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Secession Movement in Los Angeles
Three Areas of the City Consider Breaking Away

audio icon Listen to Andy Bowers' report.

April 29, 2002 -- Three areas of Los Angeles -- Hollywood, the Harbor area and the huge San Fernando Valley -- are considering seceding from the city to form their own independent governments. Advocates of secession say smaller equals better.

"It's a question of what is the proper size of local government. We just don't get the proper services that other, smaller cities are getting."

Richard Close, Valley VOTE

And it might actually happen, as NPR's Andy Bowers reports. Polls show that close to half the city's voters support secession. By year's end, if they prevail, the nation's second largest city could cease to exist in its current form.

Secession advocates in each of the three areas -- which together make up nearly half the city's population -- say they receive less-than-adequate services from the city, simply because Los Angeles is just too large and unwieldy to manage.

The San Fernando Valley, with more than a third of the city's residents and nearly half its land mass, would become the nation's sixth-largest city if it were to secede. What was left of Los Angeles would move from second to third -- or to fourth if the other two areas broke off. Once a white, conservative bastion, the Valley is increasingly multi-ethnic, especially Latino. It contains 1.4 million people.

Richard Close, head of the pro-secession group Valley VOTE, says it comes down to "a question of what is the proper size of local government. We just don't get the proper services that other, smaller cities are getting."

Secession advocates in Hollywood, with about 250,000 residents, say the same. "Welcome to Couch City," says Gene LaPietra, head of Hollywood VOTE. "That's what the locals refer to it as. Because, on any given day, you can find dozens of couches all over the sidewalks here… It's part of the neglect and part of the frustration that the people of Hollywood have been feeling for the last 50 years."

The Harbor area, connected to the city by a long, narrow strip of land, is much smaller than either of the other two breakaway areas. But its secession would pose a big problem: Ownership of the lucrative Port of Los Angeles would likely stay with the city, leaving a new Harbor City on financially shaky ground.

Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn opposes secession, and has raised $5 million to fight it. He and other opponents say that being part of the nation's second-largest city carries clout that smaller cities just don't have. "When you're from the city of Los Angeles, that says you're big right off the bat, and you need to be listened to," he says.

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Other Resources

Valley VOTE

Hollywood VOTE

Harbor VOTE

One Los Angeles, an anti-secession group

A map showing several areas of Los Angeles that were considering whether to secede last year