What To Do Before You Move to LA

I love L.A.! I love what the city represents – both in terms of challenges and opportunities, and what it has to offer. The sun always seems to shine brighter in L.A. (or maybe my enthusiasm for it makes it appear that way). The days are longer and the nights are adventurous. There’s electricity in the air. Anxiety, ambitions and aspirations cover the city like a thin layer of smog. It’s palpable: you can reach out and touch it.

As intoxicating as it may sound, L.A. is not for everyone.

If you are contemplating a move to L.A. to pursue career opportunities, goals, or dreams, this article will provide you with helpful planning insights that can make your move easier and more successful.

1. SET REALISTIC GOALS BEFORE YOU MOVE: What are you hoping to accomplish by moving to L.A.? Have you accurately assessed whether your hometown can provide you with similar resources that can facilitate your success? What benefits and advantages will you gain by relocating to L.A.? How will this geographical change improve the likelihood of you reaching your goals?

Be aware of the fact that Los Angeles is the largest city in California and the second largest in the United States. There are (as of this 2009 writing) 4,065,585 people living in the city of Los Angeles and 10,393,185 in Los Angeles County. That’s a lot of people. Inevitably, any field (especially the entertainment industry) that you are attempting to succeed in will have increased competition. Be prepared for tougher and possibly longer job searches.

When it comes to setting realistic goals for your move to L.A. the bottom line is this: The need to be in L.A. (dictated by inherent benefits such as proximity to resources, industry players, greater opportunities, or lifestyle choice) should outweigh the desire. Being in L.A. as a fashion statement can be costly. Carefully analyze your motivations and prospects before changing your zip codes.

2. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH!: Get to know as much as you can about the neighborhoods and districts that you are considering moving to. This includes their surrounding areas. Pay particular attention to your access to freeways, and proximity to arenas and other venues which may cause getting to, and parking near your new home more difficult. Jokes about the air quality in L.A. are not without merit. Neither is the high preponderance of gangs and gang related activities. Researching the areas that you may live, work, and play in can significantly reduce your chances of being in the wrong place, at the wrong time. The following is a very brief overview of L.A. neighborhoods that you may want to consider in relocating:

Santa Monica – Santa Monica is Los Angeles’ premier beach community. It’s known for its festive ocean pier, stylish oceanfront hotels, and artsy atmosphere. Its attraction is the Third Street Promenade, a pedestrian-only outdoor mall lined with dozens of shops and restaurants.

Malibu – 27 miles of wide beaches, beachfront cliffs, sparsely populated hills, and relative remoteness from the inner city make it popular with rich recluses such as Cher and Mel Gibson. With plenty of green space and dramatic rocky outcroppings, Malibu’s rural beauty is unsurpassed in L.A., and surfers flock to “the ‘Bu” for great, if crowded, waves.

Venice Beach – Venice Beach is best known for its Ocean Front Walk, a nonstop Mardi Gras of thong-wearing skaters, fortune-tellers, street musicians, and poseurs of all ages, colors, types, and sizes.

Marina del Rey – Just south of Venice, Marina del Rey is a somewhat quieter, more upscale waterside community best known for its man-made small-craft harbor, the largest of its kind in the world. Fittingly, it offers a wide variety of public boating opportunities, including fishing trips, harbor tours, dinner cruises, and private sailing charters.

Manhattan, Hermosa & Redondo beaches – These are laid-back, mainly residential neighborhoods with modest homes (except for oceanfront real estate), mild weather, and residents happy to have fled the L.A. hubbub. There are excellent beaches for volleyball, surfing, and tanning here, but when it comes to cultural activities, pickings can be slim. The restaurant scene, while limited, has been improving steadily, and some great new bars and clubs have opened near their respective piers.

West Hollywood – This is the intersection of Santa Monica and La Cienega boulevards. Nestled between Beverly Hills and Hollywood, this politically independent – and blissfully fast food free – town is home to some of the area’s best restaurants, clubs, shops, and art galleries. WeHo, as it’s come to be known, is also the center of L.A.’s gay community. Encompassing about 2 square miles, it’s a pedestrian-friendly place with plenty of metered parking. Highlights include the 1 1/2 miles of Sunset Boulevard known as Sunset Strip, the chic Sunset Plaza retail strip, and the liveliest stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard.

Westwood – Home to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Westwood used to be a hot destination for a night on the town. It features a high concentration of movie theaters, making it the premier L.A. destination for dinner and a flick.

Century City – This is a compact and rather bland area sandwiched between West Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. The primary draws here are the 20th Century Fox studios, Shubert Theatre, and the Westside Pavilion, a huge open-air shopping mall. Century City’s three main thoroughfares are Century Park East, Avenue of the Stars, and Century Park West.

