Vernon, California
City of Vernon
Motto: "Exclusively Industrial!"
Template:Location map
Template:Location map
Coordinates: 34°0′4″N 118°12′40″W / Expression error: Unexpected < operator. Expression error: Unexpected < operator. / Expression error: Unexpected < operator.; Expression error: Unexpected < operator.
 • Mayor Matthew John Brooks
Area Template:Infobox settlement/areadisp
 • Land Template:Infobox settlement/areadisp
 • Water Template:Infobox settlement/areadisp  3.57%
Elevation Template:Infobox settlement/lengthdisp
Population (April 1, 2010)
 • Total 112
Time zone Pacific (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP code 90058
Area code 323
FIPS code FIPS 06 82422
GNIS feature IDs 4

Vernon is a city five miles (8.0 km) south of downtown Los Angeles, California. The population was 112 at the 2010 United States Census, the smallest of any incorporated city in the state (and the nearest to downtown Los Angeles).

The city is primarily composed of industrial areas and touts itself as "Exclusively Industrial." Meatpacking plants and warehouses are common. As of 2006, there were no parks.

City statusEdit

Vernon has a history of political problems, and was fighting disincorporation after city-government corruption was discovered.

According to an editorial in the April 26, 2011, edition of the Long Beach Press-Telegram, support to maintain Vernon's city status came from two powerful groups that were rarely allied: the business community (including the California, Los Angeles, and Vernon Chambers of Commerce) and the labor community (including the Los Angeles Federation of Labor and the Teamsters) joined together in the battle against Sacramento. Both groups acknowledged that Vernon needed a comprehensive political house cleaning, but both maintained its right to cityhood. The bill had passed in the Assembly on a bipartisan vote of 58–7.

In the last few weeks of the legislative session of summer 2011, a team of attorneys and lobbyists from Vernon were desperately trying to kill the bill that would disincorporate the scandal-tainted city when state Senator Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) came to them with a creative and unconventional offer. De Leon, who had earlier supported disbanding Vernon, said he would help to defeat the legislation if Vernon would set aside $60 million in order to fund community projects in the small, working-class cities that surround Vernon and to also agree to a proposed list of government reforms.

Vernon agreed to the offer, and de Leon then proceeded to support the groups fighting disincorporation. City officials in nearby Huntington Park, which stood to receive some of Vernon's grant money, also reversed their support to the City of Vernon. On August 29, the state Senate rejected the bill to disband Vernon.

The Vernon City Council unanimously passed salary limits and other wide-ranging reforms on May 26, 2011, as the tiny Los Angeles suburb fought efforts to eliminate its cityhood.

Associated Press reports that the council approved an amended package that cuts the salaries of council members from $70,000 to $25,000 a year, but not beginning until the end of their current terms. Other officials, including the police chief, also will see salaries trimmed, according to city spokesman Fred MacFarlane. Department heads salaries are now capped at $267,000. Previously, some city officials allegedly made more than $1 million to govern the city.

The council also authorized benefit reductions for officials, established a city housing commission and voted to place a proposal on the city ballot that would change the city charter and limit council members to two, five-year terms. The city owns nearly all residential housing in town and there have been concerns that its officials are de facto landlords of the voters.

The city reforms are partially in response to the bill and were designed "to preclude the Legislature from imposing reforms from outside the city. The reforms take the city of Vernon a lot further toward a more open, transparent and inclusive governance structure," MacFarlane said. "The business community will have a role to play, as will representatives of labor, and those are two key constituencies."

On August 2, 2011, Former state Attorney General John Van de Kamp, hired by the City to do an independent review of its policies, released a report that found “no significant fault” in Vernon’s compliance with the Political Reform Act, conflict of interest policies, the Brown Act, and the Public Records Act.

Disincorporation legislationEdit

In 2011, the Los Angeles District Attorney began consideration of a move to disincorporate the city. If this were to take effect, Vernon would be the third incorporated place to be disbanded in the past forty years, after Cabazon in 1972 and Hornitos, in 1973.

In 2011, California State Assemblyman John Pérez submitted a bill to the California legislature which would have disincorporated Vernon as a city.

Disincorporation would make the city of Vernon an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County.

