by Paul R. Spitzzeri
A major part of the Phase 1 implementation program for the City of Industry General Plan, as expressed in a July 1977 report issued six years after the plan was adopted, was in the recommendation of land acquisition for nine areas in the central portion of the city. Most of these were east of Azusa Avenue and west of Nogales Street, with the exception of the Industry Hills area to the northwest and a strip of land paralleling Valley Boulevard and comprising the switchyards of the Southern Pacific Railroad.
The first area was on both sides of Valley Boulevard, east of Azusa, with the section to the north of the former being the Alta Dena (formerly the Louis Didier) Dairy. The remainder was south of Valley and part of the railroad switchyards mentioned above. The 30 acres of dairyland closest to Azusa was considered “an interim use related to maintaining a dairy herd of approximately 1,500 cows.”
As was the case since the post-World War II boom in places like Cerritos and Artesia, where dairies closed and moved to Chino and Ontario, with these latter now moving out of greater Los Angeles, the “relocation of the dairy herd away from the heart of an urbanized setting to a more suitable rural area” was desscribed as being a hardship, but ultimately necessary. This was for nearby residences, proximity to sanitation channels, and “new employment growth.”
A rendering showed what could be done to create an attractive industrial setting more amenable to the city and those nearby. Interestingly, the drawing posited a realignment of Valley Boulevard from a straight course to a “gentle and gracious” one, allowing for some development between the thoroughfare and the Southern Pacific Railroad. It would also screen the tracks and overhead high-voltage power lines. A “sense of arrival” from the proposed reworking of the road would also provide an aesthetic improvement, much as was the case with the new course of Azusa Avenue and its grade separation over the tracks and the separation of Valley Boulevard further west.
Further, the deletion in 1976 of the proposed “Huntington Beach Freeway”, which would have extended State Route 39 from northern Orange County through the Puente Hills and up the Azusa Avenue corridor led to a proposal to build a north-south street from Azusa through the realigned Valley Boulevard and under the Southern Pacific line. Detailed landscaping suggestions, including the use of Canary Island pines that were being planted at the time along Don Julian Road near the Homestead and other plant types reflected the beautification ideas being used broadly in the city.
Ultimately, much of the Area One concept was developed, including the extension of Hurley Street from La Puente across Azusa and curving to Valley, with industrial areas built on that Alta Dena Dairy parcel where the cows grazed. Alta Dena still operates its facility, however, to the east. Nothing was done to change Valley’s alignment nor was Hurley extended south of that road.
Area Two was east of Azusa and north of the Union Pacific (formerly the Salt Lake) rail line. There was also a recommendation, in addition to revitalizing some 130 acres of “fallow land” from earlier agricultural and ranching use, to improve misaligned streets, much of which was done, though not entirely as suggested here, to provide better access for vehicles in the soon-to-be developed industrial tracts. Three tracts adjacent to Azusa Avenue included old farm sites and areas needed to provide better transportation routes to adjacent parcels.
The third area under consideration was east of Azusa and between the Pomona Freeway and the Union Pacific tracks, an area that decades before was subdivided as the Town of Rowland, but which never got beyond the tract map planning stage. Gale Avenue was to be extended through the area to the east towards Fullerton Road (and in further areas to Nogales). The Azusa Avenue corridor was considered key to the city’s future development and improving the individual areas for industrial development, transportation access and other infrastructure was highlighted. Sure enough, work in following years yielded shopping centers, auto dealerships and other improvements, complemented in adjacent parcels by the Puente Hills Mall, the Walmart store and other elements.
Areas four through seven extended further east to Nogales and similarly focused on parcel acqusition to improve confusing and illogical street alignments, poor drainage, topography and elevation issues, fallow land and incompatible land uses and other aspects. Most of what was proposed did take place and industrial development occurred in the succeeding couple of decades.
The eighth area entailed a narrow swath of land between Stimson Avenue and Azusa Avenues that consisted of the western portion of the large Southern Pacific switchyards. This 130-acre section, touted as being able to support 1,700 jobs in new development, was being considered for renewal “when and if the Southern Pacific Railroad initiates relocation plans,” though there were some negotiations needed with railroad and utility companies concerning access from the west, south and east of this tract. The Southern Pacific chose not to relocate and the current owner, the Union Pacific, is still operating the switchyard.
Finally, there was the 550-acre Industry Hills property, formerly used from the 1951-1969 as a local landfill, but left with “health and safety hazards and visual blight,” including underground fires, “crevices wide enough to threaten children,” exposed debris and other problems. Acquired by the City in 1976 for recreational and civic facilities, the land was in the process of a “major earth-moving operation” to cover the disposal area “smothering underground fires, filling crevices, and covering exposed debris” as well as mitigating cut-and-fill. A 36-hole golf course, an “Industry Exhibit-Conference Center,” a “park-picnic area” in the relatively undisturbed northwest section, and “equestrian, swimming and tennis facilities” were in the planning stages.
Photographs showed the extent of the blight, especially in the landfill area, while images of the earth-moving project and the early stages of the exhibit and conference center were also provided. The concept of the “Industry Hills Civic-Recreation-Conservation Area,” developed in 1971 was modified in 1975, with the golf course enlarged for better tournament play and, interestingly, “eliminating mudslide hazards which have traditionally plagued residences” to the south in La Puente.
The expansion of the course also meant adjustment of the equestrian facilities, at what is now the Expo Center, to a better location. Moreover, lakes, reservoirs and irrigation elements were added for fire protection and the irrigation of the entire project area and using reclaimed water was being incorporated “as a result of the recent need to conserve water resources in the State of California.” Additionally, methane from the landfill was being captured and “will be a major source of energy” for the exhibit and conference center, which later had a Sheraton (now Pacific Palms) hotel added above the facility.
A funicular system was also shifted in location to serve the golf course and provide a better view of the valley from a replica station and snack bar. Recently, the City decided to acquire “the historically significant Churchill railroad car,” which was used as a funeral car for the famed British prime minister and subject of a recent Oscar-winning film after his death in 1965. Purchased by Edward Roski, Jr. of Majestic Realty and Industry city council member Darius Johnson for under $1,000 the same year, it was installed next to the station and snack bar in 1979.
Not the destination that it was assumed it would be, the rail car was shipped back to England by the City and given in 2007 to a railroad trust in Dorset County along the nation’s southern coast. As seen from this YouTube video, the car was restored for 30,000 pounds in 2015 in time for the fiftieth anniversary of Churchill’s death and is now displayed at the National Railway Museum in York in England’s northeast, about 90 miles from William Workman’s birthplace in Temple Sowerby.
The remainder of the report dealt with “General Public Works Capital Improvements” including flood control; storm drains; water distribution; electrical distribution; landscaping, street lighting and traffic signals; gas distribution; telephone lines; railroad distribution through spur lines from the two major mainlines; and grading and earthwork.
An appendix of parcel maps from the county assessor’s office from February 1977, included portions of the nine acquisition areas discussed above, including the never-developed “Town of Rowland” and references to earlier landowners from the Rowland and Yorba families, who’d been in the area since the early 1840s.
The remaining two installments in the year-long “Time Capsule Tuesday” series of posts celebrating the 60th anniversary of the City of Industry will look at the restoration of the Homestead, culminating in the museum’s opening thirty-seven years ago in May 1981.