Finding a nice, livable, dependable, safe apartment in or near Los Angeles isn't cheap. A one-bedroom in Hollywood averages $3,082 per month, while the same apartment in Santa Monica averages $4,018. That's a lot of money for the most basic of one-bedrooms. Most young renters in those cities either budget a disproportionate chunk of their salary towards rent or they sublet the corners of their living rooms.
Luckily, there are some towns near Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) with their own unique charm located close enough so a trip to the Staples Center only takes you an hour by car or public transport, yet their distance from Downtown proper keeps their average rent relatively low.
Before you commit to a DTLA apartment way out of your budget, consider these 10 cities.
Long Beach is kind of like a condensed version of Los Angeles. Like L.A., Long Beach has an interesting downtown, groomed suburbs, an arts district and on top of all that, it has, of course, a beach.
The city is fun, liberal and filled with vitality, but rent has steadily gone up the last 10 years due to lots of fancy development. On the plus side, Long Beach has easy access to DTLA when you want to make the trip — it's a straight shot up the 710 or the Blue Line.
Fullerton is unique in that it's a quiet suburb while somehow still maintaining the characteristics of a cool, small college town. While Fullerton has some great K-12 schools, sleepy cul-de-sacs and lush parks, it's also currently enjoying a cultural resurgence made up of new nightlife, record labels and artists.
Apartments around the colleges can get a little "Animal House"-ish at times, but if you can find anything close to the intersection of Harbor Blvd. and Commonwealth, you're in the heart of the city.
Fans of vintage Americana aesthetics will appreciate renting in Orange. Old craftsman homes and small-unit rentals make up most of the neighborhoods around the traffic circle, an antique district that looks like it hasn't changed much since the '50s. (Tom Hanks filmed "That Thing You Do" all over Old Towne.)
Orange also benefits from being off the 5 freeway so Downtown Los Angeles is always about 45 minutes away.
Average monthly rent: $2,389
Distance from DTLA: Approximately 36 miles south
Rancho Palos Verdes is an odd town. The city never gets talked about much because it's sort of isolated on top of the bluffs of the peninsula. You don't just drive through Rancho Palos Verdes, you have to go out of your way to get to it.
The ocean views are the reason why RPV is the most expensive city on this list, but even $2,389 is a small fraction compared to apartments with identical views in Venice or Santa Monica.
Huntington Beach is a long, sprawling city, which means it might take you up to 20 minutes to get to the nearest freeway depending on how close you live to the ocean. It's not a town for the impatient. But as far as beach cities go, you could do worse than HB.
There seem to be as many apartment complexes as there are single-family homes, especially near the Pacific Coast Highway. Just make sure you move into a building with a parking structure. Parking anywhere within a mile of Main Street is torturous.
We're going to lump Claremont together with La Verne. The small, hipster college towns border each other, and their neighborhoods share the same mid-'60s aesthetics. The cities are only about 45 minutes and one freeway away from DTLA, but they might as well be in different time zones.
Both communities are filled with sleepy streets lined with massive oak trees and lush, green lawns — nothing like Los Angeles proper, but it's a nice alternative.
It's easy to forget about Glendora. It's a quiet town wedged between the 210 and the Angeles National Forest. It's a solid upper-middle-class neighborhood and not much has changed since the '80s. You'll find no 5-star sushi or acclaimed art galleries here. (If that's what you're looking for, the Metro Gold Line will take you from APU to Little Tokyo's Arts District in 45 minutes.)
Instead, you'll get a quiet, unassuming town where the biggest amount of activity comes from its private, evangelical Christian university.
Living in Santa Ana is tricky. On one side of the street, you could be living in an apartment where you have to look out the window every 30 minutes to make sure your car is still parked where you left it.
On the other side of the street, you could be living in a cool loft in Santa Ana's burgeoning Santiago Art District. Do your research if you're thinking about renting here, but if you stay in the Historic District, you'll be fine.
Costa Mesa is another fairly unassuming town. It has the Orange County Fairgrounds and even though it's not on the ocean, it feels like a beach town and the apartments reflect that.
You're going to find a lot of nautically-themed rental complexes here, and it's quaint enough, but if you can, stay south of 17th Street. (Bonus: Los Angeles is one freeway away up the 405.)
Pomona is the diamond in the rough on this list, and it's sort of had that reputation for the last 20 years now. The city can be a bit on the fringy side, but its DIY arts and antique districts have quietly given Pomona underground street cred since the early '90s.
If you romanticize Downtown Los Angeles during the late '70s, you can still find that adventurous vibe in Pomona.