The 15 cities southwest of downtown Los Angeles are collectively called the South Bay. But often the only thing they can agree on is their right to disagree.
Several South Bay city officials say it would be ideal to work as one group on such regional issues as air pollution, traffic, transportation, jobs, housing and law enforcement. But when opportunities for such cooperation have arisen, officials could not reach a consensus, they acknowledge.
"Eventually, we are just going to have to have regional cooperation because of budget restraints," said Gardena City Councilman Mas Fukai.
"Everyone agrees it's a good idea," said J. Robert Stinson, a professor of geography at California State University, Dominguez Hills. But when costs and other details are discussed, he said, "then no one wants to pay and everyone wants to be boss."
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday October 23, 1986 Home Edition South Bay Part 9 Page 6 Column 2 Zones Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
A story in Sunday's South Bay section misidentified two city officials. Jacki Bacharach is a councilwoman in Rancho Palos Verdes. Ray Taylor is city manager of Rolling Hills Estates.
Example of Division
That was the case last month when the South Bay Corridor Steering Committee, a 15-city panel that discusses transportation issues, rejected a suggestion that the cities each pitch in $3,000 to pay the salary for a full-time coordinator to work on regional projects.
No formal vote was taken, but the idea was dropped after several city officials argued that the contributions should be based on a city's population. They also disagreed over what projects the coordinator would work on and feared that they were simply creating another bureaucracy.
The best that can be expected for now, Stinson and city officials say, are sub-regional groups where two or three cities cooperate on projects.
There are other South Bay-wide organizations, such as the South Bay Cities' Assn. and the South Bay Cities Assn. of City Managers. But even city officials acknowledge that those groups are ineffective and lack authority to implement projects.
4 Divisive Factors
The problem is not particular to the South Bay, Stinson said. In many regions cities do not agree because of geographic, economic, ethnic or political reasons. In the South Bay, all four of those factors come into play, he said.
He said the area's geography--the hills of the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the south and beach orientation of the communities to the west--creates natural barriers separating them from other cities physically as well as economically and politically.
"What is important to a city in the flatlands is not necessarily important to one on the Peninsula," Stinson said, noting, for example, that the Peninsula cities have few traffic problems while Hawthorne and Lawndale have congested streets. "That's the reason historically why cities incorporate. They can't look beyond their immediate constituents."
That parochial view is reflected in the fact that most residents identify more strongly with their city than the "South Bay," according to William Blischke, a sociologist at Cal State Dominguez Hills who is also a trustee of the Torrance Unified School District.
"When I ran for the Torrance school board (last year), it didn't count much to have lived in the South Bay a long time. Voters wanted to know how long I've lived in Torrance," said Blischke, noting that when he moved from Redondo Beach to Torrance eight years ago he moved only three miles.
Bijan Yarjani, who heads the transportation department for the Southern California Assn. of Governments, said another obstacle in getting cities to work together is having to deal with elected officials' personal agendas and with constantly changing faces.
"There are problems getting all the elected officials together at one time, and when you do there is sometimes animosity between them," he said. "Also, elected officials change so rapidly. You develop rapport with one, and then they are gone. It's not an easy task."
The cooperation that does exist is usually between a handful of cities with common borders.
Examples are scattered throughout the area. Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach pool their state Proposition A transportation money to run a bus line between their cities and the aerospace employment center in El Segundo. Torrance, Carson and Lomita share federal Job Training Act money to teach the unemployed and disabled in their cities.
Lawndale gave Redondo Beach some of its federal funds for the remodeling of the South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach in exchange for jobs for Lawndale residents. Hawthorne, Gardena, El Segundo, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach share a centralized emergency dispatch service for their police and fire departments. The four Palos Verdes Peninsula cities have a joint committee to coordinate planning decisions.
"Since boundaries are intertwined on the Peninsula, what goes on in one city can affect others," said Palos Verdes Estates Planning Director Ray Taylor, noting that there are many joint efforts between the four Peninsula cities, but little between them and other South Bay cities.
"There are areas where we can work together and there are areas where that won't work," said Gardena Mayor Don Dear. "Each city is unique and that's why we have home rule."