The city of Portland is at the heart of the Pacific Northwest while Los Angeles is in southern California. There are more than 1500 km separating these two major US cities but the location is the least of their differences. They do share some similarities like being in the Pacific Standard Time zone and having a really bad traffic situation. However, they also have very notable differences which would make it easier for you to pick which of these two beautifully unique cities to call your next home.
Portland vs. Los Angeles: Culture and Friendliness
Portland is known to be a very warm and welcoming city. The residents are naturally very amiable and quite laidback. Nice is quite a fitting adjective for the average Portlander. Despite being a fairly large, populous city, there is an extremely comfortable small-town feel in Portland, which is one of the most frequently cited reasons why locals love it here. Even if you are new in town, don’t be surprised to see people nodding hello and asking how you are as you walk down the street.
In Los Angeles, the people are also quite friendly but not in that small-town way. Most of the current residents of LA are actually not locals but people who have migrated into the city to pursue a career in showbiz. They are aspiring actors, musicians, comedians, and all sorts of performances hoping to make it big in the entertainment industry. There’s a hodgepodge of international cultures in this city, making it one of the most interesting places in the world.
With a population of almost 4 million, Los Angeles is the second most highly populated city in the United States, next to New York. Portland seems sparse in comparison, with only a little more than 600,000 residents as of the last census.
In terms of racial distribution, whites make up more than 77% of the Portland population, making them the whitest city in the entire country. Interestingly, this number has actually dropped considerably since the 1940s, when the city was 98% white. The rest of the population is made up of 8.18% Asians, 85.8% African Americans, 5.34% people with multiple racial roots, 1.89% other races, and 0.8% Native Americans.
The diversity of races is noticeably more spread out in Los Angeles. Only half the total population is made up of Caucasians while 11.62% are Asians, 8.93% are African Americans, 0.73% are Native Americans, and 0.16% are Pacific Islanders. The rest of LA residents are from a variety of other races or have mixed racial composition.
Portland vs. Los Angeles: Weather
Portland is quite notorious for its year-long precipitation, which only lets up in the summer months of July and August. You can expect about 42.8 inches of rain per year in Portland. Just in September 2021, they even had a record-breaking 1.8 inches of rain in a single day, which caused massive floods in the city. This is in stark comparison to only 15.5 inches of rain per year in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles gets a lot of sunlight, averaging 284 days in a year. The coldest that you can experience during an LA winter would be about 45.9 degrees and there won’t be any point waiting around for snow. Portland gets only 144 sunny days a year and about 2.6 inches of snow annually. Portland winters can even bring the occasional ice storm.
In terms of livability on account of weather, Portland scores a decent 7.5 out of 10 and is one of the most preferred places to live in Oregon. Los Angeles, on the other hand, has an impressive comfort index of 9.1 out of 10.
Portland vs. Los Angeles: Lifestyle
Oregon is known to be progressive and Portland is by far the most liberal of all cities in this state. There are also a few conservative communities in the city and the divide between the two political factions is clear and decisive. Most Portland liberals are highly intellectual and are easier to talk to than what most people would expect. They love the environment, eat healthy, ride bikes and aside from the occasional protests downtown, they are actually very peace-loving.
The political climate in Los Angeles is likewise strongly liberal, just like the rest of California. In the most recent presidential election, Democrat votes greatly outnumbered the Republican votes, 71% to less than 27%. The people of Los Angeles are a mix of more than a hundred different ethnicities and cultures from all over the world. This makes for an abundance of choices when it comes to cuisine, entertainment, shopping, and lifestyles. Los Angeles is also known for its outdoor beach and health-focused lifestyle.
Portland vs. Los Angeles: Income
For a city with quite a glamorous reputation, it might be a surprise for many to know that the average household income in Los Angeles of $54,501 is actually 11% lower than the Portland average of $61,532. This is due in large part to the higher unemployment rate of Los Angeles, with 10.6% of residents without jobs compared to the 6.9% unemployed in Portland.
Both these cities pay income taxes that are considerably higher than the national average of 4.6%, with Portland being taxed 9% and Los Angeles 8%.
