POMONA — Separated from the rest of the city by hills, economic status and the Corona Expressway, Phillips Ranch has never seemed an integral part of Pomona.
But Ken West, the first council member from the upscale neighborhood, says he hopes to change that when he takes office April 22.
Many residents of Phillips Ranch send their children to private schools, commute long distances to work and do their shopping in Diamond Bar, Chino Hills and distant malls, rarely venturing into other parts of Pomona, West said. Psychologically, they feel their hilly neighborhood has more in common with the moderate-to-expensive housing tracts in the adjoining hills of Diamond Bar than with the flatlands of Pomona, where many neighborhoods are economically depressed.
Some residents like the isolation from the rest of Pomona and would put gates across streets to keep outsiders away if they could, West said, but his belief is that "any segregation is not positive."
He said Phillips Ranch residents fear that their pocketbooks will be tapped to pay for the city's problems. In addition, he said, they have felt frustrated by the lack of cooperation between the city and the school district. If the city had worked harder to control growth, he said, schools might not be as crowded as they are.
The way for residents of Phillips Ranch to deal with these issues, West said, is not to remain aloof but to become more involved in city government. The new council district system that pro duced his election March 5 as one of seven members of the new council, West said, will give Phillips Ranch a voice and may lead to increased participation.
West said he doesn't want to be known on the council as "the man from Phillips Ranch." Many of the problems he will deal with, such as a projected revenue shortage for next year, affect the entire city.
In addition, although Phillips Ranch, which has more than 3,500 homes, represents two-thirds of his council district, West said, he also represents Westmont, an older neighborhood in need of revitalization.
West said he will work for increased cooperation between the school district and city government to improve education and for economic development to give residents places to shop and provide more revenue to the city.
A proposed regional mall on a site at the edge of Phillips Ranch is vitally needed, he said, but must be built and operated in a way that won't hurt the neighborhood.
An issue of special concern to Westmont residents, he said, is the plan to improve the Corona Expressway, and he intends to monitor that project to make sure the interests of the Westmont neighborhood are protected.
West, 39, was born in Long Beach and grew up in Whittier. He has more than 16 years of experience as a government accountant and currently is in charge of disbursements and payroll for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
He is married and has two daughters, 6 and 2 years old. He moved to Phillips Ranch nine years ago and has served as president of the area's homeowners association.
West said the city's challenge is to take advantage of its low-cost land, educated work force and convenient location. "Pomona," he said, "is an area filled with opportunity."