is compact and busy, but very clean and family friendly. There are a lot of Mom & Pop shops and boutiques, as well as great spots for eating. The beach is kept very clean, and is usually not very crowded due to the lack of parking. Most of the people you encounter on the beach or in town are residents.
The real estate is expensive, of course. There are several areas of Manhattan Beach, and they are named after their geography, i.e. “Sand Section”, “Hill Section”, “Tree Section”. The further you get from the ocean the larger the lots become. A starter home in Manhattan Beach is approximately $1.1m.
Crime is exceptionally low – almost non-existent in Manhattan Beach proper. The surrounding areas do have a substantial amount of crime. The Manhattan Beach Police force is strong, and the criminals know it.
Finally, the Manhattan Beach Unified School District is top notch. All of the schools in Manhattan Beach rank very high in their yearly API Scores. I prefer areas that have their own School District and aren’t part of Los Angeles Unified – and this is one of them.
As much as I love visiting Manhattan Beach, the commute would be too difficult for my husband. During rush hour it can take as long as 90 minutes to get from Manhattan Beach to Studio City (405 to 101). If you can work from home or locally or don’t have to go to the office every day, this is a great place to live.
Pacific Palisades is another beach community that I adore. It is closer to downtown and Hollywood but still very secluded and private. Pacific Palisades is not located at sea level, but rather above it on bluffs. You can get a great ocean view here, but you must travel down to Pacific Coast Highway to enjoy the sand. The closest beach is Will Rogers.
Pacific Palisades also has a great downtown area, very similar to Manhattan Beach but more quaint and not as bustling. The real estate is also expensive (similar to Manhattan Beach prices) but with slightly larger lots. My favorite area is called “The Alphabet Streets”, named so because they start with A, then B etc as you move away from the Village. If you live in The Alphabets you can easily walk to the Village and grocery shop, eat, buy clothes or just meet for coffee. The Village has a very small-town vibe to it, and it’s easy to forget you’re in L.A., except for the frequent celebrity sightings. A starter home here costs approx. $1.2m.
Pacific Palisades has a little more crime than Manhattan Beach, and unfortunately does not have its own police department. I am told that the officers respond to calls from a station located approximately 15 minutes away, at the 405 and Sunset Blvd. This is a little disconcerting to me.
The schools also rank very highly – especially the elementary schools – but they are part of Los Angeles Unified (LAUSD), which I would prefer to avoid.
If you’d like a slower lifestyle and can afford a home in Pacific Palisades, this is a great place to raise a family.
Malibu is stretched out over 27 miles of the coast and surrounding mountains, just North of Pacific Palisades. The locals call it “West” as you head up the coastline. Getting to Malibu can be quite a challenge, as you have to take PCH or one of the canyons that connects to Malibu from the Valley (101 freeway). For that reason, most people that live there have found a way to earn an income that doesn’t require going to an office every day.
Malibu is its own strange beast. The only thing the residents have in common is that they can afford to live there. Real estate in Malibu starts at around $1.2m for a home within walking distance of the beach. There are a lot of remote areas with homes in Malibu, but they are secluded and sometimes located in a high fire zone. There are a lot of families, artists, successful entrepreneurs, and hippies. Malibu is known for its fires and landslides, and it’s important to hire an experienced Realtor that knows the area.
One of the most desirable neighborhoods (and my personal favorite) is Point Dume. Point Dume is located on the beach side of PCH, and therefore has much less risk for fire. The houses are situated in a traditional suburban neighborhood setting, and most have ocean views. Point Dume has its own elementary school, and shares the Middle and High with the rest of Malibu. A fixer home in Point Dume will run you approximately $1.3m. Point Dume has its own private beach, and when you buy a home you can get a “beach key”. There is also a private club, which is great if you have kids. If you want to get in to Point Dume but can’t afford a starter home, consider a Mobile Home in their gated Mobile Home park. They pay a ground lease rather than owning the land, so it is considerably cheaper. You can even get an ocean view!
Malibu is part of the Santa Monica – Malibu Unified School District. The schools are also considered excellent, especially the High School. They are considered ethnically diverse.
Toluca Lake is part of the San Fernando Valley, located near the 134 freeway at Cahuenga. The best neighborhood is South of Riverside Dr. and slightly east of Pass Ave. It is very close to the Studios, and therefore a popular spot for Actors to live.
There is a small lake in the center of Toluca Lake, but it is private and you must own a home that backs up to the lake to use it. There is a Country Club at one end of the lake, and if you own a home on the lake you can scoot over there in your boat.
The neighborhood was started in the 1920’s, with a majority of the homes built by 1940. The architecture is one of the main reasons I love this area so much. The houses were built with style, romance, and quality materials. The lot sizes range from approximately 10,000sf to acres and acres. The streets meander rather than conforming to a grid.
Although the area itself is very family friendly, Toluca Lake is bordered by North Hollywood to the North, which has a substantial amount of crime. This crime does seep into the nice areas of Toluca Lake, in the form of car break-ins and home burglaries.
The schools are LAUSD, and a large majority of wealthy residents enroll their children in private schools in the area.