Los Angeles, California

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Los Angeles, California

Downtown L.A. at night, as seen from the Hollywood Hills
City flag City seal
City nickname: "City of Angels"
City flower: Bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae)
City tree: Coral tree

Location in the Los Angeles County and the State of California
County Los Angeles County, California
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

1,290.6 km² (498.3 mi²)
1,214.9 km² (469.1 mi²)
75.7 km² (29.2 mi²)
 - Total (2000)
 - Total (2005)
 - Metropolitan
 - Density

3,957,875 (city proper)
Time zone
- Summer (DST)
Location 33° 56′ 00″ N, 118° 24′ 00″ W
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo
City Controller Laura N. Chick
City website

The City of Los Angeles /lɒs.ˈæn.dʒə.lɪs/ (from Spanish; Los Ángeles, /los.ˈaŋ.xe.les/) also known simply as L.A., is the second-largest city in the United States in terms of population, as well as one of the world's most important economic, cultural, and entertainment centers. It was incorporated as a city in California on April 4, 1850, when the city's population was only 1,610, and is the county seat of Los Angeles County. As of the 2000 census, it has a population of 3,694,820, but a May 1, 2005 California Department of Finance estimate shows the city's population at 3,957,875, with the metropolitan area at 17,545,623. The city is also large by geographic standards since it sprawls over more than 465 square miles (1200 square kilometers), making it physically larger than New York City and Chicago. In addition, Los Angeles hosted two Olympic Games (in 1932 and 1984) and is home to world-renowned scientific and cultural institutions.

The city is one of the biggest entry points for immigrants to the United States, making it one of the most culturally diverse places in the world. People are attracted to the city for its warm weather, its vibrant lifestyle, its unique energy, and the opportunity to realize the "American Dream."



Main article: History of Los Angeles, California

The Los Angeles coastal area was occupied by the Tongva, Chumash, and even earlier Native American peoples for thousands of years. The Spanish arrived in 1542, when Juan Cabrillo visited the area. In 1769, the Spanish returned to California to stay. Father Juan Crespi described a "beautiful river", which the explorers named in Spanish "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula", English: "The Village of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the Porciuncula River". The Mission San Gabriel Arcángel was founded in 1771, thus establishing a permanent presence in the area and securing Spanish territory.

On September 4, 1781, settlers from the San Gabriel Mission founded the town and named it after the river, but used a slighly shorter version. The official name was El Pueblo de la Reina de los Ángeles, "The Town of the Queen of the Angels", showing Franciscan affiliation. It remained a small mission and ranch town for decades.

Mexican independence from Spain was achieved in the 1820s, but the greatest change took place in present-day Montebello after the Battle of Rio San Gabriel in 1847, which decided the fate of Los Angeles. Yankees gained control after they flooded into California during the Gold Rush and secured the subsequent admission of California into the United States.

Los Angeles was incorporated as a city in 1850. Railroads arrived when the Southern Pacific completed its line to Los Angeles in 1876. Oil was discovered in 1892, and by 1923, Los Angeles was supplying one-quarter of the world's petroleum.

Even more important to the city's growth was water. In 1913, William Mulholland completed the aqueduct that assured the city's growth and led to the annexation by the City of Los Angeles, starting in 1915, of dozens of neighboring communities without water supplies of their own. A somewhat fictionalized account of the Owens Valley Water War can be found in the motion picture Chinatown.

In the 1920s the motion picture and aviation industries both flocked to Los Angeles and helped to further develop it. The city was the proud host of the 1932 Summer Olympics. World War II brought new growth and prosperity to the city, although many of its Japanese-American residents were transported to internment camps for the duration of the war. This period also saw the arrival of the German exiles, which included such notables as Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht and Lion Feuchtwanger. The postwar years saw an even greater boom as urban sprawl expanded into the San Fernando Valley.

