Observing Los Angeles

Project maps 43,123 pools in the LA area (and misses tons)

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 2.36.13 PM.jpgFascinating Column One in the LA Times this morning about two researchers with time on their hands. As Bob Pool tells it, German graphic designer Benedikt Gross and MIT research assistant Joseph Lee were inspired by the blue flashes of swimming pools you can see on approach to LAX from the east. They used public sources to build an atlas of more than 43,000 pools in the LA coastal basin. They didn't include the hottest, most poolish swath of Los Angeles proper — the San Fernando Valley — and who knows what else they left out. The story is meant to be more fun than rigorous, but there are some interesting findings.

Their research, which fills 6,000 pages in 74 printed volumes, concludes that the typical swimming pool in Los Angeles is oval-shaped and measures 16 feet, 4 inches by 33 feet, 6 inches, though there are numerous oddly shaped pools squeezed into backyards.

The atlas found that Beverly Hills has 2,481 — the highest per capita in the region. Long Beach boasts 2,859 pools, Rancho Palos Verdes 2,592. They could not come up with a total for the city of Los Angeles, because their count left out the San Fernando Valley, although the Brentwood section of the city has 1,920.

But two other Los Angeles neighborhoods have no backyard pools at all: Watts and Florence. Of the four public pools in area parks, three were apparently closed for the season and empty when the satellite photo was taken, said Catarah Hampshire, a spokeswoman with the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation.

When their analysis of the pools was complete, Lee and Gross spent $3,700 to publish the 74 volumes. So far, only one complete set has been printed; Gross has it in London.

Like a lot of data wonks, they threw everything into the pot — including the notoriously flawed Megan's Law database of sex offenders (which the Times somehow calls a "list of registered child molesters.") The finding? "It seems that very few sex offenders live on property with pools."

There's a related video on Vimeo:

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