Traffic, Bad Schools, Environment, Housing: LA Gets A "D"

EEK! Southern California got a D on some sort of livability report card!

Our grade was brought down by traffic, bad schools and the environment, housing and a few other pesky little "issues".

Anyone who is even thinking about coming to LA knows traffic is no joke out here. Personally, I think it's worse in Atlanta. And the last time I was back in Chicago, I thought I was going to have an aneurysm on the Dan Ryan. But I'll admit there are times I don't go places because I don't want to deal with traffic. Tell me to drive anywhere west of where I live in the morning and I'm going to give you the evil eye. Going east in the afternoon? Heck no!

As for the environment? I'm not a smoker but I know my lungs are probably not as healthy as they could be. The pollution is bad. Not as bad as it was when I lived in China, but it's bad.

I do think some of you all have pollution that's probably close to as bad as LA, but you're not the most polluted city in the US so you don't worry about it as much.

As for education, oh, schools here are AWFUL. There's no way around that one. I am going to a magnet school fair tomorrow because I don't know if I can take our neighborhood school anymore. I like my son's teachers but there's a lot that's lacking at the school and there doesn't seem to be a realization or acknowledgement that things are lacking. I mean it's December and the computer lab just opened up...and I think that happened because I, and some other parents, complained.

But the magnet thing is not a slam dunk. One, it's a lottery. Two, we can only apply to ONE magnet. Three, if my eldest gets in, his school might be 40 minutes away with traffic and he'd have to ride a bus. I don't know about all that. He's already ahead in reading and doing great in math so maybe I should leave him be till he gets a little older. Ugh.

However, despite the "D", I'm not moving.

There's no place else in the States, other than Santa Barbara, that I really want to move to. Everyone keeps hyping Portland to me, but I don't know if I could deal with the constant rain after living here in LA.

Where would you live in the States if there were no obstacles to you moving there?

Speaking of housing though, here's a little bit of fun advertising that I lifted from the sidebar of my Facebook account this morning. Seriously, I just cut and pasted:

Wow, if that's not enough to incite negativity in the heart of a homeowner, I don't know what is. "Salma" would be the last realtor I'd go to with that "while you still have choices" crap. Who was her marketing consultant?

I don't have to worry about contacting Salma though. I live in a very cute apartment building that is rattling like an earthquake is going on. Workers are tearing up the street in front of my building because they're going to repave my street. In the rain.

Poor workers!

But at least it's not snow!


Mes Deux Cents said…
Hi Liz,

I have visited Portland twice. It is a really nice city, not too big, not too small. It's also very, very walk-able (is walk-able a word?). Which is important to me and they have a very good public transit system. The rain or really drizzle and overcast sky's did weigh on me a bit while I was there.

I think Santa Barbara is a great city but way, way too expensive for me. I recently visited Santa Cruz and I loved it. It's on my list of places to live.

Here is my top five (at the moment)

1. Santa Cruz
2. Halifax, Nova Scotia
3. Toronto
4. Charlotte, N.C.
5. Somewhere in New Mexico, maybe Santa Fe.

Honestly I have a special place in my heart for L.A, since I spent some of my youth there and a few times after that but it's just too spread out. I want to live in a more compact city. And L.A. is expensive too as you know, so that's another roadblock. But I do miss it sometimes.

Have you looked into private schools, like Montessori schools or have you ever considered home schooling with other like minded parents?

thailandchani said…
There are two places I've considered. Payson in northern Arizona for the geographic beauty and Berkeley for what would probably be a better cultural fit. Beyond that, I haven't seriously considered too many places.
Well, you know where I am moving to (ciao Roma!), but I also love Santa Barbara. I'm not sure how diverse it is. I have heard great things about Portland as well.

I liked Austin. It's a good sized city with v. good schools.

Of course New York City may not be the most liveable city is but it is my favorite American city.
Jameil said…
say it again because I hope to be able to in less than 3 days: at least its not snow. sigh. i had to remind myself this morning that its still officially fall. the weather does not say so.

i think abt pollution, too because pittsburgh is in the top 5. luckily i don't have children, because the schools here are also no picnic. something like 65% of students in the public school graduate in 5 years. when did HIGH SCHOOL become a 5yr program??? imagine how the number would plummet if they said in 4 years if they had to say 5 to get it that high. if there were no obstacles (i.e. a well-paying job doing what i want), i think i would go back home to charlotte. i'm getting homesick because a lot of my close friends and family live in that area now. none of them were there when i moved 2 years ago.
nick said…
There seems hardly a city in the world that can get its head round traffic and pollution. Everyone knows vehicle congestion pollutes and damages health but politicians are scared stiff of doing anything that offends car owners.
dreamyj said…
well i was born and raised in LA and my lungs are fine. i moved to the bay for college when i was 18 then moved back to LA and worked for almost 2 years and now i'm back in the bay, but lungs are still fine.

