As part of the Data Desk section of the L.A. Times website, the paper is unveiling a project to map the neighborhoods of Los Angeles, California. As described in an article discussing the mapping project, the purpose is to create a map that reporters can use as a reference for consistent information on the naming of L.A.’s many neighborhoods and landmarks. However, the paper’s attempts to draw lines and define boundaries for these local areas is adding controversy to the project, as numerous questions and comments about how and where neighborhoods are being demarcated are being raised by L.A. residents. That input from the communities, however, is exactly what the LA Times is looking for: “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 we at The Times are preparing to do just that, and we’d like to invite your help.”
The project actually involves quite a bit of mapping and database work. The base map began with US Census tracts as the initial boundaries, and then began adjusting the tract boundaries to reflect their information on neighborhood boundaries. Population data associated with the census tracts was also readjusted. The interactive map that has been made available was built with free and open source software including OpenLayers, Django, and PostgreSQL.