The Watts riots in 1965 reminded the country of the deep racial divisions that even the nation's youngest city faced. The XXIII Olympiad was successfully hosted in Los Angeles in 1984. The city was once again tested by the 1992 Los Angeles riots and the 1994 Northridge earthquake. A city-wide vote on San Fernando Valley and Hollywood secession was defeated in 2002.

Geography and climate

Los Angeles' large urban sprawl: About 16 million people live in the imaged area.
Los Angeles' large urban sprawl: About 16 million people live in the imaged area.

According to the United States Census Bureau,the city has a total area of 1,290.6 km² (498.3 mi²). 1,214.9 km² (469.1 mi²) of it is land and 75.7 km² (29.2 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 5.86% water.

The extreme north-south distance is 44 miles (71 km), the extreme east-west distance is 29 miles (47 km), and the length of the city boundary is 342 miles (550 km). The land area is the 9th largest in the Lower-48th of United States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii).

The highest point in Los Angeles is Sister Elsie Peak (5,080 feet) at the far reaches of the northeastern San Fernando Valley, part of Mt. Lukens. The Los Angeles River is a short, largely seasonal river flowing through the city, with headwaters in San Fernando Valley. Its length is almost entirely lined in concrete.

The Los Angeles area is remarkably rich in native plant species. With its beaches, dunes, wetlands, hills, mountains, and rivers, the area contains a number of important biological communities. The largest area is coastal sage scrub, which covers the hillsides in combustible chaparral. Native plants include: California poppy, matilija poppy, toyon, coast live oak, giant wild rye grass, and hundreds of others. Unfortunately, many native species are so rare as to be endangered, such as the Los Angeles sunflower.

There are many exotic flowers and flowering trees that are blooming year-round, with subtle colors, including the jacaranda, hibiscus, phlox, bougainvillea, coral tree blossoms and bird of paradise. If there were no city here, flower-growing could still flourish as an industry, as it does in Lompoc. Wisteria has been known to grow to house-lot size, and in Descanso Gardens there are forests of camellia trees. Orchids require special attention in this Mediterranean climate.


The city is divided into many neighborhoods. Most of the neighborhood names come from farm towns that were annexed by the growing city, physical terrain features, major streets, or subdivision names coined by enterprising developers. These divisions have no legal status but are of significance to residents for cultural and financial reasons. Signs have been placed on major thoroughfares designating some of the communities, a practice going back decades. (The "neighborhood councils" of Los Angeles began in 1999 and often follow different borders).


A large Jacaranda tree in bloom.
A large Jacaranda tree in bloom.

The city is situated in a Mediterranean climate zone, experiencing mild, wet winters and warm to hot, dry summers. Onshore breezes keep the beach communities of Los Angeles and San Diego cooler in summer and warmer in winter than those further inland. Temperatures in the summer can get well over 90 °F (32 °C) and smog can become a problem. Average Summer day time highs are 85 °F (29 °C), with overnight lows of 66 °F (18 °C). Winter day time high temperatures get up to around 67 °F (19 °C, with overnight lows of 48 °F (8 °C) and rain is a possibility. Generally the weather is warm and dry in all seasons, with 325 days of sunshine a year. The median temperature in January is 58.3 °F (14.6 °C) and 74.3 °F (23.5 °C) in July. The highest temperature recorded within city borders was 116.0 °F (46.7 °C) at Canoga Park in 1985; the lowest temperature recorded was 18.0 °F (−7.8 °C) in 1989, also at Canoga Park. The highest temperature ever recorded for Downtown Los Angeles was 112.0 °F (44.4 °C) on June 26, 1990, and the lowest temperature ever recorded was 28.0 °F (−2.2 °C) on January 4, 1949. Accumulating snowfall is a once in a lifetime event. There has been three recorded instances of snowfall in the city; two inches (5 cm) of snow fell in 1932 and the last snowfall occurred in 1949. Rain occurs mainly in the winter and spring months (February being the wettest month) with great variations in storm severity year by year. Los Angeles averages 13-16 inches (330 to 410 mm) of rain per year.


Downtown Los Angeles on a smoggy day.
Downtown Los Angeles on a smoggy day.

