Get to Know the Best Los Angeles Suburbs and the Myths About Suburban LA
Here’s our list of the best Los Angeles suburbs:
- Rancho Palos Verdes
- Rolling Hills Estates
- Palos Verdes Estates
- Long Beach
- Redondo Beach
- Manhattan Beach
- San Marino
- Santa Monica
- Culver City
- Pacific Palisades
…but before you start revving up your riding mower for that big backyard, let us explain how we pulled this list together. The suburban areas in Los Angeles are as varied as the City of Angels itself. It’s almost misleading to paint them with the same brush as typical “suburbs”. If you know Los Angeles, you’ll know that it’s not a typical city. It takes the shape of many sprawled out neighborhoods that are connected by a pretty inefficient transportation system. That’s why people bemoan the Los Angeles freeways so much. Ugh and seriously stop blaming “the 405” for all your problems Angelenos. She (yes it’s a she…we checked) didn’t ask for thousands of over-caffeinated commuters to depend on her to get to work every day. Want to try taking Sepulveda or La Cienega instead for a week and then see how much you appreciate her??
But I digress. In my opinion, Los Angeles is a web of eclectic suburbs that are connected with a funky freeway system. Some suburbs are coastal. Some are deserts. Some are lavish. Some are more gritty. We grew up and lived in many of these places so check out our list of the Best Suburbs in Los Angeles and even further below we bust some myths about moving to the ‘burbs.
…and shamelessly, we should mention we offer financing and mortgage options galore…so when you’re done with your research, we can help you understand mortgage options.
Best Suburbs in LA to Live
Rancho Palos Verdes (RPV) is the largest city in the picturesque Palos Verdes Peninsula with approximately 42,000 residents. Real estate prices are among the highest in the state, but high property costs have perks…and in RPV’s case it means great schools and very low crime. The entire Palos Verdes Hill (aka “the Hill”) is one of the safest areas in Los Angeles. Also, don’t let the sticker shock scare you because there are plenty of properties that are more affordable in RPV…especially if you’re willing to skip the ocean view.
Many tourists and staycationers alike travel to Rancho Palos Verdes just for The Terranea Resort which is an upscale Mediterranean-themed oceanfront resort. It represents much of the areas natural resources: ocean front cliffs, water activities, and tranquil hikes. Just watch out for rattle snakes…seriously.
Rolling Hills Estate is another city on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Families will appreciate the excellent schools and low crime rate. This side of Palos Verdes is known for the vast, ranch-style, neighborhood that sits behind the private gates that are guarded 24/7. “The Gates”, as they’re locally known, is one of the largest Los Angeles gated communities and the local powers-that-be have preserved it so the neighborhood gives off a Gone With the Wind look and feel. Though not having street lamps and modern road signs, makes it notoriously difficult to navigate at night.
Fittingly, many residents embrace an equestrian lifestyle, as there are about 25 miles of trails for horseback riding in the city. So, if you ever want to live in a city where the grand theft auto rate is roughly equal to the grand theft equestrian rate, look no further. Yee Haw!
Palos Verdes Estates is a luxurious oceanfront city of roughly 13,000 residents that also sits on the portion of the Palos Verdes Peninsula that connects to the other South Bay Beach Cities to the north. The properties here have a consistent theme that began with a specific architectural vision from the 1920s. If you look out over the top of the Palos Verdes hill, you’ll see the villa-like homes of Palos Verdes Estates (PVE) with uniformly tiled roofs and the spanning backdrop of the Pacific ocean . Today, the aesthetics of each home’s exterior and landscaping remain consistent with the original theme and support the natural landscape. The median income is roughly $175,000, unemployment is rare, and schools are excellent…and apparently their modesty is too. Kidding!
Long Beach aka “the LBC” has more than 450,000 residents, making it the seventh most populated city in California…which begs the question: “Suburb?!”. Well we already prefaced that LA ain’t “typical” so we’re calling Long Beach (and it’s collective neighborhoods) suburban areas relative to Los Angeles proper. You got a problem with it? Talk to Snoop Dogg. Snoop – a Long Beach native and Long Beach Poly High School Alum – in many ways put the LBC on the map.
