History Facts

Setting: The City of Lakewood is located in southern Los Angeles County, 23 miles southeast of Los Angeles. The area of the city is about 9.5 square miles.

Incorporation: Lakewood incorporated on April 16, 1954.

Current population: Lakewood’s population was estimated by the State Department of Finance to be 79,919 as of January 2020. The population density of Lakewood is 8,636 oersons per square mile, making Lakewood more than twice as dense as suburbs nationally.

Economy: The economic base of the city is primarily commercial/retail. Almost 3,000 businesses are located in Lakewood.

City Services: Contract services represent about 40 percent of the city’s operating budget. Lakewood contracts with private firms for trash collection, signal maintenance, and street sweeping. By contract, Los Angeles County provides law enforcement, road repair, and building inspection. Parks, recreation and cultural activities, community development, landscape maintenance, a water utility in western Lakewood, and general administrative services are provided directly by the city.

Government: Lakewood is a general law city, governed under the general laws of the state of California. (Charter cities are formed on the basis of a city charter adopted by the state legislature. Today, there is very little difference between a charter city and general law city.)

Lakewood's five city council members are elected for overlapping four-year terms. The city council appoints the city manager and the city attorney. The city manager is responsible to the city council for the day-to-day management of the city’s workforce, carrying out city council policies, and the development of the city’s budget.

The city council appoints the members of Community Safety Commission, the Planning and Environment Commission, and the Recreation and Community Services Commission. Commissioners are Lakewood residents who serve without compensation. Each commission has five members.

The first city council members in 1954 were Angelo M. Iacoboni and Gene Nebeker (elected to four-year terms) and William J. Burns, George Nye, Jr., and Robert W. Baker (elected to two-year terms). The arrangement of the first terms of council members ensured that city council elections would occur every two years and terms would overlap.

The office of mayor in Lakewood was originally held for a two-year term. Beginning in 1976, the office of mayor changed to a one-year term.

Lakewood City Council Meeting, 2019
City council meeting, 2019

The mayor is chosen from among the five council members. The position is mostly ceremonial, although the mayor does preside at council meetings.

All council members are elected at large. There are no council districts in Lakewood.

Streets, Parks, Facilities: What's in a Name?

Lakewood remembers its past in many ways, including the distinctive names that designate the city’s parks and community facilities. Some parks and facilities remember those who helped create and shape “tomorrow’s city today.” Other names celebrate the city’s connection to the people and cultures of Latin America.

  • Angelo M. Iacoboni Library. Angelo M. Iacoboni (1919-1964) received the most votes for city council in 1954 in a field of 39 candidates. The city council elected him as Lakewood’s first mayor. He died in 1964 while still in office.The predecessor of the current Iacoboni Library in the Lakewood Civic Center opened in 1954, the same year that Lakewood officially incorporated as a city. The library was located in the Faculty Shops in Lakewood Center near what was then the city hall. The library moved to a larger building in 1959 in the new Lakewood Civic Center on Clark Avenue. It was rededicated in 1965 as the Angelo M. Iacoboni Library. The library moved to its present location in 1973. It became a depository for federal documents in 1970 and a depository for California documents in 1973.
  • Biscailuz Park. Eugene Biscailuz (1883-1969) rose through the ranks of the Sheriff’s Department and won the 1932 countywide election as sheriff. Sheriff Biscailuz held the record for longest consecutive service in the department, having become a deputy in 1907 and serving 51 years until his retirement in 1958. Biscailuz was instrumental in creating the contract plan for sheriff’s law enforcement. The four-acre Biscailuz Park was dedicated in 1959.
  • Bloomfield Park. Originally, Bloomfield Park was a county facility in the unincorporated neighborhood east of the San Gabriel River. When Lakewood annexed the surrounding neighborhood, the 15-acre park became part of the city’s recreational heritage.
  • Bolivar Park. Simón Bolívar (1783-1830) was one of South America’s greatest generals. His victories won independence for Bolivia, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. He is called El Liberator (the Liberator) and the “George Washington of South America.” The 10-acre Bolivar Park was dedicated in 1957.
  • Candleverde Park. This 2.2-acre is at the intersection of Candlewood Street and Palo Verde Avenue
  • The Centre. Dedicated in 1985, The Centre’s name takes is the city's largest community facility.
  • Cherry Cove Park. This three-acre park and playground was dedicated by the developers of the Cherry Cove housing tract and acquired by the city in 1971.
  • Del Valle Park. José del Valle (1780-1834) wrote a declaration of independence for Central America and was acclaimed as the liberator of Honduras. The 16-acre Del Valle Park was originally called MacArthur Park, thanks to the nearby MacArthur Elementary School. Today, Del Valle Park includes the Lakewood Veterans Memorial, rededicated in 2015, that honors all those who served in all of the nation's military services.
  • George Nye, Jr. Library. Located in Mae Boyar Park, the library is named after teacher and artist George Nye, Jr., a member of the original city council. Nye died while in office in May 1971. The city, in cooperation with the County of Los Angeles Public Library, dedicated the Nye Library on February 22, 1973.

