Census Figures Paint a Checkered Portrait of L.A. County : Population: Low-income cities foresee a gloomy future. But many outlying areas have prospered in growth.


Overcrowded low-income cities such as Bell and Maywood predicted a gloomy future for a large region of Los Angeles County while outlying upscale areas such as San Dimas were basking in their growth Tuesday as community leaders reacted to preliminary U.S. census data released this week.

Half of the county’s 86 cities experienced double-digit growth in the last 10 years, led by Palmdale and Lancaster. But 13 cities racked up population losses, surprising local city officials who questioned the census figures.

The losers ranged from Santa Monica to Lakewood to San Marino but tended to be upper-middle-income enclaves with shrinking numbers of young families and more retirees or professionals without children, officials said.

If any message could be gleaned from the raw numbers, it was that Los Angeles County has become a patchwork of dramatically disparate societies, from the up-and-coming areas situated more than an hour away from downtown Los Angeles to nearby suburbs that threaten to become the new slums of the 21st Century.


Double-digit growth of 19% to 35% has hit particularly hard in a seven-city area encompassing Maywood, Bell, Cudahy, Bell Gardens, Huntington Park, South Gate and Lynwood--one of the poorest regions in California.

George Cole, mayor of Bell, said the 33,813 people counted there--a figure he says is far too low--are jammed into a one-square-mile area that lacks retail, commercial or human services such as United Way programs, doctors or lawyers. He predicted tremendous degeneration for the entire seven-city area unless state and county officials expand health clinics and job programs and the private sector invests in retail enterprises.

“Regional planning is being talked about all over the state, but the folks who are supposed to be doing the regional planning for the L.A. area just totally misread what was going on here until it was too late,” Cole said. “It’s a terrible shame.”

Maywood City Manager Leonard Locher said his city has been swamped since 1986 by an influx of Latino immigrants who have strained the housing stock and created severe overcrowding.


“We have a tremendous number of garages being converted to illegal homes, laundry rooms turned into sleeping rooms; we have even found tents pitched in yards,” Locher said.

Like Cole, Locher questioned census data showing Maywood’s growth as 27%, for a total population of 27,602 people. He said the city has more than 30,000 residents “tucked away behind its doors.”

Fearing widespread deterioration of its modest single-family-home enclaves, the Maywood City Council has doubled its tiny building code enforcement staff from one person to two, Locher said.

“I have lived on my street 28 years, and when my widowed neighbor moved out, a family of five adults and six children moved into the same small house,” Locher said. “That’s the pattern on every block, and frankly we’ve lost the battle on uncontrolled growth. We don’t have any strategy for the future.”


County officials said they were not surprised by the population surges in several pockets of the region, and have adjusted health, welfare and other services accordingly throughout the decade.

However, Colleen Moskal, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Public Social Services, California’s largest local welfare agency, said that despite the renewed pleas for help, “We would not take from one area to serve another.”

One government entity that had no interest in talking about the census figures Tuesday was Los Angeles, where aides to Mayor Tom Bradley issued a series of no comments on the subject.

But part of the news could not have been good for Bradley, who has complained of a massive undercount of the homeless and the poor.


Census figures showed that Los Angeles grew by 15%, or 453,385 new residents, but added only about 103,000 housing units. That would work out to more than 4.3 newcomers per housing unit--a clear sign of overcrowding that will be even worse if the population is revised upward as Bradley has suggested, housing experts said.

The bleak outlook from several quarters of the county stood in contrast to the well-off boom towns, where official worries ranged from penciling up the last few subdivisions to hanging onto skilled workers who might be tempted to follow their jobs out of town.

Lancaster City Councilman George Theophanis said his city was hunkering down for slower growth in the 1990s after catapulting ahead 98% since 1980. His biggest concern was creating challenging jobs for the city’s well-educated populace.

“We’ve had a lot of aircraft job growth that is now decreasing,” Theophanis said. “We feel we are going to have to . . . promote jobs up here for them, and we are a little behind on that. We have 3,500 vacant houses . . . and some people are taking losses in selling homes.”


In San Dimas, where the population grew 35% to 32,439, City Manager Bob Poff said 10 years of gradual growth has brought upscale families, created a solid local economy and encouraged construction of large homes selling for $300,000 and up.

“We are over the hump on our residential growth and I seriously doubt we will ever go over 40,000 . . . and that is manageable,” Poff said. However, he said the city may challenge the census data because earlier state estimates were far higher and would mean more state tax revenue for San Dimas.

In nearby Pomona, a 39% growth rate has brought with it gang troubles and low-income families as well as new jobs and top-quality subdivisions such as Phillips Ranch and Mountain Meadows, said Mayor Donna Smith.

