I want to live in Los Angeles

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(maybe).

I've been accepted to a graduate program in LA, and I'm really considering accepting the offer. I've been in contact with people at the school, but the more feedback the better.

What I'm worried most about is cost of living. I've been told you really need a car in LA, and that apartments can be quite expensive. Does anyone here live or has lived in LA and can offer some insight? How hard is it to find a studio apartment in a decent neighborhood without spending a fortune? How expensive is it to own a car in LA, and is parking a nightmare like in some cities? What are some things people looking to move there should know ahead of time?

Also, I really love the outdoors and moving to a big city like that is really something I'm concerned about. How difficult is it to get away from the city and go for a hike or something on the weekend?

Thanks in advance for any advice/info you could share.
 

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  • #2
Evo
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Where exactly? Big cities have a lot of suburbs and some are good and some are bad. Expect to pay a fortune for a place to live regardless.

You should expect to be paid more due to location. My niece in Florida, where it's not nearly as expensive was getting $35k a year. If you aren't getting considerably more than that, you need to talk to them.
 
  • #3
Ben Niehoff
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You didn't say which school...I'm at USC. There is a Metro station there, so I get by without a car most of the time. I don't think there are any train stations near UCLA. However, the bus system is pretty decent.

You will need to have at least one roommate to live in LA, especially as a grad student. People in their 40s still have roommates. UCLA is actually not in LA, it's in Beverly Hills basically. It's very expensive to live near there. USC is in South Central, about 15 blocks north of known gang territory. The neighborhood around USC is not great, and yet at the same time is outrageously expensive. You should generally expect to live somewhere moderately crappy and commute an hour each way. My hour commute covers all of 5 miles.

Every other place in LA is also outrageously expensive, but not as bad as, say NYC. I live in Hollywood (which is a trashy place...don't believe the glamour they put on TV; I've literally seen tranny hookers on my street). A 1 bedroom apartment just opened in my building for $1275. Probably something like 700 square feet.

Parking is extremely difficult, and you should avoid driving if you can help it. Either take public transport, or con your friends into giving you rides. When I first moved here I remember getting frustrated by traffic and desperately wanting to just stop the car somewhere and chill out for a bit, but not being able to find anywhere to park. Many restaurants have a valet that will expect $5. Most public parking lots are $20. USC charges about $500 per semester to park on campus.

Traffic is pretty much horrible all the time...I've seen the freeways completely stopped at 3 in the afternoon on a Sunday. You'll learn traffic patterns and some ideas how to avoid them, but there's really not much you can do. Best I could do was cut my hour commute down to 45 minutes. It's less stressful just to hop on the train...still takes an hour, but I don't have to think about stupid drivers.

Another frustrating thing is it seems like it always takes at least 1/2 an hour to go anywhere, even if it seems nearby. Also, since everyone is looking for a not-too-expensive apartment in a not-too-bad area, everyone you know will end up really spread out. It will be difficult to socialize with your friends, because it will always involve at least 1/2 an hour of travel and then parking. My friends essentially never do anything spontaneous; all social occasions are pre-planned. Once I drove 1/2 an hour to my friend's party, spent 1/2 an hour looking for a place to put my car, gave up, and drove 1/2 an hour back home.

If you like the great outdoors, I hope you like the desert, because that's all you'll find within a few hours' drive. Joshua Tree is a prettier-than-usual desert, I guess. However, drive about 6 hours north and you can see Yosemite. Also, the Grand Canyon and Zion are accessible within about a day's drive as well.

One plus side is that there are all sorts of fun things to do in LA. Problem is, as a grad student, you won't be able to afford any of them. The exception is that there are some cheap or free things. For example, the Getty Center and Getty Villa are world-class museums and formally free, but they charge for parking (so if you can get there without driving, it's free). The beach is pretty free-ish, although parking is tricky. LACMA is not free, but you should go anyway.

I hope I haven't scared you off. It is a tradition for "Angelinos" to complain about LA. And then tell you they love the city anyway. But in an ambivalent way so that you can't really figure out what you should think. I can tell you there are some things I will miss when I leave. And other things I won't.

Evo, $35k a year? No way. I get much less than that.
 
  • #4
Evo
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Evo, $35k a year? No way. I get much less than that.
Yeah, Planetary physics. She's wanted by several universities, a brilliant girl, she's at Yale now, IIRC.

I can't take credit for her. She my brother's wife's nice, from Latvia. And she looks like a runway model.
 
  • #5
Ben Niehoff
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Apparently I wrote 6 paragraphs to complain about transportation. That should say something in itself.
 
  • #6
Physics_UG
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When I was at ASU (in phoenix) I got paid around 15-16K stipend as a grad student and that covered my rent (I had no roommates) and all of my other expenses. There was also plenty of recreational things to do.

