Los Angeles is a city of suburbs at the heart of a wider agglomeration of over 16 million people; it is the second largest metropolitan region in the USA after New York. The city is growing at a rate of 10.1 people per hour – half the number of Cairo, but nearly five times that of London. Its Long Beach agglomeration is the 52nd fastest-growing in the world. LA’s urban growth is driven by a strong economy, based on a high industrial and port activity as well as the media and film industries. The city has grown horizontally, at relatively low residential densities: a collection of suburbs consisting mostly of detached single family homes. Recent immigration and geographic limits to expansion are causing pressure to accommodate more people within its boundaries. In contrast to the image of a lush city on the Californian coast, many communities in Los Angeles (particularly in the south) are deprived of open space. Only 10% of the city is allocated to green open spaces: primarily large parks away from higher density urban centres.

Private cars remain the prevalent transport mode; public transport serves only 10% of daily journeys. Inadequate public transport provision has clear social-justice implications: Los Angeles’s poor residents rely on the bus system. But the city is investing in its public transport infrastructure: bus rapid transit, light rail and subway. In addition, it is strengthening a freight rail link along the Alameda corridor, connecting the region’s two ports with its downtown area. Prominent public buildings built over the past ten years form a new civic focus in the central city; plans are underway to regenerate the downtown district.