We only have two kinds of weather in California, magnificent and unusual. – James M Cain
The Good, the Bad and The Ugly
Let’s get this out of the way; Santa Ana is largely frowned upon by the rest of Orange County, particularly, of course, coastal Orange County. The crime and homelessness really makes them clutch their pearls. But, if you’re coming from elsewhere you’re going to notice that it’s still SoCal climate and there are some nice neighborhoods.
Although downtown Santa Ana was the subject of a revitalization effort and it’s got lots of accoutrements, Downtown is generally a place you go, not a place you live. The upper-middle and middle-class subdivisions are set apart from the rest of Santa Ana. Santa Ana is not necessarily an inexpensive place to settle by any means. Up in the hills, behind gates one can also live in the Santa Ana zip code.
The Best Thing About Santa Ana?
Santa Ana is centrally located and a quick drive to beaches and John Wayne Airport.
Shopping is diverse including South Coast Plaza (Costa Mesa) It is centrally located to the rest of Orange County, ten minutes from the beach, 2 hours from the mountains, 1 hour to LA, and 2 hours to San Diego. Also, the candy/produce/snack vans/trucks. And The MetroLink passes through providing train access to LA.
Here's a Santa Ana lifer on the progress Santa Ana has made:
Over the past 15 years, things started to change. It has now gotten to a point were the city was selected by Forbes as the 4th safest in the country (large cities). Streets are getting improved, neighborhoods are being revitalized, downtown is taking shape, and most importantly residents are now completely involved with preventing crime. The city still has pockets of apartment complexes that have issues, but they are small and isolated areas. Santa Ana has beautiful neighborhoods. The best downtown in OC that is getting better fast!
For more reviews of what living in Santa Ana is like from locals check out: The Buzz
The Worst Thing About Santa Ana?
Santa Ana's reputation was built in the 80's and 90's when things got rough. It's a very different city now but the reputation for crime has clung to the city. If that bothers you then you won't like it here.
Here's one local's point of view on the issue of Santa Ana's reputation:
I think there is certainly a negative stereotype of the city, that being said my dad grew up in Santa Ana before the white flight (he's black) but he said it definitely got worse in terms of crime in the 80s/90s but since the 2000s it has gotten much much better.
Lifestyle Of Santa Ana
Downtown Santa Ana has gone through a major revitalization in recent years. Much of this is driven by an arts movement that has given the city a cool vibe. Combine that arts scene with growing restaurant and bar options and the downtown area offers increasing social and cultural options. Future growth is planned but the city continues to wrestle with a desire for Downtown development and a fear of gentrification that displaces the majority hispanic community. In the meantime most of Santa Ana has a more family-focused “suburban” lifestyle with gated neighborhoods and amenities focused on keeping kiddos and parents happy.
Worklife of Santa Ana
The big drivers of the local economy in Santa Ana include government, financial, aerospace and electronics. The development project in downtown resulted in the creation of 10 new banking and financial building and the civic center for local, state and federal government buildings. Which means you can live and work in the city. That said, plenty of people live in Santa Ana and commute to Orange county cities like Irvine or Anaheim. While commuting is a thing we would strongly advise not moving to Santa Ana and then leaving yourself a long commute to LA or any other SoCal city.
Why You Should Move Here Now?
All the usual SoCal reasons. The climate is temperate (those famous Santa Ana Winds keep the nights balmy) and you can move strategically around Santa Ana and it’s neighboring communities and be quite comfortable.