Time Capsule Tuesday: Stanford Research Institute Study on the City of Industry, 1957-1970, Part Five

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

In its significant early study of the City of Industry, from its incorporation in 1957 to 1970, the Stanford Research Institute included, in its section on the city’s industrial and economic development, a historical background.

Here, the authors noted that Industry was developed

along one of the historical travel routes from the east into the Los Angeles basin.  Early wagon trains, after crossing the Puente Hills near what is now Pomona, could easily descend the San Jose Valley, an access corridor lying between the San Jose Hills on the north and the Puente Hills on the south.

This refers to Valley Boulevard, called in the 1850s the “Colorado Road,” because it wound up at the river of that name at present Yuma, Arizona, and later known as Pomona Boulevard (the name it had when the Temples owned the Homestead during the 1920s.)

Next, this description continued

Two men, John Rowland and William Workman, recognized the potential advantages of the Valley upon their arrival from Taos, New Mexico, in 1841 and applied in 1842 to the Mexican governor at Monterey, Alta California, for a land grant to the Rancho La Puente.

Actually, it was Rowland who made the trip north and secured the grant in early 1842 (more on that in tomorrow’s post) before he returned to New Mexico to gather his family and others for a return trip by the end of the year.  Workman stayed behind, having been given documents (which survive in the Homestead collection) that gave him the right to use La Puente as if he was an owner.  He wasn’t officially added to an expanded rancho grant until 1845.

The report went on to note that the rancho was nearly 49,000 acres (it was less than 18,000 in the 1842 grant and increased to the larger size three years later) and rough boundaries were given (Covina Hills on the north, the Spadra Rancho [actually Rancho San José] on the east, the southern {actually, northern] slopes of the Puente Hills on the south, and the San Gabriel River [actually the Rio Hondo, the pre-1867 channel of the river] on the west.  Though there is only one uncorroborated source for this, the account went on

Upon payment of $1,000 in gold for back taxes and assessments, the men received immediately a temporary grant and permission to use the Rancho.  It was not until July 1845, however, that they received their permanent grant titles from Pio Pico, the last of Mexico’s governors to administer California.

Here, too, are some errors.  There were no taxes or assessments on California land grants and the source for the $1,000 payment, Isaac Given, who came with Rowland and Workman in 1841 and did the survey for the grant application early the next year, all but said the money was a bribe to Governor Juan B. Alvarado.  Again, this may be true, but there is no way to verify this statement.


Additionally, Rowland received permanent title in March 1842, after a temporary grant was made two months prior.  The new grant from Pico almost certainly was a reward to Rowland and Workman for their assistance as leaders (Workman was captain and Rowland lieutenant) of extranjeros (foreigners) assisting Pico in forcing Governor Manuel Micheltorena out of office by force earlier in 1845, culminating in the so-called “Battle of Cahuenga Pass” near modern Universal Studios.

The report stated that “in June 1863, Workman and Rowland agreed upon a division of the Rancho” woth the former taking 20,000 and the latter 29,000 acres” and observed that Workman mostly lost to Lucky Baldwin, while Rowland’s descendants still owned “fairly large parcels to the present day.”  It has been stated in some sources that there was an informal division of La Puente in the acreage amounts given, but, it was in 1868 that the aging rancheros formally partitioned the ranch in even amounts after they received a federal patent following fifteen years of work in pursuing a claim.

It was further noted that the Southern Pacific railroad “in 1872, completed a line on the northern side of San Jose Creek, thus connecting Los Angeles to the east by railway.”  While Los Angeles County voters did approve a subsidy to the railroad for building in the area, the line out to La Puente was actually finished in spring 1874 and work continued eastward after that.  The authors also wrote that the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railway built a line south of the creek in 1902, which is true.

Later history was concisely summarized by noting that the area was used for agriculture, including cattle feed-lots after they “were forced out by Los Angeles and its neighboring cities,” but it was not until after the Second World War that “people, factories , and stores” move “outward into Orange County, San Fernando Valley, and San Gabriel Valley.”  Obviously, the writers meant “more” of those things, because there was at least a small number of all three prior to 1945!

It was also correctly noted that most population growth in the valley tended to be to he north along the foothills, although it is hardly the case that “the San Jose Valley [was] at first untouched.”  Still, the building of the San Bernardino Freeway (Interstate 10) did divert traffic from Valley Boulevard, the older west-east route, and “both homes and plants followed the freeway.”  This left the San Jose Valley “at a relative disadvantage.”


