San Diego vs. Los Angeles

I went to Los Angeles the other day to visit my grandfather before he dies. He and my grandmother both lived to be 100 but my grandmother died a few months ago and I don’t think my grandfather will last much longer. Since I’m deploying to Iraq, I don’t think I’ll be around to see him before he dies. I wasn’t able to attend my grandmother’s funeral since I was in Hawaii and I’m sure the same thing will happen with my grandfather.

Anyways, this isn’t about them. What I wanted to talk about is the dichtomy between San Diego and LA. Prior to moving here, I’d only visited SD a few times but I had good memories about it. LA, on the other hand, always struck me as being a crowded, noisy sprawl. Having gone back to LA for the first time in nearly 5 years, my impression hasn’t changed.

San Diego has a “sleepy town” atmosphere, kind of what you expect when you think about the towns in Washington state. There’s a lot of trees and parks, traffic isn’t too bad (relative to Hawaii and parts of the Puget Sound), and the people are extremely friendly and nice. Actually, SD has some of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of dealing with.

LA is just a dirty sprawl. I used to visit my grandparents as a child every year and even lived in Lompoc for a while. I never really feel comfortable with LA. You never know when you switch from one city to another while driving; the only real change is when the road you’re on changes names at an intersection.

The niceness of LA people is hit or miss. Customer service can be iffy at stores and restaraunts (though it’s a thousand times better than Hawaii) and usually people don’t even acknowledge your presence, though a very nice lady did offer directions when she saw us looking at maps in Target.

However, the people in SD just seem to be a different caliber. People will say “hi” or nod their heads as you pass on a sidewalk, restaraunt staff are friendly and always seem to be checking on you, and even cashiers are willing to chat a little while your in line.

Another interesting difference between the two cities is the ethnic influence. I’m sure someone will get on my case and say that I’m making racist remarks but I actually enjoy the diversity. SD obviously has a lot of Spanish and Porteguese locations but surprisingly doesn’t feel like it’s been overwhelmed by Mexican immigrants. Of course, it has many Mexican radio and TV stations but you kind of have to go out of your way to find the Mexican neighborhoods.

LA almost feels like little Mexico. Regardless of where you go there’s a very strong Mexican influence on the city. From taco stands on every corner to Spanish-language signs everywhere, LA has a much larger population of Mexican immigrants than San Diego. Which is wierd since SD is literally on the border with Mexico; you can take a city trolley to Tijuana and walk across the bridge, if you want. But much of the ethnic feel is still Spanish and Porteguese, not Mexican. Again, these aren’t racist remarks but simply observations for the benefit of people who haven’t been to San Diego or are considering moving here.

There seems to be more history in San Diego too. From Point Loma and the Cabrillo monument to Balboa Park and the Presidio, there are many historical places to visit. Plus San Diego has huge parks and recreation areas, such as the hiking trails around the Spanish missions. LA doesn’t really seem to have very much apart from shopping, or so it seems. The La Brea Tar Pits are pretty cool but I can’t really think of other, non-urban places in LA to visit. You pretty much have to leave the city to do the same things you can do in SD.

Another difference is that SD seems better designed for people who want to avoid cars. Nearly every road has bike lanes, the trolley has rail lines that circle the city and stop at many of the major points around town, and the bus seems pretty effecient, especially in conjunction with the trolley. Los Angeles pretty much just has the bus. If you really wanted to, you could probably get away with only having to use your car just a few times a month in San Diego, mostly for grocery shopping and other bulk carrying duties. Othewise you could either ride your bike or use public transportation.

Overall, SD feels like a better city to live in, in my personal opinion. LA is okay to visit but you really need to know where your going. If you’re looking at moving to California, especially if you’re military, San Diego is a great city to live in.

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21 Responses to San Diego vs. Los Angeles

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more, San Diego is great! LA’s dirty sprawl doesn’t hold a candle to the niceness of SD.

  2. AB sadly from SD says:

    dude san diego is a racist white city look around nothing but a santee/ CLANTEE presence through here. SAN DIEGO is a city filled with hippocrates

  3. BCbound says:

    I’ve never visited or lived in San Diego. I have visited Los Angeles, and I really like Los Angeles. It’s excellent to visit.

