The "Mapping L.A." project was launched in February '09 by a team at the Los Angeles Times, with this mission statement:
"Los Angeles is a city that remakes itself constantly, so drawing boundaries for communities can be perilous. City officials are happy to designate community names, but have never been willing to set borders. But, with your help, we at The Times have done just that.
Why draw lines? Consistency is one reason. If we report that an event occurred in Van Nuys orWestwood, we want people to know exactly where we mean. Beyond that, defining boundaries will allow us to give our readers a wealth of data, about demographics, income, crime, schools and more, for specific geographical areas."
The project at first glance is a large interactive map of Los Angeles, currently broken into 114 pieces -- each piece a neighborhood of the city. The map allows you to familiarize yourself with the neighborhoods, their geographical relation to one another, and really get a feel for how our massive, expansive city is laid out. The map also allows you to click-through on a neighborhood, which will then pull up a page with a more detailed map, tons of demographic info, and a section where readers can post their comments on "Life in [the chosen neighborhood]." A second tab on the same page allows you to look at all of the schools in the area, with statistics and links to each school's special "California Schools Guide" page (another seriously impressive Times online project).
The map is constantly changing, like the living city itself. As communities change, the map adapts, while also saving a version of itself -- this will produce (and is already producing) a long-range, detailed study of how L.A. changes over time, with available snapshots of each iteration. In all, the project is a fascinating, super-convenient resource; a great way to teach people about their communities, and engage discussions about everything from neighborhood geography to good restaurants. It's also, as I said already, just a cool place to nerd out for awhile. Try it, I dare you.