Portland vs. Los Angeles: Budget and Cost of Living
The cost of living in Portland is significantly more affordable than in Los Angeles in practically all areas. Whether you are talking about housing, groceries, and other consumer goods, the prices are always lower in Portland.
If you are thinking of buying a home in the city center, expect to pay a little over $9000 per square meter if you are in Los Angeles, compared to only $4,755 in a similar location in Portland. Eating out is also cheaper in Portland by as much as 25% but buying fruits will cost you less in Los Angeles because of the easier access to the agricultural industry in California.
Monthly utility costs for an average apartment are also costlier in Portland at $197.92 compared to the average of $145.24 in LA. Also, transport tickets in Portland cost $2.50 but in Los Angeles, you only need to pay $1.75.
Portland vs. Los Angeles: Attractions and Things to Do
Whether you are just going for a visit or thinking of more permanent relocation, it is good to know that both Portland and Los Angeles have many great places that will keep you entertained.
Popular Attractions in Portland
If you are in downtown Portland, you will quickly appreciate how walkable it is. That is, the most important destinations are within walking distance. There is no shortage of places to eat in the city – five-star restaurants, family restaurants, and food carts.
If you are a book lover, you should definitely check out Powell’s City of Books, which is just the largest bookstore in the world where you can get new and old books. There is also the Egyptian Theatre, which is a combination of a movie house and restaurant. One of the highlights of this place is that aside from showing excellent films, they will also serve you their premium beer varieties if you happen to be in the balcony section.
For outdoor lovers, there is a vast expanse of beautiful well kept garden and mountains and rivers to explore all within a few miles from the city, if you don’t mind getting caught in a bit of a shower in the middle of your hike.
Popular Attractions in Los Angeles
Hollywood is one of the first things that come to mind when thinking of attractions in Los Angeles. In fact, this is the ultimate destination for a lot of people moving into the city, especially those that want to break into the biz. Some of the other attractions that you have to include in your list are Universal Studios Hollywood, The Getty Center, and the stunning Griffith Observatory.
Car enthusiasts should definitely take time to see the Petersen Automotive Museum with its more than 300 automobiles and motorcycles on display, including some very rare cars from as early as 1886. If you have a kid who is fascinated with dinosaurs, a visit to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, where there are full-scale displays of fossils of a triceratops, a stegosaurus and several T-rexes, is a must.
Portland vs. Los Angeles: Creative Scenes and Neighborhoods
The diversity of the culture in Los Angeles and the abundance of individual talents inevitably lead to a very rich assortment of creative scenes practically all over the city. The residents of the city hail from more than 140 countries around the world and there are more than 200 languages spoken. The profusion of talent in the city leads to no shortage of interesting performances to enjoy in any street and at any time.
Portland may not be as diverse in terms of culture and racial roots but this doesn’t mean that the city is lacking in creative scenes. Quite the contrary, Portlanders love art in all forms and there are always events to see at the Newmark Theatre, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and the Keller Auditorium. Portland has also produced several famous talents like singer Courtney Love, actress Kaitlin Olson, and Matt Groening of the Simpsons fame.
Notable Portland Neighborhoods
Portland is home to more than 90 unique neighborhoods, most of which have very distinct features. The choice of neighborhood to visit would depend on your areas of interest. For instance, if you are fond of the arts, you should head to the Northeast quadrant where you can appreciate the displays and street art in the Alberta Arts District. If you are looking to support the local arts and crafts community, you can go to the Southeast quadrant and purchase some unique souvenirs along Hawthorne Boulevard.
Pearl District is one of the more popular neighborhoods in Portland for those who are looking for great food. It’s quite an upper-scale neighborhood with exclusive boutiques, five-star restaurants and a lot of family-friendly establishments. Residents here stay mostly in condos and lofts.
Notable Los Angeles Neighborhoods
Just like the diversity of its people, the neighborhoods of Los Angeles are also very varied and distinct. Whether you prefer the natural serenity of a coastal community or the busy nightlife in the middle of downtown, Los Angeles is sure to have the ideal neighborhood for you.