with respect to traffic, you just have to know back streets and the best times to travel to certain places. LA is definitely a place where travelling windows are important.

i went to a magnet school and i'd say it gives a better education and more opportunity than a regular public school. i took the school bus too and it wasn't bad at all, i actually met some pretty great people that way.

as far as where i'd live, i'm not sure yet.
BZ said…
I have to say I love Boston like no other. I just wish it weren't so damned cold! Love Miami, though. But, they sure don't pay sh*t for what the cost of living is. At least up here, the cost of living may be high, but we gets paid!

I enjoy RTP, NC. Just not enough diversity.

The northeast is industrial, but we have more tress than anyone else to offset the pollution factor.
Toni Campbell said…
I, too, like a walkable city. I like being able to walk a few blocks to get what I need and I like being around a diverse group of people. If money were no object, I would definitely live in NYC. Although, I don't want to interact much, I like having a lot of people around. It makes me feel safer.
Anonymous said…
I recently read about the tricks you can use to get into magnet schools, something about points for being rejected? But I guess that doesn't help when you want to move now. We want to get out of Dublin for a somewhat similar reason: there are no true state run public schools, as the Catholic church owns the land and buildings, so the priest is in charge. Apart from the issues we have with religiously flavoured education, schools that are oversubscribed ask for baptism certificates. I put our son's name down for the three non-denominational schools in our zip code when he was six weeks old.

When it comes to "returning" to the US our criteria are
1. Not too close to Florida (crazy MIL)
2. Not too far from Europe
And a few other factors around jobs and housing market. We thought about Charlotte and now Philadelphia. Could be years though.
Gunfighter said…
Williamsburg, Virginia
Orlando, Florida

As much as I love DC, and I really do, the traffic here is just something that we have to deal with... but the longer I live here (I have been here for 21 years) , it's starting to wear me down.
Anonymous said…
Portland could be the next Socal if global warming continues at its fast-forward rate. I'm just saying...:)

The rain here would be tough if you were from socal. Wh and I get around it by going for a long, long walk every night.

Also, summers here are stellar: 5 months of blue skies and 80 degree weather. I'm so acclimated to the rain that by then end of August I MISS clouds, rain, relief from the "perfectness" of the days.

Hey, rainy, overcast days are the BEST for curling up with a great Depeche Mode album. I'm just saying...
Keith said…
I'm a simple person. If I could live anywhere I'd get rid of my car and move to Manhattan. Everything is right outside your door and if you are in the "right" neighborhood your local public school can be as good or better than some private schools. But alas I'm a long way from that.
DJ Black Adam said…
I always wanted to move to San Deigo, its just sooooo expensive.

I have been told that Phoenix is the place to be though.

And I still love Laguna Hills and San Bernadino and Santa Ana (From when I was stationed out there).
Liz Dwyer said…
All that you say about Portland is what people always rave about. Maybe I could get one of those special lights folks with SAD get.

Santa Barbara is expensive and it's not that diverse, but everytime I'm there, I feel like I'm "at home". I've only driven through Santa Cruz so I'll have to check it out. I also really like Toronto.

The thing about my neighborhood is that it is like a compact little city. I really think it's hands down, one of the coolest neighborhoods in LA...which is why everybody wants to move over here and the housing prices are out of control.

I've always wanted to support public schools but I'm also looking in to a Waldorf school. We'll see.

Berkeley is a cool area. I've never been to Arizona. I always figured I wouldn't like the searing heat.

Santa Barbara is not super diverse. The college kids compensate a little bit though. I just have dreams of eating at Andersen's Bakery once a week.

I've heard good things about Austin as well, and NYC has so many good things going on, but I always feel like I need to be really rich when I'm there.

Five year plan? Wow, that's crazy, but not surprising. Out here, schools are so overcrowded that kids don't graduate because they actually can't get in the classes they need. At least right now in Pittsburgh it's not too far of a drive to Charlotte. Homesickness is hard though. Make them come visit you more often!

I've been doing so much walking in my neighborhood and it makes me think about 1) how much thinner Americans would be if we walked more and 2)how there'd be less pollution as a result. The auto industry is so powerful though and the way our system is set up, if the auto industry goes south, then supposedly, so do we all.

So there's hope for us LA dwellers after all! :) I agree about knowing the streets...going north/south, it's faster to take Broadway than the 110. I take Venice or Olympic instead of the 10. Fountain used to be a great way through Hollywood until everyone else discovered it as well! Did you do magnets for elementary? He's definitely doing one for middle and high school. No doubt about that.

