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Bell, California
City
Images, from top and left to right: James George Bell House, Bell Public Library, City of Bell Police sign
Images, from top and left to right: James George Bell House, Bell Public Library, City of Bell Police sign
Location of Bell in California
Location of Bell in California
Country  United States of America
State  California
County Flag of Los Angeles County, California.png Los Angeles
Incorporated November 7, 1927
Area
 • Total 2.620 sq mi (6.783 km2)
 • Land 2.501 sq mi (6.476 km2)
 • Water 0.119 sq mi (0.307 km2)  4.53%
Elevation 141 ft (43 m)
Population (April 1, 2010)
 • Total 35,477
 • Estimate (2013) 35,948
 • Density 13,540.8/sq mi (5,230.3/km2)
Time zone PST (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP Code 90201–90202, 90270
Area code(s) 323
FIPS code 06-04870
GNIS feature IDs 1660322, 2409816
Website www.cityofbell.org

Bell is an incorporated city in Los Angeles County, California, near the center of the former San Antonio Township (abolished after 1960). Its population was 35,477 at the 2010 census, down from 36,664 in the 2000 census. Bell is located on the west bank of the Los Angeles River and is a suburb of the city of Los Angeles. At 2.5 square miles (6.5 km2), Bell is the thirteenth smallest city in the United States with a population of at least 25,000.

In 2007, the U.S. Census Bureau ranked Bell's land area at 1245 out of 1257 cities (defined as incorporated areas) and two unincorporated areas that had a population of at least 25,000 in year 2000. Ten cities in the list of 1267 cities had no land area data (e.g., Goleta, California).

City residents voted to become a charter city in a special municipal election on November 29, 2005. Fewer than 400 voters turned out for that special election. More than half of those votes were dubiously obtained absentee votes. Being a charter city meant that city officials were exempt from state salary caps. A scandal ensued, in which several city officials were indicted for giving themselves extraordinarily high salaries.

History

Early history

The area comprising the city of Bell has a Native American history dating back thousands of years. The Gabrieliño Indians migrated to the place now called Bell in 500 BC. Spaniards have been living in this area of California since the mid-16th century. Among the early Spanish settlers was one of California’s first families, the Lugos. While stationed at Mission San Antonio de Padua near Salinas, California, Francisco Lugo’s first California son, Antonio Maria Lugo was born in 1775. That son became Don Antonio Maria Lugo, Spanish aristocrat and soldier, who settled on 30,000 acres of land that encompasses what is now the city of Bell. In 1810, the King of Spain formally granted the land to Lugo as a reward for his military service. Lugo also became the mayor of a little town called Los Angeles, from 1816–1819, and the acreage became known as Rancho San Antonio. The grant was confirmed by the Mexican governor in 1838. By 1865, the Lugo family's fortune had dwindled and most of the Rancho was sold for less than a dollar per acre. The Lugo family did manage to retain its home, built about 1810, which is the now oldest house in Los Angeles County. The original adobe house was on Gage Avenue.

Between 1870 and 1890, settlers arrived to the area and among those was the city’s founder. In 1876, the pioneer residents for whom the city is named, James George Bell and his wife Susan Abia Hollenbeck Bell, and their two children, Maude Elizabeth and Alphonzo Sr. moved from Los Angeles where they lived for a short period with Susan's brother, John Hollenbeck, in their Victorian style home — the Bell House, now a historic landmark located at 4401 East Gage Avenue. On April 6, 2000, the Bell House was dedicated as a California State Historical Resource.

Bell House
James George Bell House

They acquired about 360 acres (145.7 ha) of land and in the next decade, helped in its development as a small farming and cattle raising community. The Bell Family lived at the Hollenbeck’s “Town House” on 4th and Breed Street until they moved into the “ranch” Bell House in 1876. The Bell House was an early Victorian style farm house. In 1898, the town’s name was changed from Rancho San Antonio to Bell, in honor of its pioneer founders.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Bell area was a sparsely settled countryside with a scattering of houses, including the Bell family's home. Between 1900 and 1915, more people settled into the area. More homes, schools, churches and a library were built, and several small businesses were established by 1913. The citizens agreed to provide all facilities and services for the library, except for the books.

