Friday, November 8, 2019

One essential point to keep in mind about "Los Angeles": it's not just bigger than you think; it's way bigger than you think.*

There's a fundamental confusion about LA that pops ups constantly and can be tremendously misleading. If you look up U.S. cities by population, you get the following

1     New York     8,398,748
2     Los Angeles 3,990,456   

But when people say "New York,"  they mean the city of New York, but when people say "Los Angeles" without qualifiers, they almost inevitably mean the county of Los Angeles. Almost no one, including lifelong Angelenos are vague on which areas are neighborhoods and which are cities.

The population of LA County is over 10 million and the area is over 4,000 square miles. It covers mountains, beaches, valleys and, high and low deserts. Multiple microclimates can result in 36 degree temperature differences at the same time of day. The elevation ranges from 0 to over 10,000 feet.

East Coast journalists (and all too often, Bay Area ones, as well) are shockingly ignorant of LA, not to mention San Diego, the Central Valley, and the rest of the state. As a result, issues affecting small slices of the population are over-reported while widespread problems don't get the attention they deserve.

For example, relatively few Angelenos are worried about their houses burning down while the smoke from these fires can create a serious health concern for millions of people.

As bad as this is for us, the ignorance and provincialism of journalists is even worse for most of the rest of the country. If they get this much wrong about LA, imagine how little they know about a place like Phoenix.

* San Francisco, by comparison, is way smaller than you think, but how a city that doesn't break the top 12 in population became the goto example for urban planning narratives is a subject for another post.

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