Dear 2016: A letter from the L.A. Times Data Visualization Department

When reviewing the vast amount of work we published this year and how to present it, we thought it'd be most appropriate for our team to write a letter to 2016. So that's what we did. 🙃

Dear 2016,

You wore us out.

You brought horrific events like the Orlando, Nice and Brussels attacks, while you took away Prince and Bowie. The Rams returned to Los Angeles and Kobe walked off the court for the last time. And did we mention this was in the middle of an election cycle?

At the L.A. Times Graphics Department, we’ve tried to bring all of these stories to you visually — whether with a map, an interactive chart or a 3-D model of Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Here are some of our favorites from a year we’re happy to bid farewell.


Porter Ranch gas leak Small L.A. County parks Lottery simulator David Bowie albums Searchable 2016 awards database

First on our list of notable news: the awful gas leak in Porter Ranch that displaced thousands of residents. We asked people what they were experiencing and we mapped 51 voices from the area.

Early in the year, we also launched a page with 360-degree videos of the smallest parks in Los Angeles County. Can you spot the garden gnome?

If you couldn’t find the elfin effigy in January, it was probably because you were stuck in line buying a Powerball ticket. Bet you didn’t win. But why not take $100 and see if you can win now.

When David Bowie died we showed his 50 years in music through his album covers. Here are his 27 studio albums.

Prior to the Golden Globes and the Oscars we threw together a searchable database of the 2016 nominees and later added the winners. Absent: her worshipfulness Meryl Streep.


Rams teaser Oscar fashion quiz Leap day teaser Super Bowl helmets

Also absent from that database: many nominees or winners of color. Could that be because of a lack of diversity among voting members?

During the Oscars themselves we quizzed you on fashion. That Givenchy haute couture reveal? Was it Mila Kunis or Rooney Mara?

But hey, the Rams were back! Inspired by our love of old video games and the fact that the team last played here in 1994, we decided to “play” the Rams against every other Rams team. Ever.

We then, of course, had to draw 8-bit versions of both the Rams helmets of the past and the Super Bowl winners too.

You seemed to go on forever, 2016. No, not because of the election. It was definitely because you were a leap year. Without them it’d be May 2018. Ugh.


Metro income teaser Treating sewage Exide blood testing Exide blood testing Exide blood testing

Long before your November election, we took a look at the income along L.A. County’s Metro lines. One should probably be renamed the “Inequality Line" before it opens in 2024.

We visualized the sewage lines in early March. Did you know that 275 million gallons of raw sewage flows into L.A.’s drain system every day? See how microorganisms feed on it.

And we looked at the serious issue of lead poisoning near the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon. The county is now cleaning up the yards of many homes near the shuttered plant.

Minimum wage was a hot topic in 2016. We decided to test the new minimum wage against the “living wage” in different California counties.

You brought us our fifth year of drought, but the snowpack was better and some reservoirs filled with more water.


Is the street you live on a dirty secret? We mapped out the dirtiest streets in Los Angeles. See how your neighborhood compares.

After 20 years with the Lakers, Kobe Bryant played his last game. To commemorate his career we asked, what defined him as a player? The answer: He shot the ball. A lot. We mapped every shot he ever took — 30,699 in all.

A day later (from a bus stop on Vermont Avenue) we published a list and map of 13,000 apartment buildings that could collapse in the next earthquake.

We also started tracking the celebrity endorsements of presidential candidates. Clap, Hillary. Wave, Donald. Point, Bernie.

Trivia break: Donald Trump was the nominee of which party in California? There were two: the Republican Party and the American Independent Party. Times writers and the Data Desk found that many Californians unknowingly registered to vote under the party created by segregationist George Wallace.

After seeing reports of an ambulance outside Prince’s home in Minnesota, we thought, “No, not Prince too.” To remember him, we focused on the network of musicians with whom he collaborated, many of whom went on to have their own successful careers. We illustrated Wendy & Lisa, The Time, Chaka Khan and Sinéad O’Connor.


Grim Sleeper drawings Backbone Trail maps

In May we animated the drawings of the trial of the "Grim Sleeper" for a short documentary.

We also looked at the history of the Backbone Trail, a 67-mile route in the Santa Monica Mountains. We followed the land acquisitions that help bridge this track.


All things Trump Electoral College map Pulse Nightclub timeline Walkout teaser April's terrorist attacks Ozone healing graphics

Earlier in the year we looked at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ diversity problem. In June we worked with entertainment writer Tre’vell Anderson to propose 100 people who could help fix it.

Even though it doesn’t have any actual impact, people love “what if?” scenarios. We projected how states were likely to vote in the November presidential election and allowed readers to create their own electoral maps in the race to 270.

We also made our own news encyclopedias of Clinton and Trump.

A question you’ve probably never heard before: “Who owns the L.A. River?” We answered it. We looked at assessor records to determine which parts of the Los Angeles River are owned by whom.

We revisited the “walkout generation,” when 40,000 high school students walked out of class 10 years ago. We caught up with 25 of those students and asked how they feel today.

