Moving to the Right Neighborhood and Staying Car Free
I’m spending my summer in Australia with family and relatives and I’m amazed by the design and layout of large cities such as Melbourne and Sydney, as well as small towns like St. Arnaud and Ballarat. The streets are filled with buses, trams, or trains, and the streets are bike friendly, as well as pedestrian friendly. There is abundant bike parking, the traffic lights have a peds only phase and even the bus stops have cover to shelter from the blistering heat in the summer or the rain in the winter.
As my husband and I enjoy our three week discovery tour Down Under, we inadvertently became also part of a walkabout (in Australian aboriginal cultures, a “walkabout” is a ritual in which a young man goes on a solitary journey through the wilderness in an attempt to learn more about his own character and strength) even though not out in the bush, but in the city.
As we walk the streets and become part of the community, I experience a familiar sense of belonging and I’m reminded of how I feel in Los Angeles when I connect with my neighborhood by going car free. It was, while walking, that I found my community and became more familiar with the lay of the land and in touch with the streets under my feet and under my bicycle tires.
Even so, I’m often confronted by out-of-towners with the argument that Los Angeles is not a livable city and that in Los Angeles, one must have a car. Especially in the film industry, I’m challenged by Agents, Managers, Casting Directors and even actors, who all argue that one cannot survive in the entertainment business without owning a car.
Fortunately, I don’t need to debate them, I just need to continue with my car-free lifestyle and I can prove them wrong. I’m a successful actress, working in film and theatre, I serve on the board of several organizations, and I’ve just finished writing and directing my first short film. All of this, without owning a car!
The truth is, that Los Angeles is perfect for being car-free. And I strongly believe that I became a better artist because I left the “secure” womb of a car and I started to live fully, embracing all the challenges that the City of Angels offers.
A year ago, I wrote a series of articles on how to get around by bus and bybike, but one thing I might not have mentioned is that embarking on a successful car-free lifestyle starts with selecting the best location for your home.
It is reported that the average cost of owning, registering, insuring, maintaining, fueling and storing a car costs a minimum of $8000 per year in Los Angeles. If one would like to live not only a sustainable life, but also enjoy a higher quality of life, one smart investment of that money would be to find an apartment that is near a transit hub and near a neighborhood that one can walk to or bike to.
Humans are social animals and studies show that if we live together, gather at public spaces and interact with each other, we not only live happier lives, but we also live longer. And as actors, being around other people is essential to our craft. We need to study real people (not just actors in movies portraying real people), we need to learn from our communities and we have to expose our senses to the outside world and not just to what we are comfortable with.
Being in a community that you love, that you can feel physically free in (you can move about without being restricted to a car), opens up your creative juices and increases your opportunities. It’s simply not true that it results in having to give up auditioning for and accepting acting jobs.
When the moment comes to audition and look good, you can always rent a car, if the weather or other circumstances, won’t allow you to bike, walk or take the bus.
Two car companies that I’ve been renting from and I highly recommend are 699 Rent-A-Car that is located in Hollywood, Van Nuys and just opened an office on the West Side off Venice and the 405 Fwy. The other one is Hollywood Rent-A-Car located in the heart of Hollywood, with beautiful hybrid and soon-to-come electric cars. They have great prices and their cars will make you the talk of the audition or the party for sure!
These two car rental places are not only great because of their service and their prices but also because they are located in neighborhoods that are conducive to a car-free lifestyle. (Keep in mind, if you rent a car for an interview or a job, it is tax deductible).
Hollywood is a neighborhood that is very walkable, ridable. There are lots of options for taking transit – from DASH to Metro Busses to Metro Red Line – and you can now also flag down Taxis. Just check the LA Walk Score and you will find it on the top ranking. Other communities that are great to live in, where you can walk, take public transit, or bike are: North Hollywood, Downtown LA, Santa Monica, Pasadena, West Hollywood, East Hollywood (home of three Metro Red Line stations, the bicycle district, and the movie industry), Los Feliz, and Silver Lake, just to name a few. These are great communities that support the car-free lifestyle and are supported by significant transit options.
When you are planning your move to LA, type in the address of an advertised apartment on the Walk Score website and see how the neighborhood is rated. When I moved to LA about 8 years ago, there were a few things that were important to me; walkable neighborhood (narrow tree-lined streets with a grocery store nearby), public transportation (even though I had a car back then), off-street parking (I don’t use it anymore), balcony, and easy access to all auditions and jobs.
I looked everywhere from the westside to the eastside, and East Hollywood proved to be the perfect place for me. I could easily give up my car and rent when needed and I’m still in the center, 1/2 an hour to 1 hour away from any audition or job and I’m in a safe neighborhood.
As we enjoy our Urban Walkabout in Australia, I’m reminded of the great choice I made in moving to East Hollywood. I’m reminded that there is no price on being happy, safe, and sustainable. I love Los Angeles, and no matter how far I travel, I know that East Hollywood is my home because I’ve become part of the community. I love my neighbors and my friends and the choices I’ve made and I know that I’m living an intentional lifestyle that is without compromise.
I encourage you to slow down, step out, go on a Walkabout in your City and connect with your environment. Discover what you like and what you can’t live without and think ahead to how you can live a more sustainable and intentional lifestyle. You will be renewed, happier, healthier and a better artist, just because of this simple challenge.
Enci is a Mother, Actress, Artist and Activist.
Contact Enci with article suggestions or find her on Twitter, Facebook and other networking sites to connect. When contacting her, please introduce yourself and tell her you read her column in the Networker.