Location and importance
Los Angeles is the largest city in the federal state of California, and since 1984 the second largest in the United States, when it ousted Chicago from that position. It is situated in the southern part of California and some suburbs are directly on the coast of the Pacific Ocean between the port of San Pedro and the San Gabriel mountain range on the landward side.
The city, which covered an area of 20sq.mi/53sq.km when it was legally constituted in 1850, has grown to 460sq.mi/1,200sq.km in the course of 140 years, and thus in area is one of the largest cities in the world.
Greater Los Angeles incorporates more than 80 independent towns within the administrative district of Los Angeles County, ranging from the Santa Monica Hills in the west to Pomona in the east, and from the Tehachapi Mountains in the north to Long Beach in the south.
Megalopolis Los Angeles
Megalopolis Los Angeles also includes Orange County in the south, Ventura County in the north as well as parts of Riverside County and San Bernardino County in the east. This socio-economic region is growing ever closer as a result of the continuous urbanization of former agricultural districts.
The administration of this huge region is extremely complicated. In addition to the city corporation with a mayor elected every four years directly by the populace, and the assembly of city councilors, there is also the Board of Los Angeles County. This consists of five Supervisors, often called "five little kings", who are similarly elected every four years by an electoral district numbering 1.5 million inhabitants. They are responsible for public health, welfare institutions, building planning, fire brigade (but not the police), prisons and streets of the city as well as for the other 81 towns and the county's rural population numbering around one million.
City School District
Moreover, there is the largely autonomous Los Angeles City School District whose authority extends beyond the city precincts. Its members are directly elected and are independent of the other two administrative structures. Carrying out the decisions of the Board of Supervisors is the responsibility of a chief administrative officer nominated by this body.
Such a complicated bureaucratic structure pre-supposes a high measure of co-operation between those holding office, but conflicts are inevitable. One man who has succeeded for years in heading this multi-layered conglomerate is the mayor Tom Bradley, a former black Los Angeles police chief. He was appointed mayor in 1976, and has been re-elected four times.
Like most Californian towns Los Angeles developed only slowly at the outset. In the year 1785, four years after it was founded, it had a total 139 inhabitants, and even in 1890 there were only 50,000 compared with 300,000 in San Francisco. The number doubled by 1900 and again by 1905, when the census showed 200,000 people. In the following eight decades the population increased more than thirteenfold.
In contrast to most other large towns and cities in the U.S., the population of Los Angeles has continued to increase, mainly due to the influx of people into the suburbs, especially the San Fernando Valley. However, the decline in population in the inner city (Downtown Los Angeles) has been halted in recent years.
The city has received an influx of U.S. citizens from other parts of the United States, attracted by the sun, the economic boom and the increasing prosperity.
Immigrants from neighboring Mexico, from other Latin-American countries and Asia have also contributed to the population explosion. So today in Los Angeles you will find Buddhist temples and Chinese supermarkets, Korean billiard halls and Armenian mamoul bakeries, Mexican clinicas and yerbarias (fruit and vegetable shops), Vietnamese acupuncture clinics and Guatemalan love-potions.
The 1990 population figures show that whites still make up just over a third (37.5%) of the total. The proportions of Latins (35.8%) and Asians (about 12%) have risen dramatically while Afro-Americans remain the smallest minority (14.5%).
As in most U.S. cities the various ethnic groups live predominantly in different quarters of Los Angeles - Blacks and Latins in the center, Asians in Chinatown, Little Tokyo and Koreatown, and the majority of Whites in suburbs such as Beverly Hills, Pacific Palisades, Westwood or Santa Monica.
Although each community tries to maintain its cultural identity and leaves its own distinctive imprint on the city center, the overriding impression is that - as in New York - many individuals make their escape from the paternal ghettos at least by the second generation.
In line with the multiplicity of races, all religions are represented in Los Angeles. The city is the seat of a Catholic archbishop; the principal church in his diocese is the St Vibiani Cathedral (south Main Street, corner of 2nd Street). There are also several Greek and Russian Orthodox communities, the second largest Jewish community in the United States after New York, one of the biggest Mormon temples, with a 256ft/78m high tower crowned by a gilded sculpture of an angel almost 16ft/5m high (10777 Santa Monica Boulevard), as well as churches of all the Protestant sects represented in the U.S.
Transport and Communications
San Pedro Harbor
Los Angeles has no natural harbor. However, in San Pedro, 25mi/40km from Downtown Los Angeles, there was already a little harbor in the 1850s, providing an anchorage for sailing-ships. No start was made in extending it until the turn of the century, when a rail connection between Los Angeles and San Pedro came into being. When, following the merging of various districts, a land corridor developed between the harbor and Los Angeles, San Pedro was officially declared the port of Los Angeles in 1909. With neighboring Wilmington and Terminal Island (where there was feverish ship-building during the Second World War) it developed into one of the five largest ports in the United States. Today it is the biggest fishing-port in the whole country.
