The 5 Best Cities in Orange County for OC Newbies to Move To

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Santa Ana: Where the OC Roller Girls roam...
From the letter bag:

My family and I are moving back to OC after 20 years. I've read your column and Facebook posts on and off for the few last years. My question is: between "freedom fries" in Villa Park and OC's KKK roots, where does one go to live in OC that is mildly to solidly progressive. We are a mixed family, gabacho and mexicana, and are planning on enrolling our chiquillos en the Spanish immersion schools in Lake Forest (Gates Elementary, etc.) Any ideas or suggestions you might have would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks.

Also, this:

I just got a job in Irvine and am looking to move to the area from Monrovia. Where can I move that has a small town groovy feel and things like craft fairs and farmers markets?

Gracias for the two of you for writing! OC's not all racist--just Villa Park. But your questions got me to thinking: if someone was moving to Orange County, where would we, as arbiters of all things truthiness in this wacky county, recommend they move to? I'm not talking about all the stuff realtors and South County types obsess over--I'm talking about pointing people to cities where they can experience a slice of OC life at its best, not its HOA-NIMBY worst. So behold a purely subjective list, written by someone who has lived here his entire life and covered it his entire professional career, who knows what he's talking about about 34 minutes a day--which just so happens to be how long it took me to write this post.

This is not to say we don't love all of OC, and some cities we adore didn't rank for reasons we'll explain. But the following represents good options for people with no prior Orange County experience, or--like the first letter writer--natives who are returning and want to experience a region that's no longer the place they ran kicking and screaming from years ago.

5. Lake Forest

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Any town with Rick Warren can't be all that bad, right?

Everyone in Irvine and south of the Y will snigger; let them. But the town once called El Toro is strategically placed so that residents can partake of South County, North County, and Laguna Beach easily. The anti-Mission Viejo.

Housing: Stock ranges from post-WWII tract homes to HOA hells, apartment complexes to gated communities, and all within reasonable (for OC, at least, and especially for South County) prices.

People: Lake Foresters don't have the richer-than-thou mentality endemic to nearly most of South County, and definitely not like Irvinites. It's also surprisingly cosmopolitan, with a large population of Afghans, Filipinos, and Latinos, and is the most underrated dining town in OC. Lots of nice Christians, too, as long as you're not a gay wanting to marry.

What the OC newbie will get: The most tolerable Stepford suburb experience we can recommend--and all OCers should try it once, if only to learn what NOT to aspire toward here.

Intangibles: If the Rapture ever comes, Saddleback Church will suddenly be empty, and we can turn it into one giant shrine to Baal.

4. Huntington Beach

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Oh, yeah: this

Yes, there are bros. And skinheads. And corrupt politicians. And the city keeps electing Dana Rohrabacher (R-Friend of the Taliban) to Congress. But HB gets dismissed by OC far too often. In reality, it's the best coastal city to reasonably live in--not snobby like Newport, not too expensive (unless you squeeze 15 young folks into a rental cottage) like Seal Beach, not overpriced like Laguna and Dana Point, or not too far away like San Clemente (which we love, but any city that's closer to Camp Pendleton than Anaheim isn't exactly convenient for newcomers).

Housing: From the estates of Huntington Harbour to the Slater Slums, HB has it all. And, if all else fails, get yourself a VW Bus, park it on a secluded street, and you can live in it without too much hassle from the cops. Just stay away from riots...and the cops.

People: It's HB, bro. Unpretentious living is the name of the game. Mostly gabacho, but they're far nicer than their Newport Beach upper-crust cousins. Rallied to save the fire pits for all of us, so we owe them big-time--and yet they'll just ask for a six-pack in return.

What the OC newbie will get: The coastal life, because all OCers should experience it at one point in their lives.

Intangibles: The coast. The pier. Bolsa Chica. Tacos El Chavito. HB: consider this our peace offering for making so much fun of you over the years...and for making fun of you for years afterward.


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58 comments
cynthia.curran8
cynthia.curran8

Why not moved to La County, Whittier is not that bad in fact there are cities in LA County where Mexicans do better than Orange County. I heard they are taken light rail out to Whittier. A lot of Asians and Whites are moving into La,so why not Mexicans back to LA. Santa Ana and Anaheim are not the best even for Mexicans granted Anaheim is not redeveloping and probably everyone will like it better.

ksdjfgkejrg
ksdjfgkejrg

Not only is this list the biggest piece of shit ever written, but the fucking dumb ass author is too retarded to even know that Long Beach is NOT EVEN IN ORANGE COUNTY.

Since the author DOESN'T EVEN KNOW WHAT CITIES ARE IN ORANGE COUNTY, then you DEFINITELY should NOT TAKE THIS ADVICE!!!!!!!!!!!

Not only that, but Santa Ana is a crime-ridden scum hole of a piece of shit city overridden with damn fucking illegal mexicans! I bet the author is an illegal mexican because he doesn't even know that Long Beach is not in Orange County! And because he listed the piece of shit loser ass Fullerton, along with beanertown illegal Mexican overridden Santa Ana.

JustAnObserver
JustAnObserver

I'm really glad to see the renaissance taking place in Santa Ana. There is a sense of history, great architecture and a taste of urban life to experience in the OC. Why should Long Beach have all the fun!


the_ocdemocrat
the_ocdemocrat

Once again Gustavo is trying to promote the same pro Santa Ana agenda as he did Real Orange.   

the_ocdemocrat
the_ocdemocrat

Once again Gustavo is trying to promote the same pro Santa Ana agenda as he did Real Orange.   

B-BAIN
B-BAIN

Really - Santa Ana #1, huh?  Say what you want about Irvine and HOA hell, but I guarantee that if you polled 100 families living in Santa Ana and asked them if they'd rather live in Santa Ana or Irvine (ignoring cost of living), 90% or more would say Irvine.  What do you have to say about that Gustavo?

lahope
lahope

You didn't mention the great public schools in Fullerton under Intangibles.

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

Costa (Messy) Mesa

But we hold 100,000 dollar festivals in front of our police department and invite the Foo Fighters in for a live concert while furloughing our employees with pay for violating city policies but don't tell the council members what policies they were supposed to have violated.

jcordova4
jcordova4

Plus Santa Ana has tons of dual immersion schools to choose from with awesome teachers!

BobLoblawsLawBlog
BobLoblawsLawBlog

Come to Garbage Grove! Have some pho and kim-chi next to your tacos and kababs. Cops don't shot you often and we still have that little Main Street.

92704resident
92704resident

I moved to OC last year. I'm in my early 30's and grew up in LA County. The first apartment I moved into was in South Santa Ana near the intersection of Bristol and MacArthur. I loved that location because I could walk/bike places and I was so close to the 55, 73 and 405. I could get anywhere in OC in a flash. I felt like I had the best of every OC city at my fingertips. We've got museums, a zoo, the arts district, bomb Mexican food and affordable real estate! That's why I agree that Santa Ana is worthy of the #1 spot on the list.

John Dennis
John Dennis

It is great to hear some one moving back after 20 years. I moved away back in 95 and want to come back as well. I have to find a job first but I really like Westminster where I lived before moving.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

Santa Ana-deserves to take the #1 spot. We have a great art community, cool architecture, beautiful historic buildings, awesome neighborhoods-people pay $30+ to tour our homes every summer, a great downtown, a variety of award winning restaurants, top-notch businesses, and a brite future ahead. Great article. Pretty cool.

Cesar Basabilbaso
Cesar Basabilbaso

Santa Ana has definitely changed but definitely not enough to be #1 on that list. I say HB or LB...yes I know LB is not in orange county but close enough. It feels like HB minus the skinheads.

Jonathan W Myers
Jonathan W Myers

no one should ever move back behind the great orange curtain.

Greg Chavez
Greg Chavez

I have brown skin and I grew up in Yorba Linda and Newport Beach. I wouldn't change that for anything. Some of the best times of my life.

Greg Chavez
Greg Chavez

I've lived in O.C. most of my 42 years on this planet. In those 42 years I've probably lived in over 10 cities here in this county. One thing I'll say for sure... There's a lot of great places to live here, but Santa Ana should be at the very bottom of that list. Whoever wrote this thought Long Beach was in Orange County... That should tell you all you need to know about this list.

Karen McHale
Karen McHale

At least it's not homogenized like South County. Blech.

Karen McHale
Karen McHale

Not if you have brown skin. The ethnic detectors go off in all those cities, unless you are a maid or gardener.

Chris J Caroselli
Chris J Caroselli

Take a tour of the slater slums, anacrime, whittier, the middle of westminster, d-bag central huntington beach, and downtown santa ana then get back to us on that..Even fullerton is nothing compared to what it used to be, nothing but bars and corrupt cops.

Digger Thrash
Digger Thrash

Lived in Fullerton all my life. way overrated.Downtown sucks.Got 1 thing right and that's the cops.

ocrollergirls
ocrollergirls

LOVE IT!! Thank you so much for including us!

OC Roller Girls

xoxo

ocrollergirls
ocrollergirls

LOVE IT!! Thank you so much for including us!

OC Roller Girls

xoxo

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

So proud of my city!!  Downtown Santa Ana is amazing with so much more great stuff on the way!  Congrats to the City of Santa Ana!  Well deserved!!!  Quit hatin' on Santa Ana.  Follow our lead and maybe you will join the winners circle when you grow up.  Best Downtown 2012! 

BenDayhoe
BenDayhoe

Santa Ana indeed rocks my friends.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

Get a life. In fact, stay out of our awesome city. Haters. Just jealous. We are Orange County's Downtown. Choke on it. Glad we won't be seeing you next Saturday at the 1st Saturday ArtWalk or at Noche de Altares Festival in Downtown Santa Ana-voted best festival 2013 in Orange County! Again, choke on it! Haha.

ksdjfgkejrg
ksdjfgkejrg

@B-BAIN the author is a fucking retarded dumb ass piece of shit beaner. Don't listen to a word of this piece of shit dumb ass article. Santa Ana is overridden with piece of shit illegal mexicans, and Long Beach is not even in Orange County! Fucking dumb-ass anti-american beaner illegal mexican of an author doesn't even know that.

ksdjfgkejrg
ksdjfgkejrg

@lahope that's cause all the beaner author cares about is dumb ass tacos cause he's too fucking retarded to know that Fullerton is a piece of shit loser ass town and all the author cares about is fucking tacos and hanging out with other anti-american illegal mexican beaners.

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

"The City of Costa Mesa is mathematically bankrupt, there is no job creation going here". - Mayor Jim Righeimer (Republinut)

ksdjfgkejrg
ksdjfgkejrg

@dubyadawg you're either a fucking dumb ass, or you're a fucking beaner illegal mexican piece of trash.

ksdjfgkejrg
ksdjfgkejrg

@Greg Chavez you mean, you're a beaner. Damn fucking illegal mexican beaner.

rdm24
rdm24

@Greg Chavez They are pretty clear about Long Beach's non-OC status.

ksdjfgkejrg
ksdjfgkejrg

@Chris J Caroselli yay someone who is not a fucking moron. Kudos to you, Chris!

vegandawg23
vegandawg23 topcommenter

@Digger Thrash Eh, the Olde Ship and McClain's are okay. Getting some good craft beer places too, Hopscotch I think it's called. The restaurants that turn into "clubs" like that taco place Zings are pretty annoying though with their goony doormen and fake lines to make outsiders think that anyone actually wants to go into the place. 

ksdjfgkejrg
ksdjfgkejrg

@Наполеон Юсто yeah cause the OP is a fucking dumb ass beaner.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

@Наполеон Юсто I don't get that either.  LB is part of LA County.  


ksdjfgkejrg
ksdjfgkejrg

@Wendy Richards that's cause you're ugly.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

Didn't get attention as a child? Poor, poor dear. Self esteem is non existent, most likely a bastard. Ah, who am I kidding, you're just jealous. Oh...and you're ugly. Hahaha!

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

Right. Oh, you are soooooooo spot on. Idiot. Quit wasting ink.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

Ooooh. That hurt. Not.

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