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Old 05-04-2011, 08:16 AM
948 posts, read 3,344,395 times
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I have read the threads here about relocating and I'm still trying to wrap my mind around what it's like there.

To some extent, people here are about their job and title. Nothing too new to me as this is prevalent in many cities. We have a mixed crowd of young professionals that come to the area to make a lot of money and have attitude, but, we've got a nice mix of families but many have jobs with the state dept./foreign svc., political appointee's, and they are here and gone after a couple of years. It's definitely an interesting mix of people here.

Our family has moved a lot. Maybe 15 times? All over the country and other parts of the world. We're coming from the D.C. area where most houses near a metro stop are at least a million dollars. I don't think I'll have a case of sticker shock in Cali. What has been shocking is how ugly the houses are in the area of Laguna Niguel. Almost everything under a million is a garage that happens to have a house behind it. Blech. What developer started this ugly trend?? Also, very few houses have pools? I was hoping to entice the kids with a move by dangling a pool. We will rent for a while. Not sure if we'd buy, but wouldn't rule it out in the distant future.

We have a range of cities in which we've lived to compare to the area. We have lived in San Diego (about 15 years ago) and loved it. However, I've been back semi-recently and feel depressed about how much it's been built up. It looks nothing like I remembered it.

Lived in the North Bay area and loved a lot about it. I loved being able to go to San Francisco or Napa Valley--LOVED the restaurants. Some of the best food I've ever had. Problems we had were crime and gangs in the area. We had a cab get car jacked in front of our house, had a drug arrest in our front lawn and had our car hit by a neighbor who was also a gang member. Yeah, what a place and I'm sure I'm leaving something out. We lived in Northern Fla. (panhandle area)loved the beaches but it was too touristy and a little too red neck for me. I've lived in Southern Fl, too, but that was over 20 years ago. I loved the weather and beaches but I was so young then and had no kids. Went to school in NYC so got the taste of culture, great food, high rent=box, 24 hour city, great shopping!!

Okay, you get the idea we've moved around a lot, so I'm just trying to get an understanding of what to expect people wise as well as culturally in O.C.-- what's available there? I'm used to being able to walk any and every where here. I am very physically active and I know I would be more dependent upon a car in OC. I have a bike, so maybe the positive is that I use it daily? I see the other positives as the weather, (we had two back to back blizzards last year and it was a misery like no other to me) and the environment: the mountains for hikes as well as the beach for running, swimming and surfing. What kind of activities are available for kids? What areas have more families?

My husband would work near Aliso Viejo so it would be nice to keep the commute to under 45 min. THE biggest factor for deciding where to live are the schools. We have a son with high functioning autism who uses special education so this is what's driving the school decision. I've read about class UP sizing and the threat of teacher lay-offs in San Juan Capistrano school district. Would a neighboring district offer a better alternative? What are the neighboring districts? Also, I know many folks are used to passing on word of mouth when it comes to schools, can anyone offer some objective input? What is the power structure for the schools? Are they run solely by a superintendent or a school board? Anyone have feedback on those individuals--good or bad? What's the bullying policy like? What's the last incident your kid told you about? Any make the newspapers?

Appreciate all input. Thanks.
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Old 05-04-2011, 09:46 AM
Location: Grosse Ile Michigan
30,701 posts, read 79,339,648 times
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The people are varied. Most people come from somewhere else. The prevailing atmosphere is materialism, and self centeredness, however it is only prevailing, not all controlling. THere are lots of differnet people. Yes, most of the houses are ugly. They are mostly the same. You can live anywhere in South Orange county and most of it is almost exactly the same. If your husband works in Aliso Veijo, why not live there? It is as good or bad as anywhere else. It is a newer city and has some nice amenities. Most of the schools in South Orange County are good. They are also much the same as each other. Sure one may be a little bit better than another, but they are not really any different. SJC may be an exception. I think that they have some problems in their schools.

