It was easy to find... but apparently will cost me $1000 dollars to access it...
Perhaps I don't understand exactly how the Assessor's office works, but it seems pretty wrong that public data from an organization funded by taxpayers isn't freely available for download.
The article doesn't mention it, but it looks like LA County charges as well.
I was a Code for America Fellow in 2012 (I am still heavily involved in the space) and back then any talk of publishing datasets, shapefiles or having "APIs" was thought to be an exotic topic reserved for fancy cities with large budgets like San Francisco and Boston. It was something that smaller cities would love to have but don't have the resources to do anything about it.
But that's not the case anymore. Even a lot of the smaller cities now understand that opening up now gives them access to a new ecosystem of tools and technologies that are rapidly developing.
Hence, our startup.
Also, the California Supreme Court ruled that Shapefiles must be made available to the public at almost no cost. See summary of case here: http://www.ocregister.com/taxdollars/county-519947-landbase-...
Oh, and when it comes to SLC. Here ya go:
It is really easy to be cynical about government policies and feel like there is little that can be done to change them, but it seems like what you are doing and orgs within the government, like 18F, are having success in changing the game, at least when it comes to tech.
Thanks and keep up the good work.
- Keep taxes down and only support people who really have a serious need for it
- Cover the cost of packaging and distribution (and other associated costs)
I don't necessarily agree with this, but these are the kinds of justifications that are generally tossed around inside the government about these kinds of things.
In my own county the costs of document scanning and record storage were in the 1 to 2 million dollar range for years. Oddly this coincided with the county commissioner having a husband that work for Xerox at the time, the Xerox office also handled the counties scanning and document storage. Amazingly after the time that commissioner was no longer in the office the contracts were renegotiated and the price dropped over 25%. The biggest issue I have seen working at the local government level for over a decade now is very few people without a stake in the game ever review the use of technology by the counties. Politics has far more sway than best practices.
In retrospect probably one of the dumber things I've ever done is not keep 2TB of county records from 1850 to 2008 after a company closed down operations. There wasn't any particular reason I couldn't keep them, they were paid for and the company didn't sell them off after closing. The server was likely neglected for years after that and eventually formatted.
I work in geospatial modelling and I use data like this every day; have been for 15 years. So I know a thing or two about availability of this sort of data, how hard it is to assemble and maintain, and how many people actually do something with it. In the EU, there are directives that create obligations for governments to offer all sorts of data freely to everybody. The amount of money this costs is staggering, and although I'm very happy with it (because it has made my life 100 times easier in the data respect), the useful stuff that is done with it by people who didn't have access to it before is minimal; and certainly disproportional to the amount of money that goes into it. The consultants are laughing all the way to the bank, of course (and hey, I get paid indirectly from it as well, so it's not like I'm complaining).
So that makes the 'data should be open' mantra an entirely ideological disposition. I used to believe it as well, but then why shouldn't we also say 'governments can only spend money on vegan stuff because some people believe in 'animals rights'?' I no longer see pet peeves like 'free data' as black and white as I used to. Bureaucracies are expensive, partly because their goal is not efficiency (which is something that is usually overlooked by the naive) and partly because of other effects inherent to them. We need to restrain ourselves in what and how much we demand from them.
Having said that, a government nowadays should have an open data policy. You shouldn't need to make a freedom of information request for 'bureacratic' data.
Also, any 'for the people' government should allow the free download of such information, and 'the people' should realize that that costs some money. That, I think, is a problem in the USA, from both sides.
One really nice thing about the USA is how much public and open data there is. In Europe you can't even get access to maps, which is why OSM was created in Europe.
There's one country ahead of the US in that list, half of Europe averages middling scores, and the other half is either not even listed (eg Bulgaria, Moldova, Croatia, Belarus) or posts incredibly bad scores (eg Poland, Greece, Hungary, Belgium, Iceland).
why was it important, having someone who you don't want contact with could determine your home and possible income simply by searching the county tax records.
Full deeds are available free online (though only through a Java applet), dating back to the 1960s. I haven't seen this in many other jurisdictions.
I have looked at various online records offices for various properties located in cities across the USA and most every single one was a horrifyingly slow, blast from the past type experience. I'm talking minutes for basic queries to complete. And expensive to boot. Usually $5 to $10 per query.
I think those costs are there because the provision of that data is considered above and beyond the mandate of the Assessor's Office.
Perhaps it was free, they wouldn't have resources to compile it? Plenty of things that tax payer money supports aren't free, for example suburban swimming pools or perhaps more egregiously sports venues.
"If it sounds simple, it is not, but if you’re interested it’s a great reason to learn spherical harmonics."
The entire point of showing off that equation is to say "This stuff is actually really deep and complicated and it's a rich subject to dive into on its own if you want to go for that, but I'm not going that route."
Loved seeing the queries and results, along with the commentary.
I am a product manager now, but I miss the days when I was analyst and would put similar queries together to drive various business decisions.
I've bookmarked the site to look for interesting content in the future.
Also, would love to see a similar analysis for the bay area.
I have the firm belief that Los Angeles is actually the largest city by population in the USA (as opposed to NYC). Due to an accident of history, what people colloquially call "LA" is still divided politically into something like 80 independent cities. New York City consolidated into the five boroughs in the late 19th century, prior to that Queens, Brooklyn, etc. were separate cities. If you look at the city borders of official Los Angeles, it's a complex mapping of the spaces around and in-between the various independent cities.