    However, I could never live there. The Air is too polluted to live in, in my honest opinion. There is also a big gang problem there.

    I love all of California, so I will always have a place in my heart for L.A.

    San Diego sounds like a cool place to visit as well.

    Since I haven’t seen San Diego, I have to say L.A. is better.

    Maybe my opinion will change eventually:]

  4. Dave says:

    San Diego better than L.A.? Really?? Have you been to Point Dume or El Matador in Malibu or walked along the Venice boardwalk? And how can you possibly call Los Angeles a mostly “noisy sprawl?” There are also TONS of remote hiking spots since there are seemingly mountains everywhere! When I first moved here I was shocked by how un-city-like it really was. L.A. is more like a giant suburb with pockets of lush country land if you bother to learn where to look. And if you have any interest at all in the entertainment industry, then L.A. is an obvious no-brainer.

    For education, there are many more well-regarded colleges in Los Angeles, especially UCLA. Also, L.A. does have plenty of homeless people but they’re more spread out. In SD I went downtown to a few bars in what I thought was the nice part of town yet there was a street completely littered with homeless people all wrapped up (literally) in garbage/sleeping bags! I’m talking a good 50 people just clogging up a single street! I’ve never seen a more disgusting and saddening example of poverty in person like that. Coronado beach is beautiful in SD… unfortunately it’s a military-exclusive beach! WTF.

    So yeah, I don’t agree with this post at all. It sounds like you made a bare-bones touristy experience in West Hollywood to see the Walk of Fame, the Kodak theater, etc and decided that L.A. was just a noisy, unfriendly place. Am I right? Because THAT area is indeed clogged with people and not a good representation of L.A.

    Btw, SD is a “sleepy town” because everyone is fucking stoned. During my travels throughout CA, I’ve discovered that SD is the best place if you’re in the military or want to be stoned all the time, L.A. is the best for the creative scene, beaches, and while many do get stoned it doesn’t seem as chronic as SD. People seem more driven and focused here. Then there’s San Francisco which has a smarter and even more driven community but is pricier AND lacks a beach scene. (Oh sure, there are beaches. But it’s too cold to ever really swim and there’s frequently fog.)

    I’ll probably live in L.A. for many years, then retire up towards SF. San Diego is terrific for a visit and I encourage people to check it out, but life there is absolutely inferior to what L.A. has to offer. No question.

  5. Dave says:

    Also ~

    RE: I never really feel comfortable with LA. You never know when you switch from one city to another while driving; the only real change is when the road you’re on changes names at an intersection.

    Get a GPS.

    That aside, there are plenty of landmarks to help figure out where you are. Notice the giant NBC/Universal tower? You’re in Universal City. Is the Santa Monica Pier nearby? SURPRISE! You’re in Santa Monica. Hollywood sign within view? Odds are you’re in… wait for it… West Hollywood! It’s really not terribly difficult. But again, if you have a GPS to get from A to B, then there shouldn’t be a problem anyway. Yeesh!

  6. I’ve lived in both cities and think they are both great. Even though they are close to one another, they are completely different cities. LA is a little more fast pace, and the city has more of a pulse. San Diego is absolutely gorgeous, and the beaches are just as good as any in the world. It’s a tough call which one is better.

