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By amoats
On July 17, 2020

Lesson Plan: Density, Land Use and Culture in Los Angeles and New York

Unique Geographic Features of Los Angeles

Patt Morrison gives a brief synopsis of the geographic features that influence the culture and character of Los Angeles.


New York and Los Angeles are both global cities where leaders of art, finance and entertainment live and work. Their positioning on opposite coasts in the United States and the unique history each possesses has caused many scholars to compare and contrast these two cities. Often, the focal point of these discussions focuses on the culture of each city. In this lesson, the geographic influences on that culture is explored by writers Pete Hamill and Patt Morrison.


  • Warm-Up

    Answer the following question to begin class:

    How might the following geographic differences influence life in two different cities?

    • Cold Climate v. Tropical Climate
    • Coastal Location v. Inland Location
    • High Population Density v. Lower Population Density
  • Introduction

    Discuss the student responses to the warm-up questions. Remind students that culture is a term used to describe a way of living, a way of life. Point out that cultural elements such as clothing, food and housing would be influenced by climate. Coastal v. Inland location might influence the diversity of ethnicities in a place, if that coastal city is a major center of international trade. Population density may influence everything from type and quantity of public transportation to the type of infilling experienced in the urban area. As discussed in earlier classes, geographic determinism is no longer a viable theory of cultural development, but that does not mean that geographic realities can be ignored when comparing cultures.

  • Exploration

    Watch the following video clips and use the information to compare and contrast ways in which geography affects the culture in Los Angeles and New York. Record the differences on the Los Angeles v. New York chart. Instruct students to either respond to the questions that follow the chart in writing or use them to guide small group or whole class discussions.

    Handout: Los Angeles v. New York chart (Google Doc)

    After discussing student responses to the questions, instruct students to read the article on urban infill development. Have students respond to the questions at the end of the reading.

    Reading: What is Infill Development? (Google Doc)

  • Conclusion

    Answer the questions below as an exit ticket for class today.

    1. Explain two ways geography can influence the development of culture.

    2. Can you think of some environmental change in either New York or Los Angeles that would greatly alter the culture of that place? Explain why that change would alter the culture in that place.

Additional Resources


  • Ethnicity
  • Infilling
  • Knock-off
  • Subway
  • Sufficiency
  • Tenement
  • Tolerance
  • Urban Blight
  • Urban Sprawl
  • Vertical Development




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