The residents of 15 homes on Pine Creek Road have an identity crisis.
Cerritos provides them with police, water, sewer, street sweeping--all the usual city services. They belong to a Cerritos-based homeowners association, and feel they are part of the affluent city.
But Norwalk is their official city of residence, and when they vote in local elections, it is in Norwalk.
All that should soon change. The Norwalk City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to allow Cerritos to annex the 15 houses south of Alondra Boulevard, just west of Bloomfield Avenue.
The Los Angeles County Local Agency Formation Commission and the County Board of Supervisors must still approve the annexation, which would become final in the fall. The Cerritos City Council approved the annexation May 14.
The affected residents say the change can't come soon enough.
"My concern is I'm living in a city and I have no (electoral) say in the city that's providing my services," said homeowner Ray Lovell, who started a petition drive last spring calling for the annexation. The petition was signed by all the affected property owners.
The homes were victims of the jagged border that separates Cerritos and Norwalk. The border runs along Alondra Boulevard and then drops to the south, along portions of what is now Pine Creek Road.
That border was decided when Dairy Valley incorporated in 1956. Dairy Valley--home to numerous dairies--changed its name to Cerritos in the 1960s as it was gradually transformed into a residential neighborhood.
"It's rumored that when the city was Dairy Valley, back in 1956, the property lines weren't taken to (Alondra Boulevard) because the farmers didn't want to pay for street maintenance," said Dennis Davis, Cerritos' director of environmental affairs.
Those city lines didn't matter much to Beverly Hills developer S&S Construction Company, which built the rectangular, 300-home tract known as Granada Park Cerritos in the 1970s. The tract included the 15 homes in Norwalk.
Lovell, who moved into the home on Pine Creek Road two years ago, started organizing his neighbors shortly after he received election materials for Norwalk's April, 1990, election. The Cerritos/Norwalk border cuts across Lovell's front lawn. He said he knew most of his property was in Norwalk, but he figured that he would be able to vote in Cerritos.
"Our mailing address is in Cerritos. We pay our utilities to the city of Cerritos," Lovell said. "I found out we technically were Norwalk residents and couldn't vote in the Cerritos municipal election."
Lovell said property values were not a factor in his annexation effort. Lovell said he figured all the houses in the tract have similar property values.
But a local real estate agent said the annexation of the Norwalk homes into more affluent Cerritos could have positive effects on property values. "The property value will increase a little now," said Century 21 Inland Pacific realtor Greta Aqui. Two-story, four-bedroom homes on the street are valued at $325,000 to $349,000, she said.
Lovell and the other residents gained the support of Cerritos Councilman Sherman Kappe. "Basically, if you buy property in Granada Park Cerritos, you're under the impression that you live in Cerritos," Kappe said.
Cerritos officials determined that Norwalk receives about $2,700 in property tax money a year for the properties--money that would help pay for some of the services Cerritos provides to the 15 residences. Former Cerritos City Manager Gaylord F. Knapp called on his counterpart in Norwalk, Richard R. Powers, to rectify the situation.
"During the years since construction of the tract, Cerritos has paid for all of the services that are provided to the 15 homes," Knapp wrote, estimating that police services alone cost the city more than $2,000 a year.
Cerritos spokeswoman Michele Wastal said city officials always knew that the homes were in Norwalk, but did not move to annex the properties because the tax revenue was minimal and there was little interest from residents.
On Tuesday, the Norwalk City Council agreed to the annexation without dissent even though the city would lose tax revenue.
"In everybody's mind, the property should have belonged to the rest of the tract," said Norwalk's Director of Community Development Gregg Yamachika. "It wasn't a big issue."
Rick Holguin is a Times staff writer. Suzan Schill is a community correspondent.