Los Angeles County, also known as L.A. County, officially the County of Los Angeles, is a county in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the county has a population of 9,818,605, making it the most populous county in the United States. Los Angeles County alone is more populous than 42 individual U.S. states. The county seat is the city of Los Angeles, the largest city in California and the second-largest city in the United States.
Los Angeles County also includes two offshore islands, San Clemente Island and Santa Catalina Island. The county is home to 88 incorporated cities and many unincorporated areas. At 4,083 square miles (10,570 km2), it is larger than the combined areas of the states of Rhode Island and Delaware.
The county is home to over a quarter of all California residents and is one of the most ethnically diverse counties in the country. It is part of the Tech Coast.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 4,751 square miles (12,310 km2), of which 4,058 square miles (10,510 km2) is land and 693 square miles (1,790 km2) (14.6%) is water. Los Angeles County borders 70 miles (110 km) of coast on the Pacific Ocean and encompasses towering mountain ranges, deep valleys, forests, islands, lakes, rivers, and desert. The Los Angeles River, Rio Hondo, the San Gabriel River and the Santa Clara River flow in Los Angeles County, while the primary mountain ranges are the Santa Monica Mountains and the San Gabriel Mountains. The western extent of the Mojave Desert begins in the Antelope Valley, in the northeastern part of the county. Most of the population of Los Angeles County is located in the south and southwest, with major population centers in the Los Angeles Basin, San Fernando Valley and San Gabriel Valley. Other population centers are found in the Santa Clarita Valley, Crescenta Valley and Antelope Valley.
The county is divided west-to-east by the rugged San Gabriel Mountains, filled with coniferous forests and subject to plentiful snowfall in the winter. The San Gabriel Mountains are part of the Transverse Ranges of southern California, and are contained mostly within the Angeles National Forest. Most of the highest peaks in the county are located in the San Gabriel Mountains, including Mount San Antonio (10,068 ft) at the Los Angeles-San Bernardino county lines, Mount Baden-Powell (9,399 ft), Mount Burnham (8,997 ft), and the well-known Mount Wilson (5,710 ft) where the Mount Wilson Observatory is located. Several smaller, lower mountains are located in the northern, western, and southwestern parts of the county, including the San Emigdio Mountains, the southernmost part of Tehachapi Mountains, and the Sierra Pelona Mountains.
Lakes and reservoirs
- Castaic Lake
- Crystal Lake
- Echo Park Lake
- Silver Lake
- Elizabeth Lake
- Hughes Lake
- Holiday Lake
- Jackson Lake
- Munz Lakes
- Tweedy Lake
Major divisions of the county
- East:Eastside, San Gabriel Valley, Pomona Valley
- West:Westside, Beach Cities
- South:South Bay, Palos Verdes Peninsula, South Los Angeles, Gateway Cities, Los Angeles Harbor Region
- North:San Fernando Valley, portions of the Conejo Valley, portions of the Antelope Valley and Santa Clarita Valley
- Central:Downtown Los Angeles, Mid-Wilshire
National protected areas
- Angeles National Forest (part)
- Los Padres National Forest (part)
- Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (part)
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), located in the Westchester district, is the primary commercial airport for commercial airlines in the county and the Greater Los Angeles Area. LAX is operated by Los Angeles World Airports, an agency of the City of Los Angeles. Other important commercial airports in Los Angeles County include:
- Long Beach Municipal Airport operated by the City of Long Beach
- Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, operated by the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority
- LA/Palmdale Regional Airport in Palmdale, also operated by Los Angeles World Airports. Palmdale Airport is planned for expanded commercial service to serve the Antelope Valley. The airport is a separate facility on the grounds of Air Force Plant 42.
The following general aviation airports also are located in Los Angeles County:
County operated airports (Department of Public Works, Aviation Division)
- Compton/Woodley Airport in Compton
- El Monte Airport in El Monte
- Brackett Field in La Verne
- Whiteman Airport in Pacoima
- General William J. Fox Airfield in Lancaster
City operated airports
- Van Nuys Airport in Van Nuys, also operated by LAWA. Van Nuys Airport sees significant executive jet air traffic.
- Santa Monica Airport in Santa Monica, which also has major executive jet traffic.
- Hawthorne Municipal Airport, also known as Jack Northrop Field, in Hawthorne
- Zamperini Field in Torrance
- Portions of Edwards Air Force Base, located at the northern edge of the county, and
- Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, sharing runways with LA/Palmdale Regional.
Los Angeles is a major freight railroad transportation center, largely due to the large volumes of freight moving in and out of the county’s port facilities. The ports are connected to the downtown rail yards and to the main lines of Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe headed east via a grade-separated, freight rail corridor known as the Alameda Corridor.
Amtrak has the following intercity Amtrak service at Union Station in the city of Los Angeles.
- The Pacific Surfliner to Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and San Diego.
- The Coast Starlight to Seattle
- The Southwest Chief to Chicago
- The Sunset Limited to New Orleans and Orlando
Union Station is also the primary hub for Metrolink commuter rail, which serves much of the Greater Los Angeles Area.
