The City of Los Angeles, also known simply as L.A. or informally as the City of Angels, is the second-largest city in the United States in terms of population, as well as one of the most important cultural, economic, scientific and entertainment centers in the world.
It was incorporated as a city in California on April 4, 1850 and is the county seat and the largest city in Los Angeles County. Los Angeles serves as the core and most important city of the sprawling Southern California urban area which counts nearly 18 million residents. The city is also large by geographic standards since it sprawls over more than 465 square miles (1,200 square kilometers), making it larger than either New York City or Chicago in area.
Los Angeles is also one of the most cosmopolitan places in the world, as well as a vanguard of creativity and innovation, since it is home to individuals from virtually every nation on Earth. In addition, Los Angeles has hosted two Olympic Games, in 1932 and 1984, and is home to world-renowned scientific and cultural institutions. People have always been attracted to the world-class city for its balmy weather, unique and vibrant lifestyle, high-velocity energy, Pacific Rim Gateway status, and the opportunity to realize the "American Dream."
The Los Angeles coastal area was occupied by the Tongva (or Gabrieleños), Chumash, and even earlier Native American peoples for thousands of years. The Spanish arrived in 1542, when Juan Cabrillo visited the area.
In 1769, Gaspar de Portola led an expedition across southern California with Franciscan Padres Junipero Serra and Juan Crespi. Portola named a "beautiful river" they discovered "El Río de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula," "The River of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the Porciuncula," porciúncula meaning "little portion." Fr. Crespi had picked out a site along the river for a mission, but in 1771 Fr. Serra had the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel built near Whittier Narrows. After a 1776 flood, the mission was moved to its present site in San Gabriel.
On September 4, 1781, 44 Mexican settlers set out from the San Gabriel Mission to establish a town at Fr. Crespi's Porciuncula River site. The town was duly named El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles sobre El Río Porciuncula, ("The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels on the River Porciuncula"). It remained a small ranch town for decades. Today the outline of the Pueblo is preserved in a Historic Monument familiarly called Olvera Street.
Mexico's independence from Spain was achieved in the 1820s, but the greatest change took place in present-day Montebello after the Battle of Rio San Gabriel in 1847, which decided the fate of Los Angeles. Americans gained control after they flooded into California during the Gold Rush and secured the subsequent admission of California into the United States.
Los Angeles was incorporated as a city in 1850. Railroads arrived when the Southern Pacific completed its line to Los Angeles in 1876. Oil was discovered in 1892, and by 1923, Los Angeles was supplying one-quarter of the world's petroleum.
Even more important to the city's growth was water. In 1913, William Mulholland completed the aqueduct that assured the city's growth and led to the annexation by the City of Los Angeles, starting in 1915, of dozens of neighboring communities without water supplies of their own. A somewhat fictionalized account of the Owens Valley Water War can be found in the motion picture Chinatown.
In the 1920s the motion picture and aviation industries both flocked to Los Angeles and helped to further develop it. The city was the proud host of the 1932 Summer Olympics which brought along the development of Baldwin Hills, the original Olympic Village. World War II brought new growth and prosperity to the city, although many of its Japanese-American residents were transported to internment camps for the duration of the war. This period also saw the arrival of the German exiles, which included such notables as Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht and Lion Feuchtwanger. The postwar years saw an even greater boom as urban sprawl expanded into the San Fernando Valley.
The Watts riots in 1965 showed the nation the deep racial divisions that the city faced. The XXIII Olympiad was successfully hosted in Los Angeles in 1984. The city was once again tested by the 1992 Los Angeles riots and the 1994 Northridge earthquake and a city-wide vote on San Fernando Valley and Hollywood secession was defeated in 2002. Now, urban redevelopment and gentrification has been taking place at a furious pace in various parts of the city, most notably Downtown, which is poised to be the home of many more spectacular cultural and entertainment institutions than ever before.
The people of Los Angeles are known as Angelenos. L.A. can truly be described as a "world city" (Alpha World City) — that is, it has one of the largest and most diverse populations of any municipality anywhere. It has the second largest percentage of foreign-born citizens of any major U.S. city, after Miami. The Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the number one entry for immigrants in the country. The Hispanic and Asian American populations are growing particularly quickly — the Asian American population is the second largest of any city in the U.S and the city contains the largest concentration of Los Angeles County's 1.4 million Asians. Los Angeles hosts the largest populations of Armenians, Cambodians, Filipinos, Guatemalans, Hungarians, Israelis, Koreans, Mexicans, Salvadorans, Thais, and Vietnamese in the world outside of their respective countries. Los Angeles is also home to the largest populations of Persians (Iranians) and Japanese living in the U.S., and has one of the largest Native American populations in the country.
Los Angeles is home to people from more than 140 countries, who speak at least 224 different languages. Ethnic enclaves like Chinatown, Historic Filipinotown, Koreatown, Little Armenia, Little Ethiopia, Little Persia, Little India, Little Tokyo, and Thai Town give testimony to the polyglot character of Los Angeles and its unique diversity.
Great restaurants of all types abound in Los Angeles, thus the city is a perfect place for exquisite dining. Many celebrity chefs are also based in the city, the most notable being Wolfgang Puck. The nightlife in Los Angeles is unmatched, with an immense array of bars, clubs, lounges, and other venues that cater to every taste imaginable. Nighttime hotspots include places such as Downtown Los Angeles, Silver Lake, Hollywood, and West Hollywood, which is the home of the world-famous Sunset Strip. Furthermore, the Los Angeles area also boasts an unrivaled shopping scene. Anything can be bought in the city; some of the best shopping areas include Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Third Street Promenade and Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, Old Town Pasadena, the Hollywood and Highland complex, the Beverly Center, the Grove, Melrose Avenue, and Robertson Boulevard.
Los Angeles is widely referred to as the entertainment capital of the world. The largest and most famous entertainment industries in Los Angeles are television and film production, with the music business and the arts being huge industries as well. The city also offers several cultural institutions, and some of the most notable include the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Getty Center and Villa, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), the Museum of Neon Art (MONA), the Norton Simon Museum, the Museum of Tolerance, the Skirball Cultural Center, the Latino Museum of History, Art, and Culture, the George C. Page Museum, the Japanese American National Museum, the California Science Center, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. There are also numerous smaller art galleries throughout the area, most noticeably in West Hollywood and Santa Monica. In regards to the performing arts, there are many venues such the Music Center of Los Angeles County (consisting of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, home of the Los Angeles Opera, the Ahmanson Theatre, which hosts big Broadway productions, and the Mark Taper Forum), the Ford Amphitheatre, the Greek Theatre, the Hollywood Bowl, the Pantages Theatre, and the new home of the Academy Awards, the Kodak Theatre. The city also has many smaller theaters such as the famous Actors Gang Theatre or the Coronet Theatre. There are also many architectural landmarks such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall, home to the world-renowned Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and the Bradbury Building.
There is also a great rennaissance of downtown Los Angeles as an arts and entertainment district, with the restoration and development of historic buildings, Broadway theatres, and businesses such as restaurants and clubs. Many Angelenos are also migrating there to live, with the construction of hundreds of new penthouses and lofts.
In addition, the region is home to many well-known theme parks one such as Universal Studios Hollywood, as well as many famous beaches such as those in Santa Monica, Venice, and Malibu. Because the city is the center of the film industry, movie theaters also abound in the metro area, with the most famous being Grauman's Chinese Theatre, which hosts many film premieres, and the El Capitan Theatre. As a major global metropolis, Los Angeles has also evolved a unique culture of glamour, opulence, and prosperity that is widely portrayed in popular media.
Residents of the city of Los Angeles are served by the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) and its branch locations. Residents of the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County and various cities within the county are served by the County of Los Angeles Public Library The LAPL is funded by voter-approved bond and tax levy packages. The Central Library is located in downtown Los Angeles and has been recognized as a National Historic Site.