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Old 03-13-2008, 02:01 AM
 
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We're married 30-somethings ready to move out to CA and considering some of the beach areas around San Diego (Encinitas, etc) and now those around LA. Would love feedback on where we could find a "happening" beach town where we can walk to cafes, shops, beach and hopefully find people our age (not just families) and lots to do. Home-based biz so no worries about commute, just looking for the right spot.

So far we've had a friend recommend Ventura and while Santa Barbara came up, too, we understand to be right in the "heart" of it we're looking at over $1.5M. Would rather stay in 6 figures if possible! Recommendations most welcome -- thanks!
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Old 03-13-2008, 10:37 AM
 
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Hermosa Beach is a pretty happening place. Manhattan Beach as well. Both have median home prices in the $1.5M range though. To be right in the heart of a beach town with easy access to all that you mention, high 6-figures will get you a nice condo.

While Ventura is nice for a restful weekend away from LA, it's not exactly what I'd consider a happening beach town.

Other areas that might fit your requirements better are the coastal areas of Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach.
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Old 03-13-2008, 10:47 AM
 
Location: LB/OC for now...
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I give a big second to Seal Beach. A true beach community because you have actual access to a beach(unlike coastal long beach) with a great main street full of places to go and things to do, all of it walkable from the surrounding housing area south of PCH.

You can also try Sunset Beach and Surfside, neighboring cities to the south.

Huntington Beach may have something, but Huntington is too crowded for me

Any of these areas would/should have housing your pricerange, though housing in Sunset and Surfside is harder to come by as they are very small areas. Seal is a bit bigger and should have more availability with better prices.
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Old 03-13-2008, 11:08 AM
 
Location: Bike to Surf!
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Please don't take offense at my suggestions, but with that kind of money, it might be better for everyone if you pick a place south of Pt. Mugu (Malibu-to-SD). You won't have to deal with our transients, druggies, grouchy old salty dogs, or immigrant enclaves and we won't have to deal with your traffic, gentrification, McMansion, and money lobbying the city council to "do something about" what little soul remains in the northern California beach towns. It's still a little dirty and rough-edged in spots up here. Used to be the same way down south until the upper-six-digiters moved in and changed things to suit their tastes. Most people up here would really prefer not to see the same thing happen.

Money has long since sucked the soul out of (or cleaned up, depending on your perspective) Malibu and points south, so anywhere down there would be perfect. I would suggest Del Mar, Encinitas, or Solana Beach. They're polished squeaky-clean Berg Americana now. And the weather is nicer.

Try taking a train trip down the coast and stopping at every station from Capistrano to San Diego. That will give you an idea of the walkability of those beach towns. I'd take a bike if you can, since the train station isn't always in the middle of town.
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Old 03-13-2008, 11:28 AM
 
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Belmont Shore.
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Old 03-13-2008, 01:26 PM
 
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Default Thanks....

...for the feedback - even if some think our wish-list/budget = sucking the soul out of a good beach town! We do not think so, but point taken.

I appreciate the nod on Seal Beach but it was my understanding that it has a very large seniors population and not a whole lot of younger. Am I mistaken? Do a lot of 20 and 30-somethings live and play there?

Also, someone mentioned that Ventura is nice for a getaway but not a "happening" beach town. Is it very sleepy and/or shuts down in the evening? Or limited to just a couple little shops/cafes and otherwise just for families, i.e. suburbs? What makes it "not happening"?

Thanks for helping us in our search.
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Old 03-13-2008, 03:38 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gadgette View Post
...for the feedback - even if some think our wish-list/budget = sucking the soul out of a good beach town! We do not think so, but point taken.

I appreciate the nod on Seal Beach but it was my understanding that it has a very large seniors population and not a whole lot of younger. Am I mistaken? Do a lot of 20 and 30-somethings live and play there?

Also, someone mentioned that Ventura is nice for a getaway but not a "happening" beach town. Is it very sleepy and/or shuts down in the evening? Or limited to just a couple little shops/cafes and otherwise just for families, i.e. suburbs? What makes it "not happening"?

Thanks for helping us in our search.

I really encourage you to look at Belmont Shore. It is the least pretentious yet upscale beach town in SoCal. And in this market you could get an older 3 bedroom place for about $1.2M.
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Old 03-13-2008, 03:56 PM
 
Location: LB/OC for now...
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belmont shore works, but the actual beach leaves something to be desired to me.. too close to the port and all the oil derricks/islands. i think its a bit nicer on the other side of the small breakwater that goes into alamitos bay

as far as seal beach itself, it has a leisure world that is inland(near the 405 and seal beach blvd). the old town district(beachfront) is not associated with that and has plenty of youth and a relaxed beach atmosphere.

