Moving here is a snap. It's large enough to offer every amenity but still small enough not to go overboard on the documentation to rent a place. You will need proof of income, and letters of reference from past landlords always help. They will run a credit check but it's nothing to sweat. If you have pets, make sure you have documentation from your vet that they are healthy and have the required vaccinations; a reference letter about their character doesn't hurt either!
What it will cost
We are talking about southern California here, so don't expect Midwest-cheap when it comes to your rent. Funny thing is that by California standards it really is pretty inexpensive. If you are from elsewhere in the state, you will likely be surprised at what you get for a mild groan. Two to three bedrooms is fairly standard but there are some all bills paid executive suites as well.
Small places like this don't do the whole neighborhood thing the way you expect from larger places like Los Angeles. Here they are more city designations for voting and real estate matters.
Calavo Gardens and Grandview:This is an older and more established section of La Mesa. Many residents have likely lived here for five or more years. This is where you will find doctors, lawyers, executives and professors at the peak of their careers. It's a more expensive area overall but there are a fair number of rentals available and you can normally get a pretty good deal on them. $$$$$
Mount Helix:While many of the homes here are older, there are also newer townhouses and apartment buildings in this area as well. This is an upper income area, but to put it into perspective, you will find lawyers here that are junior partners. There are also quite a few doctors and IT people in this neighborhood.$$$$
Lemon:This area is primarily comprised of older large homes that were converted into smaller apartments. The conversion was well done and the homes are great, with all the modern touches you could want. You will find a lot of government workers here, as well as some active duty military, but mostly local city government workers. $$$
Gateside and Lake Murray:College students especially love this section of La Mesa. Interestingly, the rents are still reasonable even though many areas popular with college students are the opposite. The noise level in this part of town gets a bit high but nothing that shutting your windows can't fix. $$$
University:This is about middle of the road for La Mesa. It's about average on rents, average on income and average on people. Most of the people living here are middle income professionals with children. The schools are great and that is a big attraction. There are quite a few vacancies here so if you have kids be sure to give it a look. If you are single and looking for someplace with action, keep looking. This is a nice quiet neighborhood.$$$
Cowles Mountain:If you are looking for a great place to raise a family and happen to be an IT professional, this is the neighborhood for you. Many people who live here are in the tech industry. There are also quite a few other professionals, namely doctors and lawyers, who are just starting out and and trying to pay off those pesky student loans. Plenty of vacancies here: the rate is the highest in La Mesa. You should have your pick of places so enjoy the hunt.$$
City Center:Older homes dominate this part of La Mesa. This is a hotbed of retired professionals, as well as young families just starting out. It's quiet, safe and the schools are good. Plenty of rentals here and most fall in the 2-3 bedroom range so you shouldn't have trouble finding a place that fits you and your family.$
Lots to Do, Lots to See Living here is a treat, especially if you like hot summers and cool winters. Don't expect a white Christmas in La Mesa, but with a December average high temperature of over 76 degrees, don't be surprised if you can hit the beach! This incredible weather leads to the average person spending a great deal of time out of doors. There are several urban hiking and walking groups in La Mesa with divisions for every age and fitness level. There is also the public swimming pool, though many homes and apartment buildings have their own swimming pools. There are also several parks, such as the Aztec Park, that make great places for picnics and spending an afternoon with the family.
History has an important place in La Mesa, and in 2012 the city celebrated its centennial. There is also the Historical Society and several local historical attractions such as the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum and the Horseless Carriage Foundation. A popular shopping location in the city is the La Mesa Antique Mall on Palm Avenue. This mall showcases local antiques and crafts created locally.
Make New Friends, Eat Good Food
We need to discuss the social scene in La Mesa. It's a good one. Whenever someone relocates there are certain things that they need to start feeling at home in their new community. Most people need to find a place for Mexican and Asian food as well as a good pizza place and somewhere to get a great burger. You just don't feel like you belong until these particular ducks are in a row.
In La Mesa, Mexican food is on every corner. However, the best Mexican food is at Casa De Pico on Grossmont Center Drive. Everything there is great but their Shrimp Cobb Salad and Enchiladas Rancheras are outstanding. The salsa is made fresh daily. It's really great food and good prices.
There are two outstanding choices for Asian cuisine: Arigato, a Japanese place over on Baltimore, and Tamarind for Thai food on University. The Kao Pad Poo at Tamarind is excellent for anyone who loves both Thai food and crab. At Arigato, the sushi reigns supreme! Both places serve great food at terrific prices with quality service.
For absolutely the best pizza ever, you have to try D'Amatos Pizza on La Mesa Boulevard. This is old-world style pizza and it's incredible. They also have pasta, Calzone and specialty sandwiches. It's the pizza that is important. They deliver, which is nice and unusual for a family-owned place.
Burgers are very important. You need to know where to get one in your new community. The best place in La Mesa is BJ's on Grossmont Center Drive. The Classic is your regular burger, but if you are in the mood to branch out there are also a few other options, like the bacon, blue cheese and jalapeno burgers. They are served with fries, as they should be. There is a full menu here and the baby back ribs are the best you will find around. The meat is fall-off-the-bone tender and the sauce is addictive.
If you are looking for something different, like really different, head over to The Riviera Supper Club and Turquoise Room on University. This is a do-it-yourself steakhouse. You have a few drinks, grill your own meat and have a blast doing it! This might not be for everyone but you should probably try it; it will give you something interesting to post on Facebook.