​​ Los Angeles hits a milestone: 4 million people and counting

Downtown Los Angeles is viewed from Hilltop Park in Signal Hill. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

By Shelby Grad
May 2, 2017
Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles gained 42,470 people between 2016 and 2017.


That might not seem like a lot, but it was enough to push the city’s population over the 4-million mark — to 4,041,707, according to a new state report.

The milestone isn’t much of a surprise, given that other studies already put the city’s population at 4 million. But it’s a mark that underscores Los Angeles’ place as the dominant population center in California.

The rest of the Top 10:
San Diego: 1,406,318
San Jose: 1,046,079
San Francisco: 874,228
Fresno: 525,832
Sacramento: 493,025
Long Beach: 480,173
Oakland: 426,074
Bakersfield: 383,512
Anaheim: 358,546

Here’s a look at L.A.’s path to 4 million people:


1950
Population: 1.9 million


California was in the midst of post-World War II suburbanization. Much of the city was developed before the war, but the 1950s saw vast housing tracts going up in the San Fernando Valley.

Milestones: Los Angeles came out of World War II poised to become an economic powerhouse, thanks in part to defense spending.

Tract homes line the streets of Encino in 1950.
Tract homes line the streets of Encino in 1950. (Associated Press)

1960
Population: 2.4 million


As the move to more suburban-like neighborhoods continued, the city’s population surged. Signs of decline in the central city, however, were becoming apparent.

Milestones: Disneyland opened in Anaheim, while the Cold War fueled defense spending in Southern California.

City Hall is seen beyond the Bunker Hill neighborhood in 1960.
City Hall is seen beyond the Bunker Hill neighborhood in 1960. (File photo / Los Angeles Times)

1970
Population: 2.8 million


By 1970, downtown L.A. had started to look more vertical, with the rise of skyscrapers the decade before.

Milestones: A freeway system connected Southern California in dramatic ways, and the Manson Family murders shocked the world.

L.A. appears covered in smog in 1973.
L.A. appears covered in smog in 1973. (Fitzgerald Whitney / Los Angeles Times)

1980
Population: 2.9 million


The 1980 census found whites made up less than half of the city’s residents, making L.A. a majority minority city. While the shift had been predicted, it was notable. A Times story on the findings noted that “Hispanics” — already 28% of the population — were projected to become the largest single ethnic group in the city by 1984.

Milestones: A new skyline began to form in downtown L.A. and other areas, notably Century City; Tom Bradley was elected the city’s first black mayor.

Shoppers fill a sidewalk in downtown Los Angeles in 1980.
Shoppers fill a sidewalk in downtown Los Angeles in 1980. (Larry Davis / Los Angeles Times)

1990
Population: 3.4 million


The 1980s saw a boom that took many experts by surprise. It was fueled by rising Latino and Asian populations, both through immigration and births.

By 1991, Latinos were the majority group in L.A.

Milestones: Los Angeles hosted the Olympics in 1984, and the city was riveted by the Lakers’ “Showtime” era. L.A. got a gleaming skyline, while income and racial disparities became more evident.

Marc Anthony entertains a downtown L.A. crowd in the 1990s.
Marc Anthony entertains a downtown L.A. crowd in the 1990s. (Bob Carey / Los Angeles Times)

2000
Population: 3.6 million


Growth slowed again in the 1990s, as the region was hit by a severe recession, riots and the Northridge earthquake.

Milestones: Defense downsizing and corporate consolidation sent the city into a tailspin that was worsened by riots and natural disasters.

Throngs of fans crowd the streets during a Lakers parade in 2000.
Throngs of fans crowd the streets during a Lakers parade in 2000. (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)

2010
Population: 3.7 million


The most recent full census found modest population growth marked by continued increases in L.A.’s diversity.

Milestones: Gentrification began to take hold in downtown and other areas. Downtown’s rebirth symbolized by opening of Disney Hall.

The exterior of Disney Hall is seen on Aug. 15, 2013.
The exterior of Disney Hall is seen on Aug. 15, 2013. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

2017
Population: 4 million


The region’s population has continued to increase, but a lack of housing is becoming a bigger issue. While L.A. is adding more and denser housing, experts say it’s not keeping pace with demand.

Milestones: Downtown’s skyline is being reshaped by new skyscrapers, and the L.A. River has become a destination, with restoration and parkland additions. 

An aerial view shows downtown Los Angeles in 2010.
An aerial view shows downtown Los Angeles in 2010. (John W. Adkisson / Los Angeles Times)

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