That area is fine. As you head N on PCH it gets a bit run down, but South of there (toward CSULB) it is quite nice. Lots of restaurants, shopping, etc. Further South it becomes Seal Beach and then HB.
North East of there (toward Lakewood) is also nice.
Signal Hill (NW of the LC Diagonal) is a bit "industrial" but they are shutting down many of the oilfields and building houses, townhouses, and apartments. Most of them are quite nice.
I live due West of the LB Airport (in a Historical District called California Heights, South of Bixby Knolls - also nice). Except for the plane noise (I get Cessnas and other General Aviation - not jets - they go out to the North) it is great here. I live in an area of restored 1920's and 30's houses (mine is 1937) and surrounding us is a lot of 1920's apartments. Quite cool, actually. And just for the record, there is a house just two blocks from me that they are asking $1.3M.
Where I live... The West's best places to live
Keep in mind that the home prices in that article are almost 3-years old.
About 10 blocks West of me is the Virginia Country Club. If you can find something there that area is spectacular. The smallest house I saw for sale was $1.7M. There are some apartments surrounding that area too. Find San Antonio and LB Blvd on a map to see where I am speaking of.
You might also check on the hospitals bulletin board. There are lots of houses around LB for rent. Splitting one with shomeone may be a way to go.