Lakewood Veterans Memorial Plaza
Lakewood Veterans Memorial Plaza

  • Home Run Dog Park. The city's newest recreation facility is located at the northern end of Rynerson Park and provides a fenced, secure area for dog owners and their pets. Its name recalls the nearby Little League field at Rynerson Park.
  • John Sanford Todd Community Center. John Sanford Todd is acclaimed as the “Father of the Lakewood Plan” that permitted Lakewood and scores of other communities throughout the nation to incorporate. He was Lakewood’s first and only city attorney from 1954 to 2004. The community center was named in his honor in 1991.
  • Lakewood. Many sources confidently assert that Clark Bonner gave Lakewood its name because of the woods that were said to surround Bouton Lake. Those sources may be right, but photographs of the site before development show just a few eucalyptus trees growing near a boggy depression dotted with marshes – all that remained of General Bouton’s accidental lake.
  • It’s more likely that Bonner choose a name for the Lakewood Country Club Estates that had associations with wealth and prestige and picked the name Lakewood because of Lakewood, New Jersey’s fame as a resort community. According to the gazetteer of the U.S. Geologic Survey, there are at least 125 communities and places named Lakewood in the United States today.
  • Lakewood Equestrian Center. The 19-acre equestrian center in Rynerson Park was originally the Spiller Stables.
  • Lakewood Golf Course. The site of the Lakewood Golf Course had once been the Cerritos Gun Club, located on 2,500 acres of the Montana Ranch near the Bixby Station of the Los Angeles Terminal Railway. Through the 1890s and early 1900s, winter runoff fed man-made ponds that attracted migrating ducks and geese for the gun club’s wealthy hunters. In 1931, big changes came to the club’s rural outpost. Clark Bonner had begun development of the Lakewood Country Club Estates around a championship golf course.

To design and built it, Bonner turned to William P. Bell, then one of the most important golf course architects in California. Bonner’s site – described in the Long Beach Press Telegram as “swampland” and a “flat, barren bog” – presented problems for Bell. Some of the old duck ponds needed filling in. The marshy ground between them was an obstacle and had to be drained.

The
The "lake" was a water hazard, and the "wood" was a stand of eucalyptus trees in 1933.

Bell first dug a lake (now called Bouton Lake) to drain the wetland and then used the excavated soil to create slopes and bunkers for the fairways and greens. Called a “Bell masterpiece” by golf enthusiasts when it opened, the Lakewood course was improved in 1937 by Bell and A. W. Tillinghast, already one of the most prolific architects in the history of golf.

The first ball struck at the dedication of the course in March 1933 was hit by Bobby Jones, the world’s best known amateur golfer. The course opened to the public in May, and its clubhouse became the social hub of the new Lakewood community. The course went on to host the prestigious Long Beach Open, the California State Open, the Southern California Public Links championship, and other notable tournaments.