Due to the city's geography as well as the population's heavy reliance on automobiles as a major form of transportation, the city suffers from severe air pollution in the form of smog. The Los Angeles Basin and the San Fernando Valley hold in the fumes from automobiles, diesel trucks, shipping, and locomotive engines, as well as manufacturing and other sources. In addition, the groundwater is increasingly threatened by MTBE from gas stations and perchlorate from rocket fuel. Some consider urban sprawl to be a result of the city's transportation system.

Seismic activity

Like most areas of California, Los Angeles is subject to frequent earthquakes, due to the close proximity of the San Andreas Fault, as well as the smaller San Jacinto Fault and Banning Fault, in southern California. Most earthquakes are relatively minor, however, throughout history there are several major earthquakes. The most recent was the 1994 Northridge earthquake, which was centered in the northern San Fernando Valley. Coming less than two years after the L.A. riots, the Northridge earthquake was a severe emotional shock to Southern Californians, in addition to causing physical damage worth billions of dollars. Other major earthquakes include the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake and the 1971 Sylmar earthquake.

People and culture


Los Angeles at night.
Los Angeles at night.

As of the census2 of 2000, there are 3,694,820 people, 1,275,412 households, and 798,407 families residing in the city. The population density is 3,041.3/km² (7,876.8/mi²). There are 1,337,706 housing units at an average density of 1,101.1/km² (2,851.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 46.93% White, 11.24% African American, 0.80% Native American, 9.99% Asian, 0.16% Pacific Islander, 25.70% from other races, and 5.18% from two or more races. 46.53% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race and 29.75% White, not of Latino/Hispanic origins.

The median age is 32 years.

The median income for a household in the city is $36,687, and the median income for a family is $39,942.

Of 2,182,114 native people, 1,485,576 were born in California, 663,746 were born in a different state of the United States of America, and 31,792 were born in a United States territory (Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, or Northern Marianas).

Of 1,512,720 foreign born people, 100,252 were born in Europe, 376,767 were born in Asia, 20,730 were born in Africa, 4,104 were born in Oceania, 996,996 were born in Latin America, and 13,859 were born in Northern America. Of such foreign-born people, 569,771 entered between 1990 to March 2000. 509,841 are naturalized citizens and 1,002,879 are not citizens.

The people of Los Angeles are known as Angelenos. L.A. can truly be described as a "world city" (Alpha World City) — that is, it has one of the largest and most diverse populations of any municipality anywhere. The Hispanic and Asian American populations are growing particularly quickly — the Asian American population is the second largest of any city in the U.S. Los Angeles hosts the largest populations of Armenians, Cambodians, Filipinos, Guatemalans, Israelis, Koreans, Salvadorans, Thais, Mexicans, and Hungarians outside of their respective countries. Los Angeles is also home to the largest populations of Japanese and Persians (Iranians) living in the U.S., and has one of the largest Native American populations in the country.

L.A. is home to people from more than 140 countries, who speak at least 224 different languages. Ethnic enclaves like Chinatown, Koreatown, Little India (Artesia), Little Armenia, Thai Town, Historic Filipinotown and Little Ethiopia give testimony to the polyglot character of Los Angeles.


The COMPSTAT unit of the Los Angeles Police Department tabulates Part I offenses (violent and property crimes) committed in the city. Los Angeles has been experiencing significant decline in Part I offenses since the mid 1990s hitting a record low in 2004. Criminality peaked in 1992 with 72,667 recorded acts of violence (1,096 homicides) and 245,129 recorded property crimes. In 2004, there were 31,245 recorded violent crimes of which 518 were homicides. The distribution of homicides in the city is uneven with nearly half of such crimes occurring in the four stations of the South Bureau of the LAPD encompassing South Los Angeles and the Harbor area. A further quarter occur in the areas covered by the Central Bureau which covers Downtown and its environs. Property crimes were three times more common than violent crimes; 90,374 were recorded in 2004. When compared to other large cities, Los Angeles fares relatively well with a total crime index lower than San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston.

