When I first moved to Los Angeles to attend USC's graduate film program, I had no idea where to live. I thought, "the closer to campus, the better...right?" Based on my experience in North Carolina at UNC-Chapel Hill, the town surrounding UNC was gorgeous and the commute was short, so living near campus was great. This is not the case at USC.
I always heard that USC was in a bad part of town. After all, it's located in south Los Angeles, a location known for gangs, drugs and murders. Why would anyone want to live near campus? But I didn't know Los Angeles, and I had no time to fly out and apartment search. So I had to pick a place, sign a one year lease, and move in -- all by online photos, price comparison and recommendations. I thought I would live near campus, get to know LA, and then find a new place after that one year.
UCLA on the other hand? They live in the most gorgeous part of LA - Westwood. Those lucky punks. (Our Trojans will kick your Bruin/Bear butts any day...just sayin...we have a sword).
I lived in "The Ghetto"
My first year in Los Angeles I lived to the west of campus. The apartments weren't as nice but they were cheaper...and safer. I blogged about the feuding ice cream trucks, the neighborhood animals, and the rooster that crowed outside my window.
We were never bothered by anyone (we, of course, never walked alone at night). The students who lived north of campus, on the other hand, were robbed a lot, because after all, that was the "rich student" part of campus. That's the honest truth. The bad guys knew those students had money and acted accordingly.
I liked my cheap apartment. It allowed me to get used to USC and its campus. It was also a 5 minute bike ride to class -- boy, did I sleep a lot more than my other film school colleagues! But after a year, I traded sleeping in and that crowing rooster for a nicer apartment in Los Feliz but longer drive to class.
My apartment search was like House Hunters
On a side note, anyone watch House Hunters? I felt like I was on that show. We literally had 3 apartments to choose from. One was the cheapest but further from the Los Feliz area, one was more expensive but had a home-y feel in a small town and the last was middle priced with the best location, but no air conditioning.
We went for the best location. I think House Hunters would be proud 🙂
So, you're starting your housing search in Los Angeles
I'm totally biased towards Los Feliz because it reminds me a lot of my undergrad experience at UNC. You can walk around town and feel safe. See the area map below. Los Feliz is 8 miles north of the USC campus - about a 30 minute drive.
I actually have a few friends that live there. It's literally right in the middle of everything Los Feliz has to offer. There are plenty of places to go out partying within walking distance (for example: The Dresden, Public House & Ye Rustic Inn).
There are plenty of places to eat as well. In fact, Fred 62, a 24/7 diner, is featured in a TON of sitcoms and movies. Plus, I tend to run into a celebrity there every time I go. Seriously. Every time.
To Condition or Not to Condition ... your air...
This apartment I shared has air conditioning which is tough to find in Los Angeles. My current apartment does not have air conditioning, and I find myself hanging out in coffee shops for hours during the hot summer days.
The apartment on Vacancy.com doesn't, however, have a washer & dryer in the unit. I have that in my current place and it really does spoil you to be able to throw clothes in the wash and not have to babysit it. But I may trade that in to have air conditioning during LA's hottest months (July & August). Those months can get just gross...
Your Friends are There
Plus, a ton of film students/film makers live in Los Feliz. I can walk one block and run into a friend.
Los Feliz really is its own town within a wild, unpredictable Los Angeles city. It's nice to know that your friends are nearby, and you can all go to awesome restaurants or bars together. Try the sushi here. It's delicious!
Film school is tough and it's important to get yourself out of your room and away from your computer sometimes. It was difficult for me when I lived near USC because I felt like I had nowhere to go. Now that I'm in Los Feliz, I feel like it's "my town" and I enjoy exploring it.
And do you like nature? Griffith Park is a short car ride (or long run) up the hill!