Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

City Smart / How to thrive in the urban environment
of Southern California. | Community Profile: Vernon

May 31, 1996|CECILIA RASMUSSEN

Surprisingly, the freshest Dodger dogs aren't at Dodger Stadium, but in Los Angeles County's smallest city, Vernon, where Farmer John manufactures them by the millions. But to get to the pile of hot dogs, you have to pass what may be the world's largest pile of fertilizer.

It's all in Vernon, a schizophrenic municipality that once featured the world's longest bar and a country club where Rudolph Valentino waited on tables, and which now is the site of trash recycling centers large enough to warm the heart of the most dedicated environmentalist.

Vernon is a city unlike any other in Los Angeles County. Founded in 1905 solely to foster industry, it still bears the motto "Exclusively Industrial." The town is one of the richest in California in sales tax revenue.

It's the home of a Farmer John slaughterhouse, where little piggies check in but don't check out.

Vernon's best-known landmark is a mural that encircles the pork-packing company, depicting meadows, meandering streams and 200 pigs. The company reports sales of more than $325 million annually and is the largest pork processor west of Oklahoma.

What defines the city are the blocks of jagged industrial plants and the constant roar of machinery and trucks, not to mention a distinctive fragrance.

It's also the home of Bandini Fertilizer, the second-largest marketer of manure in Los Angeles County. Out behind the Bandini plant is the city's most prominent geographical landmark, Bandini Mountain, a heap of fertilizer large enough to ski on.

The streets are creased and bisected by 114 miles of railroad track. The landscape is almost treeless. There are no pa2ks, no movie theaters, no bookstores. There are almost no people--just 146 full-time residents, most of whom live in city-owned housing.

*

In the daytime, the population swells to more than 45,000 as workers flood into the five-square-mile city that wraps around the Los Angeles River.

The enclave's handful of residents have little clout, and politicians and business leaders call the shots.

It took ecological warriors from nearby neighborhoods to fight a toxic-waste incinerator and a hazardous-waste treatment plant that had been welcomed by Vernon's city officials.

The once-thriving stockyard for hogs, cattle and sheep is long gone.

A number of major factories have closed, including Bethlehem Steel and Alcoa, the world's largets aluminum producer.

But Vernon has attracted various kinds of industries, including sake and beer brewers and television and film production companies, which are drawn by unoccupied warehouses with 42-foot-high ceilings and by discounts on electricity from the city-owned power company.

*

* WATERING HOLE: Early in the century, Vernon was one of the hot spots in Southern California, featuring a baseball park for its champion Pacific Coast League team, world-class boxing matches in an outdoor arena and Jack Doyle's saloon, which claimed the distinction of housing the world's longest bar.

On June 30, 1919, the night before Prohibition started, more than 60 bartenders patrolled the 100-foot-long bar, serving drinks to an estimated 1,000 customers in what was the ultimate last call.

The Chamber of Commerce now occupies the Doyle's site at 38th Street and Santa Fe Avenue.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

By the Numbers

CITY BUSINESS

Incorporated: Sept. 16, 1905

Square miles: 5

Number of parks: 0

City employees: 310

1995-96 operating budget: $27 million

PEOPLE

Population: 146

Households: 61

Average household size: 2

Median age: 25

MONEY AND WORK

Median household income: $26,875

Median household income/L.A. County: $34,965

Median home value: $231,250

Employed workers (16 and older): 81

Percentage of women employed: 36%

Percentage of men employed: 91%

Self-employed: 0%

Car poolers: 7

RETAIL STORES

Number of stores: 40

Number of employees: 999

Annual sales: $88 million

ETHNIC BREAKDOWN:

Latino: 78%

White: 19%

Black: 1%

Asian: 2%

FAMILIES:

Non-family households: 15%

Married couples with children: 18%

Married couples with no children: 62%

Other types of families: 5%

AVERAGE HOUSEHOLD INCOME (see microfilm for chart) Source: Claritas In. Retail figures are for 1995. All other figures are for 1990. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|