  7. Tim says:

    I read this and was laughing through the whole experience. I like San Diego and Los Angeles, but I have to say L.A. is much better. First you say San Diego is a sleep town, like what you would expect in Washington state. The only town comparable to San Diego in WA state is Seattle, and Seattle is faster than San Diego, so don’t use WA as an example. A more comparable example would have been Oregon, i.e. Portland, that’s about the same speed. And San Diego a “sleep town”? Let’s be real. That’s code for slow or boring. Just like reading an ad in a newspaper for a “charming” apartment; that’s code for small or little. And nice people in San Diego? I have visited both L.A. and San Diego and people in L.A. are actually friendlier. People on the stret and in retail/customer service are not as nice as people in L.A. I know this because it always sticks out to me as being strange; I would have expected it to be the other way around. And you say you’re not racist but then say L.A. has a strong Mexican influence, and you like diversity, then speak of Portugese influence. portugese influence is nor more important than Mexican influence, and L.A has Portugese influence as well. And you will find much more diversity in L.A than SD; with non-latino blacks, non-latino whites, latinos, asians, and arabs, and people from various countries around the world. SD cannot compete with L.A., New York, or Chicago in this regard. And you say SD doesn’t have as much Mexican influence as L.A. Well, SD has plenty of Mexican influence too; hello! its at the border. The fact that Mexicans have come to the US through SD first, and bypassed it to continue on to L.A., doesn’t say much about SD being appealing. Regardless of whether you wanted them to stay in SD or not, they mostly chose to go to LA because they viewed it as better than SD. And LA has plenty of mountains around it to hike in summer and ski in winter, numerous beaches, better museums than SD, numerous amusement parks, different ethnic neighborhoods, and good zoos of its own. And as far as transportation, do not spend SD off as if its NY or Chicago in terms of transportation. Buses in SD can run far apart, and the city basically has one rapid transit rail line. L.A. does have several lines of its rapid transit system, and creating and expanding more lines even now. You could have simply said you prefer SD over L.A. and that would have been it. You could have even said you find SD more *charming* than L.A. But I have to draw the line at all these exaggerated claims and non-truths in your attempt to make it seem as though L.A. cannot compare to SD. I mean, really!

    • peter says:

      good thing those mexicans bypassed san diego cause we dont need them in SD, they went to Smog Angeles cause thats where all the sweatshops are and LA is farther from the border patrol

  8. Mike says:

    I moved to San Diego fours years ago from Chicago. Yes the weather is obviously better. However if your looking for that fast pased life style LA is the choice. Just the vibe is like that of a major American city. However is you wish to ditch the Xanax (because of stress). San Diego is the better choice no stress just very chill and relaxed. Yes it can be kind of sleepy at times. That sleepiness can be kind of welcoming particularly when it is time to relax. I my opinion in San Diego the Xanax is optional compared to it nessity in cities like New York, Chicago, and LA.

  9. Tony says:

    I was born and raised In LosAngeles, and moved to SanDiego in 1985. Being an avid Surfer I can say SanDiego has the best beaches compared to LA. I recently made a trip to Venice Beach/SantaMonica and noticed that the beaches looked polluted and dirty compared to SanDiego. However if your looking for a city with nightlife, LA is defintely better, it seems like their is always some where to go at night 7 days a week. I guess thats the reason their seems to be a traffic jam in LA 24 Hours a day. To sum it all up, If love the outdoors/beach lifestyle SanDiego. Vibrant urban life, LosAngeles.

  10. Michael brown says:

    I’ve lived in many parts of the country and world in my childhood and in my early late teens and early 20s being in the army. I’m now a 25 year old civilian going to school in San Diego. My wife is from la since birth and after only a month, I’ve come to the quick conclusion that San Diego is insanely overrated and LA is immensely better. Is all of la great? Nope, but if you know what you are doing and the cool things to do and spots to go to, LA is clearly one of the best cities on the planet and blows away any place I’ve ever been to in the US. San Diego has its weather which and beaches which is nice, but after that I’m not impressed. The people are not “small town nice” like people act they are and it’s no nicer than LA. In fact, LA has TONS of places that completely blow away the nicest areas of San Diego. If you hate LA or think San Diego is better than LA, I’d laugh at you to your face and I’m not even from La, but only lived there for around 3 months before moving to San Diego. After I graduate college, I’m moving straight back to LA. San Diego sucks and you folks can keep your overrated city

  11. Michael Harrington says:

    On a recent visit to SD to see family I found what you wrote to be the opposite. People in SD couldn’t have been any more rude then then they were. Went to Belmont Park and parents were worse then the kids. Workers had a lot of attitude. Some jackass in a truck scrapped the hell out of a Jaguar looked at me shrugged his shoulders and drove off. I chased him for a few blocks. Both places have its ups and downs just depends on city your visiting.

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  14. Sarah says:

    I agree. Honolulu is lame, San Diego is awesome.

  15. Leigh says:

    LA & Hollywood are fun!

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