Norman Mailer dubbed it “a constellation of plastic.” Woody Allen said its “only cultural advantage is that you can turn right on a red light.” And Dorothy Parker called it, “72 suburbs in search of a city.” Over the years, Los Angeles has had its fair share of detractors, but it has plenty of die-hard fans, too. L.A. is land of contradictions. It can be tawdry or fabulous, a cultural mecca or a shallow wasteland. Like any great city, L.A. is largely what you make of it, and you’ll have plenty of material to work with. The second-most populous city in the U.S. has about 3.8 million residents living within its 472 square miles. It is the seat of 4,084-square-mile Los Angeles County, a sprawling collection of 88 incorporated cities and 9.8 million people. There are 75 miles of Pacific coastline stretching from Malibu to Long Beach. L.A. is surrounded by the San Gabriel Mountains and divided by the Santa Monica range. Within a couple hours, you can drive from 9 feet below sea level to 10,080 feet above it. You can see the Dodgers, Clippers, Lakers or Kings. Visit one of more than 300 museums, go Hollywood on the Walk of Fame, attend a concert at the Bowl or Disney Hall and see astounding architecture by Gehry and Wright. L.A. actually has more theaters and museums than any other American city. And when you’re hungry, Los Angeles is a culinary world tour serving up everything from good kosher deli on Fairfax Avenue to Olvera Street Mex and five-star cuisine on Beverly Hill’s La Cienega Boulevard. Whether you call in the Big Orange, LaLaLand or Shaky Town, if you’re thinking about making Los Angeles your new hometown, our City Guide is a good place to start.
A Little L.A. History
The area that is modern Los Angeles was once home to indigenous Tongva and Chumash tribes. Portuguese explorer Juan Cabrillo, the first European, came in 1542, and Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola returned in 1769 with two Franciscan monks, Junipero Serra and Juan Crespi. That’s when L.A. got its original name: El Pueblo de Nuetra Senora La Reina de Los Angeles – The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels. They built the San Gabriel Mission to the northeast of the river. Los Angeles remained a small ranch town for decades, but eventually a town grew up around the old Spanish settlement. Los Angeles and the rest of Alta California was under Mexican control following that country’s independence from Spain in 1821. It was ceded to the U.S. in 1846 following the Mexican-American War. The city of Los Angeles was incorporated in 1850. The Southern Pacific railroad completed its line to L.A. in 1876. Oil was discovered in 1892 and by 1923, L.A. was the supplying 25% of the world’s crude. But it was water, specifically the canals completed by William Mulholland in 1913 that drove the city’s growth. In the early part of the 20th century, the aviation and motion picture industries moved to Los Angeles, assuring its further development. . Things really started to boom in the 1930s. LAX opened, the city hosted the 1932 Summer Olympics and Union Station opened downtown. In the 1940s, the first of what would ultimately become 27 interconnecting freeway opened ,World War II turned L.A. into a major manufacturer of ships and war planes. By the 1950s, L.A. had a population of nearly 2 million to become the nation’s fourth largest city, Disneyland opened in nearby Anaheim, the music and television industries began to burgeon, and the Dodgers left Brooklyn to become the first MLB team west of Missouri. The Minneapolis Lakers would follow in 1960 and Johnny Carson moved The Tonight Show west in 1962. The first Super Bowl was held here in 1967 and the first Gay Pride Parade in 1970. In 1980, Los Angeles surpassed Chicago to become the second most populous city in America and hosted its second Olympics. L.A. added another area code and opened the Staples Center in the 1990s, sparking a renaissance for the city’s downtown. The county population topped 10 million, to become the nation’s largest in 2006, and it just keeps growing.
Los Angeles Weather-Related Risks
With about 292 sunny days each year, about 15 inches of rainfall and temperatures that average a high of 75 and a low of 57, L.A.’s weather is close to perfect, Except when it isn’t. September Santa Ana conditions can make temperatures soar into the 100s and suck the humidity from the air, leaving dry conditions that fuel wildfires. The marine layer along the coast can obscure the sun for most of May and June. Fog can be a big problem, especially in December. And when it does rain in southern California, man, it pours. February is typically the rainiest month, but Pacific storms can dump a lot of water in a short time throughout the winter months, causing flash flood. While not weather-related, earthquakes are a constant concern for all California residents, and L.A. is particularly at risk. In 1994, a magnitude 6.7 rocked greater L.A., the first earthquake to strike directly under an urban area of the U.S. since the 1933 quake in nearby Long Beach. The 1971 Sylmar quake in the San Fernando Valley caused 65 deaths and $500 million in property damage. So, if you’re going to live in L.A., you’re definitely going to want earthquake insurance and, depending on the area you choose, you might also want to add flood insurance. Neither is included in a standard policy. They both have to be purchased separately.
