By Emily Alpert Reyes and Doug Smith, June 8, 2014
Los Angeles city employees’ commutes intensify traffic, Councilman
Bernard C. Parks said. Above, cars stream through the Sepulveda Pass on
the 405 Freeway on May 21.
More than two-thirds of people who work for the city of Los Angeles live somewhere else, a Los Angeles Times analysis suggests.
are especially common among those charged with keeping Angelenos safe
from crime and fire. Only 21% of Police Department employees live in Los
Angeles, and 16% of Fire Department workers call the city home,
according to the analysis of city data showing where workers receive
Experts say the high numbers point to forces that
continue to push people out of the city, including pricey housing and
poor impressions of the public schools. Workers who
make more money are much more likely to live in Los Angeles than those
with lower incomes, the analysis shows. Nearly 48% of the highest-paid
employees live in the city, compared with 20% of the lowest-paid.
Mary Kamuck, who has worked for the city for nearly three decades, makes the daily drive from
Azusa to her downtown job at the Department of Building and Safety call
center — a commute that takes half an hour early in the morning and up
to two hours when she returns home in the afternoon.
single mother first looked for a home where she could raise her two
sons, she couldn't afford L.A., she said — and she doubts she could do
so even now.
"I paid $132,500 for my house," she said. "I couldn't find anything like that."
daily employee exodus adds to traffic and pulls money out of the city
when paychecks are spent somewhere else, said Los Angeles Councilman
Bernard C. Parks.
The situation also raises concerns for some who see residency as an important sign of investment in the community.
sends a bad message that our own public safety officers don't want to
live in our city," said Fernando Guerra, director of the Center for the
Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University. Like other
employees, Guerra said, police live elsewhere because "they can get more
for their money further outside. There's a belief that the schools are
better, and that communities are safer.... That's the one that really
"People are only going to invest in Los Angeles if
they feel that it's safe. It should start with police officers," Guerra
added. "If they're not willing to invest, why should they be on the
Some nearby cities have roughly similar or
lower percentages of workers who are residents: Only 36% of Burbank city
employees live in Burbank, 25% of Glendale workers in Glendale, 23% of
Pasadena workers in Pasadena, and a mere 5.5% of Beverly Hills employees
in Beverly Hills, according to city representatives.
But those places are dramatically smaller in geography and population than Los Angeles, the nation's second-most populous city.
handful of L.A. employees — 48 out of nearly 35,000 full-time city
workers — get their paychecks delivered out of state, a few as far away
as Colorado and Alaska. More than half of those are in the Fire
Department, where firefighters can schedule blocks of days at work,
followed by blocks of days off.
Many more out-of-town
L.A. employees are in close cities such as Long Beach, Inglewood and
Palmdale, with nearly 4 out of 5 city employees living somewhere in Los
Angeles County. And one-fifth of full-time city employees live in the
Inland Empire or Orange or Ventura counties.
Times performed its residency analysis using data from the city
controller, the office that processes payrolls. No employee names or
exact addresses were included in the information. Instead, The Times
examined ZIP Codes to estimate how many employees were Los Angeles
residents. The analysis counted any ZIP Code with a post office located
in the city as part of Los Angeles.
High numbers of out-of-town
workers have spurred concerns in the past: In 1994, an American Civil
Liberties Union finding that 83% of Los Angeles Police Department
officers lived outside the city spurred sharp criticism alleging that
the police were an "occupying army" of white suburbanites disconnected
from the communities they patrolled.
Since then, however, the
department has come to more closely reflect the city's diverse
population, said Peter Bibring, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of
Southern California. Officers have also gained greater understanding of
how to build relationships with the communities they police, no matter
whether they live there, he added.
Still, he said, "would having
officers live in the city help promote connections to the communities
they serve? Yes, absolutely, and the city should strive to help officers
to live here."
The question is how. Lima, the union leader, said
that decades ago, "you used to have to live in the city just to take the
test to be a firefighter." But the state ultimately nixed such
requirements. Under California law today, local government agencies
cannot require their employees to live in the areas they serve.
numbers don't mean city workers don't care about Los Angeles, said
Kevin Klowden, director of the California Center at the Milken
Institute. Instead, he said, they reflect affordability and
quality-of-life issues that nudge people into neighboring towns —
especially the reputation of schools.
"I guarantee that's the No. 1
issue," he said. "If you want to send your kids to the public school
system in L.A., the areas with the best schools are expensive."