California Fool's Gold -- A Pomona Valley Primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 17, 2011 04:35pm | Post a Comment

The Pomona Valley is located on the far eastern edge of Los Angeles County -- actually straddling it and San Bernadino County. The towns of Montclair, Ontario, San Antonio Heights and Upland are all located across the San Antonio River, on the San Bernadino side, in the Inland Empire.

Since I've yet to expand beyond writing about towns and neighborhoods of LA County (and Orange County, which was formerly part of LA County) to San Bernadino and Riverside Counties, this Pomona Valley primer is focusing only on the Pomona Valley communities within Los Angeles County: Claremont, Pomona and La Verne. (San Dimas and Diamond Bar, which straddle the border of the Pomona and San Gabriel Valleys, I've chosen to include in the San Gabriel Valley.)


Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of the Pomona Valley


The Pomona Valley is physically separated from the San Gabriel Valley to the west by the San Jose Hills. It's separated from the Cucamonga Valley to the east by the Chino Hills. In 1893, the California Assembly voted overwhelmingly to create a new county in the region, with Pomona as its seat, to be known as San Antonio County. Obviously, that didn't happen, but the Pomona Valley does have a distinct culture which may explain at least partially (although definitely not completely) why events there are covered by the OC Weekly and IE Weekly more than in the LA Weekly


The Pomona Valley and surrounding lands were inhabited for thousands of years, prior to the Spanish Conquest, by the semi-nomadic Tongva (or Kizh), whose villages of Torojoatnga and Toibinga were located in the area. Once the Spaniards decimated their populations, the lands were divided into large ranchos. In 1837, Ygnacio Palomares and Ricardo Vejar were granted Rancho San Jose, in what is now much of far eastern Los Angeles County.

In 1872, after passing first to Mexico and then to the US, about 440 orange seedlings were planted in the valley and for many decades following, the Pomona Valley was dominated by citrus production as well as dairy farming. Population growth increased considerably in the first decades of the 20th century and again in the suburbanization that occurred following World War II. Nowadays, the population is approximately 50% Latino, 32% white, 8% Asian and 7% black, fairly similar demographically to the county at large.

And now, for the towns of the (Los Angeles County portion of) Pomona Valley:




Claremont is both the wealthiest and most ethnically diverse of the three cities with a population that's 64% white (mostly German and English), 16% Latino (mostly Mexican), 12% Asian (mostly Taiwanese) and 5% black. The first lots in Claremont went up for sale in 1887. Today it's widely known for its schools (Claremont McKenna CollegeHarvey Mudd CollegePitzer CollegePomona CollegeScripps CollegeClaremont Graduate University and the Claremont School of Theology) and many trees, which have lead to it being nicknamed the "City of Trees and PHDs." It's well known to music fans as the home of radio's KSPC. To read more about Claremont, click here.



Lots in Pomona first went on sale in 1876 but, despite an enormous promotion, the population arrived slowly. Today Pomona is not only the youngest and poorest city of the three Pomona Valley towns... it's also the largest, with a population over twice the size of the other two combined (it's the seventh largest city in Los Angeles County after Los Angeles, Long BeachGlendale, Santa Clarita, Lancaster and Palmdale). That population is 64% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 17% white (mostly German), 10% black and 7% Asian.

Pomona is also notably the home of the Fairplex, which hosts both the LA County Fair and the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona (formerly known as Pomona Raceway). Pomona's also home of the historic Pomona Fox Theater which opened in 1931 (with a screening of The Minute Man). The Glass House is Pomona's premier live music venue. 


The name "La Verne" just sounds old and indeed its population is the oldest of the three towns. However, it used to sound even older, beginning its existence as Lordsburg, named after founder Isaac Lord. In 1917, as soon as Lord died, residents voted to change the name to the then-hip-sounding "La Verne." Today it's also the Pomona Valley's least diverse town. Its demographics are 64% White (mostly German), 23% Latino (mostly Mexican) and 7% Asian (mostly Filipino). And, although possessing a comparatively low profile, Amoeba's own Paul Vasquez DJed a party there thrown by David Koresh. Also, the church from The Graduate (and Wayne's World 2) is there. And lastly, my ex-girlfriend (and Pomona native) Jessica Alba attended high school there.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LAAmoeblogBoom: A Journal of CaliforniadiaCRITICSHidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft ContemporaryForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store, the book SidewalkingSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistCurbedLAEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRWWhich Way, LA?, at Emerson College, and the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on AmebaDuolingoFacebookGoodreadsInstagramMubiand Twitter.

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