Hollywood – Hooray for Hollywood! It’s my area of choice and it’s undergoing a billion dollar face lift. It’s spouting refurbished movie houses, stylish restaurants, and clubs. The centerpiece, Hollywood & Highland complex, anchors the neighborhood, with shopping, entertainment, and a luxury hotel built around the beautiful Kodak Theatre designed specifically to host the Academy Awards.

The Mid-Wilshire district – The stretch of Wilshire Boulevard running through the southern part of Hollywood is known as the Mid-Wilshire district, or the Miracle Mile. It’s lined with tall, contemporary apartment houses and office buildings. The section just east of Fairfax Avenue, known as Museum Row, is home to almost a dozen museums, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the La Brea Tar Pits, and the Petersen Automotive Museum.

Griffith Park – Up Western Avenue in the northernmost part of Hollywood, this is one of the country’s largest urban parks, home to the Los Angeles Zoo, the famous Griffith Observatory, and the outdoor Greek Theater.

Downtown – Downtown isn’t the tourist attraction that is in most cities. It does have relatively recent construction of several major cultural and entertainment centers (such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall, L.A. LIVE, and Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels) and a handful of trendy restaurants. When it comes to entertaining visitors, the Westside, Hollywood, and beach communities are all far more popular.

Silver Lake – This residential neighborhood just north of Downtown and adjacent to Los Feliz (home to the Los Angeles Zoo and Griffith Park), just to the west, has arty areas with unique cafes, theaters, graffiti, and art galleries – all in equally plentiful proportions.

Studio City – Studio City is my recommendation for families because it’s one of the few places you can eat, drink, shop, and play within walking distance of your house. It’s also easily accessible to Hollywood, Burbank, Encino, Downtown or Beverly Hills. Commonly referred to as the gateway between the San Fernando Valley and the rest of Los Angeles.

Exposition Park – South and west of Downtown is home to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the L.A. Sports Arena, as well as the Natural History Museum, the African-American Museum, and the California Science Center. The University of Southern California (USC) is next door.

San Fernando Valley – Sandwiched between the Santa Monica and the San Gabriel mountain ranges, most of the Valley is residential and commercial and off the beaten track for tourists.

Glendale – Glendale is a largely residential community north of Downtown between the Valley and Pasadena.

3. LEARN TO NAVIGATE THE CITY: When I first moved to L.A. I made the horrible mistake of using Mapquest to help me determine how much time it would take me to drive from point A to point B. Mapquest does not take into account the myriad of traffic issues that you will inevitably encounter while driving in L.A. Add a minimum of an hour to the estimated travel time (unless it’s 3 a.m.). Knowing where things are, how to get there, and how much time to allocate for your trips will be an adjustment with far reaching implications, but it can be managed with greater organization. Also, true L.A. residents (and yes, there are some) and longterm L.A. transplants bypass the maze of winding freeways and use alternative routes to get to places when possible. You can learn navigational secrets of your own once you get to know your area, and the areas that you will travel to the most.

4. DEVELOP YOUR LA NETWORK: Whatever industry you work in, there’s undoubtedly an organization that you can join in advance of your move. These organizations are your link to like-minded people who can provide you with local intelligence, in addition to facilitating introductions to other people that may become mission critical allies. Contact Los Angeles’ Business Network International (866.889.3466). They are an international business hub that can dial you into the connectors of your industry.

You can also find a multitude of networking opportunities by contacting the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce (213.580.7500), the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce (323.650.2688), or the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau (213.689.8822) for upcoming social events, and business networking opportunities.

Once you actually start meeting people, you can develop your own network of colleagues and business associates. Be patient. Rome was not built in a day, neither will your network. Your goal should be to meet someone new every week. It will add up sooner than you know it.

5. DO A TRIAL RUN: This is your final step – one that many people bypass altogether and ultimately regret not doing. Make it a point to go to L.A. for a week (perhaps on a vacation) and visit the areas that you are thinking of moving to, both in the daytime and at night. This will give you a much better idea of what you will be getting into once you relocate. During your week’s visit, you will also get the chance to drive in traffic during different hours and get a taste of what living in L.A. will really be like, personally meet people that you’ve recently affiliated with, and familiarize yourself with geography, banks, grocery stores (Vons (owned by Safeway) and Ralph’s are the ubiquitous chains in L.A.).

Your trial run is also a good time for you to sign-up at some employment agencies if you will be looking for work. The ones that I hear are the best are Extra’s Management (818.972.9474); Aquent (323.634.7000); Jason Best Agency (310.209.7500); and Elite Placement Group (310.277.2600).

I can’t emphasize the importance of researching enough, but I can do it once more. Not mentioned in this article are your relocation costs – that’s determined by a plethora of factors and decisions which will largely be determined by you. Your research will aid you in your budget estimations. Here are a couple of links which will prove to be valuable resources for you in your relocation endeavors as well.

Discover Los Angeles: www.discoverlosangeles.com
Experience LA: www.experiencela.com
Christiana Celeste Simpson’s Move to LA Website: www.movetola.com/site

*Residential information from Frommer’s

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