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Fist off...congratulations on USC. It's been a while (class of 96) but this may help. When I was a student I lived all over the place. As you've already found out, the apartments directly north of campus can be ridiculously expensive. Here are some neighborhoods where I lived and drove into campus while a student:
1. South Pasadena: a quick drive down the 110 and if you plan your classes right, you can avoid traffic. Also, if traffic is horrible, surface streets are do-able (Huntington Drive). It's has a mellow small town feel with great coffee houses (Kaldi's and Buster's are great). As a grad student I think it's laid-back feel would actually be conducive to studying.
2. Koreatown: Straigt up Vermont and left at Wilshire (the area just west of the Wiltern is nice). There are A LOT of apartments at various prices. It's a fairly quick drive to campus as well. There are some neat bars in the area too. The Gaylord comes to mind. Oh, and Larchmont Village and Hancock Park aren't too far either. Still, it can be a bit of a drive. But hey, it's not grid-lock freeway driving. You'll always be moving and shortcuts aboud.
3. Japanese Town: When I was at SC the area was fairly just Japanese seniors. Today the area has a lot of nightlife with bars, restaurants, galleries, etc... There are many new apartments as well. That being said, it is a fair drive across downtown to campus, you learn all the shortcuts imaginable. Oh, I also lived in Chinatown for a brief time as well. I still miss the Dim Sum.
All of the areas have their pluses, the main one being cost relative to living directly north of campus. As for roomates, check out craigslist and search each specific area and you're sure to find some options in your price range.
Thanks, lucero32! Good to hear from a USC alum! Are you sure traffic to [South] Pasadena isn't that bad? Because I took a drive there yesterday as one last thing to see before I headed back home to Phoenix, and the 110 was backed up big time from Exposition all the way to the junction with the 5-- and this was on a Sunday afternoon! And then once I got to Pasadena, the traffic on Arroyo Parkway and Colorado Blvd was a major pain. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you drive from South Pasadena to USC aren't you passing through the brunt of all the traffic heading to downtown? Also, does it get really hot in Pasadena? Is air conditioning there an essential? Oh, and where is "Japanese town"?
South Pasadena is a separate city from Pasadena. As for traffic, this is how I avoided it. First off, when possible I'd schedule classes away from rush hour. If that wasn't possible I had a lot of options. The 110 (both North and South) starts to clog up as you get closer to the 5. If heading South and the traffic is bad, you can get off in Chinatown before any real traffic and takes surface streets to SC (about 10 to 15 minutes). On the way home, I would pick up the 110 past downtown and the 110/101 interchange. There is an on-ramp just off of Cesar Chavez near Olvera St. (and Bar-b-q- King as well...mmm). You'll hit some traffic, but it clears up quickly as the 5 splits off soon. After the split, it's clear driving until Orange Grove.
As for South Pasadena...I'd look for an apartment in the Mission District. In addition to being a nice area, there is a gold line stop which can help out with transit. Also, it's a minute drive to the Orange Grove on/off ramp to the 110. You'll find living in L.A. living close to a freeway on-ramp will really cut down your driving time.
Oh and Japanesetown (aka Little Tokyo) is an area on the eastern edge of downtown. It's bordered by Alameda on the east and Skid Row to the south and 1st street to the north. Don't let the skid row thing scare you off, there is a strong police and security presence and I never had a problem other than the occasional panhandler. It's serviced by a Dash as well, so you can get dropped off via public transit at SC if you don't want to drive. I really like the Eastern Downtown as you have Little Tokyo, China Town, and Olvera Street all close by. It's worth a look.
I'm going to be attending USC for one year, starting this June. For a while I was considering living in Culver City and driving into campus, but now I'm thinking living right in the neighborhood north of USC, so I can easily bicycle to campus, is probably the smartest idea. Unfortunately, it seems like housing in that area comes in only two forms: insanely expensive ($3150 for a 2-bedroom) newer apartment complexes (Tuscany, City Park USC, and the Orsini come to mind) and extremely old dingy mini-apartments and old houses divided into 4 unit shacks that are still total rip-offs, just not as astronomically expensive ($1000-$1400 for a one bedroom or studio, $1600-$1800 for a 2-bed, 1-bath). Pretty much all of the apartments available, with the exception of the most expensive ones, do not come with air conditioning. Some of them don't even have a laundry room, some of them don't even come with a parking space on the property. What I find shocking, almost disgusting actually, is these apartment services are assuming "2 person per room" occupancy; packing 2 people in a one-bedroom, 4 people in a 2 bedroom, 6 people in a 3 bedroom.
Wow, I used to live in one of those hellhole apartments on S. Royal St, about 5 minute walking from USC, and in 1990 the rent was $400!!!!!! Talk about inflation....
Get a roommate and live downtown. Koreatown has had a recent spike in crime
Koreatown isn't bad. If you live in the upscale areas of it, you'll be fine. The downtown area where a lot of the hip stuff is is a fun and nice area. The outer areas aren't as good. At least I think so. I know K-Town isn't that bad and if you can afford it, it should definitely be an option.
I got back last night from a long weekend in LA! I was so busy looking at potential places to rent, I didn't have time to post on city-data.com. And after all that... I still haven't signed any lease. I didn't find the areas around campus to be that scary; I think a lot of people seriously exaggerate things. However, I don't think I would feel comfortable living north of Adams, and especially not northwest of the campus (the two areas with slightly lower rents). The 1/2 mile area directly north of campus and a particular area just one block west of the campus seemed okay to me. I stayed in Culver City and checked that area out, as well as driving back and forth between CC and USC a bunch of times. I liked Culver City, but only from the downtown area going south towards the Fox Hills Mall/ Howard Huges center area; the parts of Culver City along Jefferson that were the closest to USC seemed like a bombed-out former industrial/ warehouse building area. It took me about 30 minutes on average to get from southern Culver City to USC, taking the surface roads. I experienced both workweek and weekend traffic, and honestly the route I took didn't take that much longer to drive during rush hour. I saw "Palms" as well, which has a BOATLOAD of apartment buildings, but the area kind of left me feeling "ehh." I also took a brief drive by past a couple of new-looking mega apartment buildings with Italian-sounding names in/around downtown LA.
Right now I'm not sure what to do. The price gouging in the USC area is truly sick. It's over twice what I'm paying now to live in a total dump. I'm trying to see if I can find a roommate and rent a two bedroom apartment. I live in a 2-bed, 2-bath setup right now and I think this is actually preferably to living by yourself, not to mention less expensive. But unfortunately, it seems like the standard in LA, at least around the USC area, is to pack 4 bodies in a 2 bedroom, 2 bodies in a 1 bedroom, 6 in a 3-bedroom apartment, etc. Obviously, I'm a student so I have a limited budget, but I'm not that poor either. Also, not in all, but in many of the apartments the setup was what they call "tandem parking," where you have to park behind someone else's car, blocking it, requiring them to get your keys and back your car out every time they want to take their car (and vice versa). It seems like a royal pain in the ***. Does anybody here have any experience with "tandem parking"? Is it as bad as I think it is? Any other suggestions of where to live?
check out mar vista - slightly less "ehh" than palms....you can also get lucky around Venice off the water
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