The article below was originally published by the NY Times.
Los Angeles and Its Booming Creative Class Lures New Yorkers
By Alex Williams
It started with Instagram. Or maybe it ended with Instagram. Last fall, Christina Turner, a fashion stylist in Brooklyn, was dreading another New York winter in her cramped, lightless Greenpoint, Brooklyn, apartment while gazing longingly at the succulent gardens and festive backyard dinner parties posted on social media by her friends in Los Angeles.
“I’d see all these old familiar faces of friends I once knew in New York, all seated at the same table,” said Ms. Turner, 32, who goes by the professional name Turner.
She could resent them, or she could join them. So in November, Ms. Turner dumped her furniture on Craigslist, piled into her battered Honda Accord and headed west, not stopping until she found a light-filled two-bedroom cottage in Echo Park, a neighborhood in eastern Los Angeles that is a magnet for young creatives.
The wagon train mentality, it seems, is taking hold among the L train set: Go west!
In an era when it has become fashionable for New Yorkers to grumble that their own city is becoming a sterile playland for the global-money set (Dubai with blizzards, basically), Los Angeles is enjoying a renaissance with a burgeoning art, fashion and food scene that has become irresistible to the culturally attuned.
As a result, the old New York-Los Angeles rivalry is changing, at least on the East Coast side of the equation. No longer do in-the-know New Yorkers reflexively parrot sneers like the old Woody Allen line, that the only cultural advantage of Los Angeles is the right turn on red.
In some quarters, the scorn that New Yorkers once piled on Los Angeles is now sounding like envy.
Indeed, Los Angeles has seemingly become the flight fantasy of choice for the likes of Ms. Turner, who insists that anything good she was giving up in overpriced, overstressed Brooklyn is already in place on the booming east side of Los Angeles: the in-season Zambian coffee outposts, the galleries, the vintage clothing boutiques.
With that area’s scruffy bohemian spirit and laid-back mood, she thinks she had found the best of her New York life without the migraines. “It’s like grown-up version of Williamsburg,” Ms. Turner said, “without the gray cloud.”
To anyone old enough to have seen “Annie Hall” on the big screen, such a notion sounds like apostasy. For generations, Los Angeles served as a punch line to any self-respecting New Yorker. “Just a big parking lot,” as John Lennon reportedly said; a “triumph of the garish,” as Paul Rudnick wrote. Andy Warhol claimed to embrace the city, but only because “everybody’s plastic.” “I love plastic,” he added.
In 2000, the “Sex and the City” characters ran off to Los Angeles for a two-episode romp in the sun, but ran screaming from the vapid wasteland of bottle blondes, D-cup implants and overzealous Brazilian treatments. (“The next day four New Yorkers left L.A. a little lighter,” Carrie concluded. “Some of us had lost our hair and all of us had lost a little dignity.”)
But reflexive New York snobbery has gone out of vogue, even among influencers for whom New York is an identity.
Moby, the techno pioneer who was born on West 148th Street and molded by the East Village, confessed in the The Guardian last year that he had not only moved to Los Angeles, but become such a “clichéd Angeleno” that he taunts New York friends with photos of himself by the pool in February.
“I was so accustomed to the city’s absurd cult of money that it took me years to notice I didn’t have any artist friends left in Manhattan,” he wrote. Los Angeles, by comparison, is now where young artists “can really experiment, and if their efforts fall short, it’s not that bad because their rent is relatively cheap and almost everyone else they know is trying new things and failing, too.”
Lena Dunham once told Vogue that she could spend only two weeks in Los Angeles before starting “to get a very sad feeling,” but recently paid a reported $2.7 million for George Peppard’s former Hollywood home.
No less a New York mascot than Fran Lebowitz, whose jaded, cigarette-sucking visage may as well be inscribed on the city seal, also confessed to a change of heart about Los Angeles.
“L.A. is better than it used to be, New York is worse than it used to be,” Ms. Lebowitz said at a recent Vanity Fair party for the Tribeca Film Festival. The quality-of-life campaigns under Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg swept away so much that was gritty, quirky or exceptional about the city, she said, and as a result, “New York has become vastly more suburban,” while “L.A. has become slightly less suburban.”
This is not a trivial point. Los Angeles is widely acknowledged to have become strikingly more cosmopolitan in recent years.
The art scene, for one, has exploded. More than 50 galleries have sprouted since late 2013, reported the alternative newspaper LAWeekly, which notedthat the scene is starting to fan out from Downtown and central Hollywood to new terrain like West Adams, Leimert Park and Culver City.
Ann Philbin, a former New Yorker who is the director of the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, said that while New York remains the commercial hub for the art market, emerging artists and recent art school graduates are increasingly migrating west.
“Many people say that there are more creative people — visual artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers — living in Los Angeles than there are in any other city in the world, and I feel it,” Ms. Philbin said. “It’s like New York in the ’80s. There is a huge, growing community of artists here.”
A similar renaissance is underway in fashion. Hedi Slimane, the creative director of Saint Laurent, moved the fashion house’s studio to Los Angeles, while labels like Band of Outsiders and Rodarte spearhead a homegrown design scene.
The fashion A-list is turning its sights west, thanks to spectacles like Burberry’s recent runway show at the Griffith Observatory, which drew 700 guests, including Anna Wintour and Elton John.
