Friday, August 14, 2009

The Hunt: The things we do to live near transit

Located just one block from Wilshire Boulevard (a major east-west street in LA) and two blocks from the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus hub, Juan's apartment on 4th Street has incredible transit accessibility. And this is no accident; Juan deliberately looked for apartments near 720 stops. But this being LA, no Craigslist ad seems to mention this. (Edit: I think this is kind of ironic.)

Instead, the Craigslist ads focus on proximity to the beach (four short blocks) and the 3rd Street Promenade (1 block). Those factors contribute to the premium that Juan pays for his apartment. Furthemore, we just learned that to upgrade from his apartment -- a kitchen-less bachelor apartment for under $1,100/month -- to a studio with a kitchen would cost $400 more a month.

This dilemma is particularly salient for me because I am contemplating a move to this neighborhood too, since I don't own a car and I'd like to be near my boyfriend. But I am not rolling in money: my budget is $900 a month including utilities. (Note: 1) Obviously I recognize that there are thousands of families in LA whose housing budgets are much, much less than mine. 2) I actually paid more to live in Weyburn, but I attempted to justify this due to proximity to campus, lack of car ownership, and the generous fellowship support I received from UCLA).

People (with cars) may not understand how moving just one or two blocks away from transit access makes a significant difference in quality of life. Quality of life for me, someone who is a transit-dependent, is highly contingent on access to, you know, transit. And it definitely matters if that transit runs often.

Presently Juan lives within sprinting distance to the bus, which is key for those days you are running late. And when you're transit dependent, you almost always have to count on the fact that it will take you longer to get anywhere than those of us with cars (or bikes; those cyclists can almost always count on the fact that they will arrive somewhere faster than cars.)

By fiddling around with keywords on Craigslist, even I can detect a substantial price difference for locating just three more blocks north of Wilshire or two more blocks east or west of 4th. I'm convinced part of this is beach and Promenade accessibility - not transit accessibility.

I kind of dread the premium this location will command when Expo opens because most of the housing in downtown Santa Monica is owned by the Santa Monica collection and it costs an arm and a leg.

It turns out that a studio in Juan's building is $1560 and a one bedroom is at least $1900. The building is on the historic register but lacks other amenities common in other buildings, like garbage disposals and dishwashers. The studio actually pushes my and Juan's limits on affordability, particularly after including the cost of parking ($86; it is unbundled, which would make Shoup happy).

But for the time being, Juan and I will return to strategizing: how to make living together in a 390 square foot bachelor apartment, sans kitchen, feasible for two.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

Hey Sirinya!

If transit access is the main goal, try looking out just a little further, say 9th-14th streets around Wilshire or Arizona.

I live on 10th near Wilshire and still have access within about 3 blocks to the 720, 704, BBB 1, 2, 3, and 10. There are 1BRs in my building that go for the low $1200s at the moment if you include their one month of free rent. It's still a very short bike ride down to the beach and easy walk to the promenade.

Good luck!