The City of Los Angeles is a large coastal metropolis in Southern California in the western United States. The city is the county seat of Los Angeles County. Los Angeles is the largest city in California, and the second most populous city in the United States, with a population of 3,694,820 as of the 2000 census.

The downtown Los Angeles skyline, looking north.
City Hall, with its pyramid top, is the rightmost tall building, the tallest building is the U.S. Bank building,
and the low, green building is the Los Angeles Convention Center.
The Santa Monica mountains fill the background. Behind them, on the right, the San Gabriel mountains can be glimpsed.

Initially founded in September 4, 1781 as part of Spanish-controlled Mexico, the settlement was christened El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula. Los Angeles was incorporated as a city in the U.S. State of California on April 4, 1850.

The Los Angeles metropolitan area, sometimes (inaccurately) called Southern California (Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, Orange San Diego and Imperial Counties) is home to over 16 million people of diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Arts and Culture
3 Law and Government
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Sites of Interest
8 Colleges and Universities
9 Notable Natives
10 See also
11 External Links


Early history

Although the
Spanish began the conquest of Mexico in 1519, they did not launch a land expedition into Alta (upper) California until 1769, when explorer Gaspar de Portolá reached this part of California. In 1771 the Spaniards returned and founded the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel, one of eight missions established by the Franciscans in Southern California.

On September 4, 1781 44 "pobladores", recruited from northern Mexico to help cement Spain's control over Alta California, founded the town. Only two of these settlers identified as Spaniards; the rest came primarily of African or Indian descent. The small town received the name El Pueblo de Nuestra Seńora Reina de los Ángeles de la Porciuncula, "The Town of Our Lady Queen of the Angels of the Small Portion". Located on the Los Angeles River, the town became a cattle ranching center.

Mexico's independence from Spain in 1821 did not change life in Los Angeles, other than to allow the secularization of the missions: land grants distributed the mission properties to rancheros.

Manifest Destiny reached California at the time of the Mexican-American War (1846 - 1848). On 18 June 1846 a small group of Yankees raised the California Bear Flag and declared independence from Mexico. United States troops quickly took control of the presidios at Monterey and San Francisco and proclaimed the Conquest complete. In Southern California, the Mexicans for a time repelled American troops, but Los Angeles eventually fell to Lieutenant Colonel John C. Frémont. The United States and Mexico signed the Treaty of Capitulation at Cahuenga Pass on January 13, 1847.

April 4, 1850 saw the incorporation of Los Angeles as a city. At the same time, the old landowners started to lose their lands. Compelled to secure confirmation of their land grants in U.S. courts, ten percent of the bona fide\ land owners of Los Angeles County had to move off their land and became reduced to bankruptcy. The more fortunate rancheros finally lost their special status as "Californios" and became absorbed into other communities, depending on their wealth or color.

Other Mexican residents resisted the new Anglo powers by resorting to social banditry against the gringos. In 1856 Juan Flores threatened Southern California with a full-scale Mexican revolt. He was hanged in Los Angeles in front of 3,000 spectators. Tiburcio Vasquez, a legend in his own time among the Mexican population for his daring feats against the Anglos, was captured and hanged on La Cienega Boulevard in 1874.

Los Angeles grows

The arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1876 and the discovery of oil in the early 1890s had stimulated expansion in the last decades of the nineteenth century. But Los Angeles was still smaller and less prominent a city than San Francisco.

Angelenos set out to remake their geography in order to challenge San Francisco with its port facilities, railway terminal, banks and factories. Harrison Gray Otis, founder and owner of the Los Angeles Times, and a number of business colleagues embarked on reshaping southern California by creating a harbor at San Pedro with federal dollars.

This put them at loggerheads with Collis P. Huntington, president of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company and one of California's "Big Four" robber barons, who was pushing for a port at Santa Monica. The San Pedro forces prevailed and work on the San Pedro breakwater began in 1899 and was finished in 1910. Otis Chandler and his allies secured a change in state law in 1909 that allowed Los Angeles to absorb San Pedro and Wilmington.

In order to sustain this and future growth, Los Angeles sought out new sources of water. Two hundred and fifty miles northeast of Los Angeles in Inyo County, near the Nevada line, a long slender desert region known as the Owens Valley had the Owens River, a permanent stream of fresh water fed by the melted snows of the high Sierras that terminated in a saline lake.