International Airport (LAX)
The International Airport at Inglewood, known as "LAX", is one of the largest in the country, used by more than 45 million passengers each year. Around 56 airlines, including British Airways, LTU and most American lines operate services to the airport.
Transport from the airport:
The municipal bus company Rapid Transit District (RTD) runs a number of buses to various parts of the Los Angeles conurbation.
Because of the distance from the airport to the city, a taxi is very expensive.
The hotels near the airport offer a free pick-up service with minibuses running all the time (from the hotel/motel - telephones available near the luggage reclaim).
A number of private transport companies also offer minibus services (Airport shuttles) to and from the city's hotels (reasonable prices). Details are obtainable from the "Ground Transportation" information desks run by particular airlines (keep an eye open for the signs once through the arrival gate!).
In addition to the main LAX airport, there are a further six regional airports in the Greater Los Angeles area, namely in Burbank, Newport Beach (John Wayne Orange County Airport), Long Beach, Ontario, Santa Monica and Van Nuys.
As almost everywhere in the United States of America, railway traffic has lost much of its importance in Los Angeles. Apart from the daily rush-hour traffic from the suburbs into the city center, the only line of any importance is to San Diego and Oakland/San Francisco.
Long-distance coach travel
Long-distance services are available from two coach stations, i.e. Greyhound (the company also has stopping places in other parts of the city) and Trailways.
Until the first section of the underground was opened between Downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach, all public transport in the city was by bus. At the latest count there were no less than 141 routes, running from Downtown to all the distant parts of the metropolitan district. The system of the RTD (Rapid Transit District) bus company is so complicated that the tourist is unlikely to spend long enough in the city to become familiar with it.
Under the heading "Sights from A to Z" details are given of the buses which run to some of the attractions in Los Angeles. However, there are problems if the tourist is not setting out from the city center because the buses all start in Downtown. In such a case you should obtain the timetables of the most important routes from, for example, the Greater Los Angeles Visitors and Convention Bureau (685 S. Figueroa Street. If in doubt telephone RTD direct, where you can obtain the information you require throughout the day and night.
You must have the right money ready, because the drivers cannot give change.
The "Dash"minibuses which ply within the city center can be recommended without reservation. These little gray buses run at ten-minute intervals to places of interest, such as the Music Center, Little Tokyo, Chinatown, the Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park and a number of hotels. The fare is only 25 cents. One disadvantage is that the minibuses run only on Monday to Friday until about 7 p.m.
Because of the distances involved, taxis are expensive and often difficult to find outside the Downtown area, so it is necessary to order one by telephone. There are plenty of taxis to be found at all places where there are a lot of people (airports, big hotels downtown, railway stations), as well as in Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
The subject of much controversy, the motorways, known as "freeways" in the U.S., because there are no tolls to pay, are used by almost 4.5 million people (not cars) in the course of 24 hours, and cover a total distance of approximately 580mi/925km. Although traffic is extremely heavy in the rush-hours (7 a.m. - 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.), without the freeways it would be almost impossible to get around.
Downtown Los Angeles is surrounded by four freeways: the Santa Monica Freeway, which then becomes the San Bernardino Freeway and links Santa Monica in the west with San Bernardino in the east (US 10);
The Pasadena and Harbor Freeway, linking Pasadena in the northeast with San Pedro in the south (CA 11);
The Golden Gate and Santa Ana Freeway, which runs from Sacramento in the north to San Diego in the south (US 5);
The Hollywood Freeway, which is part of the great north-south coastal route, the U.S. 101.
There are also the following freeways: Glendale (CA 2), Long Beach (CA 7), Ventura (CA 134), Foothill (US 210), Pomona (CA 60), Marina Del Rey (CA 90) and San Gabriel River (US 605). The recently completed (1993) Century Freeway runs from L.A. International Airport east to Norwalk.
Before you use a freeway you should consult a map to ascertain the correct exit to take.
At one time, the paucity of cultural life in the city gave rise to jokes, such as "What is the difference between Los Angeles and yogurt?" Answer: "Yogurt has an active culture!". This has now been rectified long since and after a late start Los Angeles has caught up with San Francisco, the traditional cultural capital of California, and is well on the way to overtaking it.
Today, Los Angeles possesses a Music Center, with three large auditorium, one for opera, the other two for theater. Several concert halls are to be added in the vicinity by 1991. There are also fifteen to twenty smaller theaters in all parts of the city.
The museums, although mainly of recent date, have achieved world ranking thanks to donations from a number of prosperous citizens. In addition to the museums in Los Angeles, there are others in the immediate vicinity: the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena and the Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino.
