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THE NEXT LOS ANGELES / TURNING IDEAS INTO ACTION : Livable L.A. : How can we build a sense of community and improve the quality of life away from job, freeway, police station? : Mythbusters

July 17, 1994

MYTH: Los Angeles County has plenty of parkland and open space for its 9 million population.

REALITY: The county has about 885,000 acres in federal, state and municipal parks and recreation centers. In theory, that total nearly meets the suggested national standard of one acre per 1,000 residents. But only about 100,000 acres are easily accessible for daily recreation for many people, says the county's regional planning department.

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MYTH: Nearly everyone in Los Angeles has a private back yard.

REALITY: Nearly half of the housing units in Los Angeles County are in buildings with two or more units, according to the federal census. And about a quarter of the units in the county are in buildings with 10 or more units. In the city of Los Angeles, nearly 60% of the housing is in multiple-unit buildings.

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MYTH: Los Angeles is not a reading town.

REALITY: If library holdings mean anything, Los Angeles is quite a reading county, with 16.5 million books in public libraries, not including university and college collections. Only the New York, Chicago and Boston metropolitan areas have more.

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MYTH: People in Los Angeles are generally in good physical condition and are obsessed with with fitness and exercise.

REALITY: About half of all women and a third of the men in Los Angeles County reported that they want to lose weight, a state survey found. But the study discovered that that 55% of county residents are either couch potatoes or exercise rarely.

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MYTH: After New York, Los Angeles is the cultural capital of the United States.

REALITY: Los Angeles County does indeed rank second in the nation for the sheer array of cultural institutions and entertainment offerings. But nine other cities in the country rank higher in terms of the percentage of population who say they regularly attend cultural and arts events. Charlottesville, Va., home of the University of Virginia, ranks first, with 24.3%. New York ranks fourth with 19.1%, and Los Angeles market surveys show 17.8%. San Francisco and Washington are among those ranked above Los Angeles.

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MYTH: With so many young families moving to other states, Los Angeles is becoming an old-peoples' town.

REALITY: In fact, only about 10% of Los Angeles County residents are 65 or older, the Census shows. About 26% of county residents are younger than 18, and that percentage is expected to grow with immigration from Latin America and Asia.

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MYTH: Nobody wants to visit Downtown Los Angeles anymore unless it is to watch a criminal trial or to get a free meal on Skid Row.

REALITY: Surveys by the Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau found that Downtown is the region's 10th most popular tourist attraction. The nine more popular spots are, in descending order, Beverly Hills, Universal Studios, Disneyland, Hollywood, beach areas, Griffith Park, Knott's Berry Farm, Mann's Chinese Theater and the Queen Mary.

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