Driving and Los Angeles Car Insurance
You probably could live in L.A. without a car, but almost nobody does. This is the nation’s original car-centric community and the birth place of the traffic jam and road rage. An Urban Mobility Report in 2005 ranked L.A.’s road traffic as the nation’s most congested, with travelers spending about 72 hours of traffic delay per year. It hasn’t improved since then. If you drive in L.A., you’re going to need California minimum $15,000/$30,000 bodily injury coverage and $5,000 property damage coverage. With the large number of uninsured or underinsured drivers on the road, you may also want to add that coverage. And also, be aware that auto theft constitutes the majority of property crimes in L.A. You can get quote online for Los Angeles car insurance here.
From the time you establish L.A. residency, you have 20 days to register an out-of-state vehicle or pay late fines based on the length of your delinquency. First-time registration must be done in person at any Los Angeles Department of Motor Vehicles. You can find an L.A. DMV near you and make an online appointment here. You’ll need to take the following items with you: a smog certificate from a state-licensed inspection station for any vehicle more than four years old that isn’t a hybrid or electric, your current registration or title and proof of insurance. you’ll need a smog certificate, which can be obtained for a fee at a state-licensed inspection station.
Federal law now requires that you carry a qualified health insurance plan that covers the essential benefits defined in the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare). The state of California also has additional mandated benefits. You can get Los Angeles health insurance quotes online for individuals, families and small businesses.
Should you need a doctor or medical care, Los Angeles is known for its top-rated medical facilities. There are 145 in all that include such world-famous institutions as Cedars-Sinai, UCLA Medical Center and Keck Hospital of USC.
Los Angeles is divided into nearly 90 districts and neighborhoods, and that’s not counting the outlying communities in the county. But in general, the city itself is divided into Downtown, East L.A., Northeast L.A., South L.A., the Harbor Area, Greater Hollywood, Wilshire, the Westside and the San Fernando and Crescenta Valleys. A few of the better-known communities include Venice, Westwood, Bel Air, Brentwood, Los Feliz, Pacific Palisades, and Watts. As you might expect, in an area this diverse, mortgage and rental rates are going to cover an equally broad range. Trulia.com lists the median home price for the first quarter of 2014 at $510,000, an increase in of nearly 13% from the same quarter in 2013. A better gauge of price range is Trulia’s average price per square foot of $446. As with any large city, if you shop around and are flexible about location, you can find bargains in L.A. Rents run the gamut, too – from $3,248 in Brentwood to $1,995 in Mid-Wilshire, with an average of $1,435. But bargain shoppers can find better deals in low-income areas like South L.A., Montebello and Westlake.
As with any large city, some areas are safer than others. Happily, crime rates in Los Angeles have actually dropped for the eleventh year in a row, with many categories seeing the lowest per capita rates in decades. NeighborhoodScout.com Property Crime Rate Comparison indexes Los Angeles at 23.08, below both the national and California medians of 28.6 and 27.59 respectively. Your chances of becoming a victim of property crime in L.A. are one in 43. Before you decide on a neighborhood, check out the crime statistics published by the L.A.P.D.Wherever you live, you’re going to need Los Angeles homeowners or Los Angeles renters insurance. You can get competitive quotes for both here, although you might want to consider weather-related risk for L.A. prior to deciding what coverage and how much you need.
If you live in Los Angeles, California, you’re in one of the country’s healthiest states. Anyone born in California today has an average life expectancy of 80.8 years (the country’s third longest), according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. If you’re a 65-year-old Californian, the Centers for Disease Control gives you another 20.3 years on average. But before you start feeling too secure, WorldLifeExpectancy.com wants you to know that accidents are the fifth leading cause of death for all California residents. Given the ever-present possibility of an accidental death, you might want to put life insurance on your list of things to consider when you move to L.A. There are four good reasons why:
To pay for funeral and other final expenses.
To replace your income if you’re leaving behind a spouse.
To help cover your children’s needs.
To help your survivors pay off debts and estate taxes.
If you purchase whole life, your insurance can also be a means of setting aside money for retirement, college and other needs. You can learn more about the difference between term life insurance and whole life insurance, and shop for competitive life insurance quotes here.
The business climate in Los Angeles is not quite as sunny as the weather. In 2013, for the third consecutive year in a row, an annual poll found that taxes, fees and government regulation hampered business. Still, L.A. County is headquarters to some of the world’s most prestigious Fortune 500 companies including Walt Disney, Health Net, Direct TV, Occidental Petroleum, SoCal Edison, Dole, Avery Dennison, Mattel, and CB Richard Ellis. And in a market this large, even small entrepreneurs have a shot. You can find out everything you need to know about licensing, tax incentives, zoning and support programs for businesses from the L.A. Chamber of Commerce. Once you’ve decided on your business plan, you can protect your investment and your assets with the right Los Angeles small business insurance policy.