LA Neighborhoods: An Introduction for Beginners

So you’ve decided to move to Los Angeles. Congratulations. But your biggest decision lies ahead of you: which neighborhood to move into to. LA, after all, contains multitudes, hundreds of neighborhoods each with their own identity that will stick to you like a bad odor.  Plant your flag in Silverlake, Marina Del Rey or Thousands Oaks and whomever you are sitting next to at your next dinner party will think they know everything there is to know about you.  Here’s our guide to picking where you are in fact meant to be.

The Valley
If LA is the place people come to chase their dreams, the Valley is the place those people go home to get away from it all. It is said that the valley is at least 10 degrees hotter than the rest of the city. It feels like 30.

North Hollywood: Referred to as NOHO on t-shirts and coffee mugs, and home to a growing Artists District that has yet to include Artists.

Reseda: A lesser income section of the West Valley, it’s often said those in Reseda look guilty. Described in a Tom Petty song, Free Fall’n: “It’s a long day, Livin’ in Reseda. There’s a freeway, runn’n through the yard.” The freeway is the 101, and it actually runs through Tarzana.

Studio City: There was a time when people moved here because it was affordable and could be thought of as living in LA or Hollywood ‘almost pretty much’.

Burbank: Home to a Big Boys and Warner Bros., there is an airport here, the Bob Hope né Burbank Airport, which is the preferable airport for anyone living on the East Side. It is small, quick, and looks like an airport would look in Toon Town.

Woodland Hills: The pornography capital of LA. They say the worst part of a porn set is the smell. Lots of good deals on air conditioners and STD testing.

East Side
A rich tapestry, land of the hipster, the Mexican, the city lobbyist.

Downtown: Looks exactly like New York when you film it. In real life it looks more like this one block in St. Louis. Big buildings, subways, smells, walking, “lofts.” The words ‘Skid Row’ first gained fame here. The words ‘Urban Renewal’ are taking over.

Echo Park: There are 347 definitions of the word Hipster at Urban Dictionary, and next to each one is a picture of someone who has lived in Echo Park, from artists and independent thinkers to trust fund bohos and delusional space cadets.

Silverlake: An urban paradise built by gays and hispanics, has weathered the hipster invasion pretty well. Echo Park’s richer, quirkier Aunt.

Los Feliz: A more bourgeoisie version of Silver Lake with strollers, etc. A real melting pot for casual drinkers and alcoholics alike.

Hollywood: Hollywood is the most obvious and least-survived place to first move into. There are tourists, but only on a few main streets. Most of Hollywood is made of Hills and Canyons full of ghosts and the people who speak with them, believe in them, or want to be them.

Hancock Park: The mayor lives here.

Koreatown: Cheap, lawless and intensely treeless. Street parking is but a rumor.

Boyle Heights: Hasn’t changed a ton in the last decade or so. Gigante Mercados and Mariachis for hire in Mariachi Plaza who don’t give a shit if you hire them ironically. They’re just looking for a good time.

Atwater Village: Like a small-town version of Silver Lake. Reminiscent of early Spielberg films. Bad things don’t last there. Not much is open late.

Eagle Rock, Highland Park: The Valley with a splash of Silver Lake.

Glendale: There are so many Armenians here. They work everywhere – at the mattress stores and restaurants and Macy’s and Car Dealerships.

Pasadena: Pasadena is its own thing with its own freeways. The Rose Bowl, Santa Anita, and the Huntington Gardens are all very pretty places to take your mom when she comes to visit.

The West Side
The old and new money rich live on the West Side, the cars and busses are nicer, and there is an ocean. Steve Martin’s LA Story was based on the West Side, where a walk is laughable, rush hour is impenetrable, and magic definitely has its place.

West Hollywood: Two neighborhoods in one – the first, known affectionately as “Boy’s Town”, is dominated by incredibly muscular gay men; the other is block after block of old, disgruntled Russian Jews. A great place to play backgammon and buy nitrous.

