Is Orange County Separate from Los Angeles? An Expert's Perspective

Orange County, although a separate county south of Los Angeles, is considered part of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Officially, the Los Angeles MSA includes Los Angeles and Orange Counties (the official designation is Los-Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim) with a population of 13.3 million people. But what lies between these two counties? To answer this question, we must look at the differences between them. Orange County is wealthier, whiter, and has far fewer violent crimes than Los Angeles.

According to a survey conducted last year, many Orange County residents are content with their current location and only 6 out of 1,000 wanted to live in Los Angeles. On the other hand, Angelenos seem more disgruntled; 42% of Los Angeles residents were dissatisfied with Southern California overall, compared to 30% in Orange County. At its best, Orange County presents itself as urban, lively, tolerant, and expansive with a sense of humor about itself. It offers the world in miniature because the world comes to it.

From Cuban bakeries to Romanian restaurants to movie revival houses equipped like pharaoh's palaces, there is something for everyone in Orange County. Debbie Bohnett left the sweet tranquility of Northern California a few months ago to work at the Neiman Marcus in Newport Beach. It was the first Neiman Marcus in California and when Neiman Marcus plants its flag on foreign soil, that place will surely generate as much money as the exit end of an oil pipeline. When Debbie moved to Orange County, she was corrected right away by her neighbors and colleagues when she referred to it as part of Los Angeles.

During the 1960s, wealthy Orange County businessmen wouldn't give any money to Republican political consultant Stu Spencer until he took it out of Los Angeles first. Orange County was once the dormitory of Los Angeles and its status is a product of its agricultural roots, its community genesis of dorms with white flights, its high technology here and now, and housing prices. The faces of the counties are certainly different; Orange County is 70.1% white, 17.8% Latino, 10.6% other inhabitants (mostly Asian), and 1.5% black while Los Angeles is 46.4% white, 32.8% Latino, 11.3% black and 9.5% others (mostly Asian). A white businessman who moved south from Los Angeles has daughters who worry when they go to Los Angeles and he worries that they'll worry which he finds very distressing.

For him, Orange County is “an unreal ethnic mix”. Poor Republican Assemblyman Dennis Brown must satisfy voters in a district that crosses both counties; half of the Orange County adults surveyed had lived in Los Angeles before but clearly once was enough for them. Veteran San Fernando Valley real estate agent Temmy Walker speaks for Angelinos who believe that the second largest city in the United States is sufficient on its own; he only knows two people who moved to Orange County. The soccer team that today practices its profession in the Anaheim stadium is known as the Los Angeles Rams; Supervisor Kenneth Hahn once asked with sudden rhetoric: “Who would go to see the Anaheim Rams?” When customers of the excellent Newport Harbor Art Museum learned that they were losing both the museum director and chief curator last year - with the director moving to Chicago and the curator moving to Los Angeles - it should have been flattering for Orange County that its museum had matured enough to send its boys to the big leagues. While Orange County has been raging to national applause, LA has been launched into overdrive and international orbit; it can still make offers that a lot of people can't refuse. On Echo Park Avenue on Easter morning after a movie monster lies tied up in a flatbed truck waiting for cameras to record him slipping into Lake Echo Park - this is just one example of how LA has become an evolving species of westerners who live in cities. To sum up: although Orange County is considered part of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, there are many differences between them - from wealth and ethnicity to attitudes towards each other - that make them two distinct places.