DC is very much like OC except with crummy weather and the US Government infestation. However the goods and the bads are quite simlar. Lots of resturuants and attractions, lots of different types of people, too much traffic, crime, smog, real estate prices are absurd. OC is not liberal like DC, but parts of it are. OC has a very heavy hispanic influence.

You can use a bike every day, but not many people do. It depends on you. You will quickly find yourself caught up in all the business and all the things that you "should" do and have little time for things like biking, thinking etc. Many of the concerns with OC are the same anywhere, just a bit more intesne (or in a few areas overwhelmingly more intesne) here. It is all about status. What you do, what you drive, where you live, what you wear, who you know. . . . Not so much about who you are. However, as I mentioned, there are lots of people and many different types and outlooks. Some area are more down to earth, but those do not tend to be the areas considered "nicer" areas.

Stay at home moms tend to get a bit lonely, but there are groups out there for Moms to find each other and do things together. Mothers of Pre Schoolers (MOPS) is one of the best. It is a religious based group but non-denominational.

You will definitely love the weather. The foothills and mountains are nice, but it can take a while to get there, especially on weekends. Beaches likewise are wonderful during the week, madhouse ont he weekends, sometimes you go to the beach, drive around for an hour looking for parking and just leave. It depends on whcih beach and when you go.

Lots of planned activities for kids. The down side is that you generally have to go somewhere to do something. There is no step out the front door and get into a canoe. (in fact there is no canoeing). There is not a lot that you can do right at your house, but there is a ton that you can do if you go somewhere. Yards are tiny. 7000 s.f. is considered a good sized lot. Small lots are common. You are looking at 6-7 houses per acre in some locations.

I am surprised at your comment about pools. Have you ever looked out the window while landing at John Wayne? It looks like every other house has a pool. Affordable houses do not have pools because the yards are too small. However they usually have community pools.

There are few places that you will experience the things that you described from Northern California. A few parts of Santa Ana are like that, some small areas of other cities too, however if you are in such an area, you know it.

Bullying exists. It is more subtle than the old days. Now it is more verbal or peer pressure bullying, the bullies have learned that if they hit someone, they ae goint to get kicked out of school. So they ahve more clever ways of bullying. How bad it is in any given school is going to depend on which parent you talk to. If their kid or a friend of their kid was bullied, then they will say this school has a huge bullying problem. Whie another parent may say that it has no bullying problem whatsoever.

I was recently amused when someone posted a picture of a newer house to show how beautiful houses are in an area (I think it may have been Aliso). It was bascially a picture of a garage door. There were some windows or a balcony above it, but even the entrance to the house was down a little alley between the garage and the house next door. That is what you get for the most part. A display of garage doors. THat is why garage door companies do so well. If you want a beautiful house, you need a beautiful garage door (if such a thing exists). Now, a nice hose has at least a three car garage, that means that even more of the available frontage is taken up with garage doors. Some places will put a third garage bay in a seperate building witht he door facing the other two doors. This kind of hides the garage door behind the extra garage building that is taking up most of your front yard. The problem is simple, everyone wants huge sqaure footage and three plus car garages. However land is super expensive, so you get small overbuilt lots and houses that are basically a bunch of garage doors from the front. Sometimes the attempt at a yard os so tiny that you will laugh at it. I have looked at a few houses, where the grass patch between the concrete patio and th back wall or fence is so small that I cannot even lie down in it. Why bother?

However it is not a problem since you will almsost never be at home anyway. THis is nto a place to sit around at home. You will be out running around almost all the time. Who cares wif you have a yard?

Last edited by Coldjensens; 05-04-2011 at 09:57 AM..
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Old 05-04-2011, 11:02 AM
5,381 posts, read 8,631,772 times
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I moved here from Manhattan, arguably one of the most exciting places in the world, and I also spent some time in DC. That said, I appreciate Southern California for what it has to offer, even though I am aware of its drawbacks. The weather can’t be beat.

