Chapter 8: A city of neighborhoods

Overview

Much has changed since 1954. Change has been tempered, however, by the persistence of qualities that make a caring community.

Whenever he visited Lakewood, former U.S. Representative Steve Horn routinely noted his appreciation for Lakewood’s tree-lined streets. Lakewood’s distinction is the 36,000 trees in the city's "urban forest." In addition to Lakewood’s canopy of trees, Lakewood's safe streets, neighborhood parks, and plenty of shopping opportunities are durable features of Lakewood neighborhoods.

Tree crew trimming a street treeLakewood invests in the quality of neighborhood life in many ways, including maintenance of the city's "urban forest" of street and park trees.

In 1970, after two years of research, the city adopted a General Plan for the future of Lakewood as a community of homes and businesses with an emphasis on parks, lanscapped open space, and family recreation.

Updates and revisions since 1970 have extended that vision into the future with new elements, many relating to the environment, while still retaining the plan's original neighborhood emphasis.

In 1978, the Lakewood Home Improvement Loan program for low- and moderate-income families began. In 2003, the city hired its first neighborhood improvement manager to keep the city focused on quality-of-life goals. Later that year, the city adopted a strategy for stabilizing and improving Lakewood’s neighborhoods that are zoned for multiple-family units.

In 2000, the city council adopted a new strategy for residential property maintenance. The changes clarified and strengthened nine property maintenance standards, ranging from a prohibition on overgrown vegetation to repair of deteriorating asphalt driveways to the abatement of partially finished buildings. The city's response included the creation of a nuisance property abatement team.

Neighborhood preservation efforts also included graffiti removal, grants for exterior painting, and the expansion of volunteer-based cleanup programs.

The city also took steps to regulate RV parking on city streets through a permit system and established a curbside recycling program.

Drought tolerant garden with gravel and succulentsLakewood urges homeowners to plant drought tolerant gardens.

As homes have aged in Lakewood, their owners have taken up remodeling, sometimes as a do-it-yourself project. Since 1972, all significant new and remodeled construction has been reviewed by the city’s Development Review Board.

Sidewalks and trees

Since the 1980s, every major street repair project in Lakewood has included sidewalk, curb, and gutter replacement. In most cases, the work also includes replacement of street trees that had outgrown their spot on parkway strips.

In eastern Lakewood in the late 1970s, sidewalks and trees and their positive effect on neighborhood beautification led the former Lakewood Housing and Community Development Advisory Committee to commit federal funds to sidewalk construction and tree planting.

The committee, made up of community members from every Lakewood neighborhood, spent the early years of the 1980s shaping how federal funding would be spent in Lakewood. From their deliberations came programs that continue today, such as the Home Improvement Loan Program.

tree lined street in LakewoodLakewood's tree lined streets are a defining characteristic of the city.

The streets that are shaded by Lakewood’s mature urban forest also have been the focus of city attention. The city replants where street trees have been removed because of damage to curbs and sidewalks and trims street trees to keep them healthy and attractive. 

Since 2000, all streets in Lakewood have been repaved with rubberized asphalt concrete.

Neighborhood environments

Lakewood faces the same challenges that every California community faces – using resources in an environmentally sustainable manner, conserving water, protecting the ocean environment, and reducing the amount of waste flowing into landfills.

In 1957, Lakewood voters approved a $6.5 million bond issue to purchase the remaining assets of the privately owned Lakewood Water and Power Company and two other smaller privately-owned water providers. Since 1959, when the transfer of the water companies to the city was completed, Lakewood residents west of the San Gabriel River have enjoyed a clean, reliable, and plentiful supply of drinking water provided by the city’s own water utility.

(Lakewood residents east of the San Gabriel River continue to be served by the privately-owned Golden State Water Company.) 

Workers upgrading the city's water systemThe city's Department of Water Resources serves customers west of the San Gabriel River.

The city's maintenance of water distribution equipment began as early as 1962, when water mains were replaced and a water-testing laboratory was constructed at the city’s water service yard on Arbor Road (among eucalyptus trees planted by the Montana Land Company).

By 1966, the city had completed a six-year improvement program that included new water storage tanks to increase the city’s storage capacity to 11 million gallons.

In 1989, the city reorganized its public works functions and created a new Water Resources Department to oversee the implementation of a master plan for Lakewood's water supply. The new department’s first efforts focused on shielding Lakewood from groundwater contamination flowing from the San Gabriel Valley.

Concerns about the security of the city’s water supply were heightened in 1990 by a prolonged drought in Southern California. That year, residents voluntarily cut water use an average of 9.5 percent. Under the city’s mandatory conservation plan, adopted in 1991, residents saved even more.

