Irwindale: A holesome life style

Times Staff Writer

“Keep your eye upon the doughnut and not upon the hole” is an old saying that would be an apt motto for this industrial city in the eastern part of the San Gabriel Valley.

This 9 1/2-square-mile city has eight square miles of holes, left over from excavated quarries once filled with gravel--now part of the pavement of Southland streets. Collectively, city authorities guess that these exhausted quarries could hold as much water as Lake Arrowhead.

Like many other primarily industrial cities, Irwindale has been struggling with its image. The picture to those who view Irwindale from speeding cars on the Foothill (210) and San Gabriel River (605) freeways largely has been one of tin buildings, substandard roads and the ever-present empty quarries. This has changed in recent years with the completion of modern industrial and commercial facilities, but the holes remain.

According to City Manager Charles Martin, Irwindale was incorporated in 1957 to avoid being annexed by nearby cities such as Covina, Azusa and Baldwin Park. The city is sparsely populated, with just over 1,000 residents.

From being a “back of beyond” community through the late 1960s, Irwindale became a prime industrial location in the 1970s with the construction of 10 industrial parks, the massive Miller brewing facility alongside the Foothill (210) Freeway and the headquarters of Home Savings & Loan.


Development consultant Fred Lyte and financial consultant Manuel (Manny) DeDios were responsible for the change in image and the industrial influx, Martin said. DeDios began advising the city in the 1970s and has since expanded his operation under the corporate name the Benchmark Group.

There have been many suggestions about what to do with all those holes, some of them outrageous, Martin said. Although 10% of the quarries are still operating, by the end of the century most of them will be phased out.

Among the suggestions:

--Buying fill dirt and creating usable flat land. This idea has been discarded as too expensive, and the city apparently doesn’t want to become the garbage dump for the San Gabriel Valley.

--Going “mountain hunting” to bring in a mountain nobody wants. Fontana reportedly has mountains it doesn’t need and rails link the two cities, Martin said.

--Opening up the Santa Fe Dam and flooding the area with water and mud.

--Filling the quarries with water and marketing the area as a resort/recreational/boating community.

--Using the holes as they are, as ready-made excavations for high-rise buildings.

The question of what to do about the holes is much more important now than it was eight years ago, with improved land worth six times today what it was in 1977, Martin said.

While city officials, from Mayor Pat Miranda on down, ponder the “hole” situation, the city has been devoting its attentions to less vexing problems.

Completion is expected early next year on a 12,500-square-foot senior citizen center, being built on a turnkey basis by the Benchmark Group. The project is part of a two-building complex totaling $2.7 million. Construction has just begun on the second building, a 9,500-square-foot a community center.