With thoughts of purchasing a home in the next few months, my husband and I have begun to have conversations about what we like about our current neighborhood. These conversations are helping us build an idea about what we want in a neighborhood. What we like about our current neighborhood where we’re residing:

  • Older homes have more character than the newer “cookie-cutter” versions (older homes may have been cookie cutter’s years ago, but subtle changes over time have given them more character)
  • Within a mile of our house are some stores, a Starbucks, and some fast-food restaurants that we can bike to
  • Three miles from our house are a few nicer restaurants (a college is near this area, so Chili’s is the “nicer” restaurant of that I speak)
  • Two miles from our house is a park with bike paths (though, the bike paths don’t necessarily lead anywhere expect around the park)

However, our current neighborhood also has some drawbacks like low-rent apartments, graffitti, and very few clearly marked bike paths. Though I like the character of the older homes, some of the homes have been neglected for many years and, unfortunately, bring down the value of the neighborhood.

One item my husband and I would really like in a neighborhood is to be able to bike, on clearly marked bike paths, to nice restaurants or bars for an evening out. With this in mind, I began to research walkable neighborhoods using the Walk Score website. A neighborhood that clearly stands out for us is Canoga Park, an adjacent neighborhood only 4 miles from our present location. Many small antique shops, a couple of diners, and a theater have revitalized this once old neighborhood. Five blocks, on both sides of the street, are made for walking and the outlying half-mile or so are also quite pedestrian friendly. Canoga Park has a walk score of 72 out of 100, with 100 being a walker’s paradise. (see below for a comparison of cities)

On the other hand, a community with newer homes (and these aren’t really all that new) has a much lower walk score. Granada Hills is rated at a 49, anything under 50 is considered car-dependent on the Walk Score website. The design of these communities focuses on block after block of houses without a store or restaurant in sight. I can think of many contemporary suburban communities that are similar to this. Somewhere in the urban planning process, being able to walk somewhere was forgotten.

Walk Score has rated cities walkable.
Walk Score has rated cities walkable.

Obviously, most urban communities are very walkable; think New York City or San Francisco. Yet, in many suburban cities and outlying urban areas, you can find pockets of walkable neighborhoods. Finding bikeable cities, however, is another task that I haven’t yet conquered. Of the bike-friendly cities I know of, none are within a few miles of where my husband and I live and we will unlikely move for that reason alone.

A few other reasons my husband and I prefer an older neighborhood is that they have more mom and pop type stores and not just big box stores. Since we are entrepreneurs ourselves, we like supporting other small businesses when we can. We also like that older neighborhoods have a more diverse population; cookie-cutter neighborhoods tend to draw cookie-cutter couples with their two children and their dog.

So, our search continues for the pedestrian/bike-friendly, quasi-suburban, affordable, character-rich neighborhood that may only exist in movies. Does anyone know of a bike-friendly website like Walk Score? Can someone recommend a neighborhood in suburban Los Angeles that they absolutely love?

Update 2016: ¬†We never found our “perfect” neighborhood. Instead, we’ve chosen a neighborhood at the bottom of some foothills that isn’t very walkable. However, there are great hiking trails just behind our home.

2 Comments

  1. Susan Tiner Reply

    Little House, I loved this post and shared it on facebook and twitter.

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