10 Great Neighborhoods in Los Angeles

SOUTHEAST

From Long Beach on the south to Whittier on the north, this stretch of Los Angeles offers simple suburban living in communities that came of age in the post-war era. It's a popular and practical area for households whose breadwinners head off to work in different directions, with one spouse driving east to downtown Los Angeles and the other headed west to the office parks of Orange County.

Flagship Neighborhood: Cerritos

When the city was formed in the late 1950s, its original name was the "City of Dairy Valley," a good name for a town where the population of cows outnumbered people by nearly 10 to 1. But the dairies and cows have been crowded out by neat and tidy housing tracts, a regional mall, a well-regarded performing arts center, a huge public library (more than 300,000 volumes) and sculpture garden. About 10 years after it was founded, the City of Dairy Valley was renamed Cerritos in honor of a large Spanish-era rancho.

The city's dramatic and flashy cultural centers (the library is wrapped in a skin of shimmering metal) seem a bit out of place in this conventionally suburban setting. A largely middle class and ethnically diverse population, more than half Asian, reside in the mostly contemporary-styled homes set around cul-du-sacs. Its proximity to the Los Angeles Orange line and immediate access to three freeways make Cerritos a convenient location for households whose wage earners have to drive off into separate counties for work. As far as traffic goes, locals try to avoid Bloomfield Avenue, a north-south route popular with commuters trying to cut through the area.

The Neighbors: An ethnically and racially mixed population of mostly middle-class and conservative families attracted to highly rated schools and efficient city services

Also Consider: Artesia, Cypress, Lakewood

Flagship Neighborhood: Whittier

Whittier was founded more than a century ago as a Quaker colony of "fair minded" individuals who wanted to start a new life in the California sunshine. Today, this middle-class suburb with nearly 90,000 people is more diverse, with growing numbers of upwardly mobile Latino families joining the old-line Whittier residents whose grandparents remember the arrival of the first car in town.

Residents can choose to live a conventional suburban life in the 1950s- and 1960s-era homes of East Whittier or the Whittier Hills. Or, they can join the historically minded in the city's three historic districts located near the north end of town. Here, in Uptown Whittier, the community's commercial and social hub, a wide variety of residents descend on Greenleaf Avenue for a weekly Farmers Market on Friday mornings and a Wednesday night Family Fair (held from March through October) featuring live music, food and crafts.

At the corner of Greenleaf and Philadelphia Street, strollers will come across the imposing former First National Bank building, where the town's most famous resident, President Richard M. Nixon, started his law practice (a replica of that office can be found nearby at the Whittier Historical Museum). If you are hungry for more than history, walk across the street to Rocky Cola Cafe, a 1950s-style diner outlined in red neon that locals favor for late-night snacks and cherry soda.

The Neighbors: An ethnically diverse mix of middle-class families as well as students and staff from Whittier College

Also Consider: La Habra Heights, La Mirada, Montebello

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