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Courtesy of Arnesen Photo/LACVB,
By: Photo Credit: © Erik Arnesen

On one of Los Angeles’ 290 sunny days, when the wind is right and the coastal fog has receded, you can see from the snow-capped mountains of the Angeles National Forest to the golden shores of Malibu.

Transformed in 200 short years from a small farming community with a big name — El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles de Porciuncula (Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porciuncula) — L.A. has been through as many dramatic changes as any hero filing in the city’s famed movie factories.

With a diverse population and a seemingly endless thirst for expansion, the city has defied the growth patterns of other major metropolises. Instead of a central downtown, L.A. is an interlocking network of neighborhoods, each with local pride and distinct character. Some are resurrecting their heritage and attracting residents wanting to renovate and rebuild in historic neighborhoods.

Among Los Angeles’ positive attributes are its mild weather, its beaches and its knack for constantly reinventing itself. On the downside, the area’s smoggy air is among the most polluted in the country, the city is built on several earthquake faults, and traffic snarls the region’s freeways.

Although Los Angeles County’s median home price has crept up to more than a half million dollars, prices can vary dramatically. Tiny fixer-uppers in risky neighborhoods can go for $125,000 while mega-estates in Malibu, Bel Air and Beverly Hills move easily into the $10- and $20-million dollar range. Rentals follow the same pattern, with houses in the downtown area going to $1,200 per month, while homes in Brentwood or suburban Granada Hills starting at $2,000 and go up from there.

From among this varied landscape, we chose four neighborhoods that reflect the dramatic variety of Los Angeles. Our picks include historic, portside San Pedro; the San Fernando Valley’s suburban Encino; upscale Baldwin Hills and stately Hancock Park in the heart of Los Angeles.

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