Light entertainment is provided by a large number of cabarets, jazz and rock-bars. In addition, Los Angeles, together with Hollywood, is still the film capital of the world and numerous premiSres are screened here.
Universities and colleges
Los Angeles has about 30 universities and colleges within the city precincts. There are at least twice as many more in the neighboring towns. The best-known institutions of higher education include the biggest university of the state, the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), together with its School of Medicine. There are also the University of Southern California, Occidental College, Los Angeles City College and Yeshiva University.
Because of the risk of earthquakes, skyscrapers were not built until quite recently. For many years the City Hall, built in 1932 with 27 storeys, was the tallest building in the city. Only after it became possible to erect earthquake-proof buildings did a real building boom take place. Nevertheless, as far as the number and height of skyscrapers is concerned, Los Angeles cannot compare with San Francisco, perhaps not even with San Diego. The tallest buildings, all situated downtown, are:
First Interstate Bank, 707 Wilshire Blvd. (843ft/257m);
Security Pacific National Bank, 333 South Hope Street (730ft/222m);
Crocker Bank, 350 S. Hope Street (715ft/218m);
Atlantic Richfield Towers (ARCO), Flower Street, 5th/6th Street (690ft/ 210m).
In contrast to San Francisco Los Angeles, thanks mainly to the discovery of oil and the development of the aircraft industry, has become since the Second World War more of an industrial than a commercial city. Admittedly the skyscrapers of the banks dominate the downtown skyline - the old-established banks of Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Bank of California and United California have been joined in recent years by U.S. branches of Japanese banks - but the stock exchange is of secondary importance. Los Angeles has noticeably become a city of service industries, thus creating new jobs in that sector.
As a result of the continuing building boom the construction industry has also contributed to keeping the unemployment rate low in spite of the many new immigrants.
The film industry, which employed about 100,000 people in 1950 and made Los Angeles - or, more exactly, Hollywood - the "film capital of the world", has lost out mainly to television. Today more television films than feature films are made in Hollywood, Burbank and Universal City. Nevertheless, there are still several hundred firms working in the field of producing and selling films.
History of the city
On orders from the Mexican viceroy, the Portuguese Joan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovers California and lands in October at San Pedro, which today forms part of Los Angeles, and at Santa Monica.
Gaspar de Portola, the first Spanish governor of California, names a river near where the city stands today El Rio de Nuestra Señora La Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula.
22 men, 11 women and 11 children are the first inhabitants of Los Angeles, founded on 4th September, or, as it was named at the time, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula.
Los Angeles now has 185 inhabitants, mainly engaged in agriculture and cattle-raising.
The population has grown to 500.
Grapes and olives are planted for the first time, followed by hops ten years later.
A start is made on building a church on the plaza. It is finished in 1822.
Los Angeles has a population of around 1000 "gente de razon" (non-Indians, most of whom are mulattos and mestizos) as well as some 500 Indians.
Los Angeles is raised by the Mexicans to the rank of ciudad (city) and in a short time becomes the capital of Alta California.
On 13th August Governor Pio Pico surrenders in Los Angeles to the U.S. forces under Robert F. Stockton and John Charles Frémont.
After both have left the city there is a revolt against the U.S. military government, and the Americans are driven out.
Los Angeles is re-conquered; the capitulation in Cahuenga signals the defeat of the Californios and with it the ceding of Alta California to the United States.
The emergence of the state leads to the establishment of Los Angeles County.
"Los Angeles Star" is the first newspaper, appearing weekly.
The population has grown to 4485, and comprises 1% of the total population of the state.
The brothers Isaiah and Samuel Hellman from Bavaria found the first bank in Los Angeles (Hellman's First Bank).
Xenophobia leads to a massive attack on the Chinese; 15 Chinese are publicly hanged.
Introduction of obligatory elementary education.
Opening of the first high school (corner of Broadway and Temple Street).
The University of California is founded by the Episcopal Church on its present site.
The population is almost 12,000 (compared with 233,000 in San Francisco).
The "Los Angeles Times" appears for the first time.
The Santa Fe Railroad reaches Los Angeles.
The Occidental College is set up by Presbyterian clergy and laymen. The oldest and most respected club in California, the California Club, is founded.
Founding of Orange County, formerly a part of Los Angeles County.
50,395 people live in Los Angeles.
Edward L. Doheny discovers oil near Los Angeles, leading to an economic boom.
Stephen M. White from Los Angeles is the first white man born in California to become a federal senator.
Charles F. Lummis founds the Landmarks Club, with the aim of restoring the mission stations and other historic monuments.
The population has risen to 102,000.
Founding of the Automobile Club of Southern California.
The founding of the Pacific Railway Company makes it possible to have a tram network in the county, by constructing tramlines to Pasadena, Long Beach and other places.
