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Chicago Versus L.A.Part II

Posted Sep 13 2008 6:56am

As I mentioned Thursday, I’ve decided it’s time to compare Chicago with Los Angeles:

Weather
Los Angeles: Um, well, the weather – what there is of i t – is just about perfect. A little rain here and there, but the rest of the year brings warm, sunny weather. Sure, it can be a bit boring, but then who cares? And if you want winter snow, the mountains are a 25-minute drive away.

Chicago: Two word sum up the biggest negatives: cold and wind. Even my wife, who’s from Connecticut, was a bit surprised when snow flurries fell from the sky on Thursday. Seth was excited, but he won’t really understand the pluses and minuses of snow until it sticks to the ground.

There are plenty of other negatives, too: we can’t plan outdoor events without worrying about torrential rain or a surprise snowstorm in June. Despite the jokes, global warming hasn’t fully taken the chill off the Midwest.

On the other hand, the constant weather does keep the air cleaner-smelling.

Which climate do I prefer? Los Angeles

Affordability
Los Angeles: Southern California home prices are ridiculous, though there are hints that soon may be changing, as this Los Angeles Times story explains. Even worse are the region’s rentals, which make it darn near impossible for a family of four to live in the more interesting parts of the city.

Food prices are fairly reasonable in Los Angeles compared to those in Chicago’s urban core, where they are exorbitant. I presume that is because L.A. is the food distribution hub of the nation. It’s also where the majority of organic produce is grown.

Other advantages: Few toll roads, relatively inexpensive urban parking rates and property taxes that remain more or less fixed as long as you don’t upgrade to a more expensive model.

Chicago: Condos are eminently affordable in the urban core compared with Los Angeles. Homes less so, though you can get a lot of house for the dollar in the suburbs.

Food costs are ridiculous, though gasoline prices are generally lower because corn-produced ethanol is made in the Midwest. Also, energy and water prices seem to be generally lower (though that’s just a guess.)

Parking fees are a real problem – $22 a day in the loop and $225 a month for a space in our apartment building. Sales taxes are awful.

Conclusion? It’s a wash.

Cultural Stuff
Los Angeles: The region has everything Chicago does and maybe more, but the problem is you have to drive everywhere and cost is a huge factor. There are few concentrated cultural centers in Southern California.

The Hollywood Bowl, for example, required a one-hour drive each way from our Upland home; the Getty Center meant three hours round trip. Disneyland, which was in the opposite direction, required a 40-minute trip each way presuming no traffic.

It’s all there, but you have to work, plan and pay a lot to take advantage of the amenities.

Chicago: We haven’t had a chance to really explore what’s out there, but the city has a huge array of indoor and outdoor choices within a few blocks. They include Lake Michigan and its marinas, the Lincoln Park Zoo and Park and several theaters. Five miles away is Navy Pier and dozens of museums.

In all fairness though, they would not be any easier to access if we lived in the suburbs. At least here, we can afford – barely – to live in the city; we couldn’t in Los Angeles.

Outdoors
Los Angeles: I really, really miss the mountains. I’ve hiked all my adult life and the Midwest isn’t exactly a great place for hiking. My wife will argue that I didn’t hike much in recent years, which is true, but that’s because I can only take a 4-year-old so far. Even though we were four minutes from the edge of the mountains, the hiking trails were another 20 minutes drive.

I will miss our summer trips to the ocean, but we can actually walk to the lake-front beaches in Chicago. We had to drive 70 miles or so to get to our beach in Southern California.

Chicago: Even if we didn’t live near the lake, Chicago also has a huge number of parks that are connected by trails. Chicago’s urban parks feel wild compared to the sterile, though gorgeous, park we had in Upland.

Conclusion? The jury is still out.

Additional:
Part I

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