1. Home
  2. life
  3. news
  4. I've lived in LA, San Francisco, NYC, and Chicago. I thought moving to LA would be easy, but instead I feel lonely and isolated.

I've lived in LA, San Francisco, NYC, and Chicago. I thought moving to LA would be easy, but instead I feel lonely and isolated.

Robin Madell   

I've lived in LA, San Francisco, NYC, and Chicago. I thought moving to LA would be easy, but instead I feel lonely and isolated.
  • Stevie Howell is an artist who has lived in LA for about five years.
  • She enjoys the city's creative scene and the many produce that can be grown in the area.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Stevie Howell, an artist and business owner who lives in Los Angeles. It's been edited for length and clarity.

I moved to Los Angeles about five years ago from San Francisco, and I previously lived in New York City and Chicago.

I expected my move would be easy since I'd still be living in California — but I've been surprised that I haven't seen a lot of things in LA that I've seen in a smaller city like San Francisco.

LA has many positives beyond the great weather that lets you do outdoor activities year-round. The city also attracts creativity — it's home to great design, art, and comedy. This area also has amazing produce — you can grow almost anything here, so it's lemon trees and passion fruit vines galore.

But these are the five of the worst things that I've experienced while living in Los Angeles.

1. LA has horrible urban planning

LA's urban planning could be so much better. Decades ago, the planners made huge mistakes that destroyed this city. They removed most of the canals that made Venice, Venice; took away the streetcars; built freeways that cut through all the low-income areas; made too many huge streets that aren't walkable and buildings that aren't human-scaled; and put strip malls everywhere instead of charming storefronts to walk by and window shop.

In general, it seems as though LA doesn't value urban beauty. Beauty happens inside here, behind walls, and in private homes.

I've noticed that there aren't enough green spaces. LA lacks great parks compared to other cities like San Francisco and New York City. If only Frederic Olmstead had made a couple of trips to Southern California.

Driving around LA I can see how the neighborhoods change. Some areas receive more attention and infrastructure while others don't.

2. The city feels dull

For a bustling city, life in LA can have a surprising lack of vibrancy. It doesn't feel urban the way cities like NYC or SF do — I don't feel an urban buzz or excitement.

People-watching is a rarity here unless I count DIY photoshoots set up in front of pink walls. While I love overhearing the occasional only-in-LA style conversation or hearing my neighbors practice lines in their backyard, the conversations generally involve too much talk about traffic.

The traffic makes it so hard to get places that I end up doing a lot less than I'd do in other big cities. For me, this means less going to museums, galleries, shows, talks, or even just a dinner on the other side of town. Often the same museum shows exhibited in LA will travel to other cities, and there have been times when I've missed the entire duration in LA but see it on a quick trip to NYC or Chicago.

3. I feel isolated

LA felt socially distant even before COVID and before "socially distant" was a thing. It feels like a sprawling mass of suburban enclaves next to each other. People are kind of in their own worlds, doing their own thing.

It's common for me to go months without seeing my closest friends here. This is another thing that mostly has to do with traffic and how sprawling the city is — people seem to stay in their neighborhoods and homes.

4. Driving sucks here

We all know traffic is a huge problem in LA — after all, LA is home to 11 of the top 25 worst traffic corridors in the US. Good luck ever seeing your best friend who lives 12 miles away. Going from the east to the west side or vice versa can be excruciating, even with an arsenal of great podcasts loaded up.

Walking isn't really an option in most cases because of huge streets and extreme distances, and every time I try, I almost get hit by a driver who just doesn't expect there to be someone walking — even in a crosswalk.

And on the rare day it rains, everyone forgets how to drive. A drizzle adds about double the commute time.

5. I don't feel any sense of community

I don't feel a strong sense of community in LA. It lacks cohesion that brings the whole city together, and I think this is why people have to work to find a sense of community.

Because it's such a driving culture, I don't interact with people as much as I do in other cities I've lived in. I don't ride the subway and get to sit next to someone who lives a completely different life than I do.

Because of this lack of interaction with a wider demographic range, it's hard to feel connected to the city as a whole.

If you moved to a new city or state and want to share your experience, email Manseen Logan at

Popular Right Now