Sometime between 1899 and 1903, Harrison Gray Otis and his son-in-law successor, Harry Chandler, led suffessful efforts at buying up cheap land on the outskirts of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley. They then acquired control of the Ownens River and built an aqueduct, laregely designed by William Mulholland to bring the water from the Owens Valley over the intervening mountains and desert to the San Fernando Valley. J.B. Lippencott of the United States Reclamation Service (who was also secretly receiving a salary from the City of Los Angeles) succeeded in persuading Owens Valley farmers and mutual water companies to pool their interests and surrender the water rights to 200,000 acres of land there to Fred Eden, Lippencott's agent and a former mayor of Los Angeles. Eden then resigned from the Reclamation Service, took a job with the Los Angeles Water Department as assistant to William Mulholland, Chief of the Department, and turned over all maps, field surveys and stream measurements developed by the Service to the city.

By July 1905, the L.A. Times began to warn the voters of Los Angeles that the county would soon dry up unless they voted bonds for building an aqueduct and getting water from the Owens River. Artificial drought conditions were created when water was run into the sewers to decrease the supply in the reservoirs and residents were forbidden to water their lawns and gardens. On election day, the people of Los Angeles voted for $22.5 million worth of bonds to build an aqueduct from the Owens River and to defray other expenses of the project. With this money, the City acquired the land that Eden had acquired from the Owens Valley farmers. Mulholland then started building the longest aqueduct in the world.

Los Angeles as an Open Shop town

At the same time that the L.A. Times was whipping up enthusiasm for the expansion of Los Angeles it was also trying to turn it into a union-free or open shop town. Fruit growers and local merchants who had opposed the Pullman strike in 1894 subsequently formed the Merchants and Manufacturers Association (M & M) to support the L.A. Times anti-union campaign.

The California labor movement, with its strength concentrated in San Francisco, had largely ignored Los Angeles for years. It decided, in 1907, however, when the American Federation of Labor decided to challenge the open shop of "Otis Town." The culmination of this bitter struggle occurred on October 1, 1910 when a bomb destroyed a good part of the L.A. Times publishing plant.

The authorities indicted John and James McNamara, both associated with the Iron Workers Union, for the bombing; Clarence Darrow, who had successfully defended Big Bill Haywood, Moyer and Pettibone in Idaho, represented them.

At the same time the McNamara brothers were awaiting trial, Los Angeles was preparing for a city election. Job Harriman, running on the socialist ticket, was challenging the establishment's candidate.

Harriman's campaign, however, was tied to the asserted innocence of the McNamaras. But the defense was in trouble: the prosecution not only had evidence of the McNamaras' complicity, but had trapped Darrow in a clumsy attempt to bribe one of the jurors. On December 1, 1911, four days before the final election, the McNamaras entered a plea of guilty in return for prison terms. The L.A. Times accompanied its report of the guilty plea with a faked photograph of Samuel Gompers trampling an American flag. Harriman lost badly.

The open shop campaign continued from strength to strength, although not without meeting opposition from workers. By 1923, the Industrial Workers of the World had made considerable progress in organizing the longshoremen in San Pedro and led approximately 3,000 men to walk off the job. With the support of the L.A. Times, a special "Wobbly squad" was formed within the Los Angeles Police Department and arrested so many strikers that the city's jails were soon filled.

Some 1200 dock workers were corralled in a special stockade in Griffith Park. The L.A. Times wrote approvingly that "stockades and forced labor were a good remedy for IWW terrorism." Public meetings were outlawed in San Pedro, Sinclair Lewis was arrested at Liberty Hill in San Pedro for reading the United States Bill of Rights on the private property of a strike supporter (the arresting officer told him "we'll have none of 'that Constitution stuff'") and blanket arrests were made at union gatherings. The strike ended after members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Legion raided the IWW Hall and attacked the men, women and children meeting there. The strike was defeated.