Despite Snoop’s reputation in the streets, there are straight laced, and family friendly attractions galore in Long Beach such as the Queen Mary that is forever docked (and supposedly haunted) along the Long Beach waterfront. The Aquarium of the Pacific is another draw with more than one million visitors each year.
For a totally off-the-beaten-path feel, explore the Naples island neighborhood in the Alamitos Bay. It’s swim-safe canals are truly unique and host an annual Christmas Boat Parade…as well as water gun fights every 4th of July.
Those seeking a thriving nightlife and restaurant scene can walk a few minutes down 2nd Street from Naples to the Belmont Shore, which draws similarities to Los Angeles’ South Bay beach cities further up the coast.
With a beautiful coastline, Redondo Beach is a city of around 67,000 residents with a median income of about $112,000. It’s right in the center of Los Angeles’ South Bay and blends the varied lifestyles and tastes from the other beach cities so it has a wide appeal for different types of residents and visitors.
The housing nearest the beach contains many townhomes, with more traditional single-family homes located inland.
The Redondo Beach Pier is a popular attraction for fishing, post-beach recreation, and all kinds of watersports. It’s also got some amazing shopping, food, and nightlife along the Rivera Village retail district. We recommend the homemade pasta and seafood at Bettolino Kitchen.
According to many, Manhattan Beach is the best Los Angeles suburb for families. While that may be fightin’ words to residents of the other areas on our list, you gotta give Manhattan Beach credit. It boasts an excellent mix of highly rated public school, relatively low crime rate, and proximity to family friendly attractions (aka the beach). The population is approximately 35,000 and the median income exceeds $150,000. This city tends to exemplify the upscale character of the South Bay of Los Angeles…which many consider one of the best places to live outside of Los Angeles proper.
Most homes in Manhattan Beach are on the pricey side…and the beauties along the strand can easily get into eight figure territory. There’s also the Gaslamp section of Manhattan Beach known for it’s uhm gas lamps. Ok we’ll admit it…these gas lamps are very quaint and inviting, but the prices in this neighborhood are decidedly uninviting.
But with the expensive properties come perks like spectacular local restaurants like MB Post. It’s a converted Manhattan Beach Post Office that’s now known for their bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuits and a solid all day menu. Then there’s Love and Salt, which combines gourmet Italian flavors with a California flair. Plus, there’s much more in the way of food, drinks, and shopping in Manhattan Beach.
So dig deep kids, this upscale suburb of Los Angeles is the jam. Ok I clearly have MB Post biscuits on my mind now.
Calabasas is a city of 24,000 on the western-most end of the San Fernando Valley (yes “the Valley”) with a median home value of slightly more than $1 million. Popular celebrities that reside in Calabasas include Drake, Kanye, and the Kardashians.
Apparently it was Justin Bieber that led the celeb charge much to the dismay of his new, soon-to-be disgruntled neighbors. Then after a bit of feuding about posted speed limits with the city council and his NFL neighbor, Keyshawn Johnson, the Biebs decided to sell his mansion in the Oaks of Calabasas to none other than Khloe Kardashian.
…and now that the seal has been broken, “C-BAS” (we just made that up) has become a trove for TMZ worthy celebrity antics. Drake even immortalized Calabasas in his P-Diddy diss-track “4PM in Calabasas”…so there’s that.
Oh and the schools are decent.
Don’t sleep on San Marino. Many long time Los Angelenos may not be able to point it out on a map, but this city of just 13,000 has steadily rising in terms of affluence and desirability. It’s the most expensive part of the San Gabriel Valley (aka the “SGV”).
The city leaders are focused on preserving the historical appeal of San Marino. For example, commercial operations are restricted and apartment buildings are not permitted. Also you’ll see a consistent pattern of Spanish and English builds among the homes there. McMansions somehow have been forbidden. Some may say the adherence to tradition is a bit too strict, but the property values tell a different story.
