Los Angeles County has the largest population of any county in the nation, exceeded by only eight states--it would be between Ohio and Michigan in terms of population size. Approximately 27 percent of California's residents live here. More than 1 million of the 10.4 million residents live in unincorporated areas, whose municipal services are provided by the County. The other 9.3 million live in 88 cities, located throughout a 4,084-square-mile area. If it were a nation, the County would have the 19th largest economy in the world.
Watch the video below for an overview of everything LA County is and does.
For a history of LA County, click here.
For a current map of LA County, including its cities and Supervisorial Districts, click here.
The Board of Supervisors, created by the state Legislature in 1852, is the governing body. Five supervisors are elected to four-year terms by voters within their respective districts. The Board has executive, legislative and quasi-judicial roles. It appoints all department heads other than the assessor, district attorney and sheriff, which are elective positions. The Board has delegated its role in selecting all but a few of the department heads to the chief executive officer, but still must approve appointments.
As a subdivision of the state, the County is charged with providing numerous services that affect the lives of all residents. Traditional mandatory services include law enforcement, fire and lifeguard protection, property assessment, tax collection, public health protection, public social services and relief to indigents. Among the specialized services are flood control, water conservation, parks and recreation, and many diversified cultural activities, including County libraries, the Music Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, the LA County Museum of Art, the Natural History Museum, the John Anson Ford Theatres, the La Brea Tar Pits, and more!
There are 88 cities within the County, each with its own city council. All of the cities, in varying degrees, contract with the County to provide municipal services. Thirty-seven contract for nearly all of their municipal services. The County provides some services for all residents, like public health protection, public social services, property assessment and vital records.
More than 65 percent of the County – 2,649 square miles – is unincorporated. For the 1 million people living in those areas, the Board of Supervisors is their "city council" and County departments provide the municipal services.
Want to know if you live in a city or unincorporated area and who your representatives are? Click here.
LA County has a budget of over $25 billion. About 85% of the budget is for mandated fixed costs to pay for social services and healthcare programs. These are restricted funds that must be used for specific services. Only about 15% of the budget is flexible money that can be spent on things like public safety, capital improvements, cultural institutions, and parks and recreation.
Unlike some other counties and cities, LA County has budgeted conservatively over the years and put money away in reserves when times were good and adjusted its pension system for new hires as conditions required. During the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the County did not have to furlough or lay off a single employee, and its pension system is separate from the states', giving it more flexibility to create a multi-tiered system that serves as a model for other local governments.