Los Angeles developed another industry in the early 20th century when movie producers from the East Coast relocated there. These new employers were likewise afraid of unions and other social movements: during Upton Sinclair's campaign for Governor of California under the banner of his "End Poverty In California" (EPIC) movement, Louis B. Mayer turned MGM's Culver City studio into the unofficial headquarters of the organized campaign against EPIC. MGM produced fake newsreel interviews with whiskered actors with Russian accents voicing their enthusiasm for EPIC, along with footage focusing on central casting hobos huddled on the borders of California waiting to enter and live off the bounty of its taxpayers once Sinclair was elected. Sinclair lost.

Los Angeles also acquired another industry in the years just before World War II: the garment industry. At first devoted to regional merchandise, such as sportswear, the industry eventually grew to be the second largest center of garment production in the United States.

Unions began to make progress in organizing these workers as the New Deal arrived in the 1930s. They made even greater gains in the war years, as Los Angeles grew even further.

Los Angeles during and immediately after World War II

During World War II, Los Angeles grew as a center for production of aircraft, war supplies and munitions. Thousands of African Americans and white Southerners migrated to the area to fill factory jobs.

By 1950 Los Angeles was an industrial and financial giant created by war production and migration. Los Angeles assembled more cars than any city other than Detroit, made more tires than any city but Akron, made more furniture than Grand Rapids, and stitched more clothes than any city except New York. In addition, it was the national capital for the production of motion pictures, radio programs and, within a few years, television shows. Construction boomed as tract houses were built in ever expanding suburban communities financed by the largess of the Federal Housing Administration.

Los Angeles continued to spread out, particularly with the development of the San Fernando Valley and the building of the freeways launched in the 1940s. When the local street car system went out of business Los Angeles became a city built around the automobile, with all of the social, health and political problems that this dependence produces.

''Picture of the U.S. Bank Tower, the tallest of the skyscrapers in Downtown Los Angeles

The Last Fifty Years

In the last fifty years Los Angeles has lost much of the industry it developed earlier in the century. The last of the automobile factories shut down in the 1990s; the tire factories and steel mills left earlier. Most of the agricultural and dairy operations that were still prospering in the 1950s have moved to outlying counties while the furniture industry has relocated to
Mexico and other low-wage nations. Aerospace production has dropped significantly since the end of the Cold War or moved to states with better tax conditions, and the entertainment industry has found cheaper areas to produce films, television programs and commercials elsewhere in the United States and Canada. While Los Angeles remains a major center for garment production, it has become far more dependent on the service sector.

Those macroeconomic changes have brought major social changes with them. While unemployment dropped in Los Angeles in the 1990s, the newly created jobs tended to be low-wage jobs filled by recent immigrants and other exploitable populations; by one calculation, the number of poor families increased from 36 percent to 43 percent of the population of Los Angeles County during this time. At the same the number of immigrants from Mexico, Central America and Latin America has made Los Angeles a "majority minority" city that will soon be majority Latino.

Many older boundaries have changed over time. Watts, which once was predominantly black, is now mainly Latino. Compton, which lies outside of the City of Los Angeles, but within the County of Los Angeles, and which has gained a certain notoriety through rap music from N.W.A and other groups, is also increasingly Latino. While the Latino community within the City of Los Angeles was once centered in East Los Angeles, it now extends throughout the city. The San Fernando Valley, which represented a bastion of white flight in the 1960s and provided the votes that allowed Sam Yorty to defeat the first election run by Tom Bradley, is now as ethnically diverse as the rest of the city on the other side of the Hollywood Hills.

Rather than feeling closer, however, the opposite seems to have occurred. By the end of the 20th century, some of the annexed areas began to feel cut off from the political process of the megalopolis, leading to a particularly strong secession movement in the San Fernando Valley and weaker ones in San Pedro and Hollywood. The referendums to split the city were rejected by voters in November 2002.

African-Americans in Los Angeles

Despite the fact that Los Angeles is the country's only major city founded by settlers who were predominately of African descent, it had only 2,100 African-Americans in the 1900 census; by 1920 there were approximately 15,000. In 1910 the city had the highest percentage of black home ownership in the nation, with over 36% of the city's African-American residents owning their own homes. W.E.B. Dubois wrote in 1913, "Nowhere in the United States is the Negro so well and beautifully housed."

That changed in the 1920's, when racial restrictions in housing, originally aimed at Asians, Mexicans and Jews, were applied to blacks. Blacks were confined to Watts and other communities in South Central Los Angeles, which received far fewer services than other areas of the city.