Founding of Beverly Hills.
First film studio built.
First sailing-ship race (Los Angeles-Honolulu).
The number of oil-drilling derricks has increased to 109.
Through a merger of smaller firms, the Southern Californian Edison Co. is set up providing electric power to 14 counties.
The population, numbering 319,000, is only 100,000 below that of San Francisco.
Construction of the first film studio in Hollywood.
One of the first museums, the Southwest Museum, is formed, dealing mainly with the history and culture of the Indians.
The banker Hubert C. Eaton begins to lay out Forest Lawn Cemetery, the best known cemetery in California.
Founding of the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) as a branch of the University of California.
For the first time, the population of Los Angeles is higher than that of San Francisco (576,673 compared with 506,676).
Simon Rodia begins to build the tower named after him in the Watts quarter of the city.
Opening of the Hollywood Bowl.
The building economy has a unprecedented boom creating sufficient living space for the population which is increasing by almost 100,000 people per annum.
The "Los Angeles Open" golf tournament comes into being.
Regular air services between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards the Oscar film prize for the first time.
The population exceeds the million mark: 1,238,000 inhabitants are counted.
Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
A serious earthquake in Long Beach, which claims 120 lives and causes heavy damage, is also felt in Los Angeles.
Heavy rainfall in one of the driest areas of North America causes serious flooding in Los Angeles and its surroundings.
The first freeway comes into use (Pasadena Freeway); others follow in the next few years. The population growth is slowed down, but not stopped, by the economic slump felt throughout America.
The number of workers employed in aircraft factories in and around Los Angeles increased twelvefold, from 20,000 to 243,000, in the years 1940-43.
The demobilization of thousands of soldiers and sailors, who fought on the Pacific Front and are now living in Los Angeles, leads to an unprecedented housing shortage until the wartime economy is converted to a peacetime one.
The number of inhabitants has increased to almost 2 million (1,970,000).
The Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team moves to Los Angeles.
The population reaches the 2.5 million mark.
The Cultural Heritage Board is set up. Its task is to protect city buildings of historical or cultural importance by making them listed buildings.
The Music Center, with the three auditoria named Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Ahmanson Theater and Mark Taper Forum, is opened.
Serious riots in the Watts quarter of the city; 34 dead, 1000 injured and almost as many arrests. Opening of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
The population has increased to 2,809,000.
A serious earthquake in the San Fernando Valley belonging to Los Angeles (6.6 on the Richter scale) claims lives and causes great damage.
The second year without rain causes a very serious drought and leads to water rationing.
Floods in and around Los Angeles and resultant landslides cause heavy damage.
For the third time within a few years heavy rainfall in the months of January and February leads to floods.
The Summer Olympics are held in Los Angeles for the second time.
Under the law all buildings within the area of the geological faults along the Pacific Coast must be made earthquake-proof by 1990.
The Museum of Contemporary Art opens near the Music Center.
Opening of the first shopping center in the inner city (Seventh Market Place, Figueroa Street, between 7th and 8th Avenue).
Opening of the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum in Griffin Park.
Permission to build a new concert hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall, in the Music Center.
Plans are drawn up for the complete restoration of the old town (Pueblo Historic Park).
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determines to make Los Angeles one of the cleanest cities in the world by 2008.
The package includes 120 individual measures (including the planting of two million trees within the next few years) and will cost 2,000 dollars per head of the population. The number of cars should be reduced and the release of emissions which contribute to global-warming should also be reduced.
The first stage of the city's planned Metro and urban rail network, a 22 mile-long stretch between Long Beach and Downtown Los Angeles, comes into operation. Meanwhile work progresses on a further two sections which should help reduce rush-hour traffic congestion in this "city of the automobile".
A short time before he dies, Armand Hammer opens the museum of art bearing his name, where the multi-millionaire's extensive private collection is displayed (10899 Wilshire Blvd.).
The acquittal of the defendants - four white policemen - in the Rodney King trial, triggers violent racial unrest in South Central, Los Angeles's black ghetto. Riots leave many dead and injured as well as widespread damage to property. The trial follows an incident in the previous year when Rodney King, a black man, was beaten almost to death after being stopped by the accused for speeding.
The city is threatened by bush fires which break out in the Los Angeles area.
The newly opened "Museum of Tolerance - Beit Hashoah" (Hebrew for "House of the Holocaust") provides a memorial to all victims of genocide, including the Armenians, Indians and Jews.
Following a severe earthquake (measuring 6.6 on the Richter Scale), the city is declared a disaster area; gas pipes, expressways, motorway fly-overs and more than a 100 homes are destroyed.
Increased urban redevelopment in the downtown core and Echo Park.
Secession was voted down by residents of the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood.