Los Angeles, city, Seat of Los Angeles county, southern California, U.S. It is the second-most populous city and metropolitan area (after New York City) in the United States. The city sprawls across a broad coastal plain situated between mountains and the Pacific Ocean; the much larger Los Angeles County, which encompasses the city, contains some 90 other incorporated cities, including Beverly Hills, Pasadena, and Long Beach. The county also encompasses two of the Channel Islands, Santa Catalina, and San Clemente; Mount San Antonio, familiarly known as Mount Baldy or Old Baldy, 10,046 feet (3,062 meters) high; more than 900 square miles (2,330 square km) of the desert; and 75 miles (120 km) of seacoast.
Since the city and the county are interwoven geographically, culturally, and economically, any consideration of Los Angeles must, to some degree, involve both entities. Population density around the metropolitan area varies greatly—as low as one person per square mile in mountainous areas and as high as 50,000 per square mile near downtown Los Angeles.
Los Angeles, the heart of southern California, became a world-class city very recently. At the start of the 20th century, it was considered merely “a large village.” This ascendancy is all the more remarkable considering that the city originally lacked some of the essential building blocks associated with cityhood, such as a natural harbour. Yet it overcame natural deficiencies and established itself as an important center of commerce, agriculture, tourism, and industry. For more than a century it has been indelibly associated with a benign climate, extensive leisure, and outdoor recreation, as well as the special aura of celebrity associated with Hollywood. The lifestyle of Los Angeles residents (who are called Angelenos) relies on the automobile, idealizes the single-family dwelling, and favors informality. With notable exceptions, the skyline is primarily horizontal rather than vertical. Los Angeles is a place of extraordinary ethnic and racial diversity, owing largely to immigration, and, like other world cities, it reflects a growing gap between rich and poor.
Downtown Los Angeles brings hundreds of thousands of Angelenos to its government and commercial offices and its cultural facilities. It has distinctive subareas—Civic Center, Music Center, Spring Street, Broadway, Chinatown, Olvera Street, Little Tokyo, Library Square, and the Staples Center. Although these areas are crowded during workdays, most are nearly deserted in the evenings. Bunker Hill has by and large the tallest, newest, and most-imposing buildings in the city. Downtown has never housed many factories and lost most of its major department stores, theatres, restaurants, and residences when the freeways were constructed; it also has relatively few residents. The wholesale marts for garments, jewelry, toys, furniture, flowers, and produce, however, are among the busiest enterprises anywhere in southern California.
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