Time Capsule Tuesday: Civic-Recreational-Industrial Project No. 1, City of Industry, 1971, Part Four

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

In its report, following the crafting of a general plan, to the City of Industry for the redevelopment of what was called “Project No. 1,” Gruen Associates, a noted Los Angeles urban planning firm, laid out sections comprising an introduction and statements on existing conditions for the area.

The lengthiest portion of the document was a “Plan Framework,” which included concepts for several areas including “The Industrial-Commercial Element;” “The Civic-Financial Center;” “The Civic-Recreation-Conservation Area;” “The Historic/Cultural Element;” “and utilities, flood control and implementation.  This post looks at the first two items.

By “industrial-commercial element,” what Gruen meant was the uses of industrial areas that involved such areas as light manufacturing; wholesale trade and distribution; technical services; research and development; and others.  On the commercial side, retail stores; business and professional offices; restaurants, and others “may be permitted by the [Industry Urban Development] Agency [the city’s redevelopment entity] in industrial areas where compatible with the industrial uses and the [General] Plan.”

A “Redevelopment Plan” for the Project One Area, including the main components of the Civic-Financial Center, just left of the La Puente Civic Center; the Civic-Recreation-Conservation area, now Industry Hills, which is the large area at the upper center; and the Historic Cultural Element, comprised of the Homestead and Rowland House, below the Civic-Financial Center.

Several factors were listed as those “which influence and support public and private investment decisions” including:

  • a well-proportioned site
  • good topography, meaning relatively level and not prone to floods
  • access to full utilities
  • free and clear of old deed restrictions and clouds of title
  • excellent access by vehicles, including rail, from and to the site and a “regional network of arterials,” the latter meaning streets and highways
  • “environmentally pleasant surroundings” and compatibility for such with other developments
  • “availability of a wide range of public and private facilities in support of commerce and industry, including services to both management and its employees, provided by private and public sectors.”

To bring these desired conditions together, new and improved streets; improved grade separations, including with railroads; full public utilities; improved drainage; adjustments to unfavorable topography; and “illogical ownership lines” were to be addressed.  Having uniform landscaping standards, putting utilities underground, improving lighting and other development guidelines were also key.

Also called for were “extensive recreational facilities and an industrial exhibit-conference center [to] serve as major support facilities to existing and future industries, their employees and to the surrounding area.”  Retail stores, restaurants, automotive dealerships, medical facilities and others “are most important to fulfilling industry’s full range of needs.”  A new civic center was also proposed “to serve and represent industry and the area” as part “of a catalytic development designed to accelerate growth and stimulate investment interest.”

Photos of business and bank buildings in the Civic-Financial Center that were considered compatible with projected development.

Another striking statement is that

The Project One Plan is structured to resolve long-range problems such as circulation, access, public utility, flooding, etc., thereby conveying a sense of strength and stability in respect to City growth and the economic future of the area.

Notably, the report referred to one project that was hampered by these issues, that being “the regional shopping center, long envisioned at the northeast corner of Azusa and Colima,” and which is the Puente Hills Mall, completed five years after the publication of the plan.

Moreover, the plan, the document continued, “creates various incentives designed to attract commercial development into the City of Industry” through “a strategy to attract financial institutions, professional offices, restaurants and specialized commercial-service facilities into the area north of Valley Boulevard at Hacienda” in what was designated “The Civic-Financial Center.”

A schematic of factors affecting development potential in the Civic-Financial Center, including outdated structures, traffic flow problems, landscaping ideas, and vacant land suitable for acquisition.

The area for the Center was identified as key because of its proximity to Hacienda Boulevard, “existing governmental and financial institutions,” and available land for the expansion of those institutions.  Moreover, the site was considered centrally located and “well suited for civic and financial uses” along with proposed commercial and service businesses, as well as restaurants.

Three objectives were identified as paving the way for the development of the center, namely: removing blighted structures, improving traffic circulation, and providing development incentives.

On the former, structures north of the Southern Pacific Railroad track and west of Glendora Avenue, which is a border with the City of La Puente, “are a blight on the area due to dilapidation and neglect” and the same held for the Stafford Mill, established decades before, and situated west of Hacienda and along the tracks.  Having “long outlived their usefulness,” the buildings were to be razed “in the interest of upgrading the productivity of this sector.”

A proposed traffic circulation diagram for the area, including rerouting of the existing Workman Street and Abbey Street, coming in from La Puente.  This was not incorporated and Stafford Street essentially runs the route of Abbey.

