The great Chinese poet and philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” Here at L.A. Weekly, we pride ourselves on being both.
That's why we love lists about Los Angeles so much. We like to know where we stand, how we fit into the vast and often stupefying fabric that is the United States of America.
Here, then, are 10 lists that helped explain L.A. in 2015. They're in no particular order. But they're numbered. But the numbers don't mean anything. But it's a list.
10) The least-sprawling metropolitan area
Least sprawling? Gah?
It's true. L.A.'s famous sprawl isn't quite so sprawling, according to an NYU study published earlier this year. In it, the researcher writes: “Although Los Angeles is often popularly associated with sprawl because of its pollution and traffic, its sheer lack of very-low-density development places it atop all U.S. metro areas.” The place is so dense, the study found, that there are no non-dense sectors left in which to spread out and take up the greenery, which is a key definition of sprawl.
Or as our own Dennis Romero explains: “Los Angeles County lacks relatively low-population communities even in outlying areas, a cornerstone of sprawl. In other words, L.A. is all killer, no filler.”
9) The eighth worst-run city
This one comes from WalletHub, a website that — well, I'm not really sure what they do, aside from bombard reporters with lists. Lists such as the “Best & Worst Cities to Celebrate New Year’s Eve,” “States Most Vulnerable to Identity Theft and Fraud,” “Fattest States in America” (they're pretty much all in the South), and so on.
This one claims that out of 65 major American cities, L.A. is the eight worst-run. What does that mean? Well, WalletHub tried to quantify each city's return on investment by breaking down three categories — education, police and parks. For education, it looked at test scores divided by the money L.A. spent on education. For police, it looked at crime rate per money spent on the police. And for parks, it looked at total acreage divided by money spent on parks.
L.A. actually comes out looking pretty OK on parks — 12th best — pretty poor on the other two categories, compared with other cities.
So yeah, this is basically a made-up metric, but it feels right, what with our Los Angeles City Council — the highest paid in the country — devoting much of its time to doling out honorary certificates, wearing funny socks and trying to get pets adopted.
8) The worst traffic
No surprise here. According to the traffic-measuring website TomTom, Los Angeles has the worst traffic in the country, and the 10th-worst traffic in the entire world — worse than any city in China or Western Europe.
No wonder six out of seven of the worst highway bottleneck stretches in the country are right here in L.A. Fortunately, the very worst bottleneck is in Chicago — suck on that, Windy City!
7) The second-worst roads
Speaking of driving, when it comes to road quality, we're not the worst!
We're No. 2! We're No. 2!
The city with the distinction of having the absolute worst — i.e., bumpiest, cracked, pothole-laden — roads in America is not some aging Northeast rust-belt city. The distinction belongs to that other California city to the north of us, what's it called? Oh, right, San Francisco. They've got a famous bridge. Summers are cold there, so I hear.
San Francisco eked out the win over Los Angeles by a single percentage point, according to a study by TRIP, a transportation research group.
6) The best university – in the world!
Right, then, let's have some good news, shall we?
The U.K.-based Times Higher Education ranks World Universities by 13 performance indicators, including reputation, teacher-to-student ratio and research income. Coming in at No. 1 — for the fifth year in a row — was not Oxford, nor Harvard, nor Stanford, nor Yale, but the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, better known as Caltech.
5) The seventh-highest unemployment rate
The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked every city in America with a population of more than 1 million people by unemployment rate, and Los Angeles came in at No. 45. Or seventh-highest.
The L.A. economy is certainly on the upswing, but our recovery continues to lag behind other big cities The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metropolitan area's unemployment rate of 5.5 percent beat out such dystopias as Riverside (6.4 percent), Detroit (6.3 percent) and New Orleans (6.2 percent) but lags behind Baltimore and Atlanta (each with 5.4 percent).
We're getting beat by Bodymore, Murderland? Ugh.
4) The ninth-highest average rents
There are ton of websites out there ranking things such as average home prices and average rental prices, and they're all a bit different, depending on the day or month or hour. This particular ranking comes from Zumper's National Rent Report, released in August.
According to Zumper, the average price for a 1-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles is $1,750. That's a hefty price tag, but looks a lot better when you compare it with San Francisco (that word sounds so familiar), which came in at No. 1 with a coronary-inducing $3,500, exactly double L.A.'s average.
New York came in second with $3,100. Four California cities made the top 10, including San Francisco, San Jose at No. 4 (haha tech nerds), Oakland at No. 6 and L.A., at No. 9.
3) The least affordable city in which to buy a home
If you think renting's bad, try buying. While L.A.'s home prices aren't quite as high as the likes of New York and San Francisco, if you factor in the lower average wages in Los Angeles, things look even more grim. A recent UCLA study did just that, and concluded that Los Angeles County is the least affordable place in the country in which to buy a home.
L.A. County has the lowest home-ownership rate — just 46 percent — of any metropolitan city in the nation. The reason, according to the UCLA study, is two-fold: really, really high prices on the one hand, and income inequality on the other. That is, all the rich folks in L.A. buying up the land, which inflates real estate prices for everyone. The average Los Angeles income, meanwhile, lags far behind such cities as San Francisco and New York.
2) The most police-shooting deaths of anywhere in America
The country's highest-profile police shootings may have been in Ferguson and New York, but in 2015, LAPD officers killed more people — rightly or wrongly — than any other police department in the country.
The Guardian has been keeping track of all fatalities at the hands of police in the United States this year. So far, the total is up to 1,077. Twenty of those deaths were at the hands of the LAPD. The next highest, Houston, had 16, followed by much smaller Indianapolis, with 10.
That's why Melina Abdullah, a prominent spokesperson for Black Lives Matter, calls LAPD “the most murderous police force in the country.”
1) The most chronically homeless residents anywhere in America
According to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department, Los Angeles has more chronically homeless people sleeping on its streets than any other city in the country.
And it's especially bad lately. Since 2013, the chronic homeless population has grown 55 percent. According to the L.A. Times:
Mike Neely, a commissioner with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, said the city had fallen behind on building affordable housing.
“We're working very hard to get these units developed, but man,” Neely said. “Who is taking up all the units are the millennials, the middle-class and upper-middle-class individuals.”
The response from City Hall on its track record on affordable housing has been astonishingly muted. Whereas New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to spend $2.6 billion to combat homelessness, Mayor Eric Garcetti plans to spend just $100 million. And then there was this lovely bit of Garcetti-ness:
Two months ago, Garcetti stood on the steps of City Hall next to council members as they announced their intention “to declare the homeless crisis an emergency.”
The power to declare an emergency lies with the mayor, not the City Council. Although Garcetti considers homelessness “an emergency situation” requiring substantial resources, he never committed to the formal declaration, Garcetti spokeswoman Connie Llanos said Tuesday.
Garcetti might issue an emergency declaration at some point in the future, Llanos said. In the meantime, his office is waiting on more information from the city attorney.
“It's not about a technical definition of a state of emergency, which he never promised,” Llanos said in a written statement. “He stood in support of council's action, which he still supports and will sign when he receives — as we continue to look at all options available.”
All options available — except for actually spending money, or doing anything to help the tens of thousands of homeless sleeping on the streets tonight.