Welcome to West Hollywood
Posted by Roobs on September 7, 2010
As you all are no doubt aware, I have packed up bags and moved shop from the Bay Area to Southern California. I will be attending graduate school at UCLA for my Masters in Urban & Regional Planning. I’m really looking forward for classes to start and, in the interim, have been settling in my new apartment in West Hollywood.
Los Angeles never comes up as a city that is easily walkable. And for good reason. It’s not just the “car culture” of LA that influences this, though it does exist. The physical layout and urban design of much of the nations second largest city requires a car to get around. What other cities call neighborhoods, to Los Angeles, these geographic areas are sometimes the size of cities themselves.
Just The Facts
West Hollywood is a young city, both literally and metaphorically. Once a neighborhood of the vast City of Los Angeles, “WeHo” as it is now referred, was incorporated in 1984 and had a population of 36,500 back in 2006 (US Census, 2006). This 26 year old city also boasts a very young population, with the median age of residents around 40 years old with around 32% of residents between the ages of 20 and 34 years old (US Census, 2000).
Though the city’s median household income is only around $53,000 (near natl. average), WeHo is also a fairly weathly city. There are no freeways with direct access to the city. A common way to enter is to take the Santa Monica Blvd. exit off US-101 and drive west until you reach West Hollywood. How long do you have to go? Well, I guarantee that you will know when you enter WeHo.
Driving down Santa Monica after existing the 101, you find yourself in a more of dilapidated warehouse part of Hollywood that reminds me more of driving through the Mission in San Francisco. But as soon as you cross La Brea Ave., that drastically changes and the scenery becomes more tailored, more landscaped and more, well, wealthy looking. There’s a Target, a BevMo, Starbucks and… was that a Chipotle? Ugh!
Driving down Santa Monica Blvd. around the intersection of Robertson Blvd., you will also notice another aspect of West Hollywood. Often referred to as “LA’s Castro”, WeHo is not just a neighborhood but a city that is itself a gay ghetto. Perhaps a little more homogeneous than the Castro, West Hollywood is a fun place to live. LA Pride Parade happens here as opposed to Downtown LA, like many other cities. Rainbow flags adorn the street around this part of the city and practically all the clubs are “gay” or at the very least very “gay friendly”. They also charge at a “gay friendly price” too so keep an eye on that tab you left open.
But one of the great parts of West Hollywood for anyone moving from a dense, walkable neighborhood of the Bay Area is that this is probably the best you can get.
West Hollywood is a great place to live when it comes to being able to walk around, take transit and satisfy your daily needs within a close proximity to your home. I happen to be renting a very nice apartment near West Hollywood City Hall and within only a few blocks of my front door is a grocery store including two Trader Joes, a variety of restaurants and shops, tailors and dry cleaners as well as local bars.
Metro Rapid’s 704 line stops only a few blocks away with the local 4 line stopping only one block away. How do I get to school you ask? I recently just tested out my route and will tell you. I walk about 12 minutes up to Sunset Blvd. and board the No. 2 bus which will take me on a 30 minute tour of WeHo and Beverly Hills before dropping me off right outside the front door of my department at UCLA. About a 45 minute transit commute from door-to-door, that’s not bad vis a vis driving in rush hour traffic on either Santa Monica or Sunset. Especially if I can catch up on a reading assignment I may or may not have pushed to the last minute.
Let’s grab a drink! My new roommate and I decided to celebrate our move by going out to our favorite clubs in WeHo (Specifically, The Abbey). From our apartment to these specific bars near Robertson Blvd., the walk is about 20-25 minutes. This is a decently good number as far as I’m concerned because it’s close enough that when you want to go out and walk, you can. But it is also far enough that you won’t be tempted to do it on a daily or weekly basis.
Overall, in the past week I’ve found WeHo to be a great place to live. The quality of life seems to be very well and I can fulfill my needs without having to hop in the car all the time, which I enjoy. Do I still drive? Of course I do. I’ve driven to Downtown LA to visit friends, Pasadena to visit family and a range of other places that are just to far or not transit accessible for me not to take my car. But when home I am free to leave the keys at home and walk or take the bus and this is my ideal world. The only thing that could make it better is if the Purple Line extension was already completed.
I think I will enjoy my time here for the next couple of years.