And then on the night of June 12, a man shot his way into a gay nightclub in Orlando. He killed 49 people. We broke down the horrific minutes inside Pulse.

Oh, 2016, you were a year full of terror attacks and we focused in on one month: April. Many never made headlines in the U.S., but in just 30 days, terror had stuck 180 times, wounded 1,385 and killed 858.

At least there was good news about the Earth’s ozone layer: the hole was healing.


Juno arriving at Jupiter Clayton Kershaw pitching Unrest at Trump rallies Candidate convention speeches

July began with the Juno probe arriving at Jupiter. Its mission: to brave the intense radiation and provide insight into the giant planet’s composition and structure.

The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw was in the middle of an incredible season. We modeled and illustrated every pitch he had thrown in 3-D. And then he went and injured his back and sat out the rest of the regular season.

You brought us Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. His statements about women and minorities, among others, brought numerous protests to his raucous campaign rallies.

You also brought us political conventions. We broke down the words used.


Olympic sport quiz Trump's backers and detractors L.A.'s street quality grades map Flooding in Louisiana before and after Flooding in Louisiana before and after

Time for the Olympics! Remember the street luge? And the marathon swimming? Yeah — one of those isn’t real. Which is real and which is fake?

As his controversial campaign progressed, we began to track Trump lovers and haters within his own party. Sen. John McCain eventually left him. Rick Perry stayed with him — a decision that paid off when he was chosen to lead the Department of Energy, an agency he once famously forgot he wanted to eliminate.

The city of Los Angeles released street-by-street grades rating the condition of its roads. In deciding how to handle street maintenance, Times analysis showed, the city strove for mediocrity — and achieved it. We mapped the results.

Across the country, 20 inches of rain brought devastating flooding to a wide swath of southern Louisiana. To show the extent of the damage, we looked at before and after images of the flooded areas.

In the leadup to the U.S. Open tennis tournament, we analyzed match data to explain why the indomitable Serena Williams is so good. Then she lost in the semi-finals.


Tailgating at Rams Tailgating at Rams

The Rams’ first home game in Los Angeles in 20 years was happening soon and the season ahead seemed full of promise (ha!) The most important part of any game, though, is the tailgating, and we had you covered.

How do you present a debate between such different figures as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? By scoring it like a boxing match of course. We worked with our political team and cartoonist David Horsey to judge each presidential debate.


Hurricane Matthew Debate details of Trump and Clinton Previous election results in California A web of campaign contributions Tease to homeless page

In early October, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas were preparing for the approach of Hurricane Matthew. We looked at the potential for flooding in a few key cities.

As the debates continued, we also looked at how the presidential candidates approached each debate. Consistency was a Clinton strategy. Trump preferred the counter punch.

California was once a blue state. Then red. Then blue again. Yes, Democrats didn't always have the upper hand in this state. We took a look at California's political leanings over the years.

There were local politics to follow, too. We visualized a seemingly unlikely web of donors who gave more than $600,000 to Los Angeles elected officials. The common link? One L.A.-based developer and a $72-million apartment project.

In late October we mapped the L.A. County's large homeless population. About 4,700 people are homeless downtown. About 870 live in Venice.

About a third of the county's homeless population is women. We brought you some of their stories in 360-degree video.


L.A. Times / USC Dornsife presidential poll Precinct-level election results Precinct-level election results Marijuana legalization map

Nothing much happened in November, right?

Contradicting nearly every poll, pundit and prediction, Donald Trump eked out a win in key battleground states to claim the 270 electoral votes necessary for the presidency. Our L.A. Times / USC Dornsife poll tracked a panel of nearly 3,000 eligible voters from July until election day.

As the country selected Trump, Californians voted overwhelmingly for Clinton, as well as voting to legalize marijuana and to speed up the death penalty. We produced the most detailed map of election results in California’s history.

Meanwhile, Orange County went blue, giving the Democratic presidential candidate a majority of its votes for the first time since 1936. We looked at the history and why it happened this time.

Californians had previously rejected legalizing marijuana for recreational use before endorsing Proposition 64 this year. We looked back at the last attempt in 2010, and why signs pointed to a different result this time around.


Jonathan Gold chat bot Plum Book Precinct-level election results

Whew, December. We thought December would never get here.

With the grueling campaign season over, the Trump transition team began to name the people who would be working in his administration. But how many appointees does the president get to make? Meet the Plum Book, a list of more than 1,700 jobs Donald Trump will have to fill.

Maybe it’s our laid-back West Coast attitude, but California didn't finalize its vote count until mid-December. We updated our precinct-level maps with the final certified results.

For our final project of 2016, we channeled L.A.’s most famous food critic into a robot. “Goldbot” provides readers with instant reviews, results and recommendations from Jonathan Gold’s 101 best L.A.-area restaurants via Facebook Messenger.

2016, it’s been real. And instead of wasting any more of your time, goodbye and good riddance. 2017 can’t get here soon enough.

Yours truly,


P.S.: As we say goodbye to this seemingly endless year, Californians will say hello to hundreds — yes, hundreds — of new laws in 2017. We read them all so you didn’t have to, and picked the 50 we thought you’d want to know more about.