Culver City: Famous restaurants and designer stores open their second or third locations here.

Beverly Hills: Everything I needed to know about Beverly Hills I learned from Beverly Hills Cop. It’s very nice and the people can be charming, but everything is either unaffordable, not worth having, or concealed by hedges.

Bel Air: Land of such enormous wealth, that the Welcome To Bel Air sign is written in Pink Neon.

Westwood: Home to UCLA, Westwood is a popular training ground for chain restaurant employees and all you can eat specials. The 4th meal was invented here. The students are annoying and impossible to distinguish from the ‘townie’ residents.

Brentwood: OJ Simpson vs Nicole Brown Simpson – one of many love stories from this working class town. It’s the kids who suffer.

Santa Monica: Maybe the most stereotypical idea of LA. There is a beach, a pier, an ocean, an outdoor mall next to an indoor mall next to massive free parking garages. The street signs are Blue, the bus is called Big Blue, it’s a very coordinated community. A California Über Alles.

Venice:  There are canals and paintings of Jim Morrison and a beach where any kind of lowlife is free to rollerblade, play music, or sell marijuana-themed everythings out of a beat up radio flyer. It’s the ends of the earth here, where you can safely say that walking into a stranger’s home and using their sex swing by yourself or with a partner would be totally cool.

Malibu: Malibu has beaches and canyons and horses and ranches. A little like Beverly Hills on the coast, except that the people are so rich, and the estates are so massive and impossible to get to, they don’t even bother putting up fences or hedges to keep us out.

Southside
The part of LA least like Hollywood and most like Baltimore.

Inglewood: Referred to as “the Sticks” in Pulp Fiction, because it’s neither central nor convenient to give people rides to.

South LA: Used to be called South-Central, it’s since been re-branded South LA. Potholes the size of Volkswagens and great Barbecue. You will know if you are on the street too late at night because the locals will tell you.

El Segundo: I left my wallet there. Psyche. I never got out of the car.

San Pedro: There is a good harbor here and a great fish market and a so-so aquarium.

Long Beach: The 2nd busiest port in America. Home to a University, a cheaper Jet Blue option at John Wayne Airport Long Beach Airport, and lots of punk rock.

Torrance, Redondo, and Manhattan Beach: I have cousins in each of them. I see the ones in Torrance the most. The ones in Manhattan Beach appreciate my style. The ones in Redondo have the most kids. Hawthorne blvd cuts through all three and is a Mecca for street racing.


  • Ian

    Awesome–love your descriptions of Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Long Beach, North Hollywood, Pasadena, Westwood and Mailbu.

  • sara

    this was totally hilarious, and freaky dead on! i was lol-ing the whole read!

  • susieqtpi

    You missed the pit of hilarity that is discussing the Sherman Oaks/Van Nuys/Balboa Lake areas and how pissed off they all are at each other.

    • cj

      This is my favorite part of living in the East Valley. For instance my first apt was at Woodman and Oxnard, which on my side of the street (The North side) was Van Nuys, and on the other side of the street was Sherman Oaks. So I always corrected people and said “Oh no, I live in Sherman Oaks not Van Nuys. Ew gross.”

  • Marcos

    John Wayne airport is in OC and Long Beach Airport is Long Beach Airport. And it’s Torrance, not Torrence.

    • http://twitter.com/hillelaron Hillel Aron

      woops. slipped through the fact-check firewall. thanks marcos.

  • John

    This was great! Thank you!

  • Sister Urethra Morningwood

    It seems like most of the neighborhood/city observations are from behind a car windshield. Also,
    Long Beach is much more closely associated with hip hop than punk rock. Just about every song in the 90′s out of Cali made a reference to the L-B-C. And no reference to Compton nor East LA (the real “eastside”)? Once again countless songs make reference to these two places as well as film and they both have had an enormous impact on international popular culture much more than sleepy and forgettable Atwater Village or painfully pretentious Echo Park. Probably should explore the city a bit more.