belmont shore and seal are worlds apart. belmont shore has a more overall urban mentality. urban stores and food, terrible parking(truely terrible), and a dense population. seal is more of a laid back beach community eventhough it doesnt shut down at night, its just not uppity. i enjoy taking a stroll on the pier at night and grabbing a hamburger at rubys on the pier, and a stroll is just something that's difficult to manage in belmont shore. belmont shore is very busy/on the move all the time, a more urban lifestyle while still being on the beach. basically, if you're always in a hurry, you'll fit right in in belmont shore and if you want to take it easy you'll fit right in in seal beach.

if you have time to visit before you're locked in, i would spend a friday or saturday night cruisin around seal and then a friday or saturday night cruisin belmont shore. you'll quickly find out what each is like in that one night. not much changes in the day to day activities in these areas
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Old 03-13-2008, 04:22 PM
 
Location: Monterey Bay, California -- watching the sea lions, whales and otters! :D
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Just saw this thread -- sorry, if this is intruding, because I know you asked about Southern California, but if you're looking for a walkable, cheaper beach town, you might go a bit north to Central California, to Santa Cruz. Big university, nice, easy walkable downtown, loads of beaches, and lots of young people. Close to Monterey (which doesn't have much of a beach), San Francisco and San Jose. Tons of surfers in Santa Cruz (Jack O'Neill lives there -- he's the inventor of the wetsuit). Just a thought. That's all.
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Old 03-13-2008, 04:25 PM
 
Location: Bike to Surf!
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Ventura does indeed shut down between 5 and 6PM every day of the week. Thursdays through Sundays the bars stay open until 1:30 and resturants might close their doors at 10 (rather than 6), but not much else goes on. It is slightly more lively in the summer evenings. If you're a daylight activities person more into parks, farmer's markets, and thrift stores than nightclubs, high-end grocery superstores, and trendy boutiques then it might be worth a look.

The beaches in Ventura are also of a different character than down south. Down south you can expect an unbroken strip of golden sand filled with lifeguard stands, volleyball courts, and bordered by walking/biking trails (this plus cliffs down in Encinitas). Up north the beach will be a dirty mix of seaweed, piles of driftwood and bamboo, cobblestones, and brown sand in most places without lifeguards, sunbathers, or volleyball courts (except for in isolated spots designated as tourist beaches) good for hiking and dedicated surfers who can handle themselves in any emergency situation without any chance of help or rescue from shore.

The town is a farming community that has tried to attract a little attention and commerce from motorists on their way to Santa Barbara's boutique row from Los Angeles and it's surrounding valleys. Parts of it--and Camarillo and Oxnard--are trending toward new development suburban sprawl and/or near-beach $1.X million shoulder-to-shoulder McMansions, but longterm residents are fighting hard to limit this type of development.

Ventura would be for you if you want to move into an old victorian with a possible partial ocean view in a semi-sleepy coastal village. Your neighbors will be cautiously friendly lower-middle-class younger (late 20-30's) renters who work in town a few early 20's who go to the local college and a mix of homowners who are wealthy retirees, entrenched locals, and the occasional vacationing LA exec.

You should be comfortable talking to transients--or at least not be bothered by them occasionally wandering by, sleeping on your lawn in rare occasions, and asking for handouts regularily because there are a lot of harmless homeless around.

The best part is a small strip of shops and resturants in midtown within easy walking distance. It's closed at night, but makes for a pleasant outing when you have a few hours to kill and the weather is nice. You have a choice of three coffeehouses and a starbucks. There are likewise 3-4 good entrenched eateries and 5-6 more revolving resturants that open for a few months and then go under for lack of business.

Your big-box needs can be secretly indulged by driving 10-15 minutes inland to Ventura's chunk of boxed-in suburban sprawl for chain-store hell, but try your best to limit yourself, as you can find everything you need in locally-owned stores that are closer and more connected to the community.

I have the feeling there is not much to do for kids in ventura besides surfing and bombing the hills on a skateboard. Groups of youth dressed in punk gear tend to hang out in the evening hours near the midtown movie theater, trying to get into bars, harrassing and being harrassed by the police who, likewise, have nothing better to occupy their time.

The city is bisected by coastal hills which squeeze the midtown between their slopes and the ocean.

To the West, cookie-cutter suburban sprawl is trying to eat into the Oxnard valley farmland with some success. This area is not really walkable and is IMO the worst place to live.

The midtown treads a fine line down the exact middle between high-and-low income visitors and residents. It is fairly well locked-down by the local city council and activist residents. It is the most walkable and has the most to do in a small area. IMO, the best place to live.

To the East, a smaller river valley is chock full of low-income immigrant farm laborers who have lived here for generations, coupled with small industry, machine shops, auto mechanics, and cheap groceries. IMO, the second-best place to live, maybe the best if you speak spanish and have some hispanic heritage. Developers have tried to gentrify this area with no success, and several mostly-empty high-end medium-density apartment/retail buildings are a testament to the intransient nature of the area. The "hobo jungle" homeless camping area is in a wooded river delta here where this valley meets the ocean, between the edge of midtown and a trailer/rv/state park.

Oh, also; three intersecting Freeways and one rail line cut through all these areas.
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