Many movies and songs about Los Angeles depict the notion that the city is home to a large number of gangsters and professional criminals. According to a May 2001 Drug Threat Assessment by the National Drug Intelligence Center [1], Los Angeles County is home to 152,000 gang members organized into 1,350 gangs.

In Los Angeles, car chases happen more often than in most other major cities (sometimes several per week). The city's complex freeway system allows for lengthier pursuits, which may take them throughout the city. Other common crimes include: car-to-car shootings (see road rage), drive-by shootings, thrill killings, hit-and-run accidents, and carjackings. Numerous instances of all these crimes are documented on the LAPD press release Web site [2]. One interesting example is a report on ten freeway shootings within two months [3].

Also, Los Angeles has been a popular setting for several crime-based video games, such as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (which features Los Santos, a city largely based off the Los Angeles metropolitan area) and True Crime: Streets of LA (which takes place in a close replica of the Los Angeles area).

Arts and entertainment

The famous Hollywood sign, a symbol of the city's world famous entertainment culture.
The famous Hollywood sign, a symbol of the city's world famous entertainment culture.
Main article: Arts and culture of Los Angeles

Los Angeles is sometimes considered the entertainment capital of the world. It shares the title of the cultural capital of the United States with New York City. Its largest entertainment industry is film production, but it is an important center for music, art, and architecture as well. As a major global metropolis, Los Angeles has evolved a unique culture and that is well-portrayed in popular media and is sometimes idealized as highly desirable. However, this culture has also inspired criticism that it is not really a unique culture, although most believe the contrary.

Residents of the city of Los Angeles are served by the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) and its branch locations. Residents of the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County and various cities within the county are served by the County of Los Angeles Public Library The LAPL is funded by voter-approved bond and tax levy packages. The Main Library is located in downtown Los Angeles and has been recognized as a National Historic Site.


The major daily newspaper in the area is The Los Angeles Times. La Opinión is the city's major Spanish-language paper. There are also a wide variety of smaller regional newspapers, alternative weeklies and magazines, including the Los Angeles Newspaper Group's Daily News (which focuses coverage on the Valley), Village Voice Media's L.A. Weekly, L.A. City Beat, Los Angeles magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal, Los Angeles Daily Journal (legal industry paper), Variety (entertainment industry paper), and Los Angeles Downtown News. In addition to the English and Spanish language papers, numerous local periodicals serve immigrant communities in their native languages (e.g. Korean, Persian and Japanese).

Most of the above papers are center-left or left in their political stance with the clear exception of the Daily News, which is center-right. One example of this is that the L.A. Times often does high-quality investigative journalism on important inner-city issues like health care and crime, while the L.A. Daily News is usually content to run wire stories on those issues, if it covers them at all. The L.A. Daily News also focuses on business issues, education, and crime. It strongly supports lowering taxes.

Many cities adjacent to Los Angeles also have their own daily newspapers whose coverage and availability overlaps into certain Los Angeles neighborhoods. Examples include the Daily Breeze (serving the South Bay), and The Long Beach Press-Telegram.

The Los Angeles metro area is served by a wide variety of local television stations, and is the second largest designated market area (DMA) in the U.S. with 5,431,140 homes (4.956% of the U.S.). The major network television affiliates include KCBS 2 (CBS), KABC-TV 7 (ABC), KNBC 4 (NBC), KTTV 11 (FOX), KTLA 5 (WB), and KCOP 13 (UPN), and KPXN 30 (i). There are also four PBS stations in the area, including KVCR 24, KCET 28, KOCE 50, and KLCS 58. World TV operates on two channels, KNET 25 and KSFV-LP 27. There are also several Spanish-language television networks, including KMEX 34 (Univision), KFTR 46 (Telefutura), KVEA 52 (Telemundo), and KAZA 54 (Azteca America). KTBN 40 (Trinity Broadcasting Network), is a religious station in the area.