I like Boston as well. One of my dearest friends lives in Medford and the couple times I've been out there, it's definitely had a unique flavor...but I couldn't understand HALF of what was being said to me! I've never been to Miami but I've heard that about the pay down there. And the bugs are too big in Florida in general. ;0

I love love love a walkable city. My first year out here I lived in North Long Beach which was definitely NOT walkable. I hated my neighborhood and I was so happy to move to where I am now. There's even bike paths along the roads but I'm too scared someone's going to hit me. In NYC I walked SO much. It was great and I got so much exercise without even thinking about it. But I was a broke grad student so it was only me walking and not going anywhere!

Oh yes, the tricks and schemes to get into these magnets are crazy. Parents apply to schools where they know they'll get rejected because they want to accumulate the points for middle school. Generally, my son would be alright academically if he stays where he is. It's the middle schools and high schools that are real nightmares.

So essentially it's all parochial schools in Dublin? I went to Catholic school till 8th grade and it was a good education but stuff would happen in religion class... like they'd ask everyone who wasn't baptized to raise their hands. I'd raise my hand and then the nun would start talking about how anyone not baptized was going to hell. My mom had to be up there a lot over that sort of thing.

Hmmm, it sounds like Chicago would be a good place for you. ;0

I've never been to Williamsburg but I want to check out some of the historical stuff there. And I agree, the traffic in DC is terrible.

I really like winter in LA because of the every once in awhile rain. I definitely enjoy the Depeche Mode even more in the rain.

That's very true about Manhattan. I felt the same way when I lived there. I suppose my neighborhood here reminds me a little bit of that. Just more hilly! And same with the public schools here...if you can afford to live in the right part of town, no need to go private or magnet.

I think San Diego is what people think LA is going to be. LA is much much grittier. San Bernadino is pretty because of the mountains, but wowzer, the air is bad out there.
Jessalyn said…
I live in Atlanta and I can't imagine living anywhere else. Yes, traffic is awful, but we have diversity, universities, and decent weather most of the year. People complain about the schools, but from what I hear the schools aren't so bad compared to other cities. Job opportunities are plentiful here and the cost of living is great compared to other parts of the country. I don't know of many other big cities where you can still buy a 4 bedroom/2 bath house within 30 minutes of the downtown area for less than 200k. We're fortunate that my husband works close to home, so we're not bothered by the traffic on a regular basis. We are running out of water, though (I want to laugh at that, but it's not that funny).
dreamyj said…
hey liz,

i didn't go to a magnet for elementary and middle school, i just participated in the gifted programs at the public schools i attended. i think magnet schools are great if you don't have the money to spend on a private school but want a better than public education. although the whole lottery thing does suck. once u have one child into a magnet school it becomes easier for the siblings! =)
Liz Dwyer said…
I've heard about the water issue. Gosh, I would have predicted that happening here before Atlanta. I don't know why it just doesn't do it for me. Maybe because everytime I've been there I've had a terrible time. I suppose I should give the place a second chance.

I hear you. I came away from the magnet fair a bit depressed. The lottery thing is really terrible. It's the luck of the draw whether kids get a good education or not. It shouldn't be that way.
Lydia said…
Yes, Los Angeles gets a D!

I agonize about Los Angeles for the same reasons. If I was single, no kids and had an endless supply of money L.A. MIGHT be wonderful! I am in the process now of finding a high school for my son. My daughter is at a parochial high school. Being a teacher, makes it a sticky situation for choosing schools. (how do you teach at a public school but not send your kids to a public school?? Thats why!)

I LOATHE driving, but I have never lived anywhere but Los Angeles (China has bad pollution?). So my fantasy places are:

1. New York City - If I was single with no kids I would soooo be Carrie Bradshaw!

2. San Francisco - I love the cool all the time weather and the great Public Transportation. It's a little, Big City.

3. New Orleans - I romanticize it - in an Anne Rice (minus the vampires) kinda way. Also, being a part of the rebuilding effort would be important.

4. Austin, Texas - I've heard this is a great place to for families. Never been, but if it is a good family place, well....I have a big family.

5. Suwanee, Georgia - It's on Money magazines top ten places to live list(its number 10). I was going to say someplace in Georgia or one of the Carolinas anyway. It is probably not very diverse but I wanted to include one from money magazines list!
Liz Dwyer said…
Oh yes, if folks find out you send your child to private high school, then all of the sudden you are sleeping with the enemy, a veritable traitor to public education. But you have to do what you need to do.

After visiting New Orleans, I wanted to move there to help out with the cleanup and rebuilding. But, alas, that plan was extremely unpopular in my house. I have made it a habit to regularly contribute to a bunch of NOLA charities though.

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