From Ben's description it seems like LA sucks. lol Maybe you should look into a different school in a different city.
 
  • #7
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You didn't say which school...I'm at USC. There is a Metro station there, so I get by without a car most of the time. I don't think there are any train stations near UCLA. However, the bus system is pretty decent.

You will need to have at least one roommate to live in LA, especially as a grad student. People in their 40s still have roommates. UCLA is actually not in LA, it's in Beverly Hills basically. It's very expensive to live near there. USC is in South Central, about 15 blocks north of known gang territory. The neighborhood around USC is not great, and yet at the same time is outrageously expensive. You should generally expect to live somewhere moderately crappy and commute an hour each way. My hour commute covers all of 5 miles.

Every other place in LA is also outrageously expensive, but not as bad as, say NYC. I live in Hollywood (which is a trashy place...don't believe the glamour they put on TV; I've literally seen tranny hookers on my street). A 1 bedroom apartment just opened in my building for $1275. Probably something like 700 square feet.

Parking is extremely difficult, and you should avoid driving if you can help it. Either take public transport, or con your friends into giving you rides. When I first moved here I remember getting frustrated by traffic and desperately wanting to just stop the car somewhere and chill out for a bit, but not being able to find anywhere to park. Many restaurants have a valet that will expect $5. Most public parking lots are $20. USC charges about $500 per semester to park on campus.

Traffic is pretty much horrible all the time...I've seen the freeways completely stopped at 3 in the afternoon on a Sunday. You'll learn traffic patterns and some ideas how to avoid them, but there's really not much you can do. Best I could do was cut my hour commute down to 45 minutes. It's less stressful just to hop on the train...still takes an hour, but I don't have to think about stupid drivers.

Another frustrating thing is it seems like it always takes at least 1/2 an hour to go anywhere, even if it seems nearby. Also, since everyone is looking for a not-too-expensive apartment in a not-too-bad area, everyone you know will end up really spread out. It will be difficult to socialize with your friends, because it will always involve at least 1/2 an hour of travel and then parking. My friends essentially never do anything spontaneous; all social occasions are pre-planned. Once I drove 1/2 an hour to my friend's party, spent 1/2 an hour looking for a place to put my car, gave up, and drove 1/2 an hour back home.

If you like the great outdoors, I hope you like the desert, because that's all you'll find within a few hours' drive. Joshua Tree is a prettier-than-usual desert, I guess. However, drive about 6 hours north and you can see Yosemite. Also, the Grand Canyon and Zion are accessible within about a day's drive as well.

One plus side is that there are all sorts of fun things to do in LA. Problem is, as a grad student, you won't be able to afford any of them. The exception is that there are some cheap or free things. For example, the Getty Center and Getty Villa are world-class museums and formally free, but they charge for parking (so if you can get there without driving, it's free). The beach is pretty free-ish, although parking is tricky. LACMA is not free, but you should go anyway.

I hope I haven't scared you off. It is a tradition for "Angelinos" to complain about LA. And then tell you they love the city anyway. But in an ambivalent way so that you can't really figure out what you should think. I can tell you there are some things I will miss when I leave. And other things I won't.

Evo, $35k a year? No way. I get much less than that.
Thanks for the response Ben. Yes I am considering USC.

I'm used to living in semi-bad neighborhoods, the one I currently live in is across the street from a halfway house for women, and two years ago there was a shoot out with the police in a small park about 100 yards from my door but honestly I've never had any problems here, so I'm not TOO worried about the quality of my neighbors, as long as I don't have to always worry about being mugged or having my place broken into.

The whole transportation thing sounds pretty horrible. Is there some reason you don't consider getting around by bike? If your commute is only five miles, you could do that in about 15 minutes on a bike compared to an hour.

Also the room mate thing doesn't sound too good... I'll be going there without knowing anyone, and I don't see how I'd find a room mate in time, and honestly after having room mates for the past three years I'm really not looking forward to having them again.

I have a difficult decision to make because USC has a really great program in what I'd like to do, but the location just seems so ill suited for me, I've never wanted to live in a big city. On the other hand, I have the option to go to Colorado which is like a dream come true for me, since almost all of my hobbies and loves in life would be amplified there, but the school is not nearly as strong as USC...
 
  • #8
jtbell
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Is there some reason you don't consider getting around by bike? If your commute is only five miles, you could do that in about 15 minutes on a bike compared to an hour.
That's 20 mph, which I would consider a very fast pace for a country ride. When I was in grad school in Ann Arbor, I bicycled a lot, for both recreation and transportation. My typical average on a country ride was 15-17 mph, and I was in fairly good shape then. In town it was a bit less because of traffic lights etc. I'd expect traffic to be a bit denser in LA than in AA. :wink:
 
  • #9
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Alright well 15 minutes may have been a poor estimate, but still five miles is very doable in much less than an hour's time, unless there's some reason why biking isn't practical in LA.
 
