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News / City Life

We need to talk about the Los Angeles city flag

With all the talk about flags lately, we’ve been thinking about our own. No, not the handsome California Republic banner, but the city of Los Angeles flag. You’re not alone if you’ve never even noticed it before, so allow us to burn this into your retinas:


Los Angeles city flag

Drawing: Mysid/Wikimedia


Now you know why you've never seen it before. To borrow a few phrases from fellow Time Out staffers, it’s “like an African dictatorship” or “a Rastafarian clipart nightmare.” How could a picture-perfect city of mountains and ocean, Hollywood history and aerospace innovation, come to adopt what looks like a cheap-looking party favor as its official flag?

The “Fiesta Flag,” as it was dubbed, first began flapping in 1931. Designed by Roy E. Silent and E.S. Jones for LA’s sesquicentennial, its name comes from the 1931 revival of La Fiesta, an annual cultural fest from the late 1800s.

We can understand how the zigzag pattern must have looked “fun” and “exotic” in the ‘30s, in the same way that your mom thinks it’s “exotic” when she orders Chinese food. We can even stomach the cheeseburger topping palette, which takes its colors from both the Spanish and Mexican flags. But the city’s explanation behind those color choices is where you lose us:

“The red represents the vineyards, the golden-yellow depicts the orange groves, and the green symbolizes the olive trees.”

Either Southern California looked a lot different in 1931, or these colors are all off by a shade or two—we always thought of olive trees as more dusty green than Jell-o green and oranges as, well, orange. The trio of crops finds its way into the city seal, as well—which 99% Invisible listeners will recognize as just about the worst thing you can tack on a flag.

Here’s the thing: We don't think we could do any better ourselves. Our best attempt at a flag would probably look something like the Dodgers logo pinned onto a parking ticket. But we have a city full of talented graphic designers who could. So please, LA, adopt a flag that we want to tattoo on ourselves, just like those crazy Chicagoans.



Gergod B

I like the Los Angeles city flag.

Taking it as a negative for the colors seems childish to me. Ok it just so happens to seem like an Ethiopian flag. Big deal. There aren't to many designs to do on a flag that shows Victory and boldness. Have you seen all the flags of the world? Many copies.

If you are a reporter/blogger/internet lover... You shouldn't get to personal in something like this Especially because Spaniards have more of an influence on this area before the L.A. Flag.

You might as well speak of the diseases that the Europeans came with, that killed many natives. Other then the ones that were murdered.

If your not a reporter but just a racist, that ok to in a way. At least your not a liar. And your exercising your rights. Even though most Rastafarians are African, they are also Christians. Those that do not know will be informed.

The seal depicts the History, establishment, and the crops. California, Mexico. An off dirty green, actual orange and purple for the grapes doesn't have the flow of the green gold and red with the seal in the middle. It was hear before us. That's how the people of L.A in that time did it. Show respect.

[[eliot h

@Gergod B You're certainly welcome to like what you like. However, this flag is objectively terrible. I agree with you that criticizing the colors' symbolism because they aren't exactly the colors of what they represent isn't a good criticism. But I think the fact that few if any know of or want to use this flag when they see it is a more valid concern.

Additionally, this flag doesn't feel like Los Angeles. It's counter to how we view ourselves, and I think it was likely even counter to what the people of Los Angeles thought of the city, too. Otherwise, we would have been using those colors all over the city. Instead, the closest people get to identifying L.A. is Dodger Blue and the intertwined LA icon.

garth k

We also have plenty of water out here in the Windy City!

Dominic L

That Roman Mars video on the Chicago link was awesome!