Image of the City
"Looking at cities can give a special pleasure, however commonplace the sight may be. Like a piece of architecture, the city is a construction in space, but one vast scale, a thing perceived only in the course of long spans of time."
--Kevin Lynch, Image of the City
The City of Monterey Park has grown from its origin as part of the Mission San Gabriel de Archangel in the early 1800s to a demographically rich city with over 61,000 residents at the beginning of the twenty-first century. As Monterey Park moves toward the year 2020, the city, its residents, and the business community are committed to implementing a long-range plan that enhances the physical, economic, and human resources of the community. Important planning issues facing the city include:
- What commercial and residential opportunities can be realized in Downtown Monterey Park?
- How can the city reinforce a unique identity within the San Gabriel Valley?
- As local and regional growth occurs, what improvements to the local circulation system can be made to ensure smooth and safe travel for residents, employees, and visitors?
- What tools are appropriate for preserving the character of residential neighborhoods while allowing new housing development?
- Given limited vacant land resources remaining in the city, what flexible land use regulations can be utilized to accommodate a range of development types and intensities?
- What incentives can be used to attract modern commercial business, including light manufacturing and high technology industries?
The General Plan sets the framework for moving from the Monterey Park of today toward the desired community of the future. This plan guides the city to the year 2020 by setting forth goals and policies addressing land use, circulation, economic development, and related issues. These issues affect the quality of life in Monterey Park and the economic health of the community. Implementation of the Monterey Park General Plan will ensure that future development projects are consistent with the community's goals and that adequate urban services are available to meet the needs of new development.
Monterey Park Planning Area
The geographical area addressed by a general plan is not limited to a city's corporate limits. In addition to establishing policies for properties within city boundaries, a city may plan for any unincorporated lands outside the city limits which may influence the decisions and planning activities related to properties within the city's own corporate limits. For Monterey Park, these lands include all properties contained within the city's corporate limits, plus properties within the city's sphere of influence.  The sphere of influence consists of the unincorporated community of South San Gabriel located adjacent to the city's eastern boundary between New Avenue and San Gabriel Boulevard. The entire planning area encompasses 5,834 acres, with approximately 5,255 acres within the city's corporate limits and an additional 579 acres within the sphere of influence (Figure I-1 (PDF)). This plan also recognizes those portions of unincorporated East Los Angeles bordering the city's southwestern corner that have a bearing upon traffic and land use in Monterey Park. Thus, although the planning area does not include East Los Angeles, the General Plan includes policies that encourage mutually beneficial planning and development decisions.
History of the Community
Before the Spanish began to settle the Los Angeles Basin in 1700s, the Shoshone (later named Gabrielino) Indians inhabited Los Angeles County south of the San Gabriel Mountains and beyond, living as hunters and gatherers.
Permanent Spanish settlements, first in association with the San Gabriel Mission and later as part of a Spanish Land Grant, established the area incorporating Monterey Park as a defined geographic area. The Land Grant, awarded to Don Antonio Maria Lugo and named Rancho San Antonio, contained nearly 30,000 acres reaching from the present day City of Monterey Park southward to Lynwood. In 1840, one of the Don's sons built the first adobe dwelling on the hills in the areas that would become Monterey Park. Sold to Alessandro Repetto in the late 1860's, the property flourished. Around this time, Richard Garvey's ranch was also improved with groves and gardens. Garvey, a former mail rider for the U.S. Army, had developed his land by bringing in spring water from near the Hondo River and by constructing a 54-foot high dam to form Garvey Lake. Portions of the ranch began to be sold in the late 1800s. In 1906, the first subdivision in the area, Ramona Acres, was developed north of Garvey and east of Garfield Avenues.
1916 - 1950s
Community residents voted to incorporate in reaction to a proposal by the cities of Pasadena, South Pasadena, and Alhambra to locate a large sewage treatment facility in the area. Like most of the region, the city enjoyed a real estate boom throughout the 1920s, which was followed by inactivity and instability during and after the Great Depression. The end of World War II resulted in revived growth and explosive population gains during the 1940s and 1950s. Until this time, the population was concentrated in the northern and southern portions of the city, with the Garvey and Monterey Hills forming a natural barrier. With the renewed growth, many new subdivisions were developed, utilizing even the previously undeveloped central area to allow for maximum growth potential. A series of annexations of surrounding acreage also occurred.
A number of Asian business people found excellent investment opportunities in the city. The increasing Asian influence is present today. In 1978, State Proposition 13 passed and reduced the ability of local jurisdictions to raise revenue from residential property taxes. Monterey Park, like many jurisdictions in California, was impacted by this proposition. The city's economic viability was further affected in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Limited commercially zoned properties, high land costs, and small parcel sizes weakened the ability of Monterey Park to attract tax-generating businesses into the area and, Monterey Park's retail sales strength was below the statewide norm. In response to economic problems within the city, the city council and the Redevelopment Agency Board of Directors created an Economic Development Strategy Plan Task Force in 1993. The task force developed an approach that focused on strengthening Monterey Park's local family community and taking advantage of the city's international economic activities. Several redevelopment projects were established to revitalize commercial portions of the city, including the Atlantic / Garvey Project Area No. 1 Redevelopment Plan and the Merged Area Redevelopment Plan.
Every county in California has a so-called Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO, which establishes sphere of influence boundaries for incorporated jurisdictions. The Los Angeles County LAFCO has identified a sphere of influence for Monterey Park consisting of an unincorporated area known as South San Gabriel.