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.