“Los Angeles was once just a city of jeans, but it is quickly becoming a high-fashion town,” said Joe Zee, the editor in chief of Yahoo Style, who now splits his time between the cities. “There was such a snobbery about L.A. with New Yorkers before, but that tide has really changed.”
Far from the red carpets and glitz, entire neighborhoods, many clustered on the city’s east side, are undergoing a much-documented haute-boho revival.
Bearded young New Yorkers can snap up brioche tarts at Proof Bakery in Atwater Village, visit gallery shows at Shepard Fairey’s Subliminal Projects in Echo Park, or settle in over barrel-aged rye cocktails at Bar Stella in Silver Lake, and scarcely realize they are more than a stroll away from McCarren Park, except for the 70-degree sunshine tickling their cheeks in February.
The changes are more striking in downtown Los Angeles. Long a gritty urban backwater, Downtown has become a trend factory, brimming with Beaux-Arts loft condos, galleries, groundbreaking restaurants like Baco Mercat and, inevitably, a new Ace Hotel to serve as “Portlandia” south. (GQmagazine called Downtown Los Angeles “America’s next great city” last year.)
The buzz from all this is audible 3,000 miles east, to the point that New Yorkers’ incessant Williamsburg comparisons to Silver Lake, Highland Park, Venice Beach — or wherever — have become a wearying cliché to locals (except Aja Brown, the mayor of Compton, Calif., who has been pitching her economically challenged south-central city as “a new Brooklyn” of late.)
No wonder a new generation of restless New Yorkers is starting to heed the Los Angeles siren call, and not just aspiring actor-waiters, as in years past.
“New York feels like it’s all about ‘making it,’ ” said Julia Price, a musician and former Manhattanite who is in her 20s. “L.A. feels like it’s all about making things.”
In New York, she said, she was so busy working to pay the bills that she often toiled from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. as a production assistant for “Good Morning America,” then from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. as a cocktail waitress. Los Angeles, with its slower pace and cluster of young artists, has proved to be fertile ground for her artistic ambitions.
“I couldn’t believe how collaborative everyone out here was,” Ms. Price said. “Want to shoot a music video? Just put up a Facebook message and within hours you’ll have 15 responses from incredibly talented, passionate people who want to work for free, because they believe in you and your art.”
This view of Los Angeles as a familial, welcoming city — as Moby put it, a great place to fail — is comically at odds with the traditional view. This is a town that has been grinding them up and spitting them out since Peg Entwistle, the star-crossed actress, leapt to her death off the “H” in the Hollywood (back then, “Hollywoodland”) sign in 1932, after all.
But to many New York expatriates, the relatively lower cost of living alone can justify a move. As much as Angelenos (justifiably) howl about spiking real estate prices, New Yorkers still see bargains.
For $600 less than the $1,850 a month Ms. Turner was paying for her grim junior one-bedroom in Greenpoint, she she shares a a charming two-bedroom 1920s bungalow in Echo Park with a gated yard, cactuses, a barbecue, a separate work studio and a garage.
This is not to say Los Angeles is always a natural fit. The New Yorker is always going to be a nonnative species in Los Angeles, which has its own status codes, its own rhythms, its own body language.
“There’s a major adjustment period,” said Jeff Thrope, a creative consultant (and former contributor to T Magazine) who moved from New York. “Los Angeles is definitely not New York with palm trees.” “
Newcomers face a catastrophic drought (a developing crisis), and endless traffic snarls (an enduring one). The latter may explain why the emerging image of Los Angeles as bohemian paradise seems to take hold mostly among those whose careers allow them to work at home in blogging, photography and freelance web design.
“On the east side, where we live, we know maybe four or five people who work traditional 9-to-5 office jobs, out of our entire friend circle,” said Hamish Robertson, an artist and designer who lives in Los Feliz with his wife, Andi Teran, a novelist. “And if they do have them, it hasn’t come up, because people rarely ask what you do for a living or where you went to school.”
At this point, it’s impossible to say how many New Yorkers are actually taking the plunge. The census bureau does not specifically track the migration patterns of Bushwick neo-expressionists and digital brand strategists.
What you are left with are quasi-statistics like this: Jessa Blades, a makeup artist and beauty and wellness entrepreneur from Fort Greene, Brooklyn, decided to split her time between the cities, in part because a dozen friends had already made the move in the last 18 months, “which makes it easier to find a community,” she said.
What is measurable is that the invading New Yorker is becoming a familiar enough archetype to inspire a backlash of sorts.
The popular site LAist circulated a handy map, originally created by the online magazine The Morning News, highlighting the most New Yorker-friendly neighborhoods, but adding a series of anti-New Yorker swipes. “If you happen to be from NY, and are feeling ill at ease in the vapid wasteland of Los Angeles, you can either” — well, leave, the post saltily suggested — “or figure out where you’re more likely to feel like you’re at home in NY.”
The LAWeekly ran a list of “The Six Types of Transplants Ruining L.A.,” topped by, of course, New Yorkers.
“The only thing New Yorkers love more than talking about New York is talking about how Los Angeles isn’t New York,” the article said, detailing a familiar list of complaints (limited public transit, people too polite, bars close too early).
At least New Yorkers were No. 1 again.
Correction: May 4, 2015
An earlier version of this article incompletely described Christina Turner’s living arrangement in Los Angeles. She shares her bungalow with a roommate, she does not live alone.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.