"And they're gonna fall in love tonight / Underneath the Orange County sky / They sleep on the beach / Until they see the morning come." (-- Stefy, "Orange County")
Los Angeles may get most of the love when it comes to Southern California, but if you take a ride behind the Orange Curtain there lies a pretty nifty little place called Tustin. Roughly eight miles from the beach and sporting that typical So Cal sunshine, Tustin is a hidden gem in Orange County that many overlook, but they shouldn't. Boasting premier shopping destinations, unique recreational opportunities and easy access to everything, Tustin is a dream come true. Of course, it’s that part that gives some pause. Yeah, Cali isn't known for inexpensive living, and the price of habitation is high, but Tustin's stillless expensive than many places south of Long Beach like, ahem, Newport Beach even though it doesn't suffer from any lack of facilities. So grab your Range Rover and head for one the 25 Best Towns to Live Well in America, according to Forbes.
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The first thing any true Orange County native needs to know is how to shop. Yes, people love their materialistic pursuits around here, even more so than in Los Angeles. Consider tanning; fake, real or spread-on, it doesn't matter. And what are your thoughts on plastic surgery? Orange County is a special place. That said, you'll need to make your way to one of the several oversized and awesome retail centers here, including The District at Tustin Legacy, Jonestown Village Center, Tustin Marketplace or Old Town Tustin. Most large malls are master planned to include retail, recreational options, offices and residences.
Perhaps you've heard about Southern California? This, like many states, is a driving state. You won’t find public transportation in any acceptable or useful form here. Orange County may have the worst public transportation in the southern half of the state. Tustin does pride itself on having a number of unusually walkable areas, but you'll probably have to drive to them... and then walk around. That's just how things work here. Speaking of work, your commute will be pretty short, as many businesses are located nearby. But if you're not from the Golden State, prepare for the inflated gas prices. It's a bit steeper in these parts.
Welcome to Tustin. The median household income is close to $80,000 and unemployment is dropping swiftly. Housing prices and values are rising, and they never dipped very low to begin with. People tend to take notice of such a desirable set of qualities and, sure enough, Tustin has a very low vacancy rate. It's a sliver-thin 1.3 percent for houses and a still uncomfortable 5.8 percent for rentals, including single family homes and apartments for rent. They're building as fast as they can, so feel free to come early and pick out something nice for the future; you may even be able to specify granite countertops if you hurry. Otherwise, plan at least a month or two in advance. If you're buying, you'll need even more time.
Whether renting or buying, Tustin has plenty of options, and the city makes an effort to build mixed-use housing as often as possible, while maintaining its sleek appearance. Almost 51 percent of inhabitants are owners, with 49 percent renters.
Tustin tries to walk the line between old and new, and it does a pretty decent job. The O.C. likes things shiny and modern, and Tustin's many developments reflect that, but they still try to highlight their humble beginnings, as evidenced by the downtown area, which includes Old Town Tustin. It is super charming, and it offers pedestrians a chance to escape the fiendish pace of progress, if only briefly.
While Tustin does have a few neighborhoods, they are mostly a result of those master-planned shopping districts and therefore aren't true organically grown neighborhoods like you might find in Los Angeles or San Diego. The master-planned locations come at a higher cost, as expected for new developments engineered to have a plethora of amenities. The general admission areas are still lovely; they just aren't situated atop or across from a 20-screen movie complex. Here are a few real neighborhoods near Tustin, so you can get an idea of how things work.
Tustin Planned Communities: There are several neighborhoods with all those planned amenities worth checking out, like Tustin Ranch and Tustin Legacy. They're still building new structures, so you can pick out the perfect place and possibly have it customized, maybe without additional cost. Of course, theres lots of shopping, walkable areas and other luxury goodies, but it'll cost a few extra bills a month.
Tustin Regular Communities: You don't have to go far from the ritzy developments to find a better deal on housing. Just a few blocks away, apartment buildings are competing with the modern luxury options nearby, and offering a fair amount of features for much less. You're not really missing anything but the money. Oh, and many more housing rentals are available.
Lyon Street: Don't let the name confuse you; this is a neighborhood between Tustin and Santa Ana.
Meredith Parkwood: Technically Santa Ana, this neighborhood actually benefits from touching Tustin. Of course, its proximity to the good stuff (Tustin Village) raises the prices considerably.
Lower Peters Canyon: Swinging the other way, Irvine offers this option just across its border. There aren't many renters here, so if you're looking for a studio or one-bedroom apartment, look elsewhere.
Orange County, and Tustin as a result, benefit from near perfect weather, modern developments and a passion for retail therapy. Prices are high, though not so bad as closer to the beach, but it's fairly reasonable considering all the great stuff, from shops, restaurants, and freeways, to colleges and probably plenty more, that comes with the sticker shock. Even Disneyland is just a few minutes drive away. Tustin is a youthful, energetic, fun town.