  • Lisa Fernandez Field. Olympian Lisa Fernandez is a member of the Lakewood Youth Hall of Fame, honored for her extraordinary career in softball that began at Mayfair Park. Memorabilia of her Olympic wins, including a bat, jersey, and the shoes she wore during Olympic Games, are on display at the Lakewood Youth Hall of Fame Gallery. The naming of Lisa Fernandez Field at Mayfair Park in 2001 recognized her enduring record in international softball competition.
  • Mae Boyar Park. Mae Boyar was the wife of Louis Boyar, one of the original developers of Lakewood (along with S. Mark Taper and Ben Weingart). The 12-acre park was dedicated in 1964 following her death. Some residents may remember that the 25-foot-tall Giganta play structure once loomed over park visitors, offering thrills for youngsters who climbed into the giant’s head or sailed down one of its tubular arms. A modern park activity building replaced an earlier structure at the park in 2009.
  • Mayfair Park. Dedicated in 1951 as a county facility, the 18-acre Mayfair Park takes its name from the surrounding housing tract, which was known as Mayfair.
  • Monte Verde Park. Lakewood’s day camp park along the San Gabriel River was almost named Hobo Park when the three-acre facility opened in the early 1960s. Monte Verde means “green mountain.”
  • Palms Park. Palms Park – at 21 acres, the city’s largest supervised park – was dedicated in 1978 and includes a community center, ball diamonds, and picnic facilities. The park is adjacent to Palms Elementary School.
  • Pan American Festival Association. The association was formed in mid-1940s by Lakewood Village residents to celebrate the friendship between the United States and the peoples of Latin America.
  • Pat McCormick Pool. Located in Bolivar Park and dedicated in 1958, the pool is named after former Lakewood resident Pat McCormick who was the first woman to win an Olympic “double-double” – two gold medals in two consecutive Olympic Games (1952 and 1956). Her medals were in the three-meter springboard and ten-meter platform diving events
  • Rynerson Park. This 35-acre park and equestrian center was dedicated in 1990 and named after Jacqueline Rynerson, a city council member who was instrumental in obtaining the lease agreement with Southern California Edison for use of the park property. She also was a leader in the incorporation movement in 1954, an elected member of the former park and parkway district, an appointed member of the city's Recreation Commission, and one of the founders of Project Shepherd during her service as a member of the Lakewood Coordinating Council.
  • S. Mark Taper Foundation Vista Lodge. The lodge in Monte Verde Park honors the memory of S. Mark Taper, one of the original developers of Lakewood whose foundation made the lodge's construction possible.
  • San Martin Park. José de San Martín (1778–1850) was a soldier, statesman, and the national hero of Argentina and Chile. The 10-acre San Martin Park was dedicated in 1957.
  • Sky Knight. The world’s first helicopter law enforcement patrol program began in Lakewood in 1966 when the city joined with the Sheriff’s Department and the federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration to test the concept of an “airborne patrol car.” Named Sky Knight, the program was an instant success as a crime fighting tool and quickly expanded to cities served by the Lakewood Sheriff’s Station. (By coincidence, the Douglas F3D-2 jet fighter from at Del Valle Park was called the Skyknight.)

Sky Knight is one of the few aerial law enforcement programs to combine civilian pilots and observers who are law enforcement officers.

Former Sky Knight pilot Monica McIntyre was the first women pilot in the program’s history and the first in the nation to fly patrols for a law enforcement agency. Sky Knight proved all its abilities in 1986 when it flew continuously over the scene of a crashed commercial jet in Cerritos. From her aerial observation post, McIntyre guided medivac helicopters and positioned news media helicopters away from flight corridors.

  • Street names. Marshall Boyar (the son of Louis Boyar) named many of the streets in the Lakewood Park subdivisions. Johanna Avenue is named for Johanna Dobkin, the daughter of his father’s lawyer. Flangel and Frankel streets are named for two former schoolmates, Harold Flangel and Jerry Frankel. Boyar told a reporter for the Long Beach Independent in 1952 that he had a hard time telling them apart and separated their streets by about four blocks.

Streets named McKnight, McManus, Quigley, Redline, Turnergrove, and Schroll honored Boyar's business associates and officials of the Prudential Insurance Company and the FHA who funded the development. Seaborn was named for a Los Angeles insurance agent. DeeBoyar Street was named after Boyar’s wife. Boyar said in 1952 that he would name another street Gloria after a girlfriend. That name never appeared on a Lakewood street map, perhaps for obvious reasons. Ianita Avenue was named for Boyar's grandmother.

