Life in Southern California Reconsidered : 'I'm Going'

Compiled for The Times by Jim Blair, Danica Kirka and Brenda Sunoo

MAGGIE McKIERNAN: Oahu, Hawaii (formerly of Culver City)

We're already gone. I think it was mainly the pollution and the congestion. (My husband) had a business. It became increasingly impossible to do it. You can't breathe the air--you can't swim in the ocean (if) you have a cut on your foot. We were just about the last people I know who sold their house without any trouble.

The recession didn't hit the Hawaiian Islands till later. People are hurting here, but it is much more laid back. You can leave your house open, you can leave your car open. It's just a very different feeling. There's no sinister underbelly. The nightly body counts on the news (in Los Angeles) got to be ridiculous. The fear was worse.

(Here, in Hawaii,) everyone knows everyone else. It is like family. There is still a lot of caring, compared to what we came from.

MICHAEL CROWDER: Laid-off defense worker, Pomona

There's no work here. I'm displaced from the defense industry. I can't live on promises and hopes (the economy) will turn someday. I'm 38; I can't afford to go sit in a classroom. I've got two young girls.

The state didn't let us down. It's the (federal) government, eliminating all the government contracts. There was no transition: It's just, "You're done."

We came here to get away from the bad weather. (But) the nice warm weather now is a burden. I can't even afford to run the air conditioner.

TOM EVONS: Publisher, Small Town Observer, Bend, Ore., (formerly of San Diego)

Every time I come back to Southern California, more cars have windows that are tinted. It's because they want to remain anonymous. I live in a small town where people acknowledge each other.

We had our car broken into and our house broken into (in San Diego County). But there is a bigger issue--people being disconnected from each other. It really aggravates the issue.

Year after year, I found myself in San Diego doing the same thing. I was constructing my life around what the traffic flow was like. The sad thing about it is, after having moved, people are doing that in Oregon, because of poor land-use planning. We are not learning (from California's mistakes).

FRED AREVALOS: Realtor, Laguna Hills

I was born and raised in Laguna Beach (but) I'm getting out. I have my properties for sale and I've started purchasing property in Oregon. There's too much density (and) the law-and-order aspect is extremely weak. Teen-agers and children are not properly controlled.

I've seen Laguna just grow like mad from a small community and I've seen the neighborly aspects diminish. In Laguna Hills I don't even know my neighbors. It's a very materialistic type of environment.

I think (there's going to be) a longer recession than we expected, possibly up through 1995. I've seen a lot of good people lose their retail businesses because of this recession and I just don't see it bottoming out (soon). It's sad, because Southern California is a beautiful area.

DAN RICH: Film dialogue editor, Los Angeles

I think it's important to be close to nature. A lot of places I used to get away to--(now) there may be five layers of graffiti on rocks and on trees. Going to the beach, it is always crowded. And then there are gangs now (at the beach.)

I think people are frustrated in L.A. because they can't get out of the city. And within the city, if you look at the geography, people close themselves off from one another. L.A. must be the fence-and-wall capital.

BARRY GREENBERG: Owns advertising and public relations firm, Brentwood

There is a deterioration of community spirit--of respect for the laws of our city (and) the police.

I hate to say it, but a lot of it stems from the tremendous rise in population of people coming from different worlds. They are going into clan situations. They are not adapting to the Southern California community. It starts with people who have been here for years and can't speak English. People haven't aspired to be part of the community.

PETER SPINELLI: Electronic products maker, Glendale

I've been in California 14 years and I'm desperately trying to get out as fast as the business will allow me to. The unfortunate part is that the money for my business is here, so I'll be stuck until I can work out the logistics of moving.

The reason is mostly climate and earthquakes. The social climate doesn't really bother me. But the lack of seasons, the smog and the earthquakes will really drive me out.

The places that are nice here, and there are some very nice places, are virtually unlivable unless you're extremely wealthy. Malibu's gorgeous, Big Sur is a very beautiful place, but very few people can actually afford to live there.

KAREN BRECKENRIDGE: Retail store manager, Sherman Oaks

I am looking forward to moving (to) Seattle. That's a very appealing area to me--me and half of California. I'm transferring within my company, (not) moving to seek different employment. I'm looking forward to the change of lifestyle and living in a less-crowded area. The weather is more attractive to me, believe it or not. I was born in Newport Beach, but I'm not a sun worshiper.

Cost of living, lifestyle, smog, basic geography--I think a lot about California. My grandparents moved here 75 years ago. It must have been paradise. But for me it's not any more. I'm not necessarily looking for paradise, (just) somewhere I would enjoy more than this.

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