The most popular beach neighborhoods for those who just want to take it easy are the beach cities of the South Bay. If you are looking for quiet but with closer access to the city, Marina del Rey would be a great option to consider. Most residents here are young professionals working at the top tech companies that have established offices in the area, like Google, Facebook, Samsung and YouTube.
Portland vs. Los Angeles: Transport and Traffic
Los Angeles has always been known as a driving city so there is no surprise that the traffic is always bad. In fact, Los Angeles is the 6th worst city in the US when it comes to traffic congestion. If you are planning on moving to LA, you should expect to spend at least 62 hours stuck in traffic every year. The COVID pandemic has reduced congestion considerably but as things are getting back to normal, so is the traffic situation.
Although many residents still insist on traveling by car, Los Angeles actually has a number of excellent transportation systems that you can use to explore the city. They have light rail systems, subways, buses and shuttles that can take you to any point in and around the city. The Metro bus and rail system is the most popular method but if your destination is not that far, walking and biking are also good options.
Portland also has its share of traffic congestion problems but most of these are centered on the major thoroughfares and mostly just during rush hours. The good thing about this city is that there are many transportation options that you can choose from to make travel faster and more convenient. The TriMet offers multiple transport options, including the MAX light rail, several bus lines and the must-try Portland streetcar service.
Portland vs. Los Angeles: Crime
Movies and television shows often portray Los Angeles as a city with a high crime rate and this is not that far from the truth. For every 100,000 residents, approximately 3,115 crimes are reported and this is notably higher than the US average of 2,476 crimes for every 100,000 people. If you live in this city, you will have a 1 in 41 chance of becoming a victim of property crime, and a 1 in 135 chance of falling victim to a violent crime.
Portland used to be known as a very safe city to live in but crime rates have been increasing in recent years. Residents risk a 1 in 181 chance of being violent crime victims. Property crime is much more rampant, with residents having a 1 in 19 chance of becoming a victim.
Portland vs. Los Angeles: Social Issues
One of the biggest social issues that Portland is dealing with right now is its growing homeless population. Panhandling is a very common thing in the city and it has also become ordinary for homeless people to set up tents on sidewalks. The homeless population is not as big in Portland as in other cities but there are fewer shelters here so the problem looks much worse than it really is.
Los Angeles has its own homelessness problems as well, especially with the onset of the pandemic when most entertainment-related industries had taken a very hard hit. Sustainability is also another issue that needs to be addressed urgently. The terrible traffic congestion in the city and the worsening air pollution indicate that Los Angeles is far from being a sustainable city at the moment. There is very high energy consumption in the city and most of it comes from nonrenewable sources.
Portland vs. Los Angeles: Green Space
Los Angeles is severely lacking in green space, and studies have shown that this has a negative effect on an individual’s physical and mental health. The local government is currently taking steps to address this problem by embarking on new park development projects, converting miles of urban alleys to green spaces and enforcing programs to improve access to green space.
On the other hand, Portland has built an excellent system of interconnected parks and trails, making up more than 92,000 acres of green space within the city. This makes Portland an excellent location for people who love outdoor activities like biking, walking and jogging. It is also worth noting that Portland has a 70% rate of recycling and uses hydroelectricity for most of its energy needs.
Portland vs. Los Angeles: Final Thoughts
There are a lot of differences between the cities of Portland and Los Angeles in terms of the weather, people, lifestyle, income and many more. Both of them have their attractive features and a number of drawbacks and the ultimate choice will depend on your personal preferences. When you consider their differences, it will be easy to see which city fits your needs and which one would make a better future home.
Beth was born under a wandering star, with drama in her veins and ink in her pen. After stints studying theatre in Dublin and Utrecht she used her creative streak to see as much of the world as she could on as little money. She toured Italian Schools with a children’s theatre troop, lived as an au-pair in both Rome and Washington DC, explored the British countryside, worked her way through much of Europe, Salsa danced in Cuba and road tripped down America’s west coast where she discovered her spiritual home; Portland, Oregon. In between adventures she resides peacefully with her family, cats and ukulele.