I get it. The San Fernando Valley is too expensive. We're supposed to be a predominantly middle-class city away from the traffic of Los Angeles. In order to qualify for the median home price in the Valley, you have to declare at least $120,000 of income a year. That's more than double the city's median income. In other words, a husband and wife combination likely couldn't afford the median house.
So when people bring this up, I remind them to consider Palmdale. And after I remind them that, I cut them off before they laugh at me, and let them know that West Palmdale is now great. East Palmdale and Lancaster still have higher rates of crime than most of the San Fernando Valley, but the West maintains a safety level equivalent to Granada Hills.
With the median home price in Palmdale just around half of the Valley's, there's plenty of wiggle room. Those who are fighting 10 other offers for old, outdated homes in the Valley can purchase a newer one AND still have money for extended vacations to nearby Mountain High. With 20% down on a Palmdale house, you're looking at a mortgage of only around $1,700 a month. You can't even rent a decent apartment in the Valley with that.
This is by no means and indictment of the San Fernando Valley. Not only is it this author's hometown, but it's the best
Reasons in Favor of Palmdale
There's something comforting about having a clean, newer mega-mall at the center of your city. Recently renovated in 2007, the Antelope Valley mall normalizes your city experience. In other words, it's easier to forget Palmdale's reputation when you can enjoy many of the same stores that you do in any world-class city.
If I can shop at Macy's, head over to Build-a-Bear for an hour, and end my night at Olive Garden, then that's fine with me. That tends to describe any family's weekend outing anyway.
Self-dubbed the "aerospace capital of the United States", there are a variety of jobs at different skill levels. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and the Palmdale Airport all supply a steady stream of employment opportunities.
Even more manufacturers are moving there because of the Antelope Valley Enterprise Zone and the Palmdale Federal Foreign Trade Zone. There are considerable tax benefits for running a business there. These incentives are meant to relieve the considerable traffic and overpopulation in Los Angeles (and soon the Valley!). Before you shake your head at Palmdale, remember that the government itself is actively trying to make that place more appealing to you!
This is especially important because people worry about commuting everyday back to the Valley. There's no need when you can just find a job up there.
Elementary and middle schools are slowly increasing their academic achievements. Hillview Middle School and Rancho Vista Elementary School offer reasonable education opportunities. High schools are still a few years away from competing with the Valley's powerhouses, but the improvement is there.
Higher education can also satisfy most curious minds. CSU Bakersfield offers a standardized education. Chapman, LaVerne, DeVry, and others have satellite campuses in Palmdale. NASA even sponsors aerospace classes from USC, Cal Tech, and UC San Diego in the Civic Center.
Reasons Against Palmdale
Nonetheless, Palmdale still comes with issues. Although it has all the amenities of a city, one still requires a lifestyle adjustment.
Palmdale as a city has the highest average work commute of any city in the entire nation - even New York City. Finding a job there certainly helps, but the fact remains that residents tend to stay inextricably linked to the Valley. It's not too far where one only stays in Palmdale. But at the same time, it's still far enough to take an undeniable amount of time.
Whether it's friends, family, jobs, or even one's favorite restaurants, residents never quite stop making that 1-hour trip on the 14 freeway.
Lack of Diversity
The Valley's diversity will be missed in Palmdale. Not just with regard to ethnicity, but also in terms of income level, political slants, and personalities. It's still growing and should eventually develop a stronger sense of personality.
In the Valley, ten minutes of driving yields extreme difference in restaurants, personality, and income level - not to mention "vibes". The feel of a living, breathing city is evident from one diverse neighborhood to the next. Even then, Los Angeles is more extreme. For many, a wide palette of lifestyles is necessary.
For most, the desert climate is uninspiring. The Valley is hot, but Palmdale gets hotter - and stays hotter. Nights dip into extremes. Residents who make the move miss the Valley's more consistent temperatures.
Lack of scenery also perhaps contributes to Palmdale's dull reputation. Get used to seeing a lot less green, unless you consider the endless Joshua trees a form of beautiful vegetation.
There's an argument to be made for people with arthritis, however.
Palmdale is no longer the second-class city that Valley residents assumed it was. With Valley prices increasing indefinitely, many people are looking North. Prices are around half in Palmdale, and with its rapid development, I can recommend the city - the West side, at least.