DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK.
My fiancee and I are psyched to be leaving Los Angeles and relocating back to the East Coast. But it’s laughable how widely disrespected our decision has been, ranging from the criticism that our five-and-a-half years here weren’t long enough to get acclimated to the more blunt: “Oh, couldn’t hack big city living?” (though we’re actually moving to another major metropolitan area). No, we were lucky not to struggle or suffer in one of the biggest cities in the world, but there are negatives to living in L.A. that were hard to ignore when plotting the next steps of our path. Click-bait blogs attacking L.A. culture are a dime a dozen but, without degrading the city or its people, there is still simple a case to be made for what makes Los Angeles a nice place to visit, but not a nice place to live.
1. The rent is too damn high. A Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies report last year revealed that half of the households in the L.A., Long Beach, and Anaheim areas spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Shockingly, a quarter of the local population actually loses more than half of their income toward shelter alone, which was (obviously) labeled a “severe burden” by the study. In fact, according to U.S. Census data, half of adult Angelenos are forced to live with roommates in order to make rent. That number is even higher than the percentage of adults who are forced to have roommates in comparably-expensive cities like San Francisco or New York.
There is an oft-cited housing shortage to blame, that’s left us with only a 3.3 percent vacancy rate. On a page frantically and hilariously titled “How Did We Get Here” from the Los Angeles Housing Department website, a short supply of new homes and apartments, continued population growth, stagnating wages, and high land prices all contribute to the region’s bloated housing costs. And it’s not projected to improve. The average rent in LA County as of 2014 was $1,716, and is expected to climb to $1,856 a month by mid-2016, according to a report from USC’s Lusk Center for Real Estate, shared by LAist.
2. And here is what that actually buys you. (Hint: nothing.) This means that for our “cozy” one bedroom, my fiancee and I pay over 1K a month, yet we still have the lowest rent of anyone we know. We enjoy our ‘hood, love our neighbors, and dig patronizing the fantastic local shops and restaurants nearby. But we’ve had to battle pests, and then battle slummy landlords about eliminating those pests. As if the din of four lanes of traffic on the main drag outside our door wasn’t enough, pepper in honking, yelling, constant police helicopters, the 4AM buzzing of street races, howling car alarms, and a volume of airport traffic that makes Donnie Darko seem like a real statistical possibility. From March to December, we rely on the A/C to keep our poorly insulated second floor home not even truly cool, but merely managable. However, the shoddy wiring makes the circuit breaker spazz out when the A/C is on, and shutting down the power to other parts of the apartment. And you’d be amazed at the havoc that little bastard wreaks on the electric bill. Speaking of…
3. Bills, bills, bills. Groceries, goods, getting around, and going out are all more expensive than in many other major cities. For example, due to the high incidence of accidents and car thefts, our car insurance has gone up despite clean driving records and having an unremarkable, older-model domestic car. Or, again, as a result of our dependence on the A/C, the electric bill is a mounting cost as the year wears on. By the time we get used to it feeling manageable, both comfort-wise and financially, come spring it’s already time to start running the A/C during most daylight hours again. Though some say they like it hot, I do not.
4. The hot climate is incredibly uncool. This week, in a piece aptly titled “Why Are We Still Moving to California?,” Jezebel quoted writer Timothy Egan to highlight the growing disparity between the sunny L.A. lifestyle and the seriousness of the drought this state is facing: “The idea that California could have it all — a pool in every suburban backyard, new crops in a drought, wild salmon in rivers now starved of oxygen — is fading fast.” While I love the sunshine, like I’ve already said, I just don’t enjoy the stiflingly-hot weather here. And I’m not sure how folks who pride themselves on green living and sustainability can. If you’re here for culture, here for a job, for opportunities, for family — that’s great. But I can’t wrap my head around the luxury culture that breezily boasts that L.A. is the place to be because of the weather, while disregarding the strain that constantly striving to stay cool puts on not just our own wallets, but also on our environment. Between the countless commute hours spent burning gas in air-conditioned cars, sitting in central air nearly everywhere you go, the abundance of swimming pools, misting stations at cafes and attractions, what is it you’re enjoying about the weather, exactly? Scurrying from car to curb at every destination, wearing protective layers of hats and lotions, hiding indoors because the elements are too oppressive — are we talking about East Coast winter or West Coast summer?
It isn’t for me, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t for everyone. What are the pros and cons of L.A. living for you? — Casandra Armour