Several independent television stations also operate in the area, including KCAL 9 (owned by CBS/Viacom), KSCI 18 (focuses primarily on Asian language programming), KWHY 22 (Spanish-language), KNLA-LP 27 (Spanish-language), KJLA 33 (variety), KPAL-LP 38, KXLA 44, KDOC 56 (classic programming and local sports), KJLA 57 (variety), and KRCA 62 (Asian language programming).


Los Angeles is home to adherents of many religions. Los Angeles has the second-largest Jewish community in the United States, rivaled only by New York City. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles leads the largest archdiocese in the country. Roger Cardinal Mahony oversaw construction of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, completed in 2002 at the north end of downtown. The Los Angeles Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is their second-largest temple and is located in West Los Angeles. The Azusa Street Revival (1906–1909) in Los Angeles was a key milestone in the history of the Pentecostal movement. Los Angeles can be called the birthplace of Christian Fundamentalism. From 1908 to 1959 the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (B.I.O.L.A. now Biola University) was located in downtown at the corner of Hope and Sixth streets, in front and to the west of the Los Angeles Central Library building. In 1913, B.I.O.L.A. published a set of books called The Fundamentals, which presented a defense of the traditional conservative interpretation of the Holy Bible. The term fundamentalism is derived from these books.

In the 1920s, Aimee Semple McPherson established a thriving evangelical ministry, with her Angelus Temple in Echo Park open to both black and white church members. Billy Graham became a celebrity during a successful revival campaign in Los Angeles in 1949. Herbert W. Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God used to have its headquarters in nearby Pasadena, now in Glendale. Until his death in 2005, Dr. Gene Scott was based near downtown. The Metropolitan Community Church, a fellowship of Christian congregations a focus on outreach to gays and lesbians, was started in Los Angeles in 1968 by Troy Perry. Jack Chick, of "Chick Tracts", was born in Boyle Heights and lived in the area most of his life.

Because of Los Angeles's large multi-ethnic population there are numerous organizations in the area representing a wide variety of faiths, including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Bahá'í, various Eastern Orthodox Churchs, Sufism and others. Immigrants from Asia for example, have formed a number of significant Buddhist congregations. Los Angeles has been a destination for Swamis and Gurus since as early as 1900, including Paramahansa Yogananda (1920). The Self-Realization Fellowship is headquartered in Hollywood and has a private park in Pacific Palisades. Los Angeles is the home to a number of Neopagans, as well as adherents of various other mystical religions. One wing of the Theosophist movement is centered in Los Angeles, and another is in neighboring Pasadena. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi founded the Transcendental Meditation movement in Los Angeles in the late 1950s. The Church of Scientology has a major presence in Hollywood.


Club Sport League Venue Logo
Los Angeles Dodgers Baseball Major League Baseball: National League Dodger Stadium Los Angeles Dodgers Logo
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Baseball Major League Baseball: American League Angel Stadium of Anaheim Los Angeles Angels Logo
Los Angeles Lakers Basketball National Basketball Association: Western Conference Staples Center Los Angeles Lakers Logo
Los Angeles Clippers Basketball National Basketball Association: Western Conference Staples Center Los Angeles Clippers Logo
Los Angeles Sparks Basketball Women's National Basketball Association: Western Conference Staples Center Los Angeles Sparks Logo
Anaheim Mighty Ducks Ice Hockey National Hockey League: Western Conference: Pacific Division Arrowhead Pond Anaheim Mighty Ducks Logo
Los Angeles Kings Ice Hockey National Hockey League: Western Conference: Pacific Division Staples Center Los Angeles Kings Logo
C.D. Chivas USA Soccer Major League Soccer Home Depot Center C.D. Chivas USA Logo
Los Angeles Galaxy Soccer Major League Soccer Home Depot Center Los Angeles Galaxy Logo
Los Angeles Avengers Arena Football Arena Football League: American Conference: Western Division Staples Center Los Angeles Avengers Logo

Los Angeles is the home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers , the Los Angeles Sparks, the Los Angeles Kings, the Club Deportivo Chivas USA and Los Angeles Galaxy, and the Los Angeles Avengers. Los Angeles has been without an NFL franchise since 1995 despite being the second-biggest television market in North America. Prior to 1995, the Rams (1946-1994) and the Raiders (1982-1994) of the NFL were in the Los Angeles market.

