Who owns Los Angeles?
January 28, 2015 9:59 PM   Subscribe

Using publicly available data and open source tools to find answers to questions about Los Angeles. What are the most expensive pieces of land in LA County? Which of these has the most expensive “improvement”, or building? What is the assessed value of Dodger Stadium? What are the most expensive cities by area in LA County? Who owns the most land? What percentage of the land in the city of LA is devoted to public space? where is the geographic center of LA County?

Rob Rhinehart has written a short guide on how anyone can answer these types of questions using freely available data.
posted by jjwiseman (10 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Cool! I'm surprised the Westside VA isn't on that list.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:14 AM on January 29, 2015

I took a little detour over to Loving County Texas. That's an interesting story too.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 12:31 AM on January 29, 2015

"I was disappointed with how difficult it was to obtain this data initially and the poor quality it came in. Governments and constituencies of all sizes stand to benefit enormously from investment in modern software tools and stronger commitments to transparency."

Which is why it ain't gonna happen. That and money.
posted by blucevalo at 5:58 AM on January 29, 2015

I'm surprised the Westside VA isn't on that list.

Property owned by the federal government isn't taxed, and likely shows up in the county assessor's system with a value of zero.
posted by hwyengr at 6:45 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Kind of nuts to think all that city data is sitting in a Microsoft Access database. Pretty fun and interesting analysis of the data though, I love this post.
posted by mathowie at 9:19 AM on January 29, 2015

The blog post touches on a couple things that have been happening recently that I think are pretty neat, especially in combination.

The first is open data, and specifically the trend toward governments making data more accessible. Not all governments, and not all data, but there's definitely a trend. Just the fact that www.data.gov exists is pretty great. There are all the massive, proprietary datasets in the hands of big corporations, and there are some big examples of crowd-sourced data, like Wikipedia and OpenStreetMap, but the idea of big government databases opened up is another thing again. As the blog post mentions, how amazing would it be to do these sorts of queries for anywhere in the country, or across the country: e.g. "What non-government organization owns the most property/most valuable property in the United States?"

The other is amateur mapping, and more generally amateur GIS. GIS is no longer a thing that requires lots of training and tools that cost tends of thousands of dollars. It's being democratized, in the form of open source software, open data, and lots of resources for learning. I'd love to see a mefi post on the maptime phenomenon, which has dozens of chapters around the world all helping people learn how to make maps (and "open the doors of cartographic possibility").
posted by jjwiseman at 12:13 PM on January 29, 2015

This happened a bunch of years ago in NYC with propertyshark.com, whose stated goal was to share tax information. I was kind of surprised this wasn't already in place.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:22 PM on January 29, 2015

This guy is an SQL wizard.
posted by nathanm at 7:49 PM on January 29, 2015

They should do this with Silicon Valley. Of course it consists of many cities, towns, and unincorporated areas, so it might be a lot more difficult. But I think they'd be rewarded with a lot more interesting results (many Silicon Valley companies are on leased land acquired a 1/2 century ago from farmers by a handful of very farseeing and now quite wealthy individuals).
posted by eye of newt at 8:34 PM on January 29, 2015

"Policy makers in many countries are debating whether it is worthwhile to open their National LiDAR holdings – collected with tax-payer money – for free (or cheap) open access or whether they should continue to restrict access and charge potential users of the data to recoup expenses."

From Restricting Access to National LiDAR: Is it worth it?
posted by jjwiseman at 10:01 PM on January 31, 2015

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