L.A. County Launches an Open Data Portal

June 9, 2015 8:00 am PST | Effective Governing
Los Angeles Skyline at Sunset

Less than six months after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution formally establishing a Countywide Open Data Initiative that called for a single website to house publicly available information, the Los Angeles County open data portal has launched. The website is a one-stop entry point to the County’s data — from crime stats to expenditures — allowing residents, developers, journalists, researchers, or anyone with an Internet connection to delve into the data with ease.

For Rich Sanchez, the Chief Information Officer for L.A. County, the launch is just a starting point. Although the available data already is extensive, there will be much more to expose in future waves of implementation. “It’s an exciting time for government,” Sanchez says, “with a lot of new technology available, making life easier for us as technicians to share the data in our possession with our constituents.”

Choosing Data for the Launch

With more than 10 million residents spread across 4,000 square miles, L.A. County has no shortage of data. For the initial launch, the portal showcases inspection information from every eatery in the County, from five-star restaurants to taco trucks, all sortable by grade, violation, and other filters. The County also has proactively posted data that was frequently requested through the Public Records Act: the salaries for the County’s 95,000 employees, as well as overtime details. No longer will journalists have to request this information, nor will staffers have to spend time pulling reports.

Speed was a guiding principle for the launch — datasets previously available through departmental websites went up on the portal, since they had already been vetted and approved. Caution was also a watchword, Sanchez says, explaining that “we were very careful in the type of data, the amount of data, and the usefulness of the data as we moved our initiative forward.” This was partially due to the sensitive nature of patient health records and other protected data, but also because the County prioritizes actionable datasets — Sanchez hopes constituents can put the information on the portal to work for their own benefit.

Hold Your Credit Card: Data for Free

Some departments volunteered datasets not previously online. Most notably, the Assessor’s Office released valuation and description data for the County’s 2.3 million commercial and residential parcels. Before the portal’s launch, this information was available only by request — and for a fee.

The assessment data is the largest collection of its sort ever published online in the U.S, and for Jeffrey Prang, the Los Angeles County Assessor, it’s a signal of his office’s commitment to transparency and openness. “I promised to make transparency and accountability synonymous with my Administration, and the Open Data Portal is a major leap forward in ensuring that the public’s data is easily accessible,” Prang says on the Office of the Assessor’s website. Already, the data set is one of the portal’s most popular features.

What’s Next for L.A. County’s Growing Portal?

Just weeks after the portal’s launch, the County is already planning to expand the scope of what’s available, working with the community and departments to determine other valuable datasets to share on the site.

For Brandon Dowling, a communications specialist at the County of Los Angeles’ Chief Executive Office, the portal’s ease of use, and the breadth of data already available, showcases the newly open spirit of the County, showing that it does more than operate government, and collect, and distribute tax dollars. “We’re incredibly excited that residents throughout the County now have an opportunity to use this data as they see fit,” Dowling says, “from learning more about the inner workings of the County, to building innovative visualizations and apps.”


Download the Getting Started with Open Data Guide.



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