These policies led to housing problems in the 1940's as growth in the defense industry brought increasing numbers of African-Americans to the city. Efforts to provided integrated housing were turned back under a barrage of red-baiting directed at the public housing authorities in the 1950s.

Watts also had chronically high unemployment, but no employment agencies; three separate bus lines, but no direct lines to major centers of employment. Its schools were substandard and the nearest hospital was two hours away by bus. Watts was a small core of poverty in a city where, by 1965, the black population had multiplied ten times since 1950.

The Watts riots of 1965 nonetheless surprised the powers-that-be. The riot began with a minor police incident and lasted four days. Thirty-four persons were killed and 1,034 injured at a cost of $40,000,000 in property damage and looting. So many businesses burned on 103rd Street, the people called it "Charcoal Alley."

While the City and County did take some steps to deal with the lack of social services for the black community after the Watts riots - most visibly by building a County hospital to serve the community - in most ways things only got worse over the twenty-five years after the riots. De-industrialization closed all of the automobile and tire factories and the only steel plants and shipbuilding sites in the area stripped Los Angeles of the high-paying industrial jobs that had opened up for Africa-american and Latino workers. At the same time the drug trade and gang warfare reached crisis levels. The LAPD, which had followed a militaristic model since Chief Parker's regime in the 1950's, had become even more alienated from and hated by the minority communities it was supposed to protect and serve.

This was brought home in 1992, after a suburban jury in Simi Valley, located in Ventura County, acquitted the police officers who beat Rodney King the year before. After four days of rioting, more than fifty deaths, and billions of dollars of property losses later, the National Guard and the police finally regained control. It remains to be seen if there has been adequate change or if the pattern is destined to repeat itself.

Mexicans, Pachucos, Chicanos and Latinos in Los Angeles

A steady migration of Mexicans to California from 1910 to 1930 expanded the Mexican and Chicano population in Los Angeles to approximately 200,000. In 1930 the United States began expelling them, deporting over a half a million Mexicans and Chicanos from California and 13,332 from Los Angeles County in the 1930's. At the same time the city celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1931 with a grand "fiesta de Los Angeles" featuring a blond "reina" in a historical ranchera costume.

During the Second World War, hostility toward Mexican-Americans took a different form, as local newspapers portrayed Chicano youths, who sometimes called themselves "pachucos" as barely civilized gangsters. Anglo servicemen attacked young Chicanos dressed in the pachuco uniform of the day: long coats with wide shoulders and pleated, high-waisted, pegged pants, or zoot suits, in 1943. Twenty-two young Chicanos were convicted of a murder of another youth at a party held at a swimming hole southeast of Los Angeles known as the "sleepy lagoon" on a warm night in August 1942; they were eventually freed after an appeal that demonstrated both their innocence and the racism of the judge conducting the trial.

Los Angeles-Latino community was largely disenfranchised until the 1990s, when redistricting led to the election of Latino members of the City Council for the first time since the 1950s and the first Latino members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors since its inception. With the tremendous growth of the Latino community, primarily from immigration from Mexico, but also from Central America and South America, it is now the largest ethnic bloc in Los Angeles. While Antonio Villaraigosa lost in his race for Mayor in 2001, Latino political leaders are likely to come to the fore in the next decade.

Asians in Los Angeles

Less than a century after the founding of Los Angeles, Chinatown was a thriving community adjacent to the downtown railroad depot. Thousands of Chinese came to northern California in the 1850s, initially to join the Gold Rush and then taking construction jobs with the railroads. They began moving south as the transcontinental railroad linked Los Angeles with the rest of the nation.

Later, Chinese workers who helped to build the aqueduct to the Owens River and worked in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley spent their winters in a segregated ethnic enclave in Los Angeles. In 1872, eleven years before the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, a violent anti-Chinese demonstration swept through Los Angeles' Chinatown killing Chinese residents and plundering their dry good stores, laundries and restaurants.

The labor vacuum created by the Chinese Exclusion Act was filled by Japanese workers and, by 1910, the settlement now known as "Little Tokyo" had risen next to Chinatown. By the eve of World War I, many Japanese farm laborers had saved sufficient funds to purchase or lease vegetable and fruit farming lands in such outlying areas as Gardena, Beverly Hills and San Gabriel.

