The 20 Worst Places to Live in California


For many people, California is a dream state in which to live. It has an amazing climate, diverse landscapes, a stunning coastline, and an outstanding food scene. Although there are some wonderful locations in which to live, not all places are equal, as there are also some places with negative features that make them less desirable. Some of the factors that contribute to a place being considered one of the worst places to live in a state include high crime rates, below-average schools, a lack of amenities, poor transport links, and few employment opportunities. If you are moving to California and want to avoid the state’s worst locations, then here are the 20 worst places to live in California.

Santa Monica

20. Santa Monica

Road Snacks lists Santa Monica as the eight most dangerous place to live in California, which is why it also makes it onto the list of the worst places to live in the state. Santa Monica is a coastal city in Los Angeles County with a population of over 92,000 people. In addition to the high crime rates, the ratio between the cost of living and median household income is an issue for many people. Not everything is bad in this city, though, as the public schools are above-average, the community is diverse, and there are plenty of leisure activities to keep residents entertained. Overall, there are some neighborhoods in this coastal city that are better than others.

West Hollywood

19. West Hollywood

West Hollywood is a suburb of Los Angeles ranked as the sixth most dangerous place to live in California based on crime statistics. Property crime is particularly high as there are 5,603 property crimes annually per 100,000 people. On the plus side, violent crime has dropped in recent years. More than 37,000 residents are living in this suburb, which has an urban vibe.


18. Barstow

Overall, Barstow does not have a lot going for it to persuade people that it is a good place to call home. The main issue is the high crime rates, and it is ranked as the fifth most dangerous place to live in California. Unfortunately, the lack of safety is not the only downside to living in this town in San Bernardino County that has a population of almost 24,000 people. Other issues include below-average public schools, limited activities for families to enjoy, and poor housing options. On the plus side, Barstow boasts a diverse community and good transport links.

Red Bluff

17. Red Bluff

The motto of Red Bluff is that it is a great place to live, but the crime statistics suggest otherwise. It is the fourth most dangerous place to live in California, as there are 1,152 violent crimes and 5,022 property crimes per 100,000 residents in this city. Other negatives of this location are the lack of job opportunities, limited family-oriented activities, and a high living cost. However, it does have some positives, as there is community diversity and the public schools are above average. Red Bluff is located in Tehama County, and it is home to more than 14,000 people.


16. Oakland

The high crime rates in Oakland make this an undesirable place to live. Also known as Bump City, Oakland is the eighth biggest city in California, and it is home to more than 430,000 people. It is the seventh most dangerous city in California for violent crimes and the eight most dangerous for property crimes. Overall, Oakland is the second-most dangerous city in California. The bad news is that property crimes are rising rather than falling, so it may rank even higher on the list in the future. Furthermore, Niche lists the below-average public schools, the high property prices, and the above-average cost of living as factors that make Oakland an unappealing place to live.


15. Emeryville

Emeryville is considered one of the worst places to live in California due to its high crime rates. As the most dangerous city in California, plenty of people avoid living in this location. Approximately 12,000 residents are living in this city, and there are 1,414 violent crimes and 16,760 property crimes annually per 100,000 people. Although it is only a small city, there is a staggering one in six chance of becoming a crime victim if you live in Emeryville. Thankfully, crime rates are starting to fall in this area. It is also not the best option for families as the public schools are below par.


14. Riverside

Cap Radio says that Riverside Is one of the worst places to raise children in California. However, it is worth noting that the public schools in the area are above average, so there is some hope for families. The main issue is that property prices and the overall cost of living are high, while the median household income is lower than the national average. A further issue is high crime rates, as Riverside is not considered a safe place to live.


13. Stockton

Stockton is another city that is considered a bad place to raise a family due to the lack of opportunities for young people and the proportion of families living in poverty. The public schools in this city are far below average, and this is an issue that concerns parents living in this city. There is also a lack of family-oriented activities to enjoy in the area. Crime is also an issue, and job opportunities are limited or low paid.


12. Fresno

Studies identify Fresno as one of the worst places to live in California for families due to the lack of opportunity for children and many families living in poverty. However, the public schools are on par with average schools across the United States. Located in Fresno County and with a large population of more than 522,000 people, crime is a big issue in Fresno. Despite the many problems experienced by those living in Fresno, the cost of living remains high.