  • http://twitter.com/msottovoce Monica Sotto

    I’m a native and this is dead-on. Good job!

  • george

    the aquarium youre referring to the Aquarium of the Pacific? if so, that’s in Long Beach, San Pedro. Or do you mean the aquariums of live fish for sale in the fish market in Port ‘O Call?

  • george

    no San Pedro I mean to say

  • Action Justin

    Nice work. I love your read of the EP-SL-LF spectrum. Eagle Rock/Highland Park/Mt Washington are much more like Silver Lake than the Valley. They’re 323 for chrissakes. ER is like Mayberry for foodies and off-tour rockers, and Mt Washington is like a bourgeois Laurel Canyon. HP has Chicken Boy and a cyclist-friendly art walk that’s more fun than either Venice or Downtown’s. Burbank has comic book stores coming out of its behind and a lot of lesbians. I’m a Native. Keep posting!

  • CJ

    I’m just trying to figure out if you’ve ever actually been North of Hollywood Blvd or East of Vine. For instance, the freeway in Reseda would be the 118. Woodland Hills isn’t the Porn capital of the world, Chatsworth is. Woodland Hills is where all the Porn Producers live. From April-Oct Echo Park is the most Mexican part of LA because of Dodgers stadium.
    Stay on the Westside Transplant.

    • Mitch Bart

      No freeway runs through Reseda. The 118 runs through Northridge!

    • jk2001

      LOL, Echo Park is not the most Mexican part of LA. Boyle Heights is, or go out to El Monte. Echo Park is heavily Mexican because when the ranches were subdivided, Mexicans could live there as there wasn’t so much residential segregation back before the 30s.

  • DK

    Actually, downtown Los Angeles didn’t make famous the term “Skid Row” but Seattle did…. The first Skid Road was where the working men skidded the logs to the mills… It’s not really a term from Los Angeles at all for anything but the folk who dwell there… copied from the PNW… so you might want to fix that history error….

    • Jim Sherman

      Anyway it’s called the Nickel in LA

  • Effron

    Once again Cheviot Hills dodges the bullet.

  • Lopez

    From someone who’s lived in LA since ’92, this is pretty spot on– but of course, these are mere generalizations. I wish more people knew just how diverse this city is. Within each district are even smaller pockets of neighborhoods, which t
    his list clearly missed. Namely:

    1. Historic Filipinotown ( in between Silver Lake and Echo Park)
    2. Thai Town (nestled in the East Hollywood area)
    3. Little Armenia (also nestled in the East Hollywood area)
    4. Little Ethiopia (on the West Side sharing street corners with Jewish establishments)
    5. Little Bangladesh (Central Los Angeles, next to KTown)
    6. And how could you forget Los Angeles Chinatown, Little Tokyo Historic District, and the west side’s Little Osaka – 小大阪?!

  • kayun

    Santa Anita is in Arcadia and Huntington Library and Gardens is in San Marino.

  • FF

    Hawthorne Boulevard does NOT cut through Manhattan Beach…

  • suzy

    as a native angeleno going back 5 generations, I disagree with alot of this.

  • Tracey

    I’m a native and have lived all over the city, but someone else said it, you got it wrong on the porn, that’s Chatsworth. Woodland Hills is the poorer sister to Calabasas, where the new rich go to buy their homes because Santa Monica is too expensive

  • Will

    You’re clearly not from here, are you?

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  • struxtravel

    Very funny read! Of course there will be haters, but overall you were spot-on with your depictions of the different neighborhoods. I grew up in Westlake Village (I can only imagine what you’d write about that!) and live in West Hollywood now.

  • suz

    Not sure if you’ve actually been to Highland Park. To clump it with Eagle Rock is one thing, but it’s seriously NOT anything like the Valley.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pratik.varma.3 Pratik Varma

    Long Beach and Punk Rock?? I must’ve missed that.

