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Feeling Rootless : Straightening L.A. Boundary Means More Than Drawing a Line

January 25, 1987|TERRY SPENCER | Times Staff Writer

When Herman Kohler wakes up in his bedroom he's in Lomita. When he goes to the kitchen for breakfast he enters Los Angeles. He votes in Lomita, has his trash picked up by Los Angeles, has a sidewalk in front of the Lomita side of his house and bare dirt on the Los Angeles side.

He has library cards in each city but prefers calling the Los Angeles Police Department when there is a disturbance.

Despite the confusion of having a city boundary running down the middle of his house, he likes things just the way they are.

Shirley Jenkins and her neighbors along Alta Vista Avenue don't want to leave Lomita. Many have deep roots in the small South Bay community and they like the almost Midwestern closeness that they say this city of 14,000 offers--a closeness they claim is lacking in the big city next door, Los Angeles.

But Lomita may be leaving them.

Torrance Preferred

Linda Cline lives in Los Angeles and fervently wishes her neighborhood would become part of Torrance. She says "a lot of little things" made her decide that Los Angeles just isn't the place.

Each is playing a role as the governments of Los Angeles, Torrance and Lomita begin a process that could lead to new boundaries for the three neighboring cities.

Los Angeles's western boundary runs south from the South-Central area toward the Harbor and San Pedro using two main thoroughfares as the dividing line--first Vermont Avenue and then Western Avenue. But when it reaches 238th Street, the boundary takes a sudden turn toward the west for about a quarter mile before resuming a southern bent, this time slicing, often in a jig-saw pattern, through neighborhoods--Jenkins's, Kohler's and Cline's included--without concern for geographical logic.

It was a small issue at first. Cline, a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, started a petition drive in her neighborhood of about 100 homes, just west of Western from 238th Street down to the Lomita city line at 246th Street, requesting that they be ceded from Los Angeles to Torrance.

Neglected by L.A.

"I saw things that were being neglected by Los Angeles that weren't being neglected by Torrance," Cline said. "For instance, I'd been after Los Angeles for a long time to build a divider down Western. They did it eventually, but it was nothing but gray, stark concrete.

"Torrance built one about the same time over on Sepulveda, one that they put some work into and made aesthetically pleasing."

Los Angeles Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, who represents the district, took Cline's proposal one step further. In order to eliminate the confusing boundaries, she suggested that the Western Avenue demarcation be lengthened even more, from 238th Street down to the city of Rancho Palos Verdes. Everything east of Western in that area would be Los Angeles, everything west would be Torrance or Lomita.

Flores also suggested that Normandie Avenue become Los Angeles's eastern boundary in the area, which would require annexing some unincorporated land to the city. No controversy has stemmed from that proposal, as only a small, sparsely populated area would be affected.

'Straight as Possible'

"The only reason I'm going along with this at all is that I feel we need to get the boundary as straight as possible," Flores said. "I don't want to straighten out the boundary with Torrance and then not Lomita. I want to get this done all at once."

Her proposal would take several neighborhoods from Los Angeles and put them into one of the other two cities and place one--Jenkins'--into Los Angeles.

Several people in Jenkins' neighborhood have directed their hostility against Cline for bringing up the matter. "Just because she wants to be in Torrance everybody else is going to have to suffer," is a typical comment along Alta Vista.

But Cline pointed out that it wasn't her idea to extend the line, but Flores's.

"It would be fine with me if they stopped at Pacific Coast Highway," Cline said, which would leave the Alta Vista area unaffected.

Flores said she sympathizes with the people along Alta Vista, but believes the area would be better served by her plan.

'Give Good Service'

"Nobody likes change and I can understand being frightened by the thought of being lost in a big, megacity," Flores said. "But, frankly, I think we give good service to our constituents in that area."

Many in the neighborhood admit to a fear of being lost in the shuffle in Los Angeles.

"We like the smaller community atmosphere in which to raise our children," Jenkins said, as she presented the Lomita City Council with a petition signed by 45 of her neighbors who are against the proposed changes. "We deeply want to remain in Lomita, where our neighbors, churches and friends are."

The plan, according to Lomita City Manager Walker Ritter, should formally come before his City Council in early February.

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