  • #10
WannabeNewton
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Every other place in LA is also outrageously expensive, but not as bad as, say NYC.
Yes but NYC also has like the most awesome Macy's ever so it's totally worth living here.
 
  • #11
Ben Niehoff
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Pretty much all "bike lanes" in LA are just little bike symbols painted in the middle of traffic.

Not sure what topic you're looking at, but I get the impression our department is really good for quantum info. Definitely consider it.

You shouldn't have much trouble finding roommates, since practically everyone needs one. You should be able to connect with other grad students pretty easily. And they'll make better roommates than undergrads did.
 
  • #12
Ben Niehoff
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I just remembered, another place that's totally free to go to is the Griffith Observatory. It boasts a 16-inch telescope which holds the world record for total number of people who have looked through it...because it is 75 years old and is open to tourists every night. They also have a giant Tesla coil that's pretty fun to watch when they decide to run it.
 
  • #13
Hepth
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My girlfriend just got back from grad school at USC two years ago. She ended up staying for a year in a 1-bedroom apartment just north of campus (on Menlo I think). Walking distance (though biking is faster) to campus, had its own parking lot, and Menlo has campus security stationed on it.

That's not to say its a great area, but its fine if you've lived anywhere below the middle class line. I think she paid under $1000 a month for the 1-bed, then ended up splitting the two-bedroom (very nice) the next year with a series of roomates. I'll ask how much that was.

USC is close to downtown LA (so the stadiums) but far from the beach and santa monica/venice. Its relatively quick to get there though (20-30 mins) if you're not in rush hour traffic. There is so much to do in LA it'd be a great place to do your graduate studies. The weather is always amazing, Malibu has some nice hiking trails, and the shopping and food are all very good.

She bought a bike the weekend of getting there. Though she had a car (free parking at her apartment). Parking used to be free for the first two hours at a lot of garages (santa monica, the grove, etc) but I think it all costs now. Its still not as expensive as Chicago though.

If you live near campus, you'll ride your bike to and from your building daily, and possibly to Downtown, but unless you're a practiced rider on a quick bike getting from USC to even Hollywood would take way too long, and you'd probably be drenched in sweat by the time you got there. So plan to use a combination of both.


The campus is VERY nice. Very clean, people were friendly, sports were fun, night life was busy. There were always people out doing stuff which is really a great thing for quality-of-life.

If you decide to go there (it IS a good school) send me a PM and I can probably get you the address and number of the apartment she had. It was a diamond in the rough. Not that great looking from the outside, but the landlord was really nice and took care of any problems, no bug problems, secure enough of a building, and wasn't crazy loud like the other student housing on the street. I think almost everyone in the building was a graduate student. It was also cheap with free parking.

Good luck with your decision!
 
  • #14
Evo
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Back to stipends, this link has a listing of stipends, but it's for biology, but it will give you an idea of what you should expect. The humanities will pay much less than the sciences.

http://www.wendychao.com/science/stipends/2009-10.html

Here is the stipend for physics at Columbia.

Q: How much is the stipend?
A: All students are offered Teaching Fellowships for their first 1-2 years, after that they are generally supported by Research Assistantships. The annual stipend (including the summer stipend) is $30,666 for the 10-11 school year. The typical "take-home pay" (after taxes, etc.) is about $2,500/month -- remember this can vary significantly from student to student depending on your tax status. There are opportunities to supplement that during the semester by grading, teaching recitations, tutoring, etc. In addition, all tuition and health insurance premiums are covered by the Fellowship.
http://www.columbia.edu/cu/physics/grad/main/FAQ/#Living in New York City Around Columbia1
 
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  • #15
Ben Niehoff
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Back to stipends, this link has a listing of stipends, but it's for biology, but it will give you an idea of what you should expect. The humanities will pay much less than the sciences.

http://www.wendychao.com/science/stipends/2009-10.html
Right. So if your niece was getting $35k, that's more than the highest stipend of any school in the country. So suggesting that the OP ask for "much more than that" to live in LA is kind of a non-starter.

Anyway, if the OP already has his acceptance letter, he should know what they're offering him.

OP, have you visited the school? Our department used to bring a bunch of prospective students all at once for an organized visit...nowadays it looks like they're doing individual visits, probably just for those who ask.
 