Gloria Molina, a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which has voted in support of disincorporating Vernon stated: it is a "company town masquerading as a city."[1] "The city has been a facade for some personal gain issues. The residents are employees of the city or major companies and consequently are controlled."[2] If the bill becomes law, Los Angeles County could and most certainly would absorb Vernon.[3]

"The issue here is about the complete lack of transparency and accountability in Vernon," Pérez said. "We cannot tolerate a situation where a handful of individuals are able to use an entire city as their own personal fiefdom."[4]

In May 2011, Vernon officials said they wanted Speaker Pérez to provide a $200,000 deposit before they would begin to fulfill a public-records request that he submitted as part of his proposal to disincorporate the city. The state Senate rejected the proposal on August 29.[5]


Vernon is the historic site where the Battle of La Mesa occurred on January 9, 1847, when General Stephen W. Kearny again defeated a reinforced General José María Flores the day after the Battle of Rio San Gabriel. Accepting defeat General Flores fled southeast to Sonora, while Major Pico headed north into the San Gabriel Mountains with a hundred Californios. This ended hostilities in Alta California during the Mexican-American war, 1846–1848. At the end of the 1800s it was a stretch of unincorporated grassland near Los Angeles' flourishing downtown.

In 1905, Vernon was incorporated by ranchers James J. and Thomas J. Furlong and John B. Leonis, a merchant.[6] Vernon was incorporated to promote industrial development along the railroads in the area. John Leonis, of Basque origin, had come to Southern California in 1880 to work for his Uncle Miguel Leonis and later established his own ranch on unincorporated county land southeast of Downtown Los Angeles. Recognizing the importance of the three major railroads running through the area, he persuaded railroad executives to run spur tracks off the main lines and incorporated the adjacent three miles as the first "exclusively industrial" city in the Southwestern United States. He named the new city after a dirt road, Vernon Avenue, crossing its center.

Leonis created an enticing attraction, leasing property to the founders of the city, for a baseball stadium, a 7,000-seat boxing arena and the "world's longest bar", 100 feet long with thirty-seven bartenders.[7] As industrialists from the East Coast traveled to Vernon for heavyweight matches, Leonis sold many of them on locating their West Coast factories in his village. By the 1930s Owens-Illinois, and Alcoa had opened there, purchasing subsidized electricity from the new utility, Vernon Light & Power.[7] The Studebaker factory was built in 1938 and was located at 4530 Loma Vista Ave. It was the only West Coast factory for the company, producing 64 cars a day, and was closed in 1956. Ten years later in 1966, the company closed due to lack of sales. It is now the location of St. Regis Paper.

When Leonis died in 1953, he left an estate reportedly worth $8 million, including several parcels of land, to his grandson Leonis. Leonis Malburg first won a council seat in 1956 and was elected mayor in 1974.[7] "Vernon has long been dogged by accusations that it is a fiefdom run by a family that has held sway over the town for generations."

In 1907, on the land leased from Leonis, the founders of the city marketed Vernon as a "Sporting Town." Jack Doyle, an entrepreneur, opened the Vernon Avenue Arena, where 20-round world championship fights were held starting in 1908.[6] Shortly thereafter, the Pacific Coast League built a baseball park. The Vernon Tigers won three consecutive league pennants.[6] The Vernon Tigers, a minor league baseball team in the Pacific Coast League, played from 1909 through 1925.

The Poxon China Company was founded by George Wade Poxon (b. 1887, Castle Donington, Leicestershire, England) and his wife Judith (née Furlong) who in 1913 were married at St. Martha's Church in Vernon. The church had been built by the Furlong family in 1913. George Wade Poxon, a cousin of George Albert Wade (later Colonel Sir George Albert Wade), was well known as the chairman of Wade Potteries Limited in England, which produced Wade Whimsies. George Wade (b. about 1863 Tunstall, Staffordshire, father to George Albert Wade and uncle to George Wade Poxon) owned a pottery in Burslem, Staffordshire, England. The Wade family had been associated with the pottery industry for many years. George Wade Poxon was a member of the Royal Science Academy. At the age of 24, in 1911, he emigrated to the United States. The kilns were located on the Furlong ranch.

Vernon Kilns was founded in July 1931 after Faye G. Bennison purchased the Poxon China Company in Vernon, California. The Poxon China Company had its headquarters on 52nd Street, which is now part of Los Angeles. Bennison continued to produce Poxon lines, using Poxon shapes until an earthquake in 1933 forced Bennison to develop new and original shapes for the company. Two fires in the late 1940s almost brought the destruction of Vernon Potteries, Ltd., but Bennison decided to rebuild and the company continued to thrive. The company was not able to compete when a flood of foreign imports hit the American shelves and in 1958 Vernon Kilns sold all its holdings to Metlox. Metlox continued to market some Vernon shapes and patterns under the division Vernonware until 1989. The company produced dinnerware, art pottery, figurines, ashtrays and other popular items. All products were of earthenware, with clays from Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and England. Glazes were developed from minerals mined in California, and many patterns, including all of the plaids, were hand painted.

Vernon returned to being exclusively industrial around 1919. Two giant stockyards were opened and meat packing quickly became the city's main industry. Twenty-seven slaughterhouses eventually lined Vernon Avenue from Soto Street to Downey Road until the late 1960s.