Not too mention the schools are top notch. Attractions include the Huntington Desert Garden, art galleries, and botanical settings.
Santa Monica (aka SaMo) doesn’t really qualify as a suburb to many but we’re not going to stop bending the rules this far into this “best Los Angeles suburbs” article now. The city of 90,000 is an iconic part of Los Angeles especially as a shopping and outdoor activity destination. It’s also got true diversity in housing options with a Downtown area, beautiful coastal neighborhoods and a variety of options further inland.
The city has many attractions such as the Third Street Promenade which runs right up to the Santa Monica Pier. To get away from the tourists and street hustlers, we recommend the Santa Monica Stairs that lead into Santa Monica Canyon. Bring your lululemon, selfie stick, and protein shaker bottle…because this scene is as if you crossbred Equinox and Cross fit…and then emptied it into a unsuspecting up-scale neighborhood’s pedestrian stairwell.
The city has a wealth of restaurants including Cassia that features French and Southeast Asian cuisine, the Italian restaurant UOVO and HiHo Cheeseburger. UOVO and HiHo are actually connected SO you can justify eating both and just calling it one “dinner”. And so it was written…
It lies on the eastern-most end of the westside of Los Angeles and is traditionally known for motion picture and television studios. Lately though it’s commercial spaces have transitioned to offices for large and small tech companies. Whether or not it’s a coincidence, the area has become increasingly trendy as evidenced by the average cost per cup of coffee (we have no scientific evidence to support this).
Housing is split equally between owner-occupied and rental properties. The downtown area was revitalized in recent years with pedestrian-friendly shops and art galleries. There’s even an entire Arts district right within Culver City that has regular art walks and other events.
For a locals only vibe, check out the Jackson Market. Since 1925, it’s been a popular deli and market situated in a residential setting. Not far from there are the Culver City stairs which lead up to the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook where you can catch a beautiful view of Los Angeles from the coast to Griffith Park. If you can get there on a clear day, you are in for a very Instagrammable moment.
Malibu (aka the “Bu” if you recall the HBO show Entourage) is a beach town with 21 miles of beautiful coastline. It lies north of Santa Monica and the Pacific Palisades. Although the town has long been home to celebrities, a surprising number of residents are middle class…so don’t write it off just yet.
Malibu is home to some scenic winding canyon roads including “The Snake.” The area is popular among wine drinkers with attractions such as the Malibu Wines and various tasting rooms. Check out the Japanese restaurant called Nobu Malibu, which offers waterfront patio dining…and has become legend after being included in many hip hop lyrics (see “Who Do You Love?” by YG feat. Drake). Try the Black Cod. It’s worth the wait for a table AND the traffic on the PCH. Now, who do you love?!?
Clear on the other side of Los Angeles is the city of Pasadena which is situated in the San Gabriel Valley with about 140,000 residents. The median home value is $737,000 and the lifestyle definitely has an easier pace than other parts of Los Angeles proper.
Pasadena is known as the home of the Rose Bowl, the site of the Tournament of Roses Parade, the eponymous college football championship game, and countless sports and music events. It’s also the home of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), which has always been a leading research university, but let’s face it it’s really become well known for the location of the show Big Bang Theory.
Pacific Palisades is a predominately residential neighborhood of 28,000 with a median household income of $168,000 that is nestled between Malibu, Brentwood, and Santa Monica. You may as well call it the affluent armpit of Los Angeles suburbs…and the property prices reflect it.
The neighborhood stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the Santa Monica Mountains. It is home to the Riviera Country Club, which has hosted many PGA championship events, and the historic Will Rogers State Park. Don’t let the name fool you though, this is one of the best beaches in Los Angeles.
Note: Pacific Palisades is different than Palos Verdes. Sure they’re eerily similar in terms of demographics, terrain, and property prices but trust us (or trust Google Maps), they’re different.