Despite Pomona’s mixed blessings, “The overall attitude of citizens is that they see growth and development as progress,” Smith said. “It has been welcomed with open arms.”


The only cities taken by surprise this week were those in which

the census indicated a net drop in population. Many of those cities questioned the numbers.

A spokesman for Santa Monica said state officials estimated the city’s population at 96,500--11,000 more than this week’s census showed.

“It’s quite a contrast,” said a startled Webster Kenyon, principal planner. “There seems to be a trend in smaller household size and single people.”


Charles Ebner, Lakewood director of Community Development, said he was baffled by numbers showing that the bedroom community north of Long Beach has lost 1,477 residents, leaving it with 73,177.

“I don’t know what happened here,” he said.

Times staff writers Frank Clifford and John Lee and researcher Cecelia Rasmussen contributed to this story.

CENSUS TOTALS FOR CITIES IN L.A. COUNTY Following are preliminary 1990 U.S. Census totals for 86 Los Angeles County cities as compared to the final figures from the 1980 Census.


CITY 1980 CENSUS 1990 CENSUS % INCREASE Agoura Hills 11,399 20,190 77% Alhambra 64,615 80,740 25% Arcadia 45,994 48,007 4% Artesia 14,301 15,364 7% Avalon 2,022 NA NA Azusa 29,380 39,844 36% Baldwin Park 50,554 68,481 35% Bell 25,450 33,813 33% Bellflower 53,441 61,495 15% Bell Gardens 34,117 41,990 23% Beverly Hills 32,367 31,783 -2% Bradbury 846 816 -4% Burbank 84,625 92,654 9% Carson 81,221 83,269 3% Cerritos 53,020 53,088 0% Claremont 30,950 32,699 6% Commerce 10,510 11,995 14% Compton 81,286 86,999 7% Covina 33,751 42,453 26% Cudahy 17,984 22,696 26% Culver City 38,139 38,528 1% Diamond Bar* 28,053 NA NA Downey 82,602 91,020 10% Duarte 16,724 20,536 23% El Monte 79,494 104,189 31% El Segundo 13,752 15,149 10% Gardena 45,165 49,229 9% Glendale 139,060 178,116 28% Glendora 38,654 47,257 22% Hawaiian Gardens 10,548 13,473 28% Hawthorne 56,447 69,986 24% Hermosa Beach 18,070 18,020 0% Hidden Hills 1,760 1,715 -3% Huntington Park 46,223 54,969 19% Industry 412 812 97% Inglewood 94,245 106,673 13% Irwindale 1,030 992 -4% La Canada Flintridge 20,153 19,333 -4% La Habra Heights 4,786 5,328 11% La Mirada 40,986 40,354 -2% La Puente 30,882 36,450 18% La Verne 23,508 30,827 31% Lakewood 74,654 73,177 -2% Lancaster 48,027 95,101 98% Lawndale 23,460 26,831 14% Lomita 18,807 19,336 3% Long Beach 361,334 423,394 17% Los Angeles 2,966,850 3,420,235 15% Lynwood 48,548 59,741 23% Manhattan Beach 31,542 32,003 1% Maywood 21,810 27,602 27% Monrovia 30,531 34,792 14% Montebello 52,929 59,260 12% Monterey Park 54,338 60,567 11% Norwalk 85,286 93,739 10% Palmdale 12,297 65,357 432% Palos Verdes Estates 14,376 13,349 -7% Paramount 36,407 47,340 30% Pasadena 118,550 129,518 9% Pico Rivera 53,459 58,747 10% Pomona 92,742 129,315 39% Rancho Palos Verdes 36,577 41,486 13% Redondo Beach 57,102 59,860 5% Rolling Hills 2,049 1,928 -6% Rolling Hills Estates 7,701 7,859 2% Rosemead 42,604 51,156 20% San Dimas 24,014 32,439 35% San Fernando 17,731 22,131 25% San Gabriel 30,072 36,760 22% San Marino 13,307 12,920 -3% Santa Clarita NA 107,741 NA Santa Fe Springs 14,520 15,541 7% Santa Monica 88,314 85,880 -3% Sierra Madre 10,837 10,727 -1% Signal Hill 5,734 8,276 44% South El Monte 16,623 20,100 21% South Gate 66,784 86,211 29% South Pasadena 22,681 23,759 5% Temple City 28,972 30,769 6% Torrance 129,881 132,382 2% Vernon 90 152 69% Walnut 12,478 28,905 132% West Covina 80,291 94,391 18% West Hollywood 35,703 35,121 -2% Westlake Village 6,127 7,402 21% Whittier 69,717 76,838 10% L.A. COUNTY** 7,477,503 8,719,699 17%

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census

* Approximate population for 1980

** L.A. County total includes unincorporated areas


Compiled by Times researcher Cecilia Rasmussen