Astride the eastern edge of the Los Angeles County line sits the city of Cerritos, a suburban hamlet once known more for its large dairy farms than for tree-lined neighborhoods of tract houses and the widely touted Auto Square.
Incorporated in 1956 as Dairy Valley, the town changed its name to Cerritos in 1967, a nod to the historical Rancho Los Cerritos Spanish land grant.
FOR THE RECORD: Birthplace —An article about the city of Cerritos in Sunday's Real Estate section stated that Patricia Nixon was born in the area. She was born in Ely, Nev.
The city, with horseshoe-shaped geographic boundaries, experienced a housing boom in the early 1970s and 1980s as young families snapped up the mostly affordable housing. By the late 1980s, the dairies that once peppered the landscape were a thing of the past.
Today, Cerritos remains a desirable place to live because of its well-planned neighborhoods, thriving retail and auto businesses, schools, proximity to freeways and major commerce and myriad parks, one named for former First Lady Patricia Nixon, who was born in the area.
"It's a clean city, very well planned," said Clarence Hinds, a Realtor with Century 21 Real Estate Store in La Palma, who has sold homes in the Cerritos community since 1976 and has watched his children and grandchildren grow up here. "It's a great city for kids."
The homes in Cerritos start in the high $200,000s for a condominium to more than $1 million in more expensive neighborhoods, Hinds said. But the bulk of the housing consists of three-bedroom 1,200- to 1,600-square-foot homes listing for $500,000 and four-bedroom, 2,000- to 2,700-square-foot ones for up to $800,000, Hinds said.
Named the most ethnically diverse city in the nation in a 1989 Cal State Northridge study, Cerritos, which once had more cows than people, now has an upper-middle-class population of about 54,000, with Asians, mainly Korean, Chinese and Filipino, making up about 60%, whites making up about 30% and blacks and Latinos the remaining 10%.
The master planning of the 1970s has resulted in streets dotted with majestic trees and more than 200 acres of parks and recreation facilities, including the 56-acre county regional park and an Olympic pool facility at Cerritos Park East, home to the city's annual Independence Day carnival and fireworks show.
Cerritos is the epitome of tract housing and cookie-cutter neighborhoods. The mostly beige stucco homes are often bland and lacking a distinct architectural style — the result of various home builders having carved up the dairy fields some 30 years ago.
Housing developments have such names as Greenbrook, Ponderosa Warmington, Tiempo and Larwin.
Part of the ABC Unified School District, Cerritos is known for its quality schools, particularly Whitney High School, which scored 986 out of 1,000 on the 2003 Academic Performance Index. Scores at Cerritos schools ranged from 698 to 939 at the elementary level, from 674 to 844 at the middle schools and from 660 to 986 at the high schools.
Good news, bad news
Cerritos is known for its commerce. The Los Cerritos Shopping Center mall has flourished where others have withered. The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in 1993, has booked entertainers such as Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli and mounted such plays as "Little Shop of Horrors" and "Death of a Salesman."
In addition, the city's library is a source of civic pride, undergoing a number of expansions since it opened in 1972. The latest renovations, dedicated in 2002, nearly doubled the space to 82,500 square feet and added 100,000 more books and hundreds of computer workstations.
Despite its successes, Cerritos will forever be linked to a horrendous airplane crash in 1986 in which an Aeromexico DC-9 crashed into a neighborhood, killing 82 people, 15 on the ground, and destroying about a dozen homes.
Historical values Single-family detached resales:
Year...Median Price 1990...$277,500
*Year to date
Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; http://www.ci.cerritos.ca.us , http://www.cerritos.org , http://www.abcusd.k12.ca.us , Nancy Craig and Clarence Hinds, Century 21 Real Estate Store, http://www.wefindhomes4you.com .