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3 Reasons Why I Grew to Love LA

2. LA is Dense and Walkable

They bury this one in the urban planning textbooks, but, depending on how you measure it, Los Angeles is more dense than San Francisco or even New York City. For the record, West Hollywood happens to be California's most walkable city. But these distinctions require the sort of context LA haters like to leave out.

When we refer to Los Angeles, we rarely define what we mean. It's probably best to say, "OK, we mean LA county, but we're going to create some realistic boundaries."

You have to make tough decisions; however, to truly enjoy and get the most out of LA, you have to shrink it. This isn't cheating. It's simply leveling the playing field.

San Franciscans act as if they made the conscious choice to be this dense metropolis when, in all reality, they had no choice. The City is constrained, therefore it's compactly organized. LA knows no bounds; as such, it -- and the entire Southern California region -- sprawls from oceanside, dozens of miles to majestic mountains.

Where San Francisco had the chance to sprawl, it did. Talk a walk down Geary Boulevard and tell me if you feel like you're traversing an urban gem. Plop yourself in some random suburb east or south of The City; you'll think you're in Phoenix on a cold and cloudy day.

That aside, my LA extends from Downtown, through Hollywood, everything along and adjacent to Wilshire (including cute little neighborhoods like Larchmont) into West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Century City, West Los Angeles and ending in Santa Monica, but including the beach cities on either side. So we'll say from Palos Verdes to Malibu and everything in between along the Pacific Coast.

This approach makes LA more manageable. And a better comparison case.

When you break it down the way I have, you begin to understand the dynamism of Los Angeles. It consists of dozens of dense, walkable cities within one massive sprawling metro. Heading to the San Fernando Valley from my LA feels like a road trip.

I have what I have come to understand as an advantage: My first several years of exploring this hefty chunk of Los Angeles (probably 20 miles long and 10 miles or so wide) happened via bicycle.

Riding a bike in LA eliminates the traffic issue.

Because you can move from neighborhood to neighborhood and city to city within this urban canvas we call LA much more quickly on a bike than in a car, you can more easily make sense of the interconnections. Suddenly, you're hit with the shock and awe that it takes no longer to move from West Hollywood to West LA, by bike, than it does to get from Midtown to Greenwich Village in a taxicab.

Then, when you start moving through LA on four wheels, you're less irritated thanks to a better understanding of exactly what you're navigating. Plus you recall shortcuts you came upon via bike that, for one reason or another, drivers ignore (like using Carmelina off of Wilshire to bypass Santa Monica Blvd in Beverly Hills on your way to Hollywood!).

Give me 15 minutes and I will have you in the middle of a dense, walkable, shops and services-filled city center in LA faster than you can say San Francisco's Mission District is overrun with pretentious hipsters.

No city in North America, save Toronto, Vancouver and Portland, has done a better job getting more dense and walkable than LA. It's remarkable really. Across LA, cities, local governments and planners have reclaimed parking lots, vacant buildings and other flavors of blight, replacing them with mixed-use centers that help provide the urban feel that tightens the aforementioned interconnections, makes a big city feel smaller and fosters the type of vibrancy Jane Jacobs wrote about.

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