The key to adjusting here is to carve out your own niche by taking advantage of what neighboring areas, some relatively distant like San Diego, have to offer. Some, like Laguna Beach and Dana Point, are close by. You “park” (live) someplace, but you travel a lot, both within CA and to other destinations.

Yes, most of the houses are plain, but nothing is stopping anyone from fixing-up the interior of their home. Developers got away with murder, but why complain about it all the time? It’s not like it will change anything. There are, however, some plans that you may be able to influence, and for that, you can try to send suggestions to your city’s building or redevelopment committee. Receptivity to ideas varies with the locale.

You can work to make your personal space as pleasant as possible. I have mature trees and a garden in my backyard. There’s really nothing unique about that in OC (I couldn’t do that in Manhattan). In fact, many people here indulge in gardening.

Of course, you can also change the interior of your home. You would be surprised by how unique and charming some cookie-cutter houses actually are once you step inside. This experience is somewhat reminiscent of NYC, where you could pass by row after row of gray buildings, and unless you actually entered them, you would never know of the striking beauty of some of the apartments.

Personally, I like antiques, and have added a few pieces to some I brought with me from Manhattan. I've placed original prints on on some of my walls. I have interesting carvings. I may add a loft in the future, as have some of my neighbors, but I haven't decided.

I also know many of my neighbors pretty well, and they happen to be interesting and involved people from around the globe who help to enrich my OC experience. Everyone here is busy.

Finally, you’ll find lots of parks, hiking and biking trails, and the ocean is easily reached. Just pick a city, “park,” and carve-out your life.

BTW, just to show that the locals are not necessarily boring and unimaginative, I have neighbors who are interior designers, and the director of a well-known museum also lives here.

In this particular city, and the same is probably true for other nearby cities, there are several writers, at least one (working) actress, and perhaps a lesser known comedian. So look beyond the architectural sameness.

Good Luck!

Last edited by pacific2; 05-04-2011 at 12:05 PM..
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Old 05-04-2011, 12:00 PM
394 posts, read 963,165 times
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Don't like the cookie-cutter HOA lifestyle? Me either. You can avoid all of this (and Mello-Roos too) by looking for homes in the Old Town sections of certain cities. Orange and Tustin both have noteworthy Old Towns with historic houses and buildings. San Juan Capistrano does as well and I am sure that San Clemente, Dana Point do too. Living south of AV might be something for you to seriously consider!

If you are looking for something a little newer, there are tracts of homes all over the county that were built in the 60's and 70's that are not like the developments in Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, etc. These houses will normally have larger lots and more than 5 feet between each house.

One thing about SoCal is that there is variety. One just has to look for it...
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Old 05-04-2011, 12:08 PM
Location: Irvine
257 posts, read 942,999 times
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As the mother of an autistic son, I would imagine that getting him into a school system that addresses his needs is your top priority? The rest we can address after the fact. I live in the Irvine Unified School District. From what I hear, IUSD has an excellent reputation in the county. I have met other parents in other OC districts that have not been happy. One recently lived in Anaheim Hills and was looking for a private school to send his son to. After my son's diagnosis, I consulted a friend with an autistic son who has a PhD in Education and has been a school principal for years. She told me I was in the right place. That Irvine has a stellar program. Up until then, my plan was to move back to Texas. But I decided that my son's needs were most important and scrapped that idea.

My son just turned 3 on April 1st, so for the past 8 months he was getting individual ABA therapy of 13 hours per week funded by the OC Regional Center. Due to budget cuts they no longer automatically fund speech or OT, so I had to pay for that myself. But at age 3 they transition to the public school. So just last week he started at the centralized special-ed preschool off of Jeffrey and Smoketree. He goes there 22 hours a week - received individual ABA 6 hours a week, and speech therapy four times a week. They will be adding OT after he gets settled. He is in an autism specific class, because he is non-verbal. My impression is that I would like to see him moved to the non-autistic class as soon as he develops verbal skills, but for now, this is what he needs.