The 1940s and 50s added aerospace contractors Norris Industries, box and paper manufacturers, drug companies such as Brunswig, and food processors General Mills and Kal Kan. Giant meat packers Farmer John and Swift flourished.

In 1932, after a dispute with Southern California Edison over industrial rates for electricity, John Leonis sponsored a bond measure to authorize the building of the city's own power plant, which is still operational today, providing the city with its notably lower utility rate.[6]

Recent historyEdit

Vernon has drastically increased the electricity rates charged to the industries operating within the city in an effort to fund the running of the city. As a result of this attempt to fund the city in large part from electricity purchased by industries located within the Vernon area, there is an exodus of businesses out of the city.


Consisting almost entirely of warehouses and factories, the city's main industries are food service manufacturing, metalworking, and manufacture of glass and plastic equipment. Housing is owned by the city and its few residents are employed within the city limits. There are approximately 46,000 direct and 54,000 indirect mostly skilled workers employed by business within the City of Vernon.[8] Food companies in Vernon include Bon Appetit Bakery, Papa Cantella's Sausages Company, Core-Mark, F. Gaviña & Sons Inc, Goldberg and Solovy Foods, Farmer John Meat Packing, J & J Snack Foods, Overhill Farms, Pacific American Fish Company, Red Chamber Co., Simply Fresh Fruit,[9] and Tapatío Foods. Apparel companies in Vernon include 7 for All Mankind, BCBG Max Azria, Lucky Brand Jeans, and True Religion. The city is also home to rendering plants, smelters and metal working companies. Vernon has a $4.5 billion private employer payroll.[10]

Vernon is primarily industrial, with few residents, and so has several singular city services. Vernon is one of 42 jurisdictions in the United States with a Class 1-rated fire department[11] and one of four cities in California with its own health department,[12] that specializes in industrial issues. It has a strong police force, municipally-owned housing for city employees, and a light and power department with rates that were, once, up to 40% lower than Southern California Edison and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's.[6] These services are designed for industry. Unfortunately, electricity and water rates are now some of the highest in the state due to new city council measures that are attempting to almost entirely fund Vernon from utilities paid by the industrial customers who have no voting power. As a result, many businesses are leaving Vernon for areas with more reasonable utilities. City employees and their relatives,[13] make up the majority of the residential sector and they hold the voting power. In 1989 Vernon formed a redevelopment agency, which has since invested millions of dollars to develop property within the city to successfully attract and retain business.[6]

In 2008, Vernon was named Los Angeles County's "Most Business Friendly City" for Cities with less than 50,000 residents by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.[6] Vernon produces a $250,000,000 flow of revenue every year, much of it from city-owned utilities.

Lead contamination from the Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon has impacted residents in nearby communities. In March 2015, the facility was permanently shut down by California regulators due to decades long arsenic and lead leakage and emissions that are expected to require extensive cleanup efforts.


Vernon is located at 34°0′4″N 118°12′40″W / Expression error: Unexpected < operator. Expression error: Unexpected < operator. / Expression error: Unexpected < operator.; Expression error: Unexpected < operator. (34.001213, -118.210979).[14] Vernon's zip code is 90058

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of Template:Convert/mi2Template:Convert/track/abbr/onTemplate:Convert/track/disp/Template:Convert/track/adj/. Template:Convert/mi2Template:Convert/track/abbr/onTemplate:Convert/track/disp/Template:Convert/track/adj/ of it is land and Template:Convert/mi2Template:Convert/track/abbr/onTemplate:Convert/track/disp/Template:Convert/track/adj/ of it (3.57%) is water.

Government and infrastructureEdit

County, state, and federalEdit

In the California State Legislature, Vernon is in Template:Representative, and in Template:Representative.

In the United States House of Representatives, Vernon is in.

The United States Postal Service Vernon Post Office is located at 5121 Hampton Street.


Vernon is within the Los Angeles Unified School District. The closest public schools are:

  • Vernon City Elementary School (within the city limits)
  • Holmes Ave Elementary School
  • George Washington Carver Middle School
  • Gage Middle School
  • Huntington Park High School

In popular cultureEdit

The second season of the HBO series True Detective is set in the fictional city of Vinci, California, which is loosely based on Vernon, due to its portrayal of heavy industrialization and government corruption.


  1. Respect for a city's autonomy – Press-Telegram
  2. Adam Nagourney (March 1, 2011). Plan Would Erase All-Business Town. The New York Times.
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  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 The City of Vernon. The City of Vernon. Retrieved on 2010-08-20.
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  8. The City of Vernon
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  12. environmentalists
  13. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Bee
  14. US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990. United States Census Bureau (2011-02-12). Retrieved on 2011-04-23.
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