I’m not sure where I’m willing to go next

This is a response to Julie’s Hump Day Hmm, but it is also a very serious request to all those reading.  I need help.  And I am hoping one of you can provide it.

You see, I’m an idiot.  I have certain well-honed skills, but I am a moron about so many really important things.  Like how to figure out the air and water quality in particular neighborhoods.  I keep going to websites run by state and national agencies, but they are confusing.  I don’t need air quality reports for all of L.A. County.  I need to know how safe it would be to live in a particular area.  And, I don’t yet live in L.A. county, so I don’t really understand which California Environmental Protection Agency monitoring site is near which neighborhood.  It goes without saying that I have no idea what PM2.5 is.

Yep — you guessed it.  They want to move us to L.A.  And the air in London has been awful for my asthma and Zachary’s health.  Benjamin has been OK thus far, but he wheezes a lot, too.  So, before I consent to move to L.A., of all places, I want to figure out which neighborhoods have good air and water quality.  Or, if any neighborhoods had good air and water quality.  Raging forest fires make me nervous.

Does anyone know of a user-friendly site that has this kind of information for the scientifically challenged?  Most of the sites break it down by county, but from what I gather, air quality in L.A. county can vary hugely.  And, this site just has me stymied.  Perhaps someone could translate it into English.  You know — Air Quality for Dummies.

Please, please help me.  We need to decide soon, and this is the biggest factor as far as I am concerned.  Oh, and Julie’s post on Monday really has me reaching for my inhaler.

17 responses to “I’m not sure where I’m willing to go next

  1. Hi Emily, You might try http://www.amqd.gov. It is the site for the air quality management district. I would also recommend looking to a real estate agent in an area you are interested in. An agent should know how to get information for a specific area. Basically, if you are looking at any area which is in a basin-like area, you are going to have smog. The good news is I think the smog is actually better than it was when I was a kid. When I was growing up we often had smog alerts and movement outdoors was restricted. (I’m in Orange County by the way.) I never hear about smog alerts now. We are having smoke advisories because of the fires, but those are usually only once a year, sometimes twice and not usually as bad as they’ve been the past few days.

    The other thing to consider is that seasonal allergies are common here–I guess they’re common in many places. I just know that my allergies have worsened over the years. I think after a number of years here, it isn’t uncommon to need to be on an allergy medication like Claritin. I’m on a couple of things because I also have sleep apnea but I did notice a huge difference once I started taking the medication regularly.

    Is that enough rambling for you? 😉 Do you know where in L.A. they want you to go? Depending on where you would end up, the O.C. might not be too bad of drive. (Nudge, nudge, you know what I mean?)

  2. I wish I could be more helpful about the statistics but I wasn’t even good at that in college. 🙂

    But.. being as I grew up in Los Angeles, I can offer you this much: If you have breathing troubles, don’t live on the valley floor. Find a place that is up in the hills somewhere or near the coast.

    That’s really the only place you’ll be able to tolerate it.



  3. Chani is right, do not, under any circumstances, live in San Fernando valley. That would be Burbank, Glendale, North Hollywood, Northridge…. The air gets trapped in what is essentially a bowl made out of the surrounding mountains. I have a friend with breathing issues and she finds that the closer she is to the ocean the better she does… so Santa Monica, Culver City, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach… Unfortunately these places tend to be pricier.
    We lived in Long Beach for a while and really liked it.

  4. by the way… the air in LA is better than it was 30 or 40 years ago, if that gives you any hope! And the air in the central valley of CA, where we lived after our time in Long Beach, is some of the worst in the country! cheery, eh? Also… stay out of the “inland empire” which is the vast area of suburbs to the east of LA…. that’s where all the pollution from LA goes to sit before a good wind can push it over the mountains.

  5. Look at a topographical map, then apply typical wind currents over that.

    Pulling a guess out of my rear, I’d guess the wind typically moves west to east, inland.

    Any depressions in the geography will trap air particles that might be tough on your system. So, like the others said, avoid valleys.

    I’d say try for higher, and possibly north of the main pollutants.

    L.A.! Pull out your Gucci sunglasses and shed your east coast and London smart black outfits. 🙂 It only takes a couple of years for your eyes to adjust to the bright coastal clothing. 🙂

    Good luck. Also…I’d ask a realtor (but then double check b/c ime they can prevaricate a lot. And obfuscate. And I’ll stop now. 😉

    Using My Words

  6. Emily,

    Those sites sound interesting and I would also recommend you speak to someone who lives there. Govt agencies/sites often lack objectivity in their metrics – you never know what underlying bias or funding need is being managed.


  7. Do you already know green LA girl? Has really good resources on everything environmental related to LA. Maybe you should even get in touch with her, I’m sure she could give you some insider knowledge.

