Los Angeles in southern California is the second largest city in the United States after New York City. It covers 1,202 square kilometers (464 square miles), making it one of the world’s largest cities in area. The city population is about 4,000,000.
The city covers a broad coastal plain between the Pacific Ocean and the San Gabriel Mountains. The climate is mild throughout the year, but the city suffers from smog. In 1989 a 20-year plan was introduced to reduce smog levels by controlling the emission of smog-forming gases from motor vehicles and factories in the city. Also, improved public transport reduced the number of cars on the road.
The main business and shopping center is downtown Los Angeles (L.A.), an area near the eastern edge of the city. It includes the place where the city first started. This area, including the Old Plaza (a square) and Olvera Street, now contains colourful Mexican stalls, shops, and restaurants. Downtown L.A. also includes the city’s tallest skyscrapers, and City Hall and the Music Center for the Performing Arts, both parts of the Civic Center. Near by is Little Tokyo, a Japanese neighbourhood, and Chinatown, the home of the Chinese businesses and restaurants.
Los Angeles has many other business and shopping districts and so its downtown area is not quite as important as in most other American cities. Another leading region west of the downtown area includes Wilshire Boulevard, which contains many modern buildings and elegant shops; Hollywood, home of the film and television industries; and a famous street, called Sunset Boulevard or Sunset Strip, which has many nightclubs. West L.A. also includes the independent residential community of Beverly Hills, where many film stars live. Bordering Beverly Hills is Century City, a huge business and shopping complex. Further west is the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). The Santa Monica Mountains border West Los Angeles to the north. North of these mountains is the San Fernando Valley, where more than a million live.
South of the downtown area is the coastal plain where the University of Southern California is situated. On the coast are the artificial port of Los Angeles and the adjoining Long Beach harbour, another important port. The harbour is home to the famous British transatlantic liner Queen Mary, now a museum and hotel, as well as to the millionaire aviator, manufacturer, and recluse Howard Hughes’s Spruce Goose, the largest plane of its time, that only flew once (in1947). West of the port of Los Angeles is the Palos Verdes peninsula, where Marineland, the world’s largest oceanarium, has been built. Another beach community, north of the peninsula, is Marina del Rey. It is the world’s largest pleasure craft harbour.
Other major attractions are the Hollywood Bowl outdoor concert arena, and Universal Studios, where visitors can see the sets and backlots from well-known films and TV series.
To the southeast, beyond the city’s borders, lies Anaheim, which is the site of the great amusement park Disneyland.
Los Angeles has people from many areas. Latinos (people of Latin American origin, especially from Mexico) make up about 28 percent of the population, blacks 17 percent, and Asians 7 percent. Most of the others are of European descent. The city has experienced racial tension, arising largely from high unemployment among Latinos and blacks, and in 1965 and 1992 there was widespread rioting.
The city has a varied economy. It is the second leading manufacturing city in the United States, and has a major aerospace industry. Although film-making has declined since the 1940s, Hollywood still produces films, including many for television, and the film industry remains a major money earner for the city. Los Angeles is also a centre of the American popular music industry.
Petroleum is extracted and refined in the city. Clothing manufacture, electronics, carassembly, printing and publishing, furniture, chemicals and food processing are all important. Tourism is another leading industry. The port of Los Angeles is the leading US port on the Pacific coast, and Los Angeles International Airport is one of the world’s busiest. Most people own cars and the city has an extensive network of multi-laned freeways. A new underground railway system, the first section of which opened in 1993, and the better rail and bus services for commuters from outside Los Angeles have helped to ease congestion on the city’s roads.
Spanish settlers founded the city in 1781. They called it El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles (“the Town of Our Lady the queen of the Angels”). It became a US city in 1850, when it had 1,610 people. By 1900, the population was more than 100,000. Because of its warm, sunny climate, it was chosen in the early 20th century as the centre of the US film industry. By 1945, the city had more than 1.5 million people; by 1982 it was second largest city in the United States of America. Los Angeles is located in an area subject to earthquakes. In 1994 an earthquake to the northwest of the city caused considerable damage.