During the years between the two world wars, Los Angeles' Asian American community also included small clusters of Korean Americans and Filipinos, the latter filling the void which followed the exclusion of the Japanese in 1924.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States government authorized the evacuation and incarceration in concentration camps of all Japanese living in California irrespective of citizenship. The Japanese in Southern California were to report to temporary barracks located at the Santa Anita race track in Arcadia, just south of Pasadena. Nearly 20,000 of the state's 93,000 Japanese Americans were confined in these quarters before being taken further inland to the internment camps.

Since World War II, immigration from Asia and the Pacific has increased dramatically. The influx of immigrants from the Philippines, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia has led to the development of identifiable enclaves such as Koreatown in the central city, a Cambodian community in Long Beach, Samoanss in Compton, Hawaiian Gardens and Wilmington, a Thai neighborhood in Hollywood, Vietnamese in Chinatown and in Garden Grove in Orange County, Chinese in Monterey Park and nearby parts of the San Gabriel Valley and Japanese in Gardena.

Historical population

''Los Angeles' large urban sprawl. About fifteen million people live in the imaged area.
Ventura County's western edge is on the upper left of the image.
The triangular San Fernando Valley is at the top.
The Santa Monica Mountains lie south of the Valley.
To their south, Point Dume and Malibu overlook the Pacific Ocean.
The San Gabriel Mountains fill the right top of the photo.
Palos Verdes Peninsula juts into Santa Monica Bay;
Long Beach and Los Angeles' harbor lie to the right of Palos Verdes.
Newport Beach's estuary and the foothills of Orange County are the dark areas on the lower right.
Catalina Island is the large Channel Island at the bottom of the image.
  • 1800: 315 inhabitants
  • 1830: 770
  • 1850: 1,610
  • 1870: 5,730
  • 1880: 11,200
  • 1890: 50,400
  • 1900: 102,500
  • 1910: 319,200
  • 1920: 576,700
  • 1930: 1,238,048
  • 1940: 1,504,277
  • 1950: 1,970,358
  • 1960: 2,479,015
  • 1970: 2,816,061
  • 1980: 2,966,850
  • 1990: 3,485,398

See also List of mayors of Los Angeles, California.

Arts and Culture

Main article: Arts and Culture of Los Angeles

Los Angeles is still the most important site in the United States for movie and television production. It faces increasing competition, however, from other parts of the United States and from Toronto and Vancouver.

The greater Los Angeles metro area has several notable museums including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the J. Paul Getty Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), the UCLA Hammer Museum and the Norton Simon Museum. Until the 1960s the region was something of a "cultural wasteland" compared to San Francisco and New York--if culture is defined as the "high arts" of ballet, opera, classical music and legitimate theater. However, as the city flourished financially in the middle of the 20th century, the culture followed. Boosters such as Dorothy Buffum Chandler and other philanthropists raised funds for the establishment of art museums, music centers and theaters. Today, the Southland cultural scene is as complex, sophisticated and varied as any in the world.

Los Angeles is known for its mural art, and its thousands of examples of wall art are believe to outnumber those in every other city in the world. The city also has a famous "public art" program which requires developers to contribute one percent of the cost of construction of new buildings to a public art fund. Much of this money has been spent in downtown Los Angeles.


Los Angeles had a vibrant African-American musical community even when it was relatively small: a number of musical artists congregated around Central Avenue, and the community produced a number of great talents, including Charles Mingus, Buddy Collette Gerald Wilson and others in the 1930s and 1940s. While that scene disappeared in the 1950s, Los Angeles continues as an important center for music, including rock and rap, both performed live and recorded.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra now performs at Walt Disney Concert Hall after having spent many years in residence at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.


Los Angeles is served by the Los Angeles Times as well as smaller regional newspapers and alternative weeklies. The city is also served by several local television stations including KCBS 2, KNBC 4, KTLA 5, KABC 7, KCAL 9, KTTV 11, KCOP 13 and KCET 28.


Los Angeles is home to adherents of every religion. The cathedral of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (located at the north end of downtown) was completed in 2002. A major temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is located in West Los Angeles.

Los Angeles' large ethnic population has allowed less common religions in North America to thrive. Recent immigrants from Asia, for example, have caused a number of significant Buddhist congregations to form. One of the major temples, the Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple, is located in nearby La Habra, California.