Unlike the horror stories I hear about IEP meetings all over the country, mine was painless and I was given even more than I expected. I am hopeful that things will continue smoothly.

Now on to some of your other issues..... since we decided to not move back to Texas, we just bought a house in Turtle Rock in Irvine. We absolutely love Turtle Rock, it is like a little mountain oasis smack dab in the middle of the city. And the schools are awesome. The University is within biking distance, which could come in handy when the kids get older. Ours is a townhouse with a gorgeous view of the city. It is HUGE at 3500 square feet and a very coveted 3 car garage. It has not been remodeled since it was built in 1987, so we are going to have to remodel. There are TWO community swimming pools, so I don't have to worry about the headache and cost of caring for a pool.

I would not say that OC houses are the most beautiful on the outside. But you can do whatever you want on the inside, and isnt that what is most important? You dont live on the outside.

As for the people, like you I have lived all over the world and this country. And I must say I love California people. They are weird, quirky, and low key. I fit right in. Are there materialistic people? Sure, aren't there everywhere? But to classify everyone as such is just dumb. I must admit I do prefer lower income people to rich people.... that is just me. And there are not alot of lower income people in Irvine. But I get great customer service at all the shops and restaurants, so don't bother me.

That is what you need to be most concerned about.... your son is well cared for and needs being met, you buy a decent house you can remodel to your heart's content, the kids get out of your hair at the community pool, and everyone is nice to you at the grocery store. You will find the kind of friends you want if you look hard enough. I imagine since you are an expert mover like me, that you are pretty outgoing by now. And you just look for people that you click with.

I have lived on both sides of this country and in the middle. I have lived in four foreign countries. And I can say without a doubt that there is no place I would rather live than here in Irvine, CA.

Good luck finding your place. If you have any questions, please feel free to PM me.
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Old 05-04-2011, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by robbybee View Post
If you are looking for something a little newer, there are tracts of homes all over the county that were built in the 60's and 70's that are not like the developments in Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, etc. These houses will normally have larger lots and more than 5 feet between each house.

One thing about SoCal is that there is variety. One just has to look for it...
Unfortunately, many, not all, of these places are just tacky tract homes from another era (60's and 70's) with equally uninspired and antiquated interiors. California developers have been playing their game for a long time. As far as lot size is concerned, California seems to be in a category of its own. "Larger lots'' seem postage-sized once you have traveled to other states. Land is just so much more expensive in OC.

That said, I’m most impressed by the what I’ve seen in Nellie Gail Ranch. These homes remind me of what can be found in other parts of the country. Of course, there are also unattractive tract homes in other states.

Last edited by pacific2; 05-04-2011 at 01:40 PM..
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Old 05-04-2011, 02:23 PM
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People also adapt by taking advantage of what local universities have to offer. For example, Soka University in Aliso Viejo has a jazz monsters series, an art gallery, a new and highly acclaimed performing arts center, and a free Annual International Festival.
YouTube - 2009 SUA Festival

This year’s festival takes place Saturday, May 7th and 900 different performing artists will entertain at various outdoor stages during different times of the day. I believe about 10,000 people attended last year’s festivities.
10th Annual International Festival will feature over 900 performers on 3 stages - May 7, 2011 - News and Events - Soka University of America
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Old 05-04-2011, 09:54 PM
Location: RSM
5,113 posts, read 19,683,410 times
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I'd check out Seal Beach. It will fit your commute time, the houses will be much different than south OC, the schools are excellent and have fine support for special education, and the school district is small and well managed(they do not have the enormous budget pressures that districts in south OC are experiencing). The community itself is the most family friendly completely walkable community in the county and it has a nice family beach.
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Old 05-04-2011, 10:35 PM
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It’s probably best to just get a short-term rental, and then leisurely explore various OC communities first hand to see what works for you.
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Old 05-04-2011, 11:52 PM
Location: Irvine
257 posts, read 942,999 times
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One other thing....isn't an IEP legally binding anywhere in the country? I would be sure to keep that in mind.
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