Anaheim, about 25 miles (40 km) to the south-east of downtown, is home to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. At various times in history the Angels have been known as the Los Angeles Angels (1961-1965), the California Angels (1965-1997), and the Anaheim Angels (1997-2004); talks in 2004 suggested the team was considering returning to the original name, over loud protests from the Anaheim government. The name was officially changed to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in late December 2004 in order to link with the larger city while still complying with contractual obligations.

Beach volleyball and windsurfing were both invented in the area (though predecessors of both were invented in some form by Duke Kahanamoku in Hawaii). Venice, also known as Dogtown, is credited with being the birthplace of skateboarding and the place where Rollerblading first became popular. Area beaches are popular with surfers, who have created their own subculture.

Los Angeles has twice played host to the summer Olympic Games: in 1932 and in 1984.

The Los Angeles area contains all kinds of topography, notably the hills and mountains rising around the metropolis (it's the only major city in the United States bisected by a mountain range); four mountain ranges extend into city boundaries. Thousands of miles of trails crisscross the city and neighboring areas, providing exercise and wilderness access on foot, bike, or horse. Across the county a great variety of outdoor activities are available, such as skiing, rock climbing, gold panning, hang gliding, and windsurfing. Numerous outdoor clubs serve these sports, including the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club, which leads over 4,000 outings annually in the area.


The economy of Los Angeles is driven by agriculture, petroleum, entertainment (motion pictures, television, and recorded music), aerospace, international trade, and tourism. Los Angeles is also the largest manufacturing center in the United States. The contiguous ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach together comprise the most significant port in North America and one of the most important ports in the world. They are vital to trade within the Pacific Rim. Los Angeles is the world center for the entertainment industry, including adult entertainment. Other significant industries include media production, finance, aerospace, telecommunications, law, tourism, health and medicine, and transportation.

The city is home to three major Fortune 500 companies, including aerospace contractor Northrop Grumman, energy company Occidental Petroleum Corporation, and homebuilding company KB Home.

Other companies headquartered in Los Angeles include Twentieth Century Fox, Herbalife, Univision, Metro Interactive, LLC, Premier America, CB Richard Ellis, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, Guess, Inc., O'Melveny & Myers LLP, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP, TOKYOPOP, The Jim Henson Company, Paramount Pictures, Robinsons-May, Sunkist, Fox Sports Net, Health Net, Inc., 21st Century Insurance, and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

The metropolitan area contains the headquarters of even more companies, many of whom wish to escape the city's high taxes. For example, Los Angeles charges a gross receipts tax based on a percentage of business revenue, while most neighboring cities charge only small flat fees. The companies below clearly benefit from their proximity to Los Angeles, while at the same time they also avoid the city's taxes (and other problems). Some of the major companies headquartered in cities adjacent to Los Angeles include Shakey's Pizza (Alhambra), Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (Beverly Hills), City National Bank (Beverly Hills), Hilton Hotels (Beverly Hills), DiC Entertainment (Burbank), The Walt Disney Company (Fortune 500 - Burbank), Warner Brothers (Burbank), Countrywide Financial Corporation (Fortune 500 - Calabasas), THQ (Calabasas), Belkin (Compton), National Public Radio West (Culver City), Sony Pictures Entertainment (parent of Columbia Pictures, located in Culver City), Computer Sciences Corporation (Fortune 500 - El Segundo), DirecTV (El Segundo), Mattel (Fortune 500 - El Segundo), Unocal (Fortune 500 - El Segundo), DreamWorks SKG (Glendale), Sea Launch (Long Beach), ICANN (Marina Del Rey), Cunard Line (Santa Clarita), Princess Cruises (Santa Clarita), Activision (Santa Monica), and RAND (Santa Monica).

