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City Smart | Community Profile: Santa Fe Springs


Critics have described the blue-collar city once known as Fulton Wells as an industrialized armpit set awkwardly in a verdant land of sophistication. Its supporters point to its financial stability and its top-rated high school. In any case, Santa Fe Springs has achieved a reputation as one of the nation's most ardent supporters of business, even though that approach in the past brought with it foul-smelling air from some of its industries.

Before Santa Fe Springs was dotted with oil derricks and hazardous waste sites and gerrymandered to fit the angles of the railroad tracks for which it was named, 19th century visitors called it a "fairyland" and "the showplace of Los Angeles County."

In the early 1920s, geologists discovered in the area what was then the sixth-largest known reserve of oil in the world. Soon, oilmen replaced the wealthy tourists who had visited its botanical gardens and health seekers who sought the curative powers of the city's mineral springs.

Laborers began flocking there in the hopes of landing a job in a city where 2,000 oil wells were yielding more than 218,000 barrels each day and where workers were earning $5 a day, seven days a week.

But no other era in the city's history shaped it like the influx of businesses and large industries that established roots during the 1950s.

When oil production declined, large numbers of ex-GIs and business owners joined in 1957 to incorporate the city and gain more local control over zoning and development. Ninety percent of its nine square miles is zoned for industry and is home to more than 3,000 companies.

In 1987, city officials eager to change the town's image from that of an aging oil town to one of attractive commercial development, began restricting oil field operations by increasing annual well fees 300%, enforcing cleanup of abandoned wells and paving the way for the coexistence of wells and business. The last oil refinery recently moved out, and only about 300 wells still operate in the heart of the city, a 400-acre oil field generating about 2,000 barrels a day.

The city may be working class, but the industrial tax base is definitely in an exalted bracket. New office and light industrial facilities have been built in recent years, and the city's coffers bulge from its tax producing business parks and a shopping mall.

In its efforts to reshape the image of the city, the town gave its school districts more than $4.3 million over the last 10 years to paint, prune, spruce up and plant.

Today, this industrial haven of 15,500 people boasts of its children's high academic achievements at Santa Fe High School. The 40-year-old public school was recently rated one of the top high schools in the nation, with parental involvement at the top, according to Redbook magazine.

Two-thirds of its varsity athletes make the honor roll, school officials report, and a quarter of the school's graduates go to four-year universities.


By the Numbers


Date incorporated: May 15, 1957

Area in square miles: 9

Number of parks: 10

Number of city employees: 215 fulltime; 200 part time

1995-96 operating budget: 32 million


Latino: 67%

White: 26%

Asian: 4%

Black: 2%

Other: 0.7%


Population: 15,520

Households: 4,651

Average hopusehold size: 3

Median age: 31


Median household income: $33,313

Median household income/LA County: $34,965

Median home value: $168,200

Employed workers (16 and older): 7,344

Women in labor force: 51%

Men in labor force: 78%

Self-employed: 219

Car-poolers: 1,014


Married couple families with children: 31%

Married couple families with no children: 26%

Other types of families: 24%

Nonfamily households: 19%


$0 to -$14,999: 21%

$15,000 to $24,999: 15%

$25,000 to $49,999: 35%

$50,000 to $74,999: 22%

$75,000 to $99,999: 5%

$100,000 or more: 2%


Number of stores: 329

Number of employees: 3,155

Annual sales: $464 million

Source: Claritas Inc. retail figures are for 1995. All other figures are for 1990. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.

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