11. Bakersfield

A study conducted by Diversity Data Kids found that Bakersfield is in the top 50 worst places to live in the United States. It ranked in the last position of all metro areas in terms of children’s opportunities, and approximately 12 percent of families live in poverty. There is also a lack of employment opportunities in the area, and around 12 percent of those in employment commute for at least two hours daily. The schools are below average in Bakersfield, which is another reason that this location is a bad option for families.


10. Victorville

Other than bowling, there is very little else to do in Victorville, which is home to almost 122,000 residents. It is a shame that there are so few amenities and leisure activities to enjoy, as 13.6 percent of the population who are unemployed would probably appreciate something to keep them occupied. Other reasons that this is not a great place to live are the low median household income and the above-average crime rates.

San Jacinto

9. San Jacinto

San Jacinto neighbors Hemet, so it is little wonder that it ranks within the top ten of this list. The two towns share many of the same issues, such as unemployment and vacant houses. Approximately 12 percent of the 47,000 residents are unemployed, and around 12 percent of the houses are empty. The only reasons that San Jacinto ranks higher on the list than Hemet are that crime rates are marginally lower, and the median household income is slightly higher.


8. Mendota

Mendota is only a small town, and it has fewer than 12,000 residents. It is located in Central California, close to Fresno. Economically, it is an important location due to the agricultural nature of the area. However, residents there feel isolated, and there are very few places to socialize. Crime rates in this town are above the national average, and residents are either underpaid or unemployed. The combination of these factors means that Mendota is a location to avoid if you want a happy and comfortable lifestyle. Other issues in this location include below-par public schools, a lack of family-oriented activities, poor transport links, and a lack of community diversity.


7. Hemet

Located in Riverside County, Hemet has a population of a little more than 84,000. Over 14 percent of the population is unemployed, and those who are employed earn less than is needed for a comfortable lifestyle. There is a lack of amenities and leisure activities, and one in ten homes is vacant. The average public schools and limited options for family activities mean that Hemet is a poor choice for raising a family.


6. Wasco

There are several reasons why Wasco is not a great place in which to live. First, crime rates are high, and there is a one in 18.3 chance of becoming a victim of a property crime. Second, there is a lack of demand for housing, so the average home costs around $160,000. Also, the unemployment rate is high at more than 10 percent. Furthermore, it is not the best place for raising a family as the schools are below par due to serious underfunding.

San Bernardino

5. San Bernardino

San Bernardino is home to more than 215,000 people, although there are lots of people who try to move out to surrounding areas due to the many issues in the city. Crime rates are high, so it is considered one of the worst places to live in terms of safety. Unemployment is also relatively high at 11.3 percent. There are many that argue that San Bernardino should rank higher on the list due to its problems. The only reason it doesn’t is that some people with professional salaries live in the area, and this raises the median household income.

Desert Hot Springs

4. Desert Hot Springs

A lack of amenities and leisure activities both contribute to Desert Hot Springs being ranked as one of the worst places to live in California. It also has an exceptionally high crime rate, and the median household income is low at $32,000 per year. Considering that one in four homes is vacant, there is a surprisingly bad homelessness problem in this location. The combination of these factors means that Desert Hot Springs is considered the worst place to live in the greater Palm Springs area.


3. Commerce

High crime rates are just one of the reasons why Commerce is considered one of the worst places to live in California. It is the second-most violent city in California, although violent crime rates have fallen significantly in recent years. Property crimes are less of an issue, although the city still ranks in California’s top 20 locations for this type of crime. Another factor that makes this a bad place to live in is the poor economy, which is one of the worst in the state. Commerce has a population of just under 13,000 residents.


2. Adelanto

There are under 34,000 people living in Adelanto, and 15.6 percent of these are unemployed. Crime rates are high in this area, contributing to its ranking as the second-worst place to live in California. Many people who live in this location work in Victorville, which is nearby. Otherwise, there is quite a trek to San Bernardino or Riverside for employment opportunities.


1. Clearlake

According to Road Snacks, the worst place to live in California is Clear lake, which sits on the banks of Clear Lake north of Sacramento. There are more than 15,000 residents, but almost 18 percent of these are unemployed. Poverty levels in Clearlake are high, and the median home value is the lowest in California at $96,500. Another sign that life is not fantastic in Clearlake is that most of the roads are unpaved.

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