Welcome to Lakewood
Clark Bonner, manager of the Montana Land Company holdings in Lakewood, watched farm prices fall in the late 1920s and urged the Clark family to use their land to build a new kind of residential community around a championship golf course. The golf course and Lakewood's oldest public buildingthe Lakewood Golf Course Clubhousewere completed in 1934.
In 1949, the Montana Land Company negotiated with the Lakewood Park Corporation to sell nearly 3,500 acres of the remaining land in Lakewood for close to $9 million. S. Mark Taper and Aetna Construction owners Ben Weingart and Louis Boyar began work on a "dream city" that Boyar had been designing since the 1930s. By 1950, they had begun building more than 17,000 houses in what is now Lakewood and portions of Long Beach.
Time magazine reported on the rush to Lakewood in 1951. "On what was once a sugar beet field 10 miles southeast of Los Angeles, 30,000 people stampeded one day last week. They were there for the sale of houses in Lakewood Park, the biggest U.S. housing project." The builders of Lakewood Park had a dream of their own a fully planned community built around an immense regional shopping center.
As an unincorporated area of the county, the five-member County Board of Supervisors in downtown Los Angeles governed the new "city" of Lakewood. Lakewood lacked local government. Then, as Lakewood residents considered their first steps toward independence, Long Beach city officials made plans to annex the entire Lakewood area.
Long Beach annexation plans were stopped, but a growing number of residents were convinced that Lakewood should incorporate as a city. The Lakewood Civic Council organized 600 neighborhood volunteers to collect signatures on the incorporation petition. In only ten days, incorporation advocates collected twice as many signatures as needed to call for a vote by residents.
John Todd suggested that Lakewood contract with Los Angeles County for the services the city already received as an unincorporated community. Contracting for services would avoid the high cost of starting from scratch and keep both taxes and city expenses low. On March 9, 1954, nearly 12,400 voters approved cityhood by a 2,600-vote margin. The vote became official in April, making Lakewood the first city in California to incorporate since 1939.
Lakewood and the Lakewood Plan for contract services prospered so spectacularly that the city became a model for the incorporation of new communities throughout Southern California. By 1964, another 31 cities would incorporate in Los Angeles using the same innovative plan. Today, more than 120 California cities and dozens more nationwide use the Lakewood Plan for municipal contracting to provide residents with efficient, low-cost, and locally determined city services.
Today, Lakewood still offers the qualities of life that make life in Southern California enjoyable: exceptionally strong law enforcement and fire protection services, a community-oriented city hall, outstanding sports facilities, and low-cost local government.
Lakewood's emphasis on the neighborhood quality of life shows in the city's continued investment in park development and library improvements. The city recently celebrated the remodeling of the Iacoboni Library, the rebirth of Monte Verde Park and opening of the new S. Mark Taper Foundation Vista Lodge. More park improvements are planned for this year and next.
The city's commitment to safe neighborhoods shows in Lakewood's low level of crime. The city has an active Neighborhood Watch program, specialized programs for landlords and property managers, Lakewood Park Watch, Lakewood Business Watch, and a Volunteers on Patrol program. Targeted Sheriff's units focus on residential crime and patrol Lakewood's retail centers. The new Community Resource Center aids residents and shoppers at the mall.
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