  • #16
Evo
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Right. So if your niece was getting $35k, that's more than the highest stipend of any school in the country. So suggesting that the OP ask for "much more than that" to live in LA is kind of a non-starter.
As was addressed in the link I provided, you can do teaching, among other things to increase your amount, I know she teaches. So, perhaps the basic stipend alone is just over $30K, which seems right for hard sciences.
 
  • #17
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The original poster did not mention his current town/city.

This is important in giving advice.
 
  • #18
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I spent a week in Los Angeles a few months ago, and I don't think I saw a cloud the whole time I was there. The weather was the closest to perfect that I've ever experienced. The traffic wasn't that bad, honestly. But I'm glad I wasn't driving my car. I've never experienced roads in such need of repaving in my life. Some roads are almost gravel. When do they decide to repave roads out there? When the potholes swallow a specified number of vehicles?

Also, this may be a bit off topic, but where exactly is the city of Los Angeles? The county includes all those little cities like Inglewood and Huntington park and Hollywood, etc, but where is the exact demarkation line for the city of Los Angeles? That confused me, because I always considered all those little "cities" as just different areas of the city of Los Angeles. I didn't realize they were all literally cities themselves.
 
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  • #19
Hepth
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As was addressed in the link I provided, you can do teaching, among other things to increase your amount, I know she teaches. So, perhaps the basic stipend alone is just over $30K, which seems right for hard sciences.

One can also get Fellowships/Grants through external sources rather than the University-paid stipend, as well as University-Fellows make a lot more than just a graduate student.

http://www.gradschool.cornell.edu/costs-and-funding/stipend-rates

For Cornell you can max out with fellowship at
$27,060(base) + $4,950(summer) + $11,735(max-one year increase) = $43,745

Though I doubt anyone will get that much in the next few years.
 
  • #20
Ben Niehoff
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Also, this may be a bit off topic, but where exactly is the city of Los Angeles? The county includes all those little cities like Inglewood and Huntington park and Hollywood, etc, but where is the exact demarkation line for the city of Los Angeles? That confused me, because I always considered all those little "cities" as just different areas of the city of Los Angeles. I didn't realize they were all literally cities themselves.
Hollywood isn't a city, but West Hollywood and North Hollywood are. I don't know exactly where the boundaries are.
 
  • #21
jbunniii
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Hollywood isn't a city, but West Hollywood and North Hollywood are. I don't know exactly where the boundaries are.
Actually, both Hollywood and North Hollywood are districts within the city of LA. West Hollywood used to be unincorporated county territory but was incorporated as a separate city in 1984.

Other standalone cities which are nearly surrounded by LA include Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and Culver City, and to a lesser extent Burbank and Glendale.

It is hard to answer leroyjenkins' question because LA's borders are extremely irregular. It encompasses the region shown in red in this map:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:LA_County_Incorporated_Areas_Los_Angeles_highlighted.svg
 
  • #22
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It is hard to answer leroyjenkins' question because LA's borders are extremely irregular. It encompasses the region shown in red in this map:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:L...ighlighted.svg [Broken]
Isn't that the LA county border? I'm talking about LA city. There is an LA city, right?
 
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  • #23
jbunniii
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Isn't that the LA county border? I'm talking about LA city. There is an LA city, right?
The red region is the city of LA (population about 3.8 million), the larger region in which it is contained, enclosed in the dark black boundary, is LA County (population 10 million). The grey shaded areas are other incorporated cities within LA County. The white areas are unincorporated, mostly mountains, and are variously owned by the county, state, and federal government.

[edit]: Here is a much better map. The city of LA is the large, oddly shaped white region:

http://www.laalmanac.com/geography/ge30ba.htm [Broken]
 
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  • #24
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OP, have you visited the school? Our department used to bring a bunch of prospective students all at once for an organized visit...nowadays it looks like they're doing individual visits, probably just for those who ask.
No I have not visited, but at this point it's too late I think, I have to make a decision by the 15th. However, I think I can still make a pretty informed decision without visiting in person.

If you decide to go there (it IS a good school) send me a PM and I can probably get you the address and number of the apartment she had. It was a diamond in the rough. Not that great looking from the outside, but the landlord was really nice and took care of any problems, no bug problems, secure enough of a building, and wasn't crazy loud like the other student housing on the street. I think almost everyone in the building was a graduate student. It was also cheap with free parking.

Good luck with your decision!
Thanks that'd be great, I'll follow up on that if I end up accepting!

The original poster did not mention his current town/city.

This is important in giving advice.
Upstate NY.
 
  • #25
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[edit]: Here is a much better map. The city of LA is the large, oddly shaped white region:

http://www.laalmanac.com/geography/ge30ba.htm [Broken]
Thanks. That is strange. Cities within cities. I guess if countries can do it (Lesotho) then it's not too crazy for cities to do it too.
 
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