  8. I echo the suggestion of coastal areas. I’d suggest looking at Santa Monica, as you’ll get the ocean breezes and it won’t be all that hot. (think London on the few nice warm summer days that we had). I did a quick check for a few sites that might or might not be useful. You might find: http://www.smgov.net/epd/environmental_links.htm from the Santa Monica website useful. Or, you might want to trawl through the National Resouces Defense Council website:
    You’ll want to think about freeway proxmity. You want to be close enough to the network to get around, but not so close that you’re affected by the smog. But take heart because parts of LA are going to be better in terms of air quality than say, Washington, DC, in summer.

    When we see you next, I can give you my biases on neighborhoods. I’m sad that you’re leaving us, but at least you’ll be moving to a place that we visit frequently!

  9. Emily– Here are a couple of sites that might be of help.



  10. I write to you now from East LA (Silverlake). It’s great for us, but not the best for air. I echo the valley keibash. I second Santa Monica. Also Manhattan beach is supposed to be lovely. And beach means clean ocean breezes.
    You’ll welcome the weather here after London. The fires are troublesome- but fortunately, they haven’t come within 30 miles of LA proper and they won’t. Come for the weather, stay for the Mexican food! Bienvenidos!

  11. You’ve already had such good tips. Let us know what you decide.

  12. i’m a northern California girl (grew up in the bay area) so i know little about LA. good luck!

  13. Emily,
    I grew up in Hermosa Beach and I (like totally – you can take the girl out of California…) agree about staying at the coast. I hope y’all move a lot because you get per diem or something. The beach is hideously expensive but worth it in terms of the ability to breathe. I have also lived in Santa Monica and I love it there and in West L.A./Brentwood (remember, OJ moved – Brentwood is fantastic and close to the beach). I wouldn’t go as far south as Long Beach if your husband is going to work in LA proper. You have never seen traffic like LA traffic.

    We used to say (when we were the kids living with the people that paid the actual rent) that we would NEVER live East of Pacific Coast Highway but I have never lived closer than six miles from the beach (now) since I started paying my own mortgage. I also agree with the topography map thing. When we lived in San Diego County we were probably ten miles from the ocean (as the crow flies) but there was a ridge of hills between us and the ocean which meant we essentially lived in the desert. Ugh. It was a valley in the desert (Poway, Rancho Bernardo area) and the air quality was AWFUL.

    I love the “South Bay” of Los Angeles which is essentially Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and El Segundo. El Segundo has huge power plants and LAX – stay away from there.

    Feel free to email me with questions about specific communities – if its in the Valley I’ve probably never even been there but I’m pretty familiar with the coastal communities.

  14. Well…I don’t have any scientific info for you. But, when I lived in Southern Cal, my asthma was horrible. I have not had any troubles since leaving there. Now that could have to do with age or a million other factors, so take it for what it is worth. But, if you can be near the coast or in the mountains that would be better.

  15. Go to EPA’s AirCompare website: http://www.epa.gov/aircompare/
    There you can select your health concern (asthma, heart disease, children, general population, etc.) and the county you’re interested in (it doesn’t get down to smaller geographic areas than that, but unless you buy a house right on a freeway or next to a factory or near a big shipping port, it shouldn’t vary all that much). It will then tell you how many days in 2006 were “unhealthy for sensitive groups.” You can compare multiple counties, if you have options of where to move to, and want to select one based on air quality. PM2.5 is the really fine particulate matter that can work its way deep into your lungs (and from their blood stream); the other pollutant addressed on the site is ozone, which is extremely corrosive to lung tissue (and everything else). Both result from automobile pollution. Wherever you do end up living, if asthma and air quality is a concern, you should become familiar with the Air Quality Index (http://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=static.aqi), and sign up with EnviroFlash (http://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.enviroflash) to receive emails when air quality is expected to go into the unhealthy levels.

  16. as most people have said the closer you can live to the coast and the further north the better…santa monica, malibu, manhattan beach, palos verdes are all expensive to live in but the air is as good as you’re gonna get around here. torrance and redondo beach aren’t as bad price-wise and still have cooler temps and cleaner air. long beach and northern orange county beaches are deceptive. though close to the coast they don’t get the strong offshore breezes like the other places i mentioned so the air is still most of the time, and thus isn’t nearly as good as those points north i mentioned, plus long beach has the ports to deal with where large cargo ships constantly belch black exhaust into the air. avoid living on the san fernando valley floor, the air just hangs there and is kind of gross even if you don’t have asthma. the san gabriel valley (pasadena, san gabriel, monrovia, arcadia, etc.) isn’t quite as bad thanks to topography, but is certainly nothing to write home about. avoid the inland empire at all costs (riverside and san bernadino counties), most of orange county is just as bad as anywhere in l.a. county save for the beaches way south (newport and beyond), but that’s really far.

    best of luck.

  17. Several years later, and I’m asking exactly the same questions about where to live in LA and air pollution– you have a nice way with words. Where did you end up in LA? Were/are you happy with the air? Life? I spent most of today on-line and on the phone with a variety of “air” people from different bureaus and still no definitive answers on a where to live where our eyes won’t burn and my five year old’s lungs can develop normally as they should.