  • Me

    Ya the porn capital is actually chatsworth not woodland hills! Woodland hills is mixed with wealthy and middle class depending on what side of ventura blvd you are on

  • http://www.engadget.com Joshua Fruhlinger

    It’s funny – you mention Marina del Rey in the intro but then don’t hit that neighborhood in the article.

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  • http://twitter.com/militantangleno Militant Angeleno

    Dude…PLEASE DO NOT PROPAGATE THE INCORRECT DESCRIPTION OF “THE EAST SIDE.” The East Side is EAST OF THE LOS ANGELES RIVER. Thought we all made this clear back in 2008. How dare you noobs continue this.

    • El Panzon

      I guess Mr. Dominic and anyone else who thinks Silverlake, Echo Park, etc. are on the ES need a lil’ more fist to face education on the matter. Somebody’s gotta knock some sense into them. ;)

  • Maven

    Poor, writer, if only you were as clever as you think you are.

  • Jennifer

    It is obvious this writer lives in East LA but has not lived in LA very long.

  • jk818

    The Native Angeleno reads more like an east coast television director with a chip on his shoulder. But then, I’m not a native – and I never decided to move here. I just got here and decided I was never going home. Say what you want about Woodland Hills, as long as you stay where ever it is you live on the west side.

  • Katie

    Hilarious and informative – thanks!

  • BlahDeeBlahLA

    This is funny. Even funnier are the comments from people who are all offended because their neighborhood “isn’t like that!” I guess the author forgot to mention that the people of LA apparently have no sense of humor.

  • JH

    There were many inaccuracies, but it was also very spot on. Everyone needs to lighten up.

  • anon

    Long Beach (along with Compton) is very much more closely related to hip-hop in mainstream culture. However, there is a significant amount of punk-rock in these parts as well… most of the punks just never make it big enough to leave the city.

  • katt

    ya lbc has a lot of ties to hip hop, but has a lot of live punk bands

  • katt

    it’s obviously a joke and not meant to be taken seriously people. somethiing to laugh at

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002207690487 Nicholas Bravo

    You forgot Northridge and Granada hills! Yuppie paradise, till you go past parthenia and then it turns into little mexico!
    Northridge is home to CSUN and thus is heavily populated with trendy asian college girls!

  • <3 this.

    Dead. On. Everyone complaining is just splitting hairs or butt hurt.

  • english douche

    third sentence should be “your” biggest decision. not you’re. sheesh

  • http://twitter.com/peteroriondavis Pete Davis

    Can’t tell whether the article or the pissed off commenters are funnier, but either way, I enjoyed this immensely. Echoing the sentiment that leaving Van Nuys (and its offshoots of Lake Balboa, Panorama City, Valley Glen, etc) and Sherman Oaks out was a missed opportunity.

  • Sorry

    I grew up in LA, my parents grew up in LA, and most of this is really wrong.

  • Seth

    IT’S/ITS

  • http://twitter.com/phanink Peter Hanink

    I know it’s a thankless job to compile these lists and you’ll never please everybody, but you’ve made some pretty glaring (and frankly bizarre) choices and omissions.

    There’s a big difference between a “neighborhood” and a city. You go through the Eastside hipster rolodex nitpicking the minute differences between Los Feliz (part of LA, pop: 40K), Silver Lake (part of LA, 31K), and Echo Park (part of LA, pop: 40K) while lumping all of Long Beach (independent city, pop: 500K) and South LA (part of LA, pop: 500K) together. Now maybe the rich white hipsters in Silver Lake are sufficiently slightly different from the rich white hipsters of Los Feliz to merit a separate entry, but then surely the affluent gays and punks, who live around Alamitos Beach (part of LB, pop: 48K) who are quite different from the 50K Cambodians who live around Little Phnom Penh. And I can confidently say that the upper middle class African Americans in Baldwin Hills are very different from the poor Latinos living in Watts. Both neighborhoods fall within “South LA” and neither bears the slightest resemblance to Baltimore. Seriously. Visit Baltimore. It’s level of blight is unlike anything in South LA.

