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Charter of the County of Los Angeles

Includes Amendments Ratified by the Voters through March 5, 2002

Charter of the County of Los Angeles - Annotated Edition

Historical Background

Prior to 1911, California counties were essentially only agencies to discharge state functions. In the early 1900s, however, a nationwide movement emerged for counties to exercise the same rights of self-government as those by cities. Hiram W. Johnson, who was elected Governor of California in 1910 by campaigning on populist calls for less centralization of government, convinced state legislators to bring before voters a state constitutional amendment that gave counties the means to adopt charters for county home-rule. In the special election of October 11, 1911, California voters approved that amendment and it immediately took effect.

Each county board of supervisors, empowered until that time only to carry out state dictates, were made responsible to brings nominees before their voters to form a 15-member committee to draft a county charter. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, for their part, enlisted the leading local nonpartisan organization, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, to lead the process. By late spring of 1912, the chamber had formed a nominating convention and assembled a roster of nominees for submission to voters. The election was held on May 14, 1912 and 15 nominees were approved by voters. As intended by the chamber, the committee represented a broad spectrum of Los Angeles County, politically and occupationally. The committee consisted of seven progressives, four republicans, two democrats and two socialists. Occupationally, the committee consisted of seven lawyers, three financiers, two businessmen, one educator, one farmer and one musician. The went to work on a charter right away.

Within six months, the committee was able to file a draft charter. It was considered remarkable for its brevity, having only 57 sections and not more than 7,000 words. In the November general election of 1912, Los Angeles County voters adopted the draft as the new charter for Los Angeles County. As required, the charter had to be submitted to the California Legislature for adoption and ratification. That happened on January 29, 1913, with the charter taking effect at noon on June 2, 1913.