The city did its part by building a reclaimed water irrigation system that serves parks, public facilities, and some landscaped areas along the city's highways. Lakewood's comprehensive water conservation plan maximizes the use of reclaimed water for landscape irrigation.

The drought cycle that began in 2011 prompted the city council to implement additional phases of mandatory water conservation.

Building new water storage tanksNew storage tanks have been built to provide city customers with water that is safe, clean, and reliable.

In 2014, these conservation regulations were given new emphasis as the region-wide drought worsened. As a result of conservation efforts, Lakewood's water use had dropped a dramatic 30 percent by September 2015.

Through the wet years and dry years, Lakewood has continued major improvement projects for water supply and water-quality protection.

The city replaced aging water wells, rehabilitated the city’s steel reservoirs, built a steel-reinforced concrete reservoir holding an additional 5.5 million gallons of water, replaced old water meters throughout the system, placed emergency generators at well sites, extended the reclaimed water network, and installed more miles of replacement water mains.

Making a greener Lakewood

Lakewood’s rural heritage still lingers in a few places, most notably along the banks of the San Gabriel River.

Litter prevention banner

Rynerson Park and the Lakewood Equestrian Center lie along the east bank. On the west bank is Monte Verde Park with its interpretive trail and entrance to the West San Gabriel River Nature Trail, a mile-long path meandering through a landscape of California native shrubs and trees from Del Amo Boulevard to South Street. Both the park and the trail were developed as lessons in California ecology and the need to keep Lakewood – and the state – green.

In 1970, school students and community organizations collected nearly 600,000 glass containers to raise money to plant trees in the medians of several major streets. Those trees still beautify Lakewood’s street grid, a fact often commented on by visitors. 

In 2008, Lakewood completed a solar project that produces over 250 kilowatts of electrical energy daily to run the pumps at Lakewood’s largest water storage facility. The solar panels will eliminate the equivalent of 13 million pounds of carbon dioxide from the environment over the system’s 30-year life.

The greening of Lakewood expanded greatly in 2009 when a new generation of trash trucks (running on clean-burning natural gas) began emptying Lakewood’s recycling carts, trash carts, and greenwaste containers.

Lakewood’s greenwaste is mulched for use as ground cover. Food scraps are composted. Recyclables are screened at a materials recovery facility and recovered. Some of the remaining trash is landfilled; some continues to be used as fuel at a waste-to-energy facility in Long Beach.

To help residents keep the city green, Lakewood promotes hazardous waste collection and provides used battery and sharps collection containers for residents. Lakewood’s trash collection contractor provides a "bulky item” pickup service and the rental of Dumpster bins.

Lakewood does a good job keeping trash out of storm drains, such as sweeping every city street and alley once each week. The city also cracks down on commercial and multi-family residential locations that don’t maintain their trash bins. The city responds to waste spills to clean up potential pollutants before they reach the storm drain system.

The city also offers do-it-yourself mechanics a free used-oil recycling kit that keeps used motor oil out of storm drains and wastewater systems.

Storm runoff drain and warning signKeeping pollutants out of storm runoff is part of the city's water quality control plan.

The city enforces standards for preventing runoff from construction projects and mandates “best management practices” for businesses (such as gas stations and restaurants) that have the potential to spread contamination into the storm drain system.

Garage operators, market managers, and restaurateurs are trained on how to clean equipment and dispose of waste in ways that minimize spillage and runoff. (Learn more about waste reduction, recycling, and pollution prevention)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A closer look at what’s in a Lakewood 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 help Lakewood residents remember those who helped create “tomorrow’s city today.” Other names celebrate the city’s connection to the people and cultures of Latin America.

Flowers and drape mourn the passing of Mayor Iacoboni

Mayor Angelo Iacoboni died suddenly in 1964.

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 Iacoboni Library 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 following Iacoboni's sudden death in 1964. 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 to become 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 his honor in 1959.

Bloomfield Park. Originally, Bloomfield Park was a county facility in the unincorporated neighborhoods 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 park is at the intersection of Candlewood Street and Palo Verde Avenue.

The Center. Dedicated in 1985, The Centre’s is Lakewood's premier banquet and meeting facility.

Cherry Cove Park. This 3-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.

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 Public Library, dedicated the Nye Library on February 22, 1973.

Two dogs meet at the Homerun Dog Park

Lakewood's dog park provides canine recreation.

Home Run Dog Park. The city's newest facility is located at the northern end of Rynerson Park and provides fenced, secure areas for dogs.

