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City Smart | Community Profile / Carson

March 14, 1997|CECILIA RASMUSSEN

It was in every way a multicultural city, named for a 19th century Yankee businessman and built upon California's first Spanish rancho, which belonged to the family whose daughter married the Yankee.

And it is both the home of the Goodyear blimp and the site of the world's first air meet, in 1910, seven years after the airplane was invented.

But when the city of Carson formally incorporated almost 30 years ago, it was the county's "garbage can," evolved from a hodgepodge of environmental offenses, including 76 junkyards, almost two dozen landfills and a forest of refinery towers belching smoke and flames.

Today, however, with most of the eyesores eliminated through political and industrial muscle, the city that sells itself as "future unlimited" is home to about 3,500 companies, including Arco, TRW, Coca-Cola and Mercedes-Benz.

The 75,000-acre Rancho San Pedro (later named the Dominguez Ranch) is one of the few Spanish land grants that remained for generations in the possession of the same family. In 1826, Don Manuel Dominguez built an adobe for his soon-to-be wife, Maria Engracia Cota, in what was then the heart of his sprawling rancho.

One of their six daughters, Maria Victoria, married George Henry Carson, the man who gave the city its name. And while two other Dominguez daughters married into the Watson and Del Amo families, it was New York-born Carson who built a mansion next to his in-laws' adobe and supervised the family land holdings and ranching operations until his death in 1901.

The discovery of oil on Dominguez Hill in the 1920s transformed the area. Five leading refineries would eventually set up shop there.

In 1949, the area Chamber of Commerce began using the name "Carson" to distinguish itself from the South Bay's other unincorporated towns. It was almost 10 years later that the fight to incorporate began in earnest, in 1958, and another 10 years before it succeeded. A big boost to the incorporation drive was the establishment of Cal State Dominguez Hills in 1965. Some proposed naming the town "Carsolinguez," but "Carson" won because it was easier to spell.

Since cityhood, the middle-class, ethnically diverse city has become nationally recognized as a model of racial balance. Its population of more than 90,000 is evenly divided among whites, blacks, Latinos and Asians. It is also home to 2,500 Samoans, the largest concentration outside of Samoa.

Over time, portions of the rancho were donated, sold and developed. But the Carson Estate Co. and Watson Land Co. still control about 1,235 acres in the South Bay.

Homestead Business Park, a technology-oriented development of Carson Estate Co., sits where George Carson's mansion once reigned over the land grant kingdom and its enormous clan. The city's movable landmark, the Goodyear blimp, takes off and lands on what used to be orchards and farmland.

Today, Carson's heritage is remembered through street names, the neighboring community of Dominguez Hills, the university and the original Dominguez Ranch Adobe, now a museum belonging to the Claretian Missionaries.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

By the Numbers

CITY BUSINESS

Incorporated: Feb. 20, 1968

Square miles: 19

Number of city parks: 12

City employees: 292 fulltime; 278 part time

1996-97 operating budget: 33 million (capital & restricted funds excluded)

ETHNIC MAKEUP

Latino: 28%

White: 22%

Asian: 24%

Black / Other: 27%

PEOPLE

Population: 83,995

Households: 23,786

Average household size: 4

Median age: 32

MONEY AND WORK

Median household income: $43,882

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

Median home value: $186,800

Employed (16 and older): 44,424

Percentage of women employed: 63%

Percentage of men employed: 77%

Self-employed: 1,953

Car-poolers: 6,603

FAMILIES

Married couple families with children: 37%

Married couple families with no children: 27%

Other types of families: 19%

Nonfamily households: 17%

RETAIL STORES

Number of stores: 632

Number of employees: 12,621

Annual sales: $1,4 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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