LOS ANGELES — When Ajay Mehta flew to Los Angeles in February; he was planning to stay only a couple of weeks.
The tech entrepreneur had been enjoying living in New York for the past few years.
“The intention was not to move at that time. Then the pandemic happened, and I kind of just decided to stay. It’s turned into a full move,” Mehta said.
His move is in stark contrast to how he felt about Los Angeles almost a decade ago, when he was living in San Francisco but would fly to Los Angeles on business trips.
“I was like, there is so much traffic. It is so hard to get place to place. Everything is so sprawled and spread out,” Mehta said. “It did not feel like a very livable city or like a very convenient city, to be honest with you. That totally flipped.”
Mehta has started to understand the sprawling geography of Los Angeles. He has also learned to avoid peak traffic hours, especially since he works remotely.
“I’m able to stay at home most of the day and because of that I’m kind of not on the streets that often. If I need to make a trip somewhere, I’ll try to plan it so it’s not rush hour, and I won’t get stuck in traffic,” he said.
Mehta started an e-commerce company last summer called, Birthdate Candles. It offers astrology-inspired candles based on your birthday. He is not tied to a physical office location, but when the pandemic hit, suddenly, New York did not feel so safe anymore.
“The nature of what makes New York a really fun city, which is like this dense population, people all gathering, conglomerating in these small places just doesn’t really work in 2020, unfortunately,” he said.
Los Angeles has seen an exodus of people during the pandemic, more than 70 percent, according to a recent study. However, for tech workers living in dense urban cities such as San Francisco and New York, Los Angeles appeals to those who want to live in a city with a growing tech and start-up scene, lower rent, and a better quality of life, according to a dot.LA report.
“Having lived in both, San Francisco and New York, I know a lot of people that were living in the tech industry in both cities. It’s surprising the number of people who have actually moved here not just this year but the past couple years,” Mehta said.
He plans to stay in Los Angeles for now, and loves his spacious living quarters and easy access to outdoor activities while lowering his exposure to coronavirus.
“You can go for a run or a walk and not have to come in such close contact with very many people. Unlike New York,” Mehta said. “New York is a place where you are just coming into close contact as you leave your apartment door, right? Even in your building.”
In Los Angeles, there is plenty of space for him to spread out, grow his company, and enjoy the California sunshine.