Boyar named Chesterroark Drive for Chester Roark, his father’s bookkeeper, and Stevely Avenue for Alice Stevely, the secretary of a Los Angeles city councilman. Gallup honored Dr. George Gallup, the influential pollster.

Allred and Dollar streets were named for servicemen reported missing in action in Korea. Bomberry Street was named for Sergeant Robbie Bomberry, who survived a North Korean massacre of captured American soldiers and returned home.

Boyar named Freckles Road after his cocker spaniel, run over by a car. Yearling was named for the movie of the same name. Roxanne Avenue was named for the co-host of the early TV game show “Beat The Clock.” Hackett Street, Boyar said, was named for Buddy Hackett, who was then best known as a night club comic.

Boyar also named streets Dwight, Eisenhower, Mamie, and Nixon. Since Eisenhower already had streets named in his honor in cities nearby, the county engineer directed Boyar to choose different names. He was allowed to keep (Richard) Nixon and Mamie (Eisenhower). Boyar considered naming streets Stevenson and Adlai. But after Eisenhower’s presidential election victory over Stevenson in 1952, Boyar changed his mind.

Street names in the Mayfair tract north of South Street were the idea of Charles Hopper, an early developer of the Montana Ranch. Hedda (Hopper) and (Jimmy) Fidler were Hollywood gossip columnists. (Gene) Autry, (Al) Pearce, and (Jean) Hersholt were 1940s radio stars. Other streets recognize once famous radio characters: Dagwood (Bumstead), Amos and Andy, and Lorelei (Kilbourne).

According to a 1954 story in the Long Beach Press Telegram, Dunrobin Street (a name chosen by the county engineer) is named for Dunrobin Castle in Scotland. Tanglewood was originally named Tanglefoot, the nickname of baseball legend Lou Gehrig. The county engineer substituted “wood” for “foot” in keeping with the theme of many Lakewood streets.

When a former oil transfer facility in western Lakewood became the Westgate subdivision in 1985, the street names there were auctioned to raise funds for the Weingart Lakewood Family YMCA. Many of the streets have the names of YMCA and Rotary Club members.

Scotland's Dunrobin Castle
Scotland's Dunrobin Castle

Some of the interior lanes that thread through the parking lots of Lakewood Center carry the names of residential streets that begin outside the mall, including Faculty and Graywood. But four of the lanes are named simply A, B, C, and D streets.

Lakewood Boulevard was originally Cerritos Avenue. It was renamed by the county at the urging of Clark Bonner, developer of the Lakewood Country Club Estates. South Street got its name because it had once been the only east-west street south of the communities of Hynes and Clearwater (now Paramount and part of Bellflower).

Del Amo Boulevard carries the name of Dr. Gregorio del Amo, the husband of Maria Susana Delfina Dominguez, one of six sisters who inherited the Rancho San Pedro from their father, Manuel Dominguez. The parcel belonging to the Del Amos included much of present-day Torrance, including the land where the Del Amo Fashion Center and Del Amo Financial Center now stand.

The Montana Ranch Company announced in 1907 that it planned to build four new roads across its land: Somerset Avenue, New York Street, Spring Street, and Bixby Station Road. Today, only Spring Street retains its original name.

  • West San Gabriel River Parkway Nature Trail. The walking and jogging trail along the river extends from Carson Street in the south to South Street in the north, with a new extension from May Boyar Park to the intersection of Candlewood Street and Knoxville Avenue. The trail is landscaped with California native grasses and shrubs.
  • Weingart Senior Center, Weingart Ballroom at the Centre, and Weingart Lakewood Family YMCA. Ben Weingart was one of the original developers of Lakewood. The Weingart Foundation assisted the city in building the Burns Community Center, the Weingart Senior Center, Palms Park Community Center, and the Centre, among other gifts to the Lakewood community.
  • William J. Burns Community Center. Newspaperman and security consultant, William J. Burns was elected to serve on Lakewood’s first city council in 1954. The William J. Burns Community Center was dedicated following his death in 1976.