The "other side of the hill" — Los Angeles proper — isn't worth the cost, crowds or craziness, Valley denizens say. Many are expats who've embraced near-match communities in the San Fernando Valley, where they duplicate their city lifestyles, even as they save their cash. A review of rental offerings on Trulia, Zillow and other real estate sites shows how much you can save.
Like Mid-Wilshire? You'll love Encino. Office towers, big live-work complexes and a wide (and famous) boulevard of eateries and shopping, all of it walkable and ferociously protected by the neighborhood council? That's Mid-Wilshire. It's also Encino. So what will it be, $2,600 for a lovely one-bedroom on Wilshire — or $1,950 for a gleaming one-bedroom on Ventura Boulevard?
Obsessed with the Downtown Arts District, or Venice? Try NoHo. Addy Gonzalez and four friends formed 11:11 Art Collective in North Hollywood, inspired by the adage that if you see a clock at 11:11 and make a wish, it comes true. They also launched the successful Canoga Park Artwalk and host pop-up galleries featuring Valley artists, "transforming empty storefronts with special lighting and curated art," Gonzalez says. She and her musician husband considered downtown and Venice but were horrified by housing costs. Their two-bed, two-bath triplex in the Valley costs $1,400, and that includes a yard. Transit-rich NoHo, where the Orange Line meets the Red, is filling with dance studios, bars, theaters and such hip eateries as Republic of Pie, attracting 20- and 30-somethings, bicyclists and creatives.
Like Topanga Canyon? Try Old Chatsworth. L.A. Weekly contributor Heidi Dvorak describes her Chatsworth enclave: "Ancient oaks, rock outcroppings, gorgeous views of the Valley, the coolest hiking in the world. Multimillion-dollar mansions in earthy styles next to strange-looking, ramshackle wooden abodes. Old hippies — and new money that won't live in Beverly Hills." A small market, antique store, barbecue joint, firewood seller and people ambling by on horses define this charming townlet. Will it be a tiny Topanga cabin for $2,000? Or a real house in Old Chatsworth for about the same price?
Can't afford the Hills? What about South-of-the-Boulevard Sherman Oaks? You decamp to a tangled ravine or dead-end leafy street, throw organic dinner parties, drive a Prius (or better) and work in the Industry. But when you run errands in Sherman Oaks, you get fashionable Ventura Boulevard and crowded, friendly, neighborhood hangouts like Sweet Butter — plus painless parking. When you disembark from the Hollywood Hills, you get gridlock, $10 valets, tourist shops and overpriced cafés all seemingly inspired by the pages of Dwell.
Sick of Hollywood? There's always Van Nuys. Humorist Sandra Tsing Loh made her 'hood famous in books Depth Takes a Holiday and A Year in Van Nuys, and she loves that it's jammed with every racial group, mom-and-pop restaurants (Mexican, Thai and Indian), foreign grocery stores and affordable bungalows and old apartments. It's the Hollywood flatlands with less crime and without the sticker shock. Says Loh, "A gay couple I knew moved to Van Nuys from WeHo after swearing they never would — until they realized how much house they could get. There goes the neighborhood! ... Van Nuys was once orchards, and its bungalows — wood and adobe, with coved ceilings — were for farmworkers. I don't mean to talk ill of another section of the Valley, but it's not Reseda, with its midcentury, cheesy apartments with a carport in front."
Century City? Try Warner Center. Select a two-bedroom luxury apartment in Warner Center next to the Orange Line for as low as $1,784, or the gated townhouses known as the Summit for about $2,500. Walk or bicycle to Neiman Marcus, Tiffany & Co. or the Apple Store at Westfield's double-mall fantasia and pretend it's Century City. Except parking is easy, street traffic hasn't gone SigAlert, and you won't pay $3,100 for an aging two-bedroom (as on Beverly Glen) or $4,900 for a Summit-like pad on Century Park Lane.
Mar Vista blues? Woodland Hills beckons. Both have hills with great views and cooler-than-thou residents busily xeriscaping their yards and leasing solar. In both places, everyone checks the Great Schools site before signing a lease. Yes, you should add 20 degrees in temperature to Woodland Hills from June through September, but subtract an equal ratio from your rent. Plus, a chunk of Mar Vista just made the list of most polluted L.A. neighborhoods, thanks to particulates from Santa Monica Airport. You won't find that in Woodland Hills.