Light rail, subway (heavy rail), and long-distance bus service are all provided by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro).
The county’s two main seaports are the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach. Together they handle over a quarter of all container traffic entering the United States, making the complex the largest and most important port in the country, and the third-largest port in the world by shipping volume.
The Port of Los Angeles is the largest cruise ship center on the West Coast, handling more than 1 million passengers annually.
The Port of Long Beach is home to the Sea Launch program, which uses a floating launch platform to insert payloads into orbits that would be difficult to attain from existing land-based launch sites.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Los Angeles County had a population of 9,818,605. The racial makeup of Los Angeles County was 4,936,599 (50.3%) White, 856,874 (8.7%) African American, 72,828 (0.7%) Native American, 1,346,865 (13.7%) Asian (4.0% Chinese, 3.3% Filipino, 2.2% Korean, 1.0% Japanese, 0.9% Vietnamese, 0.8% Indian, 0.3% Cambodian, 0.3% Thai, 0.1% Pakistani), 26,094 (0.3%) Pacific Islander (0.1% Samoan), 2,140,632 (21.8%) from other races, and 438,713 (4.5%) from two or more races.
Non-Hispanic whites numbered 2,728,321, or 27.8% of the population. Hispanic or Latino residents of any race numbered 4,687,889 (47.7%); 35.8% of Los Angeles County’s population was of Mexican ancestry; 3.7% Salvadoran, and 2.2% Guatemalan heritage,.
As of the census of 2000, there were 9,519,338 people, 3,133,774 households, and 2,137,233 families residing in the county. The population density was 2,344 people per square mile (905/km²). There were 3,270,909 housing units at an average density of 806 per square mile (311/km²). The racial makeup of the county is 48.7% White 11.0% African American, 0.8% Native American, 10.0% Asian, 0.3% Pacific Islander, 23.5% from other races, and 4.9% from two or more races. 44.6% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race. The largest European-American ancestry groups are German (6%), Irish (5%), English (4%) and Italian (3%). 45.9% of the population reported speaking only English at home; 37.9% spoke Spanish, 2.22% Tagalog, 2.0% Chinese, 1.9% Korean, and 1.87% Armenian.
Because the county is so populous, what is not so evident is that it has the largest Native American population of any county in the nation: according to the 2000 census, it has more than 153,550 people of indigenous descent, and most are from Latin America. “The invisible population that is virtually ignored by the census is that of indigenous people from Mexico, Central and South America.”
There were 3,133,774 households out of which 36.80% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.6% were married couples living together, 14.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.8% were non-families. 24.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.98 and the average family size was 3.61.
In the county the population was spread out with 28.0% under the age of 18, 10.3% from 18 to 24, 32.6% from 25 to 44, 19.4% from 45 to 64, and 9.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 97.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.0 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $42,189, and the median income for a family was $46,452. Males had a median income of $36,299 versus $30,981 for females. The per capita income for the county was $20,683. There are 14.4% of families living below the poverty line and 17.9% of the population, including 24.2% of under 18 and 10.5% of those over 64.
According to TNS Financial Services, Los Angeles County has the highest number of millionaires of any county in the nation, totaling 261,081 households as of 2007.In addition to millionaires, Los Angeles County has the largest number of homeless people, with “48,000 people living on the streets, including 6,000 veterans.”
As of 2000, there are hundreds of Christian churches, 202 Jewish synagogues, 145 Buddhist temples, 48 Islamic mosques, 44 Bahai worship centers, 37 Hindu temples, 28 Tenrikyo churches and fellowships, 16 Shinto worship centers, 14 Sikhgurdwaras in the county. The Los Angeles Archdiocese has approximately 5 million members and is the largest in the United States.
The home ownership rate is 47.9%, and the median value for houses is $409,300. 42.2% of housing units are in multi-unit structures.
As estimated by the Public Policy Institute of California in 2008, Los Angeles County is home to more than one third of the California’s illegal immigrants, who make up more than ten percent of the population.
