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Cerritos: A history in progress

March 25, 2016

Cerritos was incorporated on April 24, 1956 as the City of Dairy Valley. The City's original name reflected the agricultural focus of the community. Dairy Valley had 32,000 cows on more than 400 dairies and 106,300 chickens on licensed poultry farms. The cows outnumbered the City's 3,439 residents by nine to one.

The City voted on February 17, 1959 to become a California chartered city.

During the early 1960s, rising land values and property taxes began to make dairy operations uneconomical. On March 2, 1965, in a special election, the citizens of Dairy Valley decided to permit the building of homes on less than five acres per residence to allow for normal residential development.

The name change to Cerritos was made official on January 10, 1967. Cerritos was a natural choice, since the area was located near land that was part of the original Spanish land grant Rancho Los Cerritos, which figured prominently in the history of this region before California became a state.

By 1970 the City had grown, quickly and inevitably, to a population of 15,856 because of rapid residential development. The City wanted to develop in a well-planned manner according to a policy of continual environmental improvement, with standards and goals which called for a park-like community with substantial amounts of open space for residential, commercial and industrial development.

On October 27, 1971, the first Cerritos General Plan was adopted to provide a positive program of controlled urban development. Administration of the General Plan guarantees attractive neighborhoods, location of services and shopping facilities near homes and a number of parks for recreation. The most recent version of the General Plan was adopted on January 6, 2004.

Almost 50 percent of the City's acreage is designed for residential living. By 1972, the population had grown from the 1970 census count of 15,856 to 37,738, making Cerritos the fastest growing city in California.

In 1978, Cerritos dedicated the nation's first solar-heated City Hall complex. In the early 1980s, the City developed the Cerritos Auto Square, which generates millions of dollars in sales tax revenue for the City annually, and in 1993, the world-class Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts first opened its doors. In 1997, the City opened the state-of-the-art Cerritos Sheriff's Station/Community Safety Center to provide public safety services to residents 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week.

In 2002, the 88,000-square-foot Cerritos Library was dedicated, featuring educational displays, an extensive art collection and conference center. A new 11,000-square-foot community center at Liberty Park was dedicated in 2005. The Cerritos Sculpture Garden and addition of a 5,000-square-foot fitness/wellness center at the Cerritos Senior Center at Pat Nixon Park were dedicated in 2006 as 50th anniversary gifts to the community.

In 2008, Cerritos received the nation's oldest and most prestigious award, being named an All-America City by the National Civic League. In 2010, a 10,000-square-foot expansion and modernization of the Cerritos Sheriff's Station/Community Safety Center was dedicated. In 2013, the Cerritos Library Teen Studio opened, providing a 2,500-square-foot multi-purpose space with extensive technological equipment for teens to participate in activities which encourage their educational, creative and personal development.

Today, Cerritos is a thriving commercial center that has built itself on a foundation of financial security, central location and an environment that is beautiful and efficient. A display featuring photos and information about "Cerritos: Then and Now" will be exhibited at the Cerritos Library throughout the month of April.

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