In most of the US, unincorporated land is extremely rural. In LA, "unincorporated" land blends seamlessly into the urban landscape. Often if you're in an unfamiliar area you can't tell what "city" you're in without looking at the street signs.
While not 100% of LA county residents can be counted as living in "LA", it's a close-enough approximation. ~10 million vs NYC's 8 million.
Lists NY as ~23 million, LA as ~18 million.
It's amusing -- in Australia we list cities populations like this by default. I never consider the population of Melbourne to just be the area covered by Melbourne City Council - it has always included the greater metro area.
You can't just count an entire massive county as 'LA' while cutting off NYC at its city limits. The stub-ends of the subway lines at the Bronx border are dramatic, but the city doesn't just end anywhere— I wouldn't be shocked to see the subway extended beyond NYC at some point.
I agree that you can draw the line arbitrarily to support whichever city you prefer as "winning". My sense is that a) if the City of Los Angeles consolidated as NYC did over 100 years ago it would have the highest official population in the US, b) if you do a more fuzzy "metro area" analysis the result is up for grabs depending on how you choose to draw the borders.
Most, if not all, counties use GIS (geographic information systems) to maintain this data
Most people have no idea how appallingly corrupt, backward, wrong, inaccurate, inefficient, unjust, etc. etc. record keeping and government in general can be at the county level in some places. For the purpose of brevity let's put it this way: some counties maintain a poor paper trail, deliberately. Those counties also tend to be poor, so you might just assume they cannot afford better systems, but sometimes there is a bit more than that going on.
I actually think it would interesting to know how many counties make use of GIS.
There are engineering-based ways to cheat the system (oops! there's totally accidentally a hole in my well above the depth where I have the right to extract gas) but the thing that struck me about her story was how bad all the basic county record keeping was. People die, mineral rights (and other property) need to be handled by the court, and ambiguities or errors on the record of who owns what where that might have easily been corrected when people were still alive become a matter of dispute, and some are a lot better equipped than others to legally deal with that kind of dispute. Her complaints had more to do with an obviously corrupt method of informing interested parties of things like auctions, whose inefficiencies always seemed to benefit a small number of people equipped to exploit them.
I'm sure someone with more experience with real property could give lots of examples. My experience is more with county court systems, and I just assume that if counties haven't computerized their criminal and civil records - which is dead simple, conceptually - they haven't got around to implementing relatively more sophisticated GIS systems. Maybe I'm wrong.
Literally. And if you should attempt to disambiguate all the trusts and LLCs and special purpose vehicles to figure out who really owns what in your county; you can expect a visit from law enforcement.
The US may look clean and consistently score low on measures of corruption; but it's there, especially at the county level.
The end result is that I wouldn't be surprised if, nationally, enormous binders are more common than GIS. The property records in my county are in the form of yellowing pages in 20-pound leather post binders on those rolling high-density shelves. People complaining about 2 minute query times? Here you drive to the county clerk's office, ask them your question, and they might be able to tell you which of the giant binders to look in first. The upside is that if you ask nicely they'll let you use their photocopier.
Perhaps we're unusually backwards, this is New Mexico after all, but we're not the smallest county in this state by far - and certainly not in the nation.
#2 Kaiser Foundation Hospitals: Non-profit hospital
#3 Cedars-Sinai Medical Center: Non-profit hospital
Are non-profit hospitals property-tax exempt? I know non-profits normally aren't, but there are exceptions (e.g., low-income student housing co-ops in Texas).
There are a number of conditions that must be met for exemption, and being a non-profit hospital generally fulfills them.
The bigger issue I come across is whether a donation to a non-profit organization is tax deductible. For that, the non-profit entity must apply to the IRS for IRC 501(c)(3) status and receive it before a donation to a non-profit entity is tax deductible.
Is this true in the strictest sense? I mean I've seen a lot of non-profits make more money than they spend, but they're somewhat obligated to reinvest the money next year.
My impression was that non-profit was sort of a "pinky promise" about how you'll use your profits (with the IRS flying in if this is not the case)
I really wonder what those folks are up to today.
I also love that this is a subtle pitch for a chief database architect (with 3-5 years of experience(?)).
Meaning, if the extremist privatization politicians got their way, the gov't would own zero. But, if the gov't holds the commons in receivership over a very long term, the commons (as the gov't is ours if done well) will still hold a strong position over time.
Even a simple typo or difference in conventions at the time of data entry will obfuscate that multiple parcels are owned by the same entity.
The article's method simply performs exact matches on owner_name, which is a place to start. It makes no attempt to delve deeper to piece together the true ownership structures that this data represents, an admittedly far harder problem.
There are non-tax benefits, such as bypassing probate, but as the value of a property increases the 1% property tax becomes increasingly worrying. I suspect this is part of the reason why it's more common with commercial real estate.
The goal is to avoid tax reassessment when a property is sold, which is a big deal since the average price of a house in CA in 1940 was $36,700 and is now $211,500 (and much, much higher in places like Los Angeles and San Francisco). Even at the average house price, it's the difference between a $367/yr bill versus a $2,115/yr bill. Presumably commercial real estate has seen an equivalent rise over time.
I wonder if it frequently just isn't worth unwinding the corporation.
Scientology is probably too small to own much of LA. Clearwater, FL, on the other hand, may be a different story.