The Los Angeles County Office of Education provides a supporting role for school districts in the area. The county office also operates two magnet schools, the International Polytechnic High School and Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. There are a number of private schools in the county, most notably those operated by the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
- Antelope Valley College, Lancaster
- Art Center College of Design, Pasadena
- The Art Institute of California – Los Angeles (AICALA), Santa Monica
- California Institute of the Arts, Santa Clarita
- Cerritos College, Norwalk
- Citrus College, Glendora
- Claremont McKenna College, Claremont
- Claremont School of Theology, Claremont
- College of the Canyons, Santa Clarita
- DeVry University, Long Beach and West Hills (Los Angeles)
- East Los Angeles College, Monterey Park
- El Camino College, Torrance
- Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena
- Glendale Community College, Glendale
- Harvey Mudd College, Claremont
- Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles
- ITT Technical Institute, Culver City, San Dimas, Sylmar (Los Angeles), Torrance, and West Covina
- Life Pacific College, San Dimas
- Long Beach City College, Long Beach
- Los Angeles City College (LACC), Los Angeles
- Los Angeles Harbor College, Los Angeles
- Los Angeles Mission College, Sylmar (Los Angeles)
- Los Angeles Music Academy College of Music, Pasadena
- Los Angeles Pierce College (Pierce), Woodland Hills
- Los Angeles Southwest College, Los Angeles
- Los Angeles Trade Technical College (LATTC), Los Angeles
- Los Angeles Valley College, Valley Glen (Los Angeles)
- The Master’s College, Santa Clarita
- Mount St. Mary’s College, Los Angeles
- Mt. San Antonio College, Walnut
- Mt. Sierra College, Monrovia
- Occidental College (Oxy), Eagle Rock (Los Angeles)
- Otis College of Art and Design, Westchester (Los Angeles)
- Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena
- Pasadena City College, Pasadena
- Pitzer College, Claremont
- Pomona College, Claremont
- Rio Hondo College, Whittier
- Santa Monica College (SMC), Santa Monica
- Scripps College, Claremont
- West Los Angeles College, Culver City
- Whittier College, Whittier
- Wyoming Technical Institute (WyoTech), Long Beach
- American Jewish University (AJULA), Los Angeles
- Azusa Pacific University, Azusa
- Biola University, La Mirada
- California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena
- California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, (Cal Poly Pomona), Pomona
- California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), Carson
- California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), Long Beach
- California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA), Los Angeles
- California State University, Northridge (CSUN), Northridge (Los Angeles)
- Claremont Graduate University, (CGU)
- Loyola Law School, (Downtown Los Angeles)
- Loyola Marymount University (LMU), Westchester (Los Angeles)
- National University, Los Angeles and Woodland Hills
- Pepperdine University, Malibu
- Southern California University of Health Sciences, Whittier
- Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), Los Angeles
- Southwestern University School of Law, Los Angeles
- University of Antelope Valley (UAV), Lancaster
- University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Westwood (Los Angeles)
- University of La Verne, La Verne
- University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles
- University of the West (UWest), Rosemead
- Western University of Health Sciences (WesternU), Pomona
- Woodbury University, Burbank
Sites of interest
The county’s most visited park is Griffith Park, owned by the city of Los Angeles. The county is also known for the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, the annual Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Los Angeles Zoo, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the La Brea Tar Pits, the Arboretum of Los Angeles, and two horse racetracks and two car racetracks (Pomona Raceway and Irwindale Speedway), also the RMS Queen Mary located in Long Beach, and the Long Beach Grand Prix, and miles of beaches—from Zuma to Cabrillo.
Venice Beach is a popular attraction where its Muscle Beach used to find throngs of tourists admiring “hardbodies”. Today it is more arts-centered. Santa Monica’s pier is a well known tourist spot, famous for its ferris wheel and bumper car rides, which were featured in the introductory segment of the television sitcom Three’s Company. Further north in Pacific Palisades one finds the beaches used in the television series Baywatch. The fabled Malibu, home of many a film or television star, lies west of it.
In the mountain, canyon, and desert areas one may find Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, where many old westerns were filmed. Mount Wilson Observatory in the San Gabriel Mountains is open for the public to view astronomical stars from its telescope, now computer-assisted. Many county residents find relaxation in water skiing and swimming at Castaic Lake Recreation Area – the county’s largest park by area – as well as enjoying natural surroundings and starry nights at Saddleback Butte State Park in the eastern Antelope Valley – California State Parks’ largest in area within the county. The California Poppy Reserve is located in the western Antelope Valley and shows off the State’s flower in great quantity on its rolling hills every spring.
- Battleship USS Iowa, Los Angeles Waterfront
- California Science Center, Los Angeles (formerly the Museum of Science and Industry)
- Huntington Library, San Marino
- Long Beach Museum of Art in the historic Elizabeth Milbank Anderson residence
- Los Angeles Children’s Museum
- Los Angeles County Fire Museum, in Bellflower
- Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Mid-City, Los Angeles
- Museum of Contemporary Art, Downtown Los Angeles (founded in 1950); The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Downtown Los Angeles (founded in 1980)
- Museum of Jurassic Technology, Culver City
- Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach
- Museum of Neon Art
- Museum of the American West (Gene Autry Museum), in Griffith Park
- Museum of Tolerance
- Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
- Pasadena Museum of California Art, in Pasadena
- J. Paul Getty Center, Brentwood (Ancient Roman, Greek, and European Renaissance Art)
- J. Paul Getty Villa, Pacific Palisades, Getty’s original house
- George C. Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits
- Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica (Contemporary art)
- Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena (19th- and early 20th-century art)
- Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles
- Southwest Museum
Despite the large number of incorporated cities, most of the area of the county is unincorporated, and falls directly under the county government’s jurisdiction. There are 140 County-recognized unincorporated communities. The Board of Supervisors is their “city council” and the supervisor representing the area the “mayor.” County departments provide the municipal services. Some unincorporated areas may have town councils which provide advisory services to local supervisors and government officials.