Los Angeles is also home to a sizable number of Neopaganss and other mystical religions.

Los Angeles has also been the home of some very colorful religious leaders and icons. In the 1920s Aimee Semple McPherson established a thriving evangelic ministry, open to both black and white congregants, but her career was eventually brought down by her personal misadventures. More recently, televangelists like Dr. Gene Scott and the Trinity Broadcasting Network (based in the nearby Southern California suburb of Costa Mesa, California) and Rev. Robert H. Schuller (at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California) have taken their ministries to the airwaves. The somewhat controversial Church of Scientology also has a major presence in the city. Focus on the Family, a major parachurch organization concentrating on family issues and headed by James Dobson, was started in the Los Angeles area and thrived there for many years before moving to its current home of Colorado Springs, Colorado.


Los Angeles has been derided by the rest of the United States for most of the last century: to quote one dyspeptic observer, it simply "oozed up through the unstable earth like some noxious tropical plant growing and spreading over the plain and sending forth strange fruit to contaminate the rest of the country." H.L. Mencken complained about the stink of oranges, while Bertolt Brecht compared Los Angeles to hell with "endless processions of cars/Lighter than their own shadows, faster than/Mad thoughts, gleaming vehicles in which/Jolly-looking people come from nowhere and are nowhere bound." The current stereotype appears to be Los Angeles as dystopia, as portrayed in movies such as Blade Runner, and promulgated in part by socialist urban critic Mike Davis, author of the influential nonfiction works City of Quartz and Ecology of Fear.

Other perceptions of Los Angeles suggest a town full of surfers, gang members and vacuous show biz types.


Los Angeles is the home of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers men's basketball teams, the Los Angeles Sparks women's basketball team, the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, and the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team. To the Southeast, suburban Orange County is home to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim hockey team and the Anaheim Angels baseball team.

The city is credited with being the birthplace of skateboarding.

The city has also twice played host to the summer Olympic Games, in 1932 and 1984.

(Seal of Los Angeles) (Flag of Los Angeles)
Nickname:The City of Angels
Mayor:James Hahn
City Flower:Birds of paradise
City Tree:Coral tree

Law and Government

Main article: Law and Government of Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) polices the city of Los Angeles. (The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department polices all areas of L.A. county that do not have independent city police departments.)

The city has a mayor-council system. The current mayor is James Hahn. There are 15 city council districts. Other city leaders include the city attorney and the city controller. The City Attorney is distinct from the District Attorney, who serves the county, and prosecutes crimes in unincorporated areas and in 78 of the 88 cities in the county.

Los Angeles has 20 Sister Cities, more than any other municipality in California. Notable sister cities include Athens, Jakarta, Berlin, Mumbai, Vancouver, Mexico City and St. Petersburg.

See also: List of mayors of Los Angeles, California


Main article: Geography of Los Angeles

According to the official records of the City of Los Angeles, L.A. has a total area of 472.08 square miles. The extreme north-south distance is 44 miles, the extreme east-west distance is 29 miles, and the length of the city boundary is 342 miles.

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 highest point in Los Angeles is Elsie Peak at 5,080 feet. The city is mostly at sea level elevation or a few feet above.

The major waterway of Los Angeles is the Los Angeles River and water rights and battles have been a major part of this desert-bound city's history.

Seismic Activity

Like most areas of California, Los Angeles' history is punctuated with major earthquakes, most recently the 1994 Northridge earthquake, centered in the northern San Fernando Valley. Coming less than two years after the civil unrest, the Northridge earthquake resulted in an additional shock to Southern Californians, in addition to the billions of dollars in damage. Other major earthquakes include the 1997 Whittier-Narrows earthquake and the 1971 Sylmar earthquake.

Urban Layout

''Picture of the Los Angeles urban sprawl

Greater Los Angeles (also referred to locally as "Southern California" or "The Southland") is such a sprawling area that residents refer to broad general sub-regions. It is not always meaningful to refer to Los Angeles as a distinct city, but people outside of Southern California commonly refer to the entire region as "L.A.," even though there are five counties, over 100 distinct municipalities, hundreds of neighborhoods and districts, and more people than any individual state except for Texas, New York, and Florida.

