A slice of my favorite city of Los Angeles map. View the whole thing.
Today is the centennial of, arguably, the most significant public vote in the history of Los Angeles. The ranchers and townsfolk of the lightly populated San Fernando Valley voted overwhelmingly to join the small city of grand ambitions on the far side of the mountains — Los Angeles. In one stroke, Los Angeles more than doubled in size. The San Fernando Valley is large enough to hold all of Boston, San Francisco and Washington D.C. Los Angeles got territory, about 170 square miles in all, but not very much new population. The election counted just 706 votes: 681 for annexation, 25 opposed.
As a result of the decision to be annexed, the Valley's farms, dairies and ranches — and newly erected startup towns — gained access to the Owens River water that had begun flowing two years earlier down the aqueduct built by LA's chief water engineer, William Mulholland. The public vote to authorize construction of the aqueduct is probably the only other vote that comes close to shaping the Los Angeles we know.
The annexation event is commemorated on what has been my favorite map of Los Angeles. This is the official Annexation and Detachment Map kept by the office of the city engineer that shows 292 separate transactions which, taken together, form the city limits that we know today. The original Spanish pueblo of Los Angeles was, what, about 28 square miles. The city dates itself to 1781, and since then it has been swallowing up land in all directions (minus a few small deletions.) The classic map I have long admired has undergone a freshening up for the web since Eric Garcetti became mayor, but you can still see the holes in the original San Fernando Valley annexation tract. The farming towns of Lankershim (later to be re-dubbed North Hollywood) and Owensmouth (now Canoga Park) did not come into Los Angeles in the great annexation vote of March 29, 1915. They didn't join until later.
The annexation map looked much different — less colorful! — when the city drew all of its imperial acquisitions in one place in 1918. To see this one bigger, go to raremaps.com.
My San Fernando Valley history website is currently offline — and my book is out of print — but you can still find "San Fernando Valley: America's Suburb" in libraries and for sale online sometimes. Here's the excerpt I posted in 2013 around the centennial of Mulholland's aqueduct opening: Part 1, Part 2