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Five ways you can use Shape Your L.A., The Times’ civic engagement tool

An illustration of two sanitation workers loading a bunch of trash into their teal truck
Sanitation workers get the job done in this illustration from Shape Your L.A., which can show you how to report illegal dumping in your city.
(Joanna Neborsky / For The Times)
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Is there an abandoned couch on your street? It got soaked in the rain, didn’t it? And now it’s going to start attracting pests and who knows what else. Some people like that sort of thing. But for those who fail to see the charm, it would be nice if someone hauled the heap away.

Or maybe it’s not an abandoned couch; maybe it’s a pothole that has doubled in size after the recent storms. Or maybe you want to register a concern with your police department, member of Congress or state legislators.

OK, but how? And who? Where do you start?

Shape Your L.A. can help.

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Shape Your L.A. is a web app created by the Los Angeles Times to show how to get involved and engaged in your local government and neighborhood. It has comprehensive, up-to-date lists of elected officials for every home address in L.A. County. It has informational stories explaining the different roles of L.A. County and L.A. city governments, for example, and what the heck the county Board of Supervisors does. Today’s update includes information about how to access city services, such as the ones that haul away couches and fix potholes.

Give it a whirl.

Learn who to talk to in government when you want to get things done in your neighborhood. Get involved in your L.A. County community with the help of our people’s guide to power.

Or let us suggest a few ways to use it.

1. Report that pothole or abandoned couch

No matter where you live in L.A. County, you’ve no doubt contended with illegally dumped furniture or axle-breaking potholes. But you don’t have to be complacent about those sorts of things.

All 88 L.A. County cities, as well as unincorporated areas, offer residents some way or another to report such nuisances as dumped davenports, potholes, graffiti and roadkill. And you won’t just be registering a complaint — you’ll be putting the item on a cleanup crew’s to-do list. Some cities, including Los Angeles, will notify you when the work is complete too (it’s very satisfying).

Shape Your L.A. will tell you the phone number to call, website to use, or app to download to get started in your city (in a section called “On My Block”).

Once you get your first report in, tell us about your experience (by clicking “Give us feedback” in the menu on the Shape Your L.A. page). How long did it take the city to fix your issue? Or was it never resolved? We’d love to hear about it — and possibly follow up.

Los Angeles County supervisors declared a state of emergency over the homeless crisis, a move aimed at speeding up service delivery to the tens of thousands of people suffering outside.

2. Lodge a complaint or commendation with your city’s police department

If you’re passionate about policing, you have the power to make your voice heard. All law enforcement agencies in L.A. County offer a way for residents to get in touch. Some have online forms or phone numbers where you can register a complaint, make a suggestion or commend an officer for a job well done. Larger departments, including the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles and Long Beach police departments, have oversight bodies that hold public meetings. You can speak at a public meeting — or just attend one to observe and perhaps meet other people from your community who are interested in law enforcement.

Shape Your L.A. can tell you which police department’s jurisdiction you live in, if you aren’t sure, as well as point you to ways to give input or get involved.

The recent death of Keenan Anderson following an encounter with Los Angeles police has reignited a debate about the role of law enforcement in traffic stops.

3. Help a homeless person connect with services

If you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness, it can be difficult to navigate the patchwork of government and nonprofit agencies tasked with helping to find housing.

Most of L.A. County is served by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, aka LAHSA. LAHSA has a website — called the Homeless Outreach Portal, or LA-HOP — that can connect a homeless person with an outreach worker who can help find the services the person needs. In a few parts of L.A. County, though, your city, not LAHSA, handles things a bit differently.

Shape Your L.A. can show you where to start when you’re trying to get someone on the road toward housing. To be clear, it can’t reserve space in a shelter or permanent supportive housing. But it can point you to the services your city and county offer. And that’s a start.

As temperatures begin to drop across California, here’s how Angelenos can give a helping hand to those in need.

4. Learn something new about local government

Ever wondered what the difference between the city of L.A. and the county of L.A. is? Or what, exactly, the Board of Supervisors does? Or what really goes on in Sacramento? Those aren’t stupid questions. This stuff can be confusing.

Shape Your L.A. breaks it down with fun (if we may say so) and easy-to-understand features — like the one that explains how the population of Fiji, times two, is roughly equal to the number of people served by a single member of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. Break out that stat at your next dinner party!

The overlapping layers of local government in California are the source of much confusion. Here’s an explanation of the various pieces.

5. See how you fit into the civic landscape

We named this tool Shape Your L.A. because our goal was for more Angelenos to engage with and influence their governments and neighborhoods for the better. The name is also an allusion to the feature of the app that shows you the shapes of all the districts you belong to. Seeing those shapes all together can tell you interesting things — such as, people who live in Long Beach, Downey and Torrance are in the same supervisorial district as Santa Catalina and San Clemente islands! (That’s district 4, for the record.)

So go see the shape of your L.A. — and then start shaping it anew.

Learn who to talk to in government when you want to get things done in your neighborhood. Get involved in your L.A. County community with the help of our people’s guide to power.


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