As to traffic, the key component was building a grade separation on Hacienda Boulevard at the railroad tracks and with 30,000 cars per day at the time, it was a priority for the county and state.  There was an additional recommendation for other improvements at the north end of the area at Nelson Avenue, because of existing residences in La Puente on that street, major traffic issues with La Puente High School being just north of the civic center area, and recognizing that the city’s government buildings “will enjoy greater prominence and prestige” with street improvements and accelerate private investment.  A new street, eventually named Stafford, after James Stafford, a dominant figure in the city since its incorporation, was called for to connect downtown La Puente to the new civic center and it was asserted that this “will generate potentials for new development in the City of La Puente.”

As for private development incentives, just having a core group of city government structures “generated demands” and it was anticipated that federal, state and county branch and regional offices would be lured to the site.  The idea was to plan streets in a way “to bring a maximum amount of property within view of the driving public, thereby creating many new sites suitable for business uses.”

Finally, as to aesthetics, it was noted that

the construction of a major civic plaza will beautify the area, as will the implementation of an ambitious street-tree planting program.  All signing and graphics within the Civic-Financial area should come under strict control, including those required by new and existing business enterprises.  All utilities will be placed underground.

Accompanying images include examples of recently constructed business buildings and banks that would complement new development within the Civic-Financial Center; a traffic circulation diagram; a color-coded diagram showing existing and future uses; and a layout of how the center would look if all of the report’s proposals were adopted.

This color-coded diagram shows existing and projected uses for land in the Civic-Financial Center.

Not surprisingly, many recommendations were not adopted or not fully.  The street realignment, including the rerouting of Workman Street (named, of course, for the founding family of the Homestead) and Abbey Street (named for Abbie Rowland, whose husband, Albert, was a founder of La Puente in the 1880s), was only partially followed and Stafford Street is the main road running west to east through the center.

The civic center only consisted of a few main structures, including a city hall that is now council chambers and the offices of the Industry Manufacturers Council, rather than the several shown on the diagram, and not in the plaza form envisioned.  Much of the beautification, especially with trees and other landscaping, was implemented if somewhat differently than shown on the map.   The Bank of America and One West Bank operate in structures directly west of the current City Hall, as well, keeping that civic and financial linkage.

This is what the Civic-Financial Center would have looked like if all of the report’s suggestions had been followed, including the graceful curves of the western end of the Civic Center, which was scaled back and moved just to the north as built.

One of the most prominent features of the Center that was quickly realized was that grade separation for Hacienda at the railroad tracks and, to this day, the lettering on the railroad overpass reads “Civic Financial Center.”

Next week’s post takes a look at the concept and recommendations for the “Civic-Recreational-Conservation Area,” better known now as Industry Hills.

2 thoughts

  1. The railroad grade separation at Valley and Hacienda was desperately needed. This crossing dates back to the earliest days of Valley boulevard. This is the spot where Valley moved from the south side of the tracks to the north side. (exactly how and why Valley crossed over the tracks at this spot likely has its own interesting tale)

    As a child in the late 50s & early 60s I remember that a train could block this main artery and you could be trapped on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ for 20-30 minutes or longer. This commonly happened if the train was ‘switching’ and swapping cars.

    Stimson crossed the tracks also but that crossing was closed not long after incorporation of the city leaving Hacienda as the only way to pass.

    If you had been shopping at the Thriftymart in Hacienda Heights and your were trying to get back home to La Puente there was a good chance that your ice cream would be melted before you got home. Sometimes the police would issue a ticket to the engineer for blocking the intersection for too long a time. I never even knew that a traffic cop could issue a ticket to a railroad engineer.

    Long abandoned, the Stafford mill was an old, totally wooden structure. (It had always been called a walnut packing house. What was it really?)

    Going back to the early 1960s the greatest fear(?) anticipation(?) was that it would catch fire. People would talk about how far away you would be able to see the fire. The fire fighters in town reportedly dreaded the day that it was anticipated to burn.
    As a child I had been prepped for so long to anticipate it’s conflagration that I was disappointed when it was finally dismantled and not burned.

    It is good to review the role that the City of Industry has had in the development of this area and compare the 1970s plans with what actually happened.

  2. Hi Jim, thanks for the comment and recollections. Long-time residents have told me of the dangers of the S-curve, where Valley Boulevard would move from the south side of the Southern Pacific rail line to the north and the frequent accidents that occurred. As to the Stafford Mill, it started as a grain milling operation in El Monte with a warehouse on the property out here. The the milling operation moved from the former to the latter. The Homestead just received within the last few weeks a donation of Stafford Mill papers, dating from 1924 to 1983, that will be processed and then some future posts will look at the Mill as part of the Time Capsule Tuesday series.

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