Originally Posted by UnFacconable
Having lived in both places the biggest difference for me is that it's easier to live a traffic-free life in the bay area (particularly if you live in SF proper). Traffic is largely a function of the commute if you have one, or of course if you drive out of the bay area on a friday before a 3-day weekend. It's more or less a known quantity.
When I lived in LA (and from what I see in my frequent visits) even people who don't commute are often stymied by traffic. You often have to pick your side of the 405 and commit to stay there.
Everyone's MMV, of course. But outside of commuting (and for the last ten years I have always arranged my life to have home and work within 20 minutes of each other), LA people like to bitch about traffic or use it as an excuse for being late more than they're actually stymied by it. I live in Venice, which is by the beach. Outside of rush hour, I can be in mid-town (Beverly Hills, Hollywood) or the South Bay in 20-30 minutes, the east side or the Valley in 30-45. I don't find visiting friends or going out on the other side of town particularly more difficult than when I lived in the Bay Area. (Admittedly, depending on where you're going the public transportation options are generally better in the Bay Area.) If you're including Orange County within your definition of LA the calculus changes, but in my mind living in LA proper and having friends in OC is like living in SF or the East Bay and having friends in San Jose.
Random data point: Last Monday night I went to the Kings' home opener against the Islanders, on a night when the Dodgers/Braves playoff game was at Dodger Stadium. (Staples and Dodger Stadium are both downtown.) I was able to get from my place to downtown on the 10 freeway, with rush hour, hockey, and baseball traffic, in about 45 minutes. (It was an annoying crawl, but it moved steadily.)