10 Things to Know Before You Move To The Los Angeles Metro Area
#1 THE WEATHER!
Welcome to sunny California! Weather is quite lovely throughout the year, with temperatures typically ranging between the upper 40s and mid 80s. You will still want some cold and wet weather clothing in your wardrobe and be prepared for the occasional heat wave in the summer, as LA does see temperatures in the 90s at times.
#2 THE TRAFFIC!
LA could easily be deemed to have the worst traffic in the country, between the population on the roads and the number of intersecting highways, your daily commute can easily be a nightmare if you do not know how to properly navigate. The distance in minutes is way more important than the distance in miles.
#3 ON BASE HOUSING!
On base housing is a unique situation regardless which installation you are stationed at or near. Los Angeles AFB (LA AFB) housing is on Ft. MacArthur, approximately a 30-minute drive. NWS Seal Beach’s housing is on “flat rate rent” meaning their rent rates are not based on the service member’s BAH rate. This is more common in the Navy, but it seems to be a preferred model to service members across all branches. Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos (JFTB) has no on base housing option, therefore service members are required to locate housing off base or on another installation.
#4 OFF BASE HOUSING!
Homes in the Los Angeles area tend to go faster than other parts of the country, you will need to be on your game and be the best competitive renter you can be. Supplying your own washer, dryer and refrigerator are very common. Most homes are setup for gas washer & dryers. Rental deposits are high, often more than one month’s rent, luckily Bill 644 passed, which maxes out unfurnished rental deposits at one month’s rent and furnished rental deposits at two months’ rent for military service members.
Most on base housing does not have A/C units along with many homes off base in the coastal areas. Here in southern California utility rates are some of the highest in the nation (20% higher than the national average). You will want to keep this in mind when looking at housing within your BAH comfort level. You may also want to join the program: Ohm Connect. Ohm Connect is an energy savings rewards program specific to California, Texas and Canada. You earn cash back by using less energy during Ohm hours (peak usage hours). During the summer they have Mega Ohm Hours, where they increase the earnings rate, but you must decrease your energy by a certain percentage threshold to qualify. In addition to banking real money, later deposited directly into your PayPal account, they also conduct qualifying raffles where awesome prizes like Apple Watches, Disney tickets and gift cards are won.
#6 SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION!
None of the Los Angeles area installations have on-base schools. All students commute to a local school. California is one of the only states in the country that does not require school districts to provide bus transportation for their students. Many students are driven by their parents or take part in the local public transportation to get to and from school. Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) and Long Beach Transit (LBT) offer reduce fare programs for K-12 students who utilize the public transportation. Huntington Beach and Los Alamitos provide bus transportation for their students, but for a fee.
#7 THE SCHOOLS!
When registering your child for school, you can enroll in your resident school, but the option to select another school in your district can be a possibility, in some situations you might even be able to send your child to another district.
Additionally, Los Angeles also has a Magnet School Program, academies and charter schools. Many of these schools are very competitive and require applications which are submitted by mid-November, for the next school year. There is no tuition to attend and acceptance is based on a points and lottery system. These schools offer programs in STEM, dual language, business and advanced studies. Your child can apply to these schools even if Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is not their resident district. There are over 200 Magnet Schools, the two most sought after are Port of Los Angeles High School and California Academy of Mathmatics and Science (CAMS).
#8. AIRPORTS & AIRPORT PARKING!
When it comes to air travel you will have plenty of options to choose from in the Los Angeles Metro area. There are 3 international airports (Los Angeles "LAX", John Wayne “Orange County” & Ontario) and 2 large domestic airports (Long Beach & Burbank). Service members may utilize a parking garage on Los Angeles Air Force Base for overnight airport parking. Permission must be given ahead of time by the 61st Force MSG/CD. The walk to main gate is not bad at all and easily accessible for Lyft or Uber drivers to pick you up. LAX is only 3 miles away and usually under 10 minutes from LA AFB. Bob Hope USO at LAX is definitely worth checking out.
TRAVEL TIP: Drop your bags off at Bob Hope USO, then go park your car, so you do not have to haul bags from LA AFB into a ride share over to the airport.
#9 PLASTIC BAG BAN & CRV!
Plastic bags have been banned in most California counties. This is mandated for all retail stores with over 1,000 square feet. You will either pay 10 cents per plastic bag, bring your own reusable bags or carry your items in your hands.
The CRV is the California Redemption Value and is a small deposit added to single serve plastic bottles and cans as well as larger containers of water, teas and non-100% juices. The CRV deposit is 5 cents for single serve bottles and cans and 10 cents for larger containers. RePlanet, the major CRV redemption company in California closed in 2019, limiting the number of recycling options residents have to get their bottle deposits back.
#10 CASH-OUT YOUR LOW BALANCE RETAIL GIFT CARDS!
California is the only state that requires retail stores (Target, Home Goods, Ross, etc.) to cash out any gift cards you have that are under $10. (Other states that have gift card cash-out laws typically have their threshold at $5 or even $1). All you have to do, is take your gift card of $9.99 or less, to the retailer’s Customer Service and request to cash-out the gift card.
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