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 center was dedicated in Mayfair Park 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 likely that Bonner choose a name for the Lakewood Country Club Estates that had associations with wealth and prestige. He 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 that are named Lakewood in the United States today.

Lakewood Equestrian Center. The 19-acre equestrian center in Rynerson Park was originally the Spiller Stables.

Golf course clubhouse and Bouton Lake in 1935

The Lakewood Golf Course clubhouse (shown in 1935) and the artificial Bouton Lake

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 into the 1930s, winter rains and agricultural runoff fed a collection of shallow ponds that attracted migrating ducks and geese for the gun club’s wealthy hunters. The gun club lingered until 1941.

By then, Clark Bonner had begun development of Lakewood Village and the Lakewood Country Club Estates, which featured a championship golf course. To design and build it, Bonner turned to William P. Bell, one of the most important golf course architects in California. Bonner’s golf course site – described in the Long Beach Press-Telegram as “swampland” and a “flat, barren bog” – presented problems for Bell. Some of the gun club ponds needed filling. The marshy ground between them was an obstacle. 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 in 1933, the Lakewood course was further improved in 1937 by Bell and A. W. Tillinghast, 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, then 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 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 the Olympic Games, are on display at the Hall of Fame gallery. The naming of Lisa Fernandez Field at Mayfair Park in 2001 recognized her record-breaking wins as a pitcher.

Mae Boyar Park. Mae Boyar was the wife of Louis Boyar, one of the original developers of Lakewood (along with 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 structure once loomed over the park, offering thrills for youngsters who climbed into the giant’s head or sailed down one of his tubular arms. A modern park activity building replaced an earlier structure at the park in 2009.

Mayfair Pool and community center in Mayfair Park

Mayfair Pool and John S. Todd Community Center

Mayfair Park. Dedicated in May 1951 as a county facility, the 18-acre Mayfair Park takes its name from the surrounding housing tract, which was known as Mayfair. Originally located on Clark Avenue opposite what is now Craig Williams Elementary School, Mayfair Park was relocated during World War II to make room for a junior high school.

Monte Verde Park. The park along the San Gabriel River was almost named Hobo Park when the 3-acre facility opened in the early 1960s. Monte Verde means “green mountain.” An entrance to the West San Gabriel River Nature Trail is located at the park. The trail was dedicated in 2006. 

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 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 for 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 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 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 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 in 1966

Sky Knight takes to the air in 1966 in front of the Lakewood Sheriff's Station.

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. (Perhaps by coincidence, the Douglas F3D-2 jet fighter at Del Valle Park was called the Skyknight.)

Although the program has changed since 1966, Sky Knight is still 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 woman pilot in the program’s history and the first in the nation to fly patrols for a law enforcement agency. McIntyre proved all of Sky Knight's 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 throughout the rescue and recovery process

Street names. Marshall Boyar (the son of Louis Boyar) named many of the streets in the Lakewood Park subdivision. 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 therefore separated the streets by about four blocks.

Streets named McKnight, McManus, Quigley, Redline, Turnergrove, Schroll, and Volk honored Boyar's business associates and officials of the Prudential Insurance Company and the FHA. Seaborn was named for a Los Angeles insurance agent. DeeBoyar Street was named after Boyar’s wife. Boyar told the reporter that he would name another street Gloria after a former girlfriend. Gloria Avenue never appeared on a Lakewood street map, perhaps for obvious reasons. (Gloria Court is street in a much later development.)

Ianita Avenue was named for Boyar's grandmother. Coke Street, Boyar said, is for “that good old American drink.” Boyar named Chesteroark 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. A Freckles Road resident circulated a petition to have the name changed to “something more respectable” but without success.

Mamie Eisenhower, the wife of President Dwight Eisenhower, has a Lakewood street named in her honor.

Mamie Eisenhower, the wife of then-President Dwight Eisenhower, gave Lakewood a street name in 1952.

Yearling was named for the movie of the same name. Hackett Street, Boyar said, was named for the actor 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 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.

Clark J. Bonner named new streets around the Douglas Aircraft plant when it opened in 1941. Conant and Cover streets were named after officials of the aircraft company.

When a former oil transfer facility in western Lakewood became the Westgate housing subdivision in 1995, street names were auctioned to raise funds for the Weingart-Lakewood Family YMCA. Many of the streets have the names of YMCA and Rotary Club members.

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).

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 covered 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 and retains its original name and location.

Weingart Senior Center and Weingart Ballroom at The Centre. 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, The Centre in the Lakewood Civic Center, and the Lakewood Family YMCA 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.