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Neighborhood Spotlight: Rowland Heights an Eastern suburban gateway

Like that of most places in the Los Angeles region, the recorded history of Rowland Heights stretches back to the time when Spanish expeditions wandered the sere plains and craggy hills of California, trying to take the measure of the vast land they had stumbled upon while searching for gold.

It was Gaspar de Portolá — on his long, dusty march from San Diego to Monterey — who claimed the place for the king of Spain and named the area Puente, for a bridge his men built over a nearby creek.

In the 1840s the Mexican government, the inheritors of the remnants of the Spanish empire in North America, granted rights to the 49,000-acre Rancho La Puente to John Rowland and his partner.

Together they raised crops and cattle and fought in support of Pio Pico and the Californio cause in the Second Battle of Cahuenga Pass in 1845, in which the warring sides fired artillery at each other until they ran out of shot, resulting in the deaths of one horse, one donkey and zero Californians.

The rancho remained a sleepy agricultural corner of Southern California, untouched by generations of boom and bust cycles until the 1950s, when the Rowland and Walnut Water District was formed to bring water from the Colorado River to what would soon become a bustling bedroom community. The construction of the 60 Freeway in 1970 fueled the boom in subdivisions and strip malls in what was now called Rowland Heights.

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It was also in the 1970s that the surrounding San Gabriel Valley began to develop into an important commercial and residential center of Chinese-American life.

Eschewing the traditional gateway community of Chinatown in downtown L.A., newly arrived Chinese, like so many of their fellow Angelenos old and new, opted for life in the suburbs.

Today, Rowland Heights is one of the San Gabriel Valley’s many communities with pluralities of Chinese-American residents and is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in L.A. County.

Neighborhood highlights

A literal feast for the senses: Lovers of Chinese cuisine — which, let’s be honest, is everyone — know that the San Gabriel Valley boasts some of the best restaurants in the region, and the Colima Road corridor in Rowland Heights has more than its fair share of them.

Take a hike: Rowland Heights sits right next door to hundreds of acres of parkland in the Puente Hills that boast miles of hiking and riding trails, not to mention expansive views of the San Gabriel Valley.

Suburb to suburb: Rowland Heights is convenient to the rest of the San Gabriel Valley and the northern O.C.

Neighborhood challenges

Potentially long commute: For the unlucky, downtown Los Angeles — or worse, the Westside — is a gnarly rush-hour drive away.

Up and to the right: Although home prices in Rowland Heights are still a relatively good deal for the region, homes in the southern and eastern portions of the neighborhood are regularly asking well over $1 million.

Expert insight

“In comparison to Monterey Park, Alhambra and San Gabriel, it’s a lot more affordable for people who are buying their first home. And it’s not as competitive,” said Jennifer Lee, a real estate agent with RE/MAX 2000 in Rowland Heights.

That’s in part because the neighborhood is farther east, and therefore more of a trek to downtown.

Lee recommended that potential home buyers drive around to check out the different areas of Rowland Heights “because they do change drastically in terms of the different house styles, in terms of who your neighbors are.”

Market snapshot

Portions of the 91748 and 91789 ZIP Codes overlap the Rowland Heights area. In November, based on 22 sales, the median sales price for the 91748 ZIP was $575,000. The median sales price in the 91789 ZIP, based on 33 sales, was $780,000.

Report card

Within the neighborhood boundaries, as defined by the L.A. Times’ Mapping Tool, is Bradford Elementary, which scored 925 out of 1,000 in the 2013 Academic Performance Index. Jellick Elementary scored 771, and Rowland Elementary had a score of 755. Alvarado Intermediate scored 897, and John A. Rowland High came in with 838.

hotproperty@latimes.com

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