It was an “over-all pattern and timing of broad regional development [that] played a role, therefore, in the incorporation of City of Industry as a special-purpose industrial city.”  It was stated that manufacturers needed large parcels away from residences for their plants and the area that became the city was one of a few in the region that could meet those needs.  Yet, residential housing was moving southward toward the area from Interstate 10.

It was then that “some of its [the area’s] residents and the two railways’ [by then it was the Union Pacific that took over the Salt Lake line]  real estate departments became increasingly aware of the industrial potential of the [San Jose] Valley.”  With the land located between the two rail lines providing easy access and being a premium in value for industry, locals who pursued the idea of an industrial city had three primary motivations.

First, “some of the landowners believed they could sell at higher prices per acre if the sales were to industrial land buyers rather than to residential developers.”  Next, some looked to lease “and they expected to achieve a minimum-management/maximum-return relationship.”  Finally, others “with a long range interest in the broad economic welfare of the entire San Gabriel Valley” pursued the idea of an industrial city that “would provide a firm base for the Valley’s economic structure.”

Concerned about “residential encroachment,” these residents sought rezoning of local land from the county’s regional planning commission to a classification of “restricted heavy manufacturing” that preempted further residential development.  It was restated that the City of Industry’s incorporation was predicated on: large parcels for business; access to rail; zoning for manufacturing; exclusion of housing; “and ownership in the hands of a relative few who could and did act in agreement.”

When Lakewood was incorporated in 1954 under the concept of a “contract city” commonly referred to as the “Lakewood Plan,” with contracts to pay the county for services, the founders of the City of Industry adopted that idea.  It was also observed that action was based on such matters as “the aggressively expansionary annexations by West Covina” led persons to the south to seek incorporation with “proposed boundaries [that] included much of what is now City of Industry and La Puente.”


After some rejections in 1955, another application was made early the followng year, but protests about including much of the area in the new city led the Board of Supervisors to reduce La Puente from about 14 to just over 3 square miles and the city was incorporated in September 1956.  What followed was a

counter-filing for separate incorporation of City of Industry . . . from Edward Lustgarten, a new, non-resident owner of the Susy-Q Ranch, and from Gene H. and Robert H. Brown, active in the operation of El Encanto Sanitarium.

El Encanto was started by the Browns’ parents in late 1940 on the 92-acre Homestead, lost by Walter P. Temple to foreclosure eight years prior.  The Browns with others, began a drive to incorporation in summer 1956 and cited six reasons (low taxes; avoiding annexation; keeping a business-friendly climate; allowing farmers to sell at higher prices to industrial developers and keeping taxes lower in so doing; attracting industrial firms with a special-purpose city; and a “home rule” approach to a local sales-and-use tax that kept assessments low because services were fewer.

A September 1956 public hearing included critiques of the “irregular boundaries, which included several ‘balloon’ annexes made contiguous by long strips or shoestrings” and “the inclusion of 169 patients and resident employees at a mental sanitarium [El Encanto] in the population count to meet the requirement of 500 minimum population.”  The supervisors eliminated four of the five balloons, approved the population count, and allowed the matter to go to voters.

In a footnote, the report observed that the state changed the code so that cities seeking incorporation in counties with more than 2 million people (at the time, only Los Angeles County met this criteria) had to have at least 500 registered voters.

On 4 December 1956, the vote was 118-22 to allow for the incorporation of the City of Industry.  A lawsuit was previously filed challenging the supervisors’ decisions on allowing the matter to go to the electorate, but was dropped.  A restraining order was lifted and the supervisors approved the results of the election, so that the city’s incorporation was made official on 18 June 1957.

2 thoughts

  1. Another excellent blog about the origination of the City of Industry.

    Its incorporation at the same time as the City of La Puente and the ‘rivalry'(?) between them has long been a point of discussion in the area.

    One historical point that I have never understood is; Why did La Puente NOT incorporate during the late 1800s to 1920s? Over this time it had a hotel, a main street (shopping district) schools and residential areas. It seemed to function as a city (certainly it was a community) but why wasn’t there a push to establish itself as a full city and exert home rule before the 1950s? El Monte incorporated n 1912, La Puente is right next door. I suspect that the answer lies in the legal and economic conditions of those times but maybe the story is more complex.

    Hopefully another insightful blog about local history is in our future.

  2. Hi Jim, yes, the issue of incorporation is very interesting. It may be that La Puente may not have wanted to pursue that because of the costs of administering infrastructure for a small town (even compared to El Monte) and this was handled by the county. Locals were probably happy with that. But, when the booming population and development came after WWII and annexation “wars” were raging, that was the time to act and incorporate, albeit with the conflict that arose between factions. Thanks for the comment.

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