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CITY SMART | Community Profile: La Canada Flintridge

September 27, 1996|CECILIA RASMUSSEN

When a group of Caltech students dug trenches, piled up sandbags and tested a rocket motor at a deserted spot in the Arroyo Seco in 1936, it marked the start of rocketry in California, the permanent home of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory--and a high-velocity beginning for the city of La Canada Flintridge.

It is a dual city that encompasses the high-tech hush-hush of JPL and the camellia-laden quiet of the county's 165-acre botanical preserve, Descanso Gardens. Its two components have rather different histories but, since 1976, a united future.

Flintridge's founding father was U.S. Sen. Frank Putnam Flint, whose place in history comes less from his realpolitik career than from his real estate ventures. In the early 1920s, he built small estates for the affluent on 1,700 acres below Michigan Avenue (now known as Foothill Boulevard) and a luxury hotel that is now home to Sacred Heart Academy. In return, the community eventually adopted his name.

Flint's career did not run altogether smoothly. After he left the Senate, he acted as attorney for several major stockholders of Julian Petroleum, which in 1927 precipitated the "Great Los Angeles Swindle." Angelenos lost over $250 million in fraudulent oil promotion schemes. Never indicted but tormented by the scandal, his own financial reverses and a nervous breakdown, Flint signed on for an ocean cruise in 1929, where he died in his sleep. The next year, his millionaire brother, Motley, on trial in the fiasco, was shot to death in court by an investor who had lost his life savings.

La Canada's chief founding father, Dr. Jacob Lanterman, led a lower-profile life and is remembered primarily as a pioneering dentist who began an idyllic community in the hills above Los Angeles in 1876.

Lanterman and his partner bought almost 6,000 acres of Rancho la Canada and created 46 lots, each with a quarter-mile frontage on Foothill Boulevard. The 1915 Lanterman family home is now a historical landmark and museum. A stretch of the Foothill

Freeway is named after Lanterman's grand son, the late state Assemblyman Frank Lanterman.

During the Great Depression, La Canada and Flintridge stopped growing. But World War II and the Cold War boom brought many engineers to the new JPL plant and the communities' populations mushroomed from 3,500 in 1940 to 15,000 by 1958.

In 1964, foothill residents rejected a cityhood measure, but within five years began thinking better of it after the community's affluence and legislative clout couldn't stop Caltrans from demolishing some of its finest mansions to make way for the Foothill Freeway.

Meanwhile, nearby Pasadena was hungrily eyeing JPL, even though only 5% of it lay in that city (JPL still uses a Pasadena address). When Glendale and Pasadena made a serious bid to annex some of the remote hillsides, La Canada and Flintridge incorporated in 1976.

A clerk erroneously put a hyphen between the two cities' names. The City Council, trying to make the best of it, believed the hyphen connoted the distinct character of the communities, but it would take nine years before the hyphen was wiped out by ordinance.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

By the Numbers

CITY BUSINESS

Date incorporated: December 8, 1976

Area in square miles: 9 miles

Number of parks: 3

Number of city employees: 21 fulltime

1995-96 operating budget: $6 million

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ETHNIC MAKEUP

Latino: 5%

White: 83%

Asian: 12%

Black: .4%

Other: .1%

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PEOPLE

Population: 19,378

Households: 6,713

Average hopusehold size: 3

Median age: 41

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MONEY AND WORK

Median household income: $80,061

Median household income/LA County: $34,965

Median home value: $567,600

Employed workers (16 and older): 9,871

Women in labor force: 54%

Men in labor force: 77%

Self-employed: 1,436

Car-poolers: 719

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FAMILIES

Married couple families with children: 35%

Married couple families with no children: 41%

Other types of families: 8%

Nonfamily households: 16%

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1989 HOUSEHOLD INCOME:

$0 to $14,999: 5%

$15,000 to $24,999: 6%

$25,000 to $49,999: 15%

$50,000 to $74,999: 21%

$75,000 to $99,999: 14%

$100,000 or more: 39%

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LA CANADA RETAIL STORES

Total stores: 147

Total employees: 1,342

Annual sales: $113 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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