Draw your own lines

Maps have always been interesting to me. It’s less about the aesthetics of maps or their level of detail (though those are interesting, and really require a staggering amount of coordinated effort) and more about how areas end up with consistent definitions. Where are the explicit and implicit borders between neighborhoods? How do I tell someone I live in a particular area? How does the language we use in describing geographic regions change depending on who we’re talking with?

I live in LA, a city rich in examples of these types of questions. It’s famously a patchwork of neighborhoods, independent cities, and other sociopolitical niches, some as small as a block or two. There’s often debate about where one neighborhood begins and another ends. Luckily, some map creators are willing to wade into that active debate.

This LAist article features a very detailed map by Eric Brightwell. You can find the map on its own here.


There was a previous, searchable version produced by the LA Times. I believe the first version is from 2009 and it’s undergone changes since then. It’s not bad, though then again, I didn’t grow up in LA.

For context - here’s a map of gentrification over the last few decades in the same area.