Some areas are defined by natural features such as mountains or the ocean; others are marked by city boundaries, freeways, or other constructed landmarks. For example, downtown Los Angeles is the area of Los Angeles roughly enclosed by the freeways that ring the area: The Harbor Freeway to the west, the Hollywood Freeway to the north, the Los Angeles River to the east, and the San Bernardino Freeway to the south. Or, consider the San Fernando Valley: Lying north-northwest of downtown L.A., "The Valley" is a 15 mile-wide basin ringed by mountains including the Hollywood Hills and Santa Monica Mountains to the south, the San Gabriel Mountains to the east, the Santa Susana Mountains to the north, and the Coastal Range to the west.

Some other areas of Los Angeles include the Westside; South L.A. (formerly South-Central L.A.); and San Pedro/the Harbor area. Adjoining areas that are outside of L.A. city include the South Bay, the San Gabriel Valley and the Foothills. Many more exist beyond and in the adjacent counties.

Communities, Neighborhoods and Districts

For more communities and cities local to the L.A. area, see Los Angeles County, California.

These are unincorporated areas within the city proper: Arleta, Arroyo Seco, Atwater Village, Bel-Air, Beverlywood, Boyle Heights, Brentwood, Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Eagle Rock, Echo Park, Encino, Glassell Park, Granada Hills, Hancock Park, Highland Park, Hollywood, Holmby Hills, Koreatown, Lincoln Park, Los Feliz, Marina del Rey, Mar Vista, Mission Hills, North Hills, North Hollywood, Northridge, Olive View, Pacific Palisades, Pacoima, Palms, Panorama City, Playa del Rey, Porter Ranch, Reseda, San Pedro, Sepulveda, Sherman Oaks, Silverlake, Studio City, Sunland, Sunset Junction, Sun Valley, Sylmar, Tarzana, Toluca Lake, Tujunga, Universal City, Van Nuys, Venice, Watts, West Adams, West Alameda, West Hills, Westchester, Westwood, Wilmington, Winnetka, Woodland Hills


Main article: Economy of Los Angeles

The most important industries of Los Angeles are entertainment and media production, aerospace and telecommunications, law, tourism, health and medicine, manufacturing and transportation. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are extremely important to trade on the Pacific Rim.


When approaching LAX from the east, by jet, nighttime airline travellers will fly over 30 minutes and still glimpse the lights of the city, before landing.

Known for freeway gridlock of legendary proportions, the city is developing a more sophisticated subway and bus system, although many a wag has suggested that L.A. built a subway solely for the purpose of shooting movie chase scenes in it. Additionally, a light rail system has been built providing public transportation from the outer lying suburbs. There are at least a dozen freeways. The Pasadena freeway opened January 1, 1940, where the first traffic jam occurred. Major freeways of Los Angeles include the San Diego (405) freeway, Ventura (101) freeway, Santa Monica (10) freeway, Harbor (110) freeway, Century freeway, Simi Valley (118) freeway, San Gabriel (210) freeway, Long Beach (710) freeway and the Golden State (5) freeway. The primary public transportation agency is MTA.


Main article: Demographics of Los Angeles

As of the census 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 American, 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.

There are 1,275,412 households out of which 33.5% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.9% are married couples living together, 14.5% have a female householder with no husband present, and 37.4% are non-families. 28.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 7.4% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.83 and the average family size is 3.56.

In the city the population is spread out with 26.6% under the age of 18, 11.1% from 18 to 24, 34.1% from 25 to 44, 18.6% from 45 to 64, and 9.7% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 32 years. For every 100 females there are 99.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 97.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $36,687, and the median income for a family is $39,942. Males have a median income of $31,880 versus $30,197 for females. The per capita income for the city is $20,671. 22.1% of the population and 18.3% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 30.3% are under the age of 18 and 12.6% are 65 or older.

Sites of Interest

Hollywood Park Racetrack is located in nearby Inglewood, and Santa Anita Racetrack is located in Arcadia. JPL is located in nearby Pasadena. Knott's Berry Farm is located in Buena Park. Disneyland is located in Anaheim. Universal Studios is located in Universal City.

Colleges and Universities

Pepperdine University is located in nearby Malibu, while Caltech is located in Pasadena.

Notable Natives

See also

External Links