10 Secret Ways to Outsmart L.A. Pitfalls

You're so smart, you know how to avoid L.A.'s urban booby traps and tap its big-heartedness. You're so good, you share this wisdom with friends and family. Special knowledge like that godsend, the easy-peasy shortcut between the Westside and DTLA — Slauson Boulevard. And the fact that Sprouts has "double ad" prices on Wednesdays.

But here's the thing. If you've got some decent survive-and-thrive tricks in your quiver but you're still fairly clueless, how would you even know that? Isn't this the very definition of "clueless"? Here, then, are key rules for negotiating life in L.A., a city you're pretty sure you know — but oughtta know better:

10. Avoid the Arrival Level at LAX
Never ask your ride to meet you on the “arrival level” at LAX, which is for saps, New Yorkers and pickpockets. Direct your ride to pick you up on the usually less-congested “departure level” and escape a serious slice of hell. It's perfectly legal. As far as we know. 

9. Get the World of Tyrion Lannister for Free

Why are you sitting like the victim of a dying marriage, trying to control your acid reflux while stuck in the Sepulveda Pass, Cahuenga Pass or Second Street Tunnel? From the Los Angeles Public Library system, you can borrow 

(and even download) all the free audiobooks you want

. Sure, the Vine Street exit, fully visible ahead of you, isn't getting any closer. But you don't give a damn because your heart is aching over Tyrion Lannister's next move in

A Game of Thrones


8. Explore the Earthquake Fault Beneath Your Bed
Is there a good reason to live atop an active earthquake fault, aside from the conversational possibilities it opens up? Although home sellers in California must disclose underlying faults, geologists haven't finished figuring out exactly where they all are. And renters are just fucked. Densely packed stretches of Sunset, Santa Monica and Los Feliz boulevards — to name a few — straddle major, active faults. So, should you bolt your man-killing dresser to your wall studs and ready that earthquake preparedness kit? Decide by using the zoom-in maps at CCCarto.

7. Beware the City's Trash Fees 
If you move from an apartment to a house, be ready for the $73 trash fee charged to individual homes on the bimonthly utility bill. What if you produce very little trash or want to haul it in your Mini? Can you opt out? CalGuy, commenting on the City Data forum titled "LADWP is a joke," asked about that. DWP told CalGuy that if he tried to skip out on his $73 trash fee, they'd cut his electricity. (By the way, renters also pay trash fees — they're just hidden in the high cost of their rent.) In any case, before you move, do the math. 

6. Get Your Kids into Stanford Without Private School Tuition
If you have kids or soon will, don't choose a neighborhood without consulting the site. Make sure the local LAUSD school is rated well — an 8, 9 or 10. Avoid anything rated 7 or lower and ignore parents' cheery online comments about how nice those schools are. They're probably trapped there. If you can't afford an 8, 9 or 10 neighborhood, go with a charter school. 

5. Get Interest-Free Financial Help From Someone You Hate
If you've got a silly little cash-flow problem that had nothing to do with blowing money on shoes, ring up the DWP computer and request a payment extension on your utility bill — without having to talk to a heartless $90,000-a-year employee. The computer will give you a generous extension if its all-knowing brain decides that you've got good credit. Call (800) DIAL-DWP or (800) 342-5397.

4. Avail Yourself of the Hollywood Bowl Has-a-Heart Rule
Don't sit in awkward isolation with your friends in the nosebleed seats, rows V, W and X, if it's clear that a couple thousand of the 17,376 Bowl seats are gonna stay empty. The ushers won't stop you from moving down to, say, rows L, M, or N. (Nor will they encourage it.) Just observe the polite "Are they coming?" waiting period. Then move down without squishing anyone's plate of brie. The Hollywood Bowl Seating Chart helps you plan ahead.

3. Avoid the Ribbons of Land Where No One Should Live
If you live within a block of a freeway or busy boulevard, you're in an invisible choker of fine brake-metal and tire particulates that burrow into and damage children's lungs. The L.A. City Council and the Office of the Mayor know this. Do they issue warnings? Please. Instead, they praise the very same health-threatening housing we're talking about. UCLA and USC scientists repeatedly warned City Hall that kids, whose lungs continue to grow to age 18, shouldn't live within 500 feet of a freeway. They got ignored. Don't ignore the professors. 

2. Read the Book of Revelations, Parking Version
Parking in L.A. is a belief system. The millennial crowd thinks your bumper can be a teensy bit inside the red — as long as your tires aren't. Wrong. That'll be $58 (if you edge into the red near a meter) and $93 (in a no-stopping red zone). Baby boomers think it's OK to stick a "For Sale" sign in their Audi, then park it out front. Wrong — that'll be $105. Lots of people think you can park 10 feet from a fire hydrant. That'll be $63 (it's 15 feet). This chilling list of L.A. and state parking violations and fines makes for great summer reading.  

1. Pay Your Parking Tickets ASAP
What if you don't read the book? L.A. parking tickets average $68, which doubles to $136 if you don't pay within 21 days. The Los Angles Parking Violations Bureau, a shameless profit center for the L.A. City Council, relies on your forgetting that deadline and paying huge late fines. Pay immediately, even if you're contesting your ticket. And good luck with the latter — the L.A. Parking Violations Bureau is both the ticketer and adjudicator. Pay up at


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >