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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152 comments
csloan2223
csloan2223

Wow, this lame article is obviously written by a low-class Latino. Santa Ana turning into Mexico is a BAD thing, UNLESS you're a Mexican who doesn't know any better. Showing a pic of a bunch of gangsters flashing gang signs, acting like they're holding guns and then calling them "good guys"? Really? Santa Ana and a lot of other cities infested by Latinos are turning into dangerous crime-ridden toilets.

Linda Josey
Linda Josey

Yes, I've seen that and love the coverage. But since it says the top cities in Orange County, Long Beach doesn't fit that description.

Roseann Cuevas
Roseann Cuevas

Thirty plus years of living in Long Beach and never been jumped. Where did you get this info from? PS don't be fooled by my last name.

Roseann Cuevas
Roseann Cuevas

The OC Weekly has always included Long Beach music, restaurants, e.t.c

Linda Josey
Linda Josey

If you're going to talk about Long Beach which isn't even in Orange County, you should know that it's Belmont Shore not "Shores". I'm a transplant from Orange County now living in Long Beach and I love it!

Jonathan Henson
Jonathan Henson

Chelsea Henson, screw it lets move back to Santa Ana, or as the article calls the number 1 city to move to, "SanTana".

Ellie Mo
Ellie Mo

5 best cities in oc. 1. Move out of oc

Deven Lightner
Deven Lightner

Born and raised in the same home in Lake Forest for 18 years. I have now lived in San Diego for 15 years. Parts of San Diego makes Santa Ana look like Irvine. It's all about perspective, it still is OC after all.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

Why is this article over a year old and now people are commenting?  


Zak Sea
Zak Sea

People claiming those cities are too dangerous are sheltered pussys who are completely out of touch in regards to “ghetto areas". Santa Ana has a gang problem but if you are doing the right thing they won't bother you they are too busy killing each other or going to jail over gang injunction violations. Santa ana has plenty of decent spots to raise a family or live in.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

What a bunch of stupid comments. You're out? Then stay the hell out of Orange County. Who cares who you are and your opinion if you're not living in the OC?!?

MsJay Elvira
MsJay Elvira

Tustin, Irvine, LakeForest.. The bees knees.. Can't wait to come home in a month.. Santa Ana.. Get out of here.. Nothing like starting fresh in the OC.. I LIKE OLD ORANGE TOO! ANYONE KNOW OF RENTALS BTW?

Cindy Bock
Cindy Bock

No way. Why would I move there? I left OC in 79, no way would I want to ever live there again... Ugh...

David Lingerfelt
David Lingerfelt

This article almost makes me want to unfollow OCWEEKLY.COM

Brieanna Ripperger
Brieanna Ripperger

This author is completely off base. No one who lives in OC would comprise this list....Long Beach and Santa Ana? Sure, if you're looking to get jumped in to a gang.

Karl Halverson
Karl Halverson

Hey Gustavo, where's Buena Park? So okay, our last Mayor is going to jail and our current Mayor probably should be going as well, but Ex-Mayor Oh (no) and Mayor "Sleazy" Steve Berry aside, Buena Park is a beautiful city with first class shopping, schools and a world class amusement park. and...LONG BEACH?....

Adam Griffith
Adam Griffith

This is more like the top 5 cities you are most likely to be robbed in minus Lake Forest.

Marcy Fonseca
Marcy Fonseca

"OC's not all racist--just Villa Park..." Um, WRONG! I have a plethora of friends in Villa Park and have never witnessed racism. Who writes this BS anyway?

Pyretta Elizabeth Moonbun
Pyretta Elizabeth Moonbun

Tustin is full of stuck up/rude/ mostly old white people. Never felt safe there. Deserves to be left out. + neo-nazis are hilarious.

sanclementejedi
sanclementejedi

Top 5 in no particular order:


Laguna Beach

Dana Point

San Clemente 

San Juan Capistrano 

Seal Beach 

sanclementejedi
sanclementejedi

If you made a list the top 5 cities in Orange County where you are likely to be beaten, robbed, murdered or raped and you would have pretty much the same list minus Lake Forest. 

Steve SanFilipo
Steve SanFilipo

Numbers don't lie. If SA was desirable, it wouldn't be cheap. Cost is directly relative to demand.

Steve SanFilipo
Steve SanFilipo

Got any facts to support your claim that Saddleback is a hate group? You probably don't even know that they are the largest feeder of the homeless in Orange County.

Steve SanFilipo
Steve SanFilipo

I don't even need to read the story. Here's the 5. 1) Santa Ana. 2) Santa Ana. 3) Santa Ana. 4) Santa Ana. 5) Santa Ana. Did I get that right, OC Weakly?

Gabby Tothemile
Gabby Tothemile

Long Beach seems to also be the most affordable city in LA County as well. And this is comparing it to the "real hood", South Central and Compton. I'm so happy to live here....moved from the OC 12 years ago and don't see any reason to move back.

Greg Ridge
Greg Ridge

Oc register just listed Outback Steakhouse as the number 2 best steakhouse in Orange County. Off topic,...but #icouldntmakethisshitup

Clint Priest
Clint Priest

I grew up in Brea as a kid,been gone for 25 years,moving back this November to oc hope I can find affordable living there.

vince117
vince117

Deven, pretty sure I grew up in the same tract as you, and agree I moved out to the IE about 12 years ago, there are parts of every county that can be compared, but what I dont miss is the new breed of OC people that are trying to outspend each other.  While I miss somethings about OC, I will never move back.

csloan2223
csloan2223

Tell me about it. Note that a Latino wrote this article. Make sense now?

csloan2223
csloan2223

Yea, those old White folks are really dangerous, LMAO!

csloan2223
csloan2223

You will in a few more years. Long Beach is becoming a toilet.

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