Meet the Mapping L.A. Boundaries API

    Browse, download and reuse public maps of Southern California

    Los Angeles Times photographic archive, UCLA Library
    MAYOR SAM CAN: Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty at a 1965 press conference about Southeast Asia. His pointer performed what geographers call a point-in-polygon calculation.

    Today we an­nounce the launch of the Map­ping L.A. Bound­ar­ies API, a new site that al­lows any­one to quickly browse, down­load and re­use dozens of dif­fer­ent maps cov­er­ing South­ern Cali­for­nia.

    Vis­it bound­ar­ and pick any point in the re­gion. You’ll get back a list of areas it falls with­in, drawn from dozens of pub­lic data­sets our team has com­piled. The list in­cludes U.S. Census tracts, city bound­ar­ies, polit­ic­al dis­tricts, po­lice and fire jur­is­dic­tions, school zones and the L.A. County neigh­bor­hoods as­sembled, in part­ner­ship with Times read­ers, as part of our Map­ping L.A. pro­ject.

    You can then down­load any of those in­di­vidu­al shapes in GeoJSON, KML and SHP formats. You can also down­load en­tire bound­ary sets like, for in­stance, the LAPD’s 169 Ba­sic Car Areas.

    Be­sides quick look­ups and down­loads—good when you need to pull a fact for a story or gath­er the raw ma­ter­i­als for a simple graph­ic—the site is equipped with an API that al­lows pro­gram­mers to write code that in­ter­acts with the data­base. For in­stance, you could sub­mit a list of dozens of ad­dresses and get back the City Coun­cil dis­trict they fall with­in.

    Patches wel­come

    The site is far from fin­ished. We de­veloped it to meet our needs and hope to gradu­ally im­prove it as time goes on. But if it might be use­ful to you, we’d love your in­put.

    For in­stance:

    • Cur­rently ac­cess to the API is an­onym­ous and throttled. Should we de­vel­op cre­den­tials to re­gister users and provide more ful­some ac­cess?
    • Some of our data­sets are clipped at the coast­lines, oth­ers are not. Should we cre­ate a tax­onomy to re­cord and or­gan­ize each set’s coast?
    • What kind of doc­u­ment­a­tion would be use­ful?
    • What data sets should we add?
    • If a git re­pos­it­ory hold­ing the live site’s data and code were pub­lic, would you be in­ter­ested in con­trib­ut­ing to it?

    Opin­ions, sug­ges­tions and patches are al­ways wel­come. You can con­tact us via Git­Hub, Twit­ter or email. Or just leave a com­ment on this page.

    Much re­spect due

    This pro­ject was in­spired by sim­il­ar sites for Chica­go, Ok­lahoma, Canada and New York City.

    It is powered by a mod­i­fied ver­sion of django-bound­aryser­vice, an ex­cel­lent open-source pro­ject de­veloped by the Chica­go Tribune’s News Ap­plic­a­tions Team. We con­trib­uted a series of im­prove­ments to the code­base.

    Though the code that out­puts the data in GeoJSON, KML and SHP formats cur­rently resides in our fork of the main pro­ject. And we’ve also changed the ap­plic­a­tion to serve most files from a stat­ic archive on Amazon S3 to re­duce the load on the data­base, which is cur­rently hos­ted by a small serv­er in Amazon’s EC2 sys­tem.

    Readers: What’s your take? Share it here.


    Latest work

      About The Data Desk

      This page was created by the Data Desk, a team of reporters and Web developers in downtown L.A.