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City Puts Welcome Mat Out for Business : But Commerce Also Takes Steps to Make Its Residents Feel at Home

One in a series on Southland cities that are actively pursuing redevelopment.

March 09, 1986|DAVID M. KINCHEN | Times Staff Writer

Any city bearing the moniker "Commerce" obviously believes that being friendly to industry and business makes both dollars and sense.

The 26-year-old City of Commerce, six miles east of downtown Los Angeles, also believes that it pays big dividends to take good care of its 12,000 residents. This fairly large residential population is in strong contrast to other cities in the Los Angeles area that cater to industrial uses, especially the City of Industry (710 residents) and next-door neighbor Vernon (80 residents).

The 6.6-square-mile city has in process three redevelopment projects aimed at upgrading the quality of life in Commerce, according to Ira Gwin, the city's redevelopment agency director.

"We've always been acutely aware and sensitive to the needs of businesses since our incorporation back in January, 1960," he said. "In the process we've revitalized deteriorating sections of the city and provided our citizens with an unprecedented level of services. Our philosophy has been to discourage roadblocks to business development, ensuring cooperation to create a good municipal environment for everyone."

Commerce certainly offers benefits to anyone living in the city, as well as the estimated 80,000 people who come to work in the estimated 1,500 businesses. The city is home to 10% of the businesses on the Fortune 500 list.

Among the benefits are free bus service to anyone--resident or nonresident--in the city, two indoor heated swimming pools, baseball stadium, four city parks, four libraries, indoor rifle and pistol ranges and no city property taxes.

With all its benefits, this freeway-oriented city--where the Santa Ana (5) and Long Beach (710) freeways meet--is not unlike a heavily industrialized city in the East or Midwest, Gwin said.

"We are doing our best to make the transition from a heavily industrial 'smokestack' center to a modern, service-oriented city," he said.

Business Relocation Program

In keeping with its friendly attitude toward the right kind of business and industry, the city operates a business relocation program out of City Hall, according to Raymond C. Ramirez, economic development coordinator.

The program works in conjunction with local real estate brokers, the city's Fire Safety Bureau, the Industrial Waste Bureau and the Zoning Bureau, among other agencies, he explained.

"Our goal is to lead prospective business tenants through what in many cities is a maze of occupancy procedures and regulations," Ramirez added.

Computerized Matching

The system begins with identifying and locating suitable properties through a phone call to the real estate advisory service in City Hall. Operated by the Community Development Department in cooperation with the real estate community, the computerized service matches property and zoning requirements with availabilities in any one of the 1,300 buildings in the city.

During negotiations between property owners and potential owners or lessees, the city plays an active role to make sure each party engages in full disclosure, Gwin said. At the same time, the department's Pre-Occupancy Committee guides the new occupant through permit requirements and procedures.

Realizing that cities are competing as vigorously for new business as businesses are for customers, Gwin, Ramirez and other city staffers and elected officials waste no time at all to point out the $10 yearly business license fee and absence of business receipts taxes in Commerce, as well as a low crime rate that has caused businesses to relocate from Los Angeles to Commerce.

They also point to transportation bonuses such as the heavy-duty streets like Washington Boulevard, Eastern Avenue and Slauson Avenue, designed to stand up to constant truck traffic without disintegrating; the two major freeways as well as the Pomona (60) Freeway just north of the city, and railroad service by Southern Pacific, Union Pacific and Santa Fe.

3 Redevelopment Areas

A look at a map quickly reveals the jagged boundaries of the City of Commerce, and delineating the three redevelopment areas results in even more jagged lines.

"We were very careful to include in the redevelopment areas only those portions that needed redevelopment," Gwin explained.

Project Area 1 is the Commerce Business Park, a major business and industrial project being developed primarily by the Dallas-based Trammell Crow Co., the largest single landowner in the city.

Project Area 2 is centered on the historic Uniroyal plant (originally built in 1929 for Samson Tire & Rubber Co., designed by architects Morgan, Walls & Clements) at 5675 Telegraph Road. Nobody knows whether the design is Babylonian or Assyrian, but the building is the most recognizable landmark in the city. The city wants to convert the huge plant into a 200,000 square-foot exhibit center, a 300-room hotel and a large business-products mart.

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