Bixby Hill is a gated community located across the street on the east side of California State University, Long Beach. The majority of these homes were built 1966 to 1973 and feature large one to two-story single-family dwellings. More importantly, it is home to Rancho Los Alamitos, which at 7.5 acres is a rare vestige of the original 300,000-acre Los Coyotes land concession given to Manuel Nieto in 1790 for his service on the Gaspar de Portolá expedition to California under the Spanish Crown. However, the Rancho Los Alamitos site is also part of the ancestral village of Povuu’ngna, the traditional place of origin of the native Gabrielino-Tongva people of the Los Angeles Basin, and still a sacred place.
Nieto’s vast land holdings included 25,500 acres, which in 1833 became Rancho Los Alamitos – Ranch of the Little Cottonwoods. The name suggested its most valuable asset – water – since cottonwoods grow near water, and grew plentifully near the natural springs of Povuu’ngna below the hill. For Nieto, the land was a ranching gem and reward from the Spanish Crown. Subsequent owners Governor José Figueroa and Yankee Don Abel Stearns saw the site as a smart investment and perhaps a haven away from rough Los Angeles. To generations of the Bixby family, the ranch’s last private owners - and the workers, tenant and lease farmers who worked there - Rancho Los Alamitos was an enterprising ranch that would endure for almost a century through the rise of modern-day Long Beach.
In 1968, the children of Fred and Florence Bixby, the last private owners, donated the family ranch to the city of Long Beach, transforming what had been a working ranch to a public oasis and setting the stage for what Rancho Los Alamitos is today.
Boundaries: Del Amo Boulevard and Wardlow Avenue, Los Angeles River and Atlantic
AvenueNamed after Jotham Bixby, who acquired the Rancho Los Cerritos land grant in the 1860s, Bixby Knolls makes up half of “Uptown Long Beach,” along with California Heights. Bixby’s son George Bixby erected a mansion in 1890 near the current Virginia Country Club area, where some of the largest homes and properties in the city can be found. In the early part of the 20th century, this area was still mostly rural with a few ranchers and a whole lot of sheep. In 1907, land for Los Cerritos Park at County Club Drive and Bixby Road was donated to the city by Amelia Bixby. Jotham’s legacy remains in Bixby Knolls in the form of street name Jotham Place.
Boundaries: Del Amo Boulevard and Carson Street, Bellflower Boulevard and Lakewood Boulevard
The Lakewood Village neighborhood was annexed by Long Beach in late August 1953, which forced the formation of the City of Lakewood in 1954 to avoid having the whole area gobbled up by the bigger city to the south. Instead of allowing neighborhood-by-neighborhood annexation, Lakewood’s strategy became to oppose annexation by petition even before the annexation election was announced. Thus, Lakewood Village became Long Beach’s last stand in their planned annexation of the entire area. Long Beach City College, located in Lakewood Village, was founded in 1927 and first located at Woodrow Wilson High School. After the earthquake of 1933 destroyed much of Wilson High, the college moved to its present campus at Clark and Carson Streets in 1935. In September 1934, potential homebuyers were invited to the original sales site of Lakewood Village at Carson Street and Cerritos Avenue. The lots in the neighborhood were marketed as “semi-sustaining,” where the continuation of utilizing these lots as small farms would be encouraged. Promoters of the new development promised that “under this new deal in city development, it would be possible for a Lakewood Village resident . . . to produce on his land enough fruits, vegetables, poultry and rabbits to care for his family almost exclusively on a year-round basis. With the city convenience of Long Beach just a few minutes away and industrial centers in close range, a family man can work part-time for cash income and devote part-time to food cultivation.”
Boundaries: 405 Freeway and South Atherton Street, E. Palo Verde and W. Clark Avenues
The owner of Rancho Los Alamitos, Susan Bixby Bryant, died in 1947 and left an estate riddled with numerous tax issues. Developer Lloyd S. Whaley seized the opportunity to implement his vision for a new Long Beach residential community. He bought portions of the Rancho Los Alamitos land from Bryant’s financially strapped heirs and called it Los Altos, Spanish for “The Hills.” He then hired a noted socialist and regional planner from the Berkeley area named L. Deming Hilton. Together, they designed one of the first planned communities in the country.
The Los Altos Association included 25 tracts with plans for more than 10,000 single family homes and set aside space for retail stores, schools, churches and parks. It was the largest planned community in the country at the time. Whaley was a smart businessman and knew the federal government was going to underwrite home loans as part of what would later become the VA Bill. Whaley had Hilton develop Conditions, Covenants and Restrictions (CC&Rs) for the planned housing in each tract with minimum and maximum house sizes, lot coverages, setbacks, and so on. Whaley then built several different model homes and started constructing and selling new 2 and 3 bedroom homes for between $8,000 and $12,500. The first homes to go up in the Los Altos community were northeast of Atherton and Clark and the building continued north and east from there.