Posted by: martinworster | February 10, 2011


Local only – Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach

Having lived here for – gulp – nearly six years I’ve really started to get a flavour for the neighbourhoods. It’s amazing how totally different complexions each neighborhood and districts have. Orange County is slightly looked down upon by Angelenos. Whenever I say where I live to my slightly northern neighbours I see that slightly sneering meets pitious look. ‘Oh, isn’t it like, totally suburban down there? A Republican stronghold? Cookie cutter houses where they hoist the Stars and Stripes every morning?’ Well. Yes, yes and yes. It is very suburban. The strip malls, wide roads, shopping malls, exurbia, self replicating apartment comlexes, freeways – there’s a lot of non descript, grey concrete that seems to blend into the distant smoggy horizon. It all kind of merges into one. Coming from England – higgeldy piggeldy, old, green, small, narrow roads, varied – I find the landscape very hard to relate to. Except for the beach of course. 


In the OC one area merges into another – the same retail outlets and food vendors appear but in different orders. CVS Pharmacy, Vons, Starbucks, Mimis Cafe, Sports Chalet, Burger King, Petco, Michaels, Rubios… The whole typography and layout of the landscape has been specifically designed for consumerism. Commerical nodes (shopping and strip malls) are linked by highway networks lined with more commercial outlets and terrible public transport. From mall to strip mall to drive through to gym to leisure complex and back home to gated community. The only form of transport is the car. It’s a pod like existence. No-one walks or bikes (except by the beach).


I live on Brookhurst Street right at the sea – well Ocean – end. I am officially in Huntington Beach. But I border both Newport Beach and Costa Mesa. Huntington Beach conforms to many OC stereotypes. Main Street is quite entertaining and not without quirks, but on the whole HB is dull as ditchwater. I am being harsh – it is a great place to bring up kids, its less hectic than Los Angeles, less crime (well this part anyway), the beaches are better, the air feels cleaner, there is a certain laidback surfer charm. But it is chocker block with Hummer driving half wits and brainless bros and tattooed hos.


Newport Beach slightly to the south is uber-affluent. It is in the top 5 ZIP codes for property prices in the US. The Fletcher Jones dealership is the biggest Mercedes dealership in the States by volume. That’s saying something. Bigger than New York, Florida, Conneticut, Beverley Hills and all the other regions where you’d think Mercs would be flying out the door. Newport has the Balboa peninsula – mega expensive and exclusive. Lots of waterways, a mini-Venice. The houses have moorings out the back where their 20 million dollar yachts float. Out the front are Porches and Ferraris. Tiger Woods and Nicolas Cage have homes here – as I’m sure a lot of other Hollywood celebrities. The haves. Hospitals with valet parking, more plastic surgeons than you could shake a silicone tit at and the home of the Real OC Housewives. The place has a sickly air of entitlement. A place where hardship has never really been experienced. Snobby and a bit in-bred.The have-nots are only a few miles inland in Santa Ana which is predominantly Mexican.


Then just slightly inland and up the hill from where I live is Costa Mesa. I am quite fond of Costa Mesa. I probably spend most of my time here. My gym is here, I have guitar lessons on the Eastside, Avalon where I DJ is in CM. It’s a little bit more hipster. Lot’s of skinny jeaned indie kids who could be in alternative bands from Brooklyn, Paris or Dalston.  In parts it is a little bit more mixed up and diverse. Very Mexican. There’s a lot of large warehouses and industrial complexes housing various creative companies and surf HQs. The HQs of firms in this neighborhood include Hurley, Stussy, Quicksilver, Billabong, Ubiquity Records – all of them with young creative staff, designers, PR people. I definitely feel more at home in Costa Mesa.


And me. Like all cliched Englishmen my home is my castle. Well I wish it was a castle. But it is still a Little England. Premiership games beamed in via Fox Soccer Channel and PG Tips purchased from World Market. Stereotype, moi? Funny how you move so far around the world, surrounded by diversity and different cultures and still the first action when walking through the door is to put the kettle on.


  1. Back at you Martin!

    Good to see another Brit in town (county)!

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