Richard Riordan and Los Angeles Charter Reform

Center for the Study of Los Angeles White Paper Series, 2002

71 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2006

See all articles by Matthew J. Parlow

Matthew J. Parlow

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law


When the new City Charter took effect on July 1, 2000, Los Angeles cast aside a seventy-five year old governing structure in favor of a streamlined system more reflective of the political realities of a twenty-first century metropolis. It was in many ways a typical Los Angeles moment. Dissatisfied with a municipal institution designed for another age, voters looked to the future and embraced sweeping changes in the fundamental operations of the city. Fully sixty percent of voters rejected a venerable but outdated document and chose a new but unproven one. More importantly, voters opted for legislation that reflected the new Los Angeles.

No longer a small town with a homogenous population and a narrow economic base, Los Angeles had matured into a metropolis noted for its ethnic, religious, social, and economic diversity. Reform advocates proposed to simplify byzantine codes and regulations and to offer greater representation on the local level, particularly on issues of planning and growth. They presented Angelenos with a choice between the status quo and an opportunity to bring Los Angeles' government in line with the political realities of the present-day city.

This articles reveals how Mayor Richard Riordan and his reform allies planned and pursued a campaign to rewrite the charter to prepare for the economic and civic future of Los Angeles and to confront its current problems. By including the conflicts and compromises involved in this effort, the article reveals the complexities of modern urban governance. The blueprint Riordan and others crafted will guide city leaders as Los Angeles enters a new and potentially more turbulent phase of its history. More than any other actions taken in his mayoralty, the new City Charter and its relative success in preserving Los Angeles as an intact and functional metropolis will determine Riordan's legacy in the years to come.

Keywords: Riordan, Charter Reform, City Charter, Los Angeles, City Government

JEL Classification: H1, H10, H11, R5, R50, R52

Suggested Citation

Parlow, Matthew J., Richard Riordan and Los Angeles Charter Reform. Center for the Study of Los Angeles White Paper Series, 2002, Available at SSRN:

Matthew J. Parlow (Contact Author)

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law ( email )

One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866-1099
United States
714.628.2649 (Phone)

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