Between 1920 and 1935, an explosive growth in population occurred in the Bell area. Old and new residents built new businesses, established schools, and founded community organizations, such as the Bell Chamber of Commerce and the Woman's Club. An area-wide sanitation district was formed in 1923 to provide sewer facilities.

In 1924, George O. Wheeler founded the Industrial Post, the local newspaper. By the early 1960s, the Bell Industrial Post had become the Bell-Maywood-Cudahy Industrial Post. It was later renamed the Community News, and became part of the Los Cerritos Community Newspaper Group. In 1998 it was sold again. The Community News disappeared not long after, facilitating a chain of corrupt practiced that ultimately led to criminal convictions for city administrator Robert Rizzo, who had been hired around 1998, and six other Bell city officials.

In 1925, the Alcazar Theater to show "talking pictures", was opened. It has since been demolished. In 1926, Bell High School was opened.

Cityhood

Bell was incorporated as a city in 1927. Since its incorporation, the City of Bell has acquired land for public parks and the recreational program. The city also has constructed an adequate sewer system, widened all major streets, built a city hall, and provided fire department buildings, with the cooperation of the city of Maywood and the County of Los Angeles, the city of Bell constructed an indoor public swimming pool at Bell High School.

Bell House2
James George Bell House

The city's Chamber of Commerce is located at the historic James George Bell House, which serves as a meeting place and in addition, a museum showcasing artifacts from the city's founding family and period furniture. The house is open to the general public with free admission.

In March 2007, the city of Bell held its first contested election for city council in almost a decade. The next election for City Council was held in March 2011, and included the recall of all the city council members save one, who was not re-elected.

Oscar controversy

In March 2000, Bell gained worldwide publicity, as the media announced that a shipment of 55 Oscar statuettes was stolen from a trucking company loading dock in Bell. In addition to the Los Angeles and Bell police departments, FBI art theft experts investigated. It was the second Oscar mishap within a short period, as earlier that month 4,000 Oscar ballots were misrouted. Coincidentally, the missing Oscar ballots were found by the post office in a Bell processing center. AMPAS Executive Director Bruce Davis was quoted as jokingly warning Billy Crystal, host of that year's Oscar ceremony, not to go near Bell because it "seems to be a Bermuda Triangle for Oscar things".

2010 city official corruption scandal

In July 2010, when two Los Angeles Times reporters, Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben Vives, were investigating possible malfeasance in the neighboring city of Maywood, it was revealed that Bell city officials were receiving unusually large salaries, perhaps the highest in the United States. The salaries came into the public eye after the newspaper's investigation, based on California Public Records Act requests, showed that the city payroll was swollen with six- to seven-figure salaries. Robert Rizzo, the City manager, received $787,637 a year, almost double the salary of the President of the United States. Including benefits, he had received $1.5 million in the last year. Rizzo's assistant, Angela Spaccia, was earning $376,288 a year, more than the top administrator for Los Angeles County. The police chief, Randy Adams, was paid $457,000, 33% more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck. All three resigned following news reports and public outcry. All but one of the members of the city council were receiving $100,000 for their part-time work, salaries which were authorized by a sparsely attended special election, giving the city "Charter" status. By comparison, council members in cities similar to Bell in size make an average of $4,800 a year, prosecutors have noted.

In September 2010, the California Attorney General's office filed a lawsuit against eight former and current City of Bell employees, requesting the return of what the suit calls "excessive salaries" as well a reduction in pension benefits accrued as a result of those higher salaries. Allegations about irregularities in the 2009 election also were examined by the FBI and California Secretary of State office. The city's high property taxes are also being investigated.

On September 21, 2010, former city manager Robert Rizzo, Mayor Oscar Hernandez, former assistant city manager Angela Spaccia and council members George Mirabal, Teresa Jacobo, Luis Artiga, George Cole and Victor Bello were arrested and charged with misappropriation of public funds. The mayor and council members all either resigned or were recalled. Of the 8, only Luis Artiga was found not guilty. The revelations about the salary amounts paid to city officials in Bell led media inquires into salaries paid in other cities. After a review, the L.A. Times found frequent failures in audits of public agencies in other municipalities in California.

