About the City Government

Form of Government

The City of Los Angeles is a Mayor-Council-Commission form of government, as originally adopted by voters of the City of Los Angeles, effective July 1, 1925 and reaffirmed by a new Charter effective July 1, 2000.  A Mayor, City Controller, and City Attorney are elected by City residents every four years. Fifteen City Council members representing fifteen districts are elected by the people for four-year terms, for a maximum of two terms. Members of Commissions are generally appointed by the Mayor, subject to the approval of the City Council.  General Managers of the various City departments are also appointed by the Mayor, subject to confirmation by the City Council. Most employees of the City are subject to the civil service provisions of the City Charter.

The basic law of the government of the City of Los Angeles is found in the City Charter, first adopted by a vote of the people in 1924, effective July 1, 1925, and subsequently amended from time to time. In 1999, the voters approved a new City Charter that addresses government in this new century. The Charter provides for a mayor-council type of municipal system, the Mayor being the executive branch and the Council the legislative. The governmental machinery consists of approximately 42 departments and bureaus which are headed by General Managers or advisory or controlling Boards or Commissions appointed by the Mayor subject to confirmation of the Council. The Board of Public Works is the only full-time board.  The new City Charter, effective July 2000, provided for the creation of a Citywide System of Neighborhood Councils. The goal of the Neighborhoods Councils is to promote public participation in City governance and decision-making process to create a government more responsive to local needs.

Founding and Incorporation

The first settlers of the City of Los Angeles consisted of 14 families numbering 44 individuals. The ceremonies founding the City took place on September 4, 1781. At that time, Colonel Felipe De Neve, who was then Governor of the Spanish Province of Alta California, officially used the name "El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles" or "The Town of the Queen of the Angels."

The City of Los Angeles was incorporated on April 4, 1850. At that time, it had a population of 1,610 (U.S. Census) and an area of 28 square miles. It did not have a graded street, a sidewalk, a water system, lights, nor a single public building of its own. Residents on Saturday morning swept or cleaned the street in front of their houses. Street lighting was simple, as owners of houses, which faced streets, were obligated to place a light at the door in front of their houses during the first two hours of darkness each night.

Los Angeles Today

Today, Los Angeles has a population of nearing four million people, an area of 465 square miles, 7,366 miles of streets, water and power brought from mountains hundreds of miles away, and thousands of publicly-owned structures of various types. The friendly lanterns that once hung at the door have been replaced with electrolier lights and utilitarian lights. Adobe houses have been replaced with modern buildings and residences, volunteer police and fire departments have been succeeded by highly trained, properly equipped, and well organized municipal forces, and mud flats have been dredged to become one of the world's busiest harbors at Wilmington and San Pedro.

Citizens' Interests

Your City government touches your life at more points more frequently than any other governmental agency, be it federal, state, or county. City government furnishes water, supplies electricity, provides ambulance, police, sanitation, and fire services, maintains streets, maintains parks and provides other essential services to citizens. In a very real sense, the City government is a huge corporation with nearly four million stockholders -- the second largest city in the United States. This City, in which you are a stockholder, is engaged in business exceeding several billion dollars a year.