Nation’s Most-Populous County Takes Center Stage

The vast jurisdiction of Los Angeles County, California.

The vast jurisdiction of Los Angeles County, California. Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

It’s easy to forget just how large Los Angeles is—not the City of Los Angeles, mind you, the County of Los Angeles.

LONG BEACH, Calif. — In Southern California, the City of Los Angeles is usually viewed as the region’s most dominant jurisdiction. And for good reason—L.A. is the nation’s second-largest city.

But don’t forget the County of Los Angeles, which, naturally, includes the City of Angels, plus so many other cities, including Long Beach, a municipality of 500,000 residents that’s larger than cities like Cleveland, Minneapolis, Miami and St. Louis.

L.A. County is the nation’s most-populous county jurisdiction, with more than 10.1 million people, which accounts for about 27 percent of California’s population. The county’s population is larger than many states, including North Carolina, Michigan, New Jersey and Virginia, just to name a few. If the unincorporated areas of L.A. County comprised their own city, the combined jurisdiction would have around 1 million residents—those residents depend on county-provided services, not city-provided services.

And while L.A. County not the largest U.S. county by land area—that honor goes to neighboring San Bernardino County—and doesn’t crack the list of the 10 largest counties by size, it is still among the largest anywhere, spanning a vast area that includes a long coastline, vast urbanized areas, mountain ranges, foothills, national forests, outlying islands, high desert landscapes and, as any L.A. area commuter can tell you, plenty of congested freeways.

This weekend, U.S. county government leaders have been meeting in Los Angeles County for the National Association of Counties 81st Annual Conference and Exposition to discuss some of their common challenges, compare notes and share ideas that can lead to solutions.

Although there aren’t many county governments that can stack up to L.A. County’s scale, the jurisdiction is nonetheless a great laboratory for others to examine county government services, operations, challenges and innovations.

“From the seemingly mundane, but critical, tasks of road repair, trash collection and building inspections, to fighting fires, performing surgeries and protecting our most vulnerable—people absolutely depend on the work we do,” L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe, who represents the 4th district, said in his State of the County Address last November.

Here are some stats from L.A. County that put its size in perspective.

  • 10.1 million: The approximate total population of Los Angeles County, California, the most populous county in the United States.
  • 88: The number of incorporated cities, the most populous being the City of Los Angeles (approximately 4.1 million residents), followed by the City of Long Beach (approximately 500,000 residents)
  • 4,084: The number of square miles the county covers.
  • 5: The number of members of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. (One of those supervisors is Hilda Solis, a former U.S. Labor secretary.)
  • 2.4 million: The number of residents each member of the Board of Supervisors represents.
  • 100,000: The number of employees who work for L.A. County
  • 35: The number of county departments.
  • $28.7 billion: The size of the Los Angeles County budget for the 2016-17 budget

Download our new ebook focused on U.S. county governments: “At the Center of Everything: The Current Challenges, Great Ideas and Big Issues Shaping U.S. County Governments.”

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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