There are many other well-known companies with headquarters located in the County of Los Angeles or the greater Los Angeles area, but they are far beyond the City of Los Angeles (and the scope of this article). See Los Angeles County: Economy for a list of such companies in Los Angeles County.



Los Angeles city hall
Los Angeles city hall

The city is governed by a mayor-council system. The current mayor is Antonio Villaraigosa. There are 15 city council districts. Other elected city officials include the city attorney, Rocky Delgadillo, and the city controller, Laura Chick. The city attorney prosecutes misdemeanors within the city limits. The district attorney, elected by the county voters, prosecutes misdemeanors in unincorporated areas and in 78 of the 88 cities in the county, as well as felonies everywhere in the county.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) polices the city of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department polices all unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County and some cities which have contracted for law enforcement services because they lack police departments of their own, including Calabasas, Temple City, West Hollywood, and Compton.

The Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Public Library System and Los Angeles Unified School District are among the largest such organizations in the country. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power provides service to city residents and businesses.

The city government has been perceived as inefficient and ineffective by residents of some areas, which led to an unsuccessful secession movement by the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood in 2002. The main problem seems to be that the city administration in Downtown gives priority to high-density neighborhoods like Mid-City and Downtown at the expense of its far-flung suburban neighborhoods.

To make the government more responsive and to help encourage the cohesiveness of neighborhood communities, the city council has promoted the formation of neighborhood councils. These advisory councils were first proposed by city council member Joel Wachs in 1996 and were incorporated in the Charter Reform of 1999. The councils cover districts which are not necessarily identical to the traditional neighborhoods of Los Angeles, the borders of which often reflect those of cities that were annexed to Los Angeles. More than 90 neighborhood councils have been formed and all stakeholders in a district may vote for council members. Though the councils have little actual power, they are still official government bodies and so must abide by California's Brown Act that strictly governs the meetings of deliberative assemblies. These and other regulatory requirements have proven frustrating for activists unaccustomed to bureaucratic procedures. The first notable achievement of the neighborhood councils was their organized opposition in March 2004 to an 18% increase in water rates by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (a municipal monopoly), which led the city council to suspend the rate hike pending further study.

Legal system

One of the Superior Court's many courthouses.
One of the Superior Court's many courthouses.

The Los Angeles County Superior Court has jurisdiction over all cases arising under state law, while the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California hears all federal cases. Both are headquartered in a large cluster of government buildings in the city's Civic Center.

Unlike the largest city in the United States, New York, all of the city of Los Angeles and most of its important suburbs are located within a single county. As a result, both the county superior court and the federal district court are respectively the busiest courts of their type in the nation.

Thanks to Hollywood, celebrities like O.J. Simpson are frequently seen in Los Angeles courts. In 2003, the tabloid television show Extra (based in nearby Glendale) found itself running so many reports on the legal problems of local celebrities that it spun them off into a separate show, Celebrity Justice.

State cases are appealed to the Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District, which is also headquartered in the Civic Center, and then to the California Supreme Court, which is headquartered in San Francisco but also hears argument in Los Angeles (again, in the Civic Center). Federal cases are appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which hears them at its branch building in Pasadena. The court of last resort for federal cases is the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.


University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, Los Angeles
University of Southern California
University of Southern California

The school district that serves the city of Los Angeles is the Los Angeles Unified School District. After Proposition 13 in 1978, urban school districts had considerable trouble with funding and LAUSD became known for its underfunded, overcrowded and poorly maintained campuses. Wealthy and upper-middle-class parents placed their children in elite private schools, while middle-class families fled into suburban school districts beyond LAUSD boundaries. Since then, the LAUSD has embarked on an aggressive school construction program to relieve overcrowding, and its magnet schools have a reputation of being good schools relative to regular public schools in the district.

There are several public colleges and universities in the city, including the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA), and California State University, Northridge (CSUN). Private schools in the city include the University of Southern California (USC), Pepperdine University (particularly noted for its law school), Loyola Marymount University (LMU), Occidental College (Oxy), Otis College of Art and Design(Otis), and Southwestern University School of Law.

