I think that in any large city, you’ll find more people who devote a greater percentage to rent, BUT I do think that it’s a little less necessary to spend 50% in LA than in NYC or SF. I rented in NYC and I’m a landlady in LA and in my view, LA has a greater diversity of price when it comes to rent than you tend to find in a more compressed market like NY/SF. However, unlike NY, you usually have higher transportation costs (I probably spend $4K just on gas per year).
Where are you trying to rent? If you’re looking at anywhere on the Westside (vaguely Santa Monica to Redondo Beach; Westood and into Beverly Hills) and trendier neighborhoods like Hollywood, Silver Lake, Culver City, and areas around DTLA, then you will pay a premium. Essentially, you will tend to pay less the further you are from the city center and out in the fringes–so the deep Valley to the W (Woodland Hills, Northridge, Tarzana, Reseda; Van Nuys and Burbank heading more NE); San Gabriel communities to the E. (Alhambra, Arcadia); and South Bay (Wilmington, Long Beach, San Pedro, Carson, etc.) to the S. Otherwise, you can look at communities that ARE closer to the city center but are probably a little rough (Boyle Heights, for example).
As a landlady, I’ve rented to people who spend that much, although I will scruitinize their finances a little more because I want to make sure that their savings are strong and that they have good credit and strong references–in other words, you can spend 50% on your rent, but it could make you a smidge less competitive in getting a place among those who make more income.
Anyway, in real estate, they say you have price, location, and condition, and you can get 2/3, but never 3/3. What are you 2? You can rent a private house in Pedro probably for the same amount that you could get a shoebox in Los Feliz…but your drive into say, Downtown (if that’s where you’ll be working) will be much longer.