• Photo: Filipe Matos Frazao / Shutterstock

Santa Monica

This pedestrian-friendly little city, about 8.3 square miles, has a dynamic population of artists and writers, entertainment folks, educators, and retired people; its left-wing politics have earned it the nickname of the People’s Republic of Santa Monica (just like Berkeley in Northern California). Mature trees, Mediterranean-style architecture, and strict zoning have helped create a sense of place often missing from L.A.’s residential neighborhoods, and its cooler, sometimes-foggy climate is another draw. Being a desirable neighborhood, real estate here isn't cheap.

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