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It's Got Everything but a Downtown : La Mirada: Residents feel their hometown has much to offer, especially its proximity to jobs.

January 27, 1991|MARIAN BOND | Bond is a free-lance writer who lives in La Habra Heights

There is no "downtown" in La Mirada.

There is, however, just about every other convenience, service or attribute you would find in most cities. There are schools, churches, a hospital, a major hotel and businesses, large and small.

There are also parks, bike and horse trails, public transportation, and a theater for the performing arts. There is commercial development and redevelopment.

About the only thing that's missing is a downtown. But that doesn't seem to bother the 43,000 people who live in La Mirada, in southeast Los Angeles County. Most refer to their city as "quiet" and "country-like" but also one that has a lot to offer--especially its close proximity to jobs.

Donald and Leonora Douglas moved to La Mirada in October, 1989, for just these reasons.

The Douglases returned to the United States from the Philippines, where Donald was employed for a year as dean of the School of Intercultural Studies for La Mirada's Biola University.

They found a 30-year-old, three-bedroom house within walking distance of Biola's La Mirada campus. The home is also within a mile of the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District headquarters, where Leonora Douglas works as a resource specialist.

The house is near La Mirada Park, where the Douglases walk their dog, and the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, which they sometimes attend.

"We paid $220,000, which was very compatible with our budget," Donald Douglas said. "We liked the room arrangement and we have a living room that looks out across the back yard.

"In the evenings we think we're in the country, it is so quiet."

He said they don't seem to notice much smog, even on the hottest days. The Douglases also enjoy the sea breezes that fan the city: There are no mountains or hills between La Mirada and the coast.

It's likely that Andrew McNally, the map maker who started the Rand McNally Co. with William H. Rand in 1856, also enjoyed the ocean breezes when he built an estate of 700 acres in the heart of what is now La Mirada.

McNally had purchased land that was once part of a vast Spanish land grant called Rancho Los Coyotes in 1895. Legend says that he was so enchanted with the mirror-like surface of a newly filled lake that he named his land La Mirada-- which means "the view" in Spanish.

He also planted thousands of olive trees on his Windemere Ranch, and another story is that the greenery of the orchard looked like a mirage against the brown countryside.

His vision was to sell portions of this vast property so that others might enjoy the land that he so loved.

The McNally property consisted of 2,378 acres, and the La Mirada Land Co. was formed to subdivide the remaining 1,500 acres. But the plan was abandoned by the end of the century when it failed to attract wealthy investors. The property reverted to McNally's personal ownership, and the olive and citrus empire of the McNally Olive Oil Co. grew.

The ranch flourished for 40 years, and in 1953, it was sold for subdivision for $4.5 million. McNally, who died in 1904, had paid $115,000 for the land. The olive grove community of fewer than 100 homes was transformed into a municipality of nearly 10,000 homes within seven years. Pat Ruiz and her late husband, Nick, bought one of those 10,000 homes for $14,925 in 1956.

"It was a new and growing community," said Ruiz, who taught school in the city for 19 years and raised four children there.

"People were friendly and were interested in building a community of quality," she said. "There is in La Mirada today a sense of community, with activities, sports--something for everyone of all ages."

In 1969, when Ann Marie and Ed Effert moved to La Mirada, the city was just 9 years old.

The Efferts paid $39,000 for their 1,950-square-foot tri-level home on a quiet cul-de-sac. Ed Effert had been transferred from his job in Oakland and he sought out La Mirada because he had friends who lived there and he liked what he saw.

Ann Marie Effert liked La Mirada because it seemed quiet and country-like. Both Efferts like the city's atmosphere and also its amenities.

"We have had season tickets for the La Mirada Civic Theatre," Ann Marie Effert said. "We also utilize the library. For years, Ed played golf regularly at the La Mirada Golf Course."

Ed Effert also pointed out that they have easy access to freeways. "Ten minutes to the San Gabriel 605, the Santa Ana and the Artesia."

Beach Boulevard forms La Mirada's eastern boundary, Imperial Highway and Leffingwell Road define the northern lines, Valley View and Telegraph Road its western point, and Artesia Boulevard the southern city line. Perhaps this location and the fact that there is still open space for residential development accounts for the wide range of homes available, both in price and age.

There are two sizeable housing developments that are currently being built. One is the 150-acre master-planned community of Hillsborough, with prices ranging from $118,990 for a condominium to $426,990 for a single-family home.

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