Dominguez Ranch Adobe, Seminary : Quiet Estate Caught in Annexation Fight

Times Staff Writer

On the brow of a hill, amid acres of well-tended foliage, lie the sprawling, peaceful grounds of the Dominguez Ranch Adobe and Seminary.

And while the historic site of California's first Spanish rancho is a place most frequently visited by those in search of tranquility, it has recently become an unlikely battleground for two cities.

The 159-year-old Dominguez estate is currently the focus of a spirited tug of war between the cities of Compton and Carson.

Compton is expected this week to bid for annexation of the seminary site. But Carson has already staked a claim on the unincorporated county land.

Both cities say they have the greater historical claim on the property and are the rightful "heirs" of the estate, formerly inhabited by the family of Don Manuel Dominguez, who during the 1800s owned most of the land that is now the South Bay.

And both say they are prepared to fight for the site at a hearing--as yet unscheduled--before the county's Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), which has the authority to decide such territorial matters.

Resistance Vowed

"I was pretty hot under the collar when I found out Carson was going to try to annex that land," said Compton Councilwoman Jane Robbins. "We're not going to let that happen. That landmark belongs in the city of Compton, not Carson."

Said Carson Mayor Kay Calas, "I am certainly prepared to go to LAFCO and fight for what I think belongs in our city. I feel we're entitled to that area."

The disputed area is just a small part of the two cities' bids to annex chunks of largely industrial and undeveloped county areas. Carson wants about 800 acres, and Compton is seeking 320 acres.

The conflict arises over the 17-acre seminary area and a 35-acre county parcel that houses Compton's water reservoir tanks. The seminary site, at 18127 Alameda St., is a state and national historic landmark.

Factors Considered

The county commission will decide the issue based on such considerations as each city's ability to provide services and their need for annexation. It will also examine, for both cities, the affect of annexation on other governmental agencies and whether the proposed annexations adhere to county-designated "spheres of influence."

Spheres of influence are boundaries that were created by the county in 1973 to designate which unincorporated land a city is eligible to annex. The seminary is currently included in Compton's sphere, not Carson's.

"Carson is just being greedy," said Compton Mayor Walter R. Tucker. "I can't understand why they look with jaundiced eyes at something that is within our sphere of influence. The issue here is that they're trying to take something from our sphere of influence."

Tucker and other Compton council members say that they have demonstrated their willingness to cooperate with Carson by agreeing to relinquish an area that houses a large mobile home park. Residents in that park, Del Amo Mobile Estates, have been requesting annexation to Carson for the last six months. It was their desire for annexation, along with that of residents of another mobile home park in the Carson sphere, that launched Carson's bid to the county commission.

'Would Be Ridiculous'

"We're willing to negotiate with Carson," said Compton Councilman Floyd James. "If the people in the trailer park don't want to come to Compton, fine. Carson can have the trailer park. But not the seminary--that would be ridiculous."

Joined by seminary representatives, Carson officials say it is the county's spheres of influence that are ridiculous.

Said Councilman Walter J. Egan, "A sphere of influence is just an arbitrary line made by the county. The issue here is history. We have more historical connection to the site."

Said Father Patrick McPolin, spokesman for the seminary and adobe, "There's more weight with history than arbitrarily drawn spheres of influence. The historical lines of connection go to Carson. We cast our lot with Carson."

Mailing Address Only

He added: "Historically, the only connection we have with Compton is our mailing address."

Such statements, however, make Compton leaders bristle.

Compton, they point out, is the older city--it was incorporated in 1888, Carson in 1968--and the place where Dominguez's eight daughters went to school.

"The people who lived at the rancho did their shopping in Compton," said Robbins, the Compton councilwoman. "Our high school is named Dominguez. The rancho's post office is Compton. . . . Our Veteran of Foreign Wars post is named after May Carson, a relative of the Dominguez family.

"The rancho came from a Spanish land grant," she continued. "Our city has more Latinos than Carson does."

But Carson and seminary officials think history is on their side.

Broad Picture

"Carson was named after George Henry Carson, who married a Dominguez daughter, Victoria," McPolin said. "Compton, in the broad overall picture, was part of the larger Rancho San Pedro, but not part of Manuel Dominguez's land. How the City of Compton can claim the land where a Carson girl was born, I do not understand."

Said Councilman Thomas Mills, "The city of Carson emanated from the rancho itself. I don't think the rancho is as integrally a part of Compton."

Officials from both cities and the rancho say they will prepare more detailed historical testimony for the county hearing, which is not likely to be scheduled for at least four months.

Said McPolin, "The rancho is a pedigree landmark. It's worth fighting over. . . . We have here an island of tranquility."

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