The community college system consists of Los Angeles City College (LACC), Los Angeles Pierce College, Los Angeles Valley College, and Los Angeles Mission College.


Main article: Transportation of Los Angeles
High-capacity freeway interchange in Los Angeles
High-capacity freeway interchange in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is the center of the huge Southern California freeway system. While L.A. is considered to be the home of traffic jams and car culture, the L.A. freeway system successfully handles millions of commuters as they endure a daily collective migration of about 99 million miles (160 million km).

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other agencies operate bus, subway and light railroad lines, which together carry over a million passengers a day. Rail passenger service is provided by Amtrak and Metrolink from historic Union Station. Rail shipping is handled by Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

The Los Angeles metropolitan area is served by several major airports, and in fact, it has more airports than any major city in the world, with 5 major commercial airports, and many more general-aviation airports. The main Los Angeles airport is Los Angeles International Airport (IATA: LAX, ICAO: KLAX), the fifth busiest commercial airport in the world. LAX handled 55 million passengers and 2 million tons of cargo in 2003. Other major commercial airports include Ontario International Airport (IATA: ONT, ICAO: KONT), Bob Hope Airport (IATA: BUR, ICAO: KBUR), formerly known as Burbank Airport, Long Beach Municipal Airport (IATA: LGB, ICAO: KLGB), and John Wayne International Airport (IATA: SNA, ICAO: KSNA). Los Angeles also has the world's busiest general-aviation airport, Van Nuys Airport (IATA: VNY, ICAO: KVNY).

The sea ports of the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach together make up the Los Angeles - Long Beach Harbor, the busiest and overall third-largest container shipping port in the world. There are also smaller, non-industrial harbors along L.A.'s western coastline. Most of these contain sailboats and yachts, like Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Marina Del Rey.

Telephone area codes

Map of major SoCal area codes
Map of major SoCal area codes

Area codes serving the Greater Los Angeles area include:

213 - Downtown L.A. - From 1947 to 1951 (when the 714 area code was created), the 213 area code covered all of Southern California [4]

310 - The Westside (including the cities of Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Culver City), the South Bay cities, and the Palos Verdes Peninsula (created in 1991 from 213 area code)

323 - donut-shaped area surrounding downtown, including greater Hollywood, Mid-Wilshire, the Eastside, northern South L.A. (created in 1998 from 213 area code)

424 - Contiguous with 310 (created in 2005)

562 - the Gateway Cities in southeast L.A. County, including Long Beach and the suburbs of Whittier, Cerritos, and Norwalk, among others (created in 1997 from 310 area code)

626 - San Gabriel Valley suburbs, including Pasadena (created in 1997 from 818 area code)

661 - Santa Clarita and the Antelope Valley suburbs, including Palmdale and Lancaster (created in 1999 from 805 area code)

714 - Northern Orange County suburbs (created in 1951 from 213 area code)

805 - Ventura County suburbs (created in 1957 from 213 area code)

818 - The San Fernando Valley, including Burbank and Glendale (created in 1984 from 213 area code)

909 - Northern Inland Empire suburbs, including San Bernardino (created in 1992 from 714 area code)

949 - Southern Orange County suburbs (created in 1998 from 714 area code)

951 - Southern Inland Empire suburbs, including Riverside (created in 2004 from 909 area code)

For most area code changes, see [5]


  • Mike Davis, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles, Vintage Books, 1992
  • Norman M. Klein, The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory, Verso, 1997
  • Lynell George, No crystal stair : African Americans in the city of angels, London : Verso, 1992
  • Leonard Pitt & Dale Pitt, Los Angeles A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the City and County, University of California Press, 2000
  • Peter Theroux, Translating LA: A Tour of the Rainbow City, Norton, 1994
  • David L. Ulin (ed), Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology, Library of America, 2002

Sister cities

Los Angeles has twenty-one sister cities, as designated by [Sister Cities International, Inc. (SCI) http://www.sister-cities.org/].

See also

External links

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