    Of the 18 Million or so people who live in the greater LA area, you managed to categorize (inaccurately) tiny sub populations while either lumping together or outright ignoring the vast majority of the population. The fact that you’ve pretty much ignored entirely or denigrated the predominantly non-white areas isn’t helping your case.

  • http://www.facebook.com/happycow1 Liliana Vasquez-Duran

    Hmmm..as a native I also want too thank you for the list but I am baffled on how you have divided the East and West….When it really should be anything East of Main St is the Eastside and West of it is where the Westside begins. Also same is said about North and South anything North of 1st is Northside and south of is Southside….

  • Concept360

    A bit inaccurate! Woodland Hills is we’re pornstars live in huge homes but the porn capital is actually Chatsworth this is were all the big studios are . As far as Santa Monica goes there is no indoor mall! It got demolished and rebuild as an outdoor mall at the beginning of the 3rd st promenade strip.

  • http://twitter.com/PennieNotPenny PennieNotPenny

    Sooo which neighborhood has the most families? i/e which neighborhood will be least pissed off that I have two toddlers? ;)

    • Margaret

      Irvine

  • ranhalt

    Possessive “its” fail.

    • http://twitter.com/AngelenoNative The Native Angeleno

      Its been fixed. Thank’s!

  • Josh

    Hahaha! Born and raised, and I approve. What all the dorks leaving nitpick comments don’t seem to get is that LA is also the city of the knee jerk stereotype, and this list is crafted as such, humorously and appropriately if you ask me.

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  • Jim Sherman

    RE Atwater Village: “Bad things don’t last there”: The Rascals gang was founded in 1970′s Atwater Village by Hispanic residents who were either excluded or not allowed to join the Toonerville Rifa 13. The Rascals and Toonerville had been enemies from the start. Both got into the illegal drug and firearm trade and quickly began fighting over territory. According to them the Rascals territory is from Glendale Blvd. to Fletcher Drve and Toonerville’s territory is from Glendale Blvd. to Los Feliz Blvd but both constantly clash when they meet. One type of recent activity was an attempted murder of an FTW member in 2007 after he shot an allie from the WOS crew. The accused was shot in the face with a Remington Model 870 shotgun and was mercilously (sic) beat. Although he is now disfigured for life the FTW member survived and is now serving 25 years in prison. Another recent activity was in 2008 when 20 year old Gregory Hutchison was sentenced to 16 years in prison after he was found guilty of Arms Trafficking, Drug Trafficking, Robbery, and Assult. Another was when an unknown Rascal member led Police on a chase through the Los Angeles River but was never caught. On July 13, 2012 Carl Hutchison, brother of Gregory Hutchison, was shot in the chest by rival Avenue gang members with a Mossberg 500 shotgun in front of a Foster’s Freeze. Hutchison survived his injuries and it was said that this was his 9th time being shot. The most recent activity was on July 19, 2012 when 3 Rascal members shot a Toonerville member in the leg on the 3300 block of Perlita Ave.
    In May 2012 the Los Angeles Police Department made a new mission to bring gang activity in Atwater Village to a halt. Along with Friends of Atwater Village the LAPD has rounded up many gang members from the gangs in the area. from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rascals_(gang)

  • Skyevolution420

    i lived in socal years ago and am plannin on movin back to the LA area. Wheres the best place for a young (25) but old school at heart punk rocker to live? (when i lived there it was in the AV and i dont remember much from those days, it was alot of fun! cheers!

  • Margaret

    you forgot the OTHER VALLEY: San Gabriel Valley. Land of bad asian drivers, cheap massages with no happy endings and BOBA.

  • Rod C

    I am curious to what the neighborhood is at Beverly and Rampart..I know it is part of westlake but a local called it by a different name I have forgotten. Anyone ?

  • Big Shoulders

    I’ve never been to LA, but I thought this was pretty funny.