Topanga is a small town with a very trendy reputation in Los Angeles and beyond. It’s primarily located in a canyon within the Santa Monica Mountains but Topanga actually extends all the way to the ocean and the namesake Topanga Beach is a big part of Southern California surf lore.
Topanga only has a population of 8,000 and many residents tend to be artists, musicians, and filmmakers. Though it also has it’s fair share of aging hippies that stay true to the original Topanga vibe. So, don’t go preaching gentrification and trendy “mixed use space” over there…unless you wanna get bopped in the head with a satchel of patchouli oil.
That’s not to say it’s unfriendly to tourists though. It’s the home of the Topanga Film Festival and is known to offer a reprieve from the bustling urban feel in other parts of LA. Hike along the Red Rock Canyon Trail and we guarantee you’ll find your spirit animal along the way. Mine’s a bobcat (don’t ask).
Myths About Suburban Los Angeles
Data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) shows that 52% of U.S. households live in suburban areas. Roughly 27% of Americans reside in an urban area and the remaining 21% in rural areas. It is important to note that this survey was conducted just before the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Bloomberg, the Los Angeles suburbs have seen heightened demand for property. Some experts believe this trend has partially resulted from residents seeking more distance from their neighbors amid COVID. Another theory is that the trend is based on the massive transition to working from home.
Reports show this trend is more prevalent in large metro areas including New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Much of this information is expected to be better understood as more time passes and better historical data becomes available.
We wanted to highlight our favorites and dispel some myths about the suburbs of Los Angeles here:
The suburbs in Los Angeles have more affordable real estate: Among available homes in the LA suburbs, prices have risen during 2020 compared to those within the city as demand has increased. This is a reversal of the trend that existed before March 2020. Looking at May 2020, urban homes spent approximately 6% more time on the market than suburban homes over the prior-year period. (roughly 28 to 34%)
Nothing is exciting about suburban areas in LA: This has largely not been the case in Los Angeles. Suburbs increasing have added their own centralized districts for restaurants, bars, retail, etc. Some specific examples include Santa Monica and Long Beach. The suburbs do tend to have more chain-style restaurants that may be less appealing to many younger people.
LA suburbs lack cultural amenities: Unlike many large cities, LA is not as dense. Also, some of the neighborhoods within the city do have single-family housing options that have somewhat of a suburban feel. The LA suburbs are home to cultural activity. Examples include:
- Armory Center for the Arts and Museum of California Art in Pasadena
- Culver City’s Museum of Jurassic Technology
- The Long Beach Museum of Art
- The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino
- The Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City is a small playhouse venue for the performing arts that recently underwent a renovation
Commuting from the suburbs is awful in Los Angeles: Traffic makes commuting in most of Southern California time-consuming. Several LA suburbs have reasonable commute times into the downtown area of between 25 and 28-minutes including Orange, Thousand Oaks, Torrance, and Garden Grove. It is worth mentioning that a recent Stanford University study showed that up to 42% of American workers are now working at home, which may also reduce the burden of commuting.
The LA “suburban sprawl”: For example, shows such as The O.C. depict Orange County as an area where unrestricted growth occurred. The belief is that these areas have no central core and a lack of urban planning has led to environmental deterioration that rejects mass transit. This myth has been proven incorrect in many ways. First, this metro region has a diverse economy and merely 6% of the jobs in the region are located within the central business district. Further, the LA suburbs are actually much more densely populated compared to many in the Midwest and Northeast metro areas. In recent years, Los Angeles also has been rejuvenating its urban center and improving the public rail network.
Final Thoughts on LA Suburbs
The Greater Los Angeles region is now home to an estimated 13 million people. Some common aspects of Los Angeles apply to the region—regardless of the specific suburb. The Mediterranean climate is pretty nice year-round and remains soaked with sunshine (300+ days baby!).
But the high cost of living, crime, and access to good schools are all legitimate concerns. So depending on your situation, exploring suburbs can be a great choice to address these concerns. If you’re ready to make the move, let’s talk about your financing options.