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.6 square miles (6.7 km2), of which 2.5 square miles (6.5 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) is water.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1930 7,884
1940 11,264 42.9%
1950 15,430 37.0%
1960 19,450 26.1%
1970 21,836 12.3%
1980 25,450 16.6%
1990 34,365 35.0%
2000 36,664 6.7%
2010 35,477 −3.2%
Est. 2015 36,205 2.1%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010

The 2010 United States Census reported that Bell had a population of 35,477. The population density was 13,545.5 per square mile (5,229.9/km²). The racial makeup of Bell was 19,098 (53.8%) White (4.9% Non-Hispanic White), 337 (0.9%) African American, 315 (0.9%) Native American, 259 (0.7%) Asian, 8 (0.0%) Pacific Islander, 13,899 (39.2%) from other races, and 1,561 (4.4%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 33,028 persons (93.1%).

The census reported that 34,898 people (98.4% of the population) lived in households, 490 (1.4%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 89 (0.3%) were institutionalized.

There were 8,870 households, of which 5,327 (60.1%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 4,659 (52.5%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 1,879 (21.2%) had a female householder with no husband present, 1,019 (11.5%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 857 (9.7%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 31 (0.3%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 967 households (10.9%) were made up of individuals and 388 (4.4%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.93. There were 7,557 families (85.2% of all households); the average family size was 4.15.

11,363 people (32.0% of the population) were under the age of 18, 4,124 people (11.6%) aged 18 to 24, 10,783 people (30.4%) aged 25 to 44, 6,811 people (19.2%) aged 45 to 64, and 2,396 people (6.8%) 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28.9 years. For every 100 females there were 101.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.5 males.

There were 9,217 housing units at an average density of 3,519.2 per square mile (1,358.8/km²), of which 2,570 (29.0%) were owner-occupied, and 6,300 (71.0%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.6%; the rental vacancy rate was 3.3%. 11,333 people (31.9% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 23,565 people (66.4%) lived in rental housing units.

2000

At the 2000 census, there were 36,664 people, 8,918 households and 7,615 families residing in the city. The population density was 14,802.5 per square mile (5,708.1/km²). There were 9,215 housing units at an average density of 3,720.4 per square mile (1,434.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 48.45% White, 1.28% Black or African American, 1.28% Native American, 1.07% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 43.09% from other races, and 4.78% from two or more races. Bell also has a small Lebanese community. 90.90% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 8,918 households out of which 57.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.0% were married couples living together, 18.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 14.6% were non-families. 11.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 4.05 and the average family size was 4.27.

35.3% of the population were under the age of 18, 12.9% were from 18 to 24, 32.2% from 25 to 44, 14.1% from 45 to 64, and 5.4% 65 years of age or older. The median age was 26 years. For every 100 females there were 102.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.3males.

The median household income was $29,946 and the median family income was $30,504.

Income data

During 2009–2013, Bell had a median household income of $35,985, with 30.2% of its residents living below the federal poverty line.

Parks and recreation

The city of Bell has several recreational facilities. The Bell Community Center hosts many events such as anniversaries, baptisms, birthdays, conferences, company parties, receptions, and seminars. Treder Park, located at the community center, has a gazebo, a pavilion with barbecues, and picnic tables. Camp Little Bear Park and Lodge is a park designed for children 12 and under. The park includes a three-in-one area for junior players with basketball, handball, and four square courts. The park also has an outdoor amphitheater for films, a miniature golf course, an indoor lodge with classrooms and computers, picnic pavilions, play equipment, rock climbing, and a small soccer (football) turf field.

Ernest Debs Park, also referred to as the "Casa de Fútbol" ("House of Soccer" in Spanish), has a soccer field with sport turf and a shaded outdoor fitness area with cardio, resistance, and strengthening equipment. The park also has one full and two half basketball courts, benches, pavilions, picnic tables, and table games. Veterans Memorial Park has one junior (half) and two full-court basketball courts, batting cages, a baseball diamond with stadium seating and scoreboards, tree-shaded benches, a clubhouse with computer access, large picnic pavilions, tree-shaded picnic tables, a playground for ages 2 through 12, a rose garden in honor of U.S. soldiers, and a snack bar. The Y.O.T.L.O.T. ("Youth of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow") Teen Center is a facility for teenagers. The center has air hockey, computer access, foosball, game systems, a pool table, a snack bar, and a stage. The Bell SK8 ("Skate") Park is located adjacent to the teen center.

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