City of Industry

City of Industry: Genealogies of Power in Southern California

Victor Valle
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hj39n
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    City of Industry
    Book Description:

    Founded in 1957, the Southern California suburb prophetically named City of Industry today represents, in the words of Victor Valle,"The gritty crossroads of the global trade revolution that is transforming Southern California factories into warehouses, and adjacent working class communities into economic and environmental sacrifice zones choking on cheap goods and carcinogenic diesel exhaust."City of Industryis a stunning exposé on the construction of corporate capitalist spaces.

    Valle investigated an untapped archive of Industry's built landscape, media coverage, and public records, including sealed FBI reports, to uncover a cascading series of scandals. A kaleidoscopic view of the corruption that resulted when local land owners, media barons, and railroads converged to build the city, this suspenseful narrative explores how new governmental technologies and engineering feats propelled the rationality of privatization using their property-owning servants as tools.

    Valle's tale of corporate greed begins with the city's founder James M. Stafford and ends with present day corporate heir, Edward Roski Jr., the nation's biggest industrial developerùco-owner of the L.A. Staples Arena and possible future owner of California's next NFL franchise. Not to be forgotten in Valle's captivating story are Latino working class communities living within Los Angeles's distribution corridors, who suffer wealth disparities and exposure to air pollution as a result of diesel-burning trucks, trains, and container ships that bring global trade to their very doorsteps. They are among the many victims of City of Industry.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4838-8
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: DECODING THE CHINATOWN TECHNOLOGIES
    (pp. 1-14)

    It is already a cliché to say that movies such asChinatowntake the place of memories that residents of Los Angeles have never bothered to save or even live. At least that’s the dismissive judgment I’ve heard from those who prefer not to puzzle over the city’s Byzantine enigmas. The journalists who see the film as a universal metaphor of the corrupting power of politics and money also gloss over its rooted specificities.

    I saw a different film with a different gaze. I noticed the Mexican boy on the sad swaybacked horse appear to witness suspicious water flows in...

  5. CHAPTER 1 HIS THEATER OF SHAME
    (pp. 15-27)

    Miss Rae Schade is slender and wears a modest dress. She tilts her head down toward the taller, older man on her right, as if embarrassed. A veil of chiffon gauze hides her eyes. Her body seems to yield to the pressure of watching eyes as she steps from the shadows of the Hall of Justice onto a downtown sidewalk. That taller, older man on her right is her father, Fred. He wears a suit, a wide tie, and a fedora. He, too, averts his eyes as if avoiding the gaze that magnifies a shame made public during a week...

  6. CHAPTER 2 A LEGACY OF DEBT, RAILS, AND NOOSES
    (pp. 28-52)

    The rape scandal that sent C. C. Stafford to jail and fixed his image as the “rich grain merchant” represents just one of his possible life stories. There are several other versions of that life, including the one he fashioned from his deeds and dreams and the one his son told out of love or pride. And like other infamous men, C. C. had other biographers, the ones who narrated the versions of his life he did not bother, or flat out refused, to acknowledge.

    The autobiography that C. C. fashioned refused to recognize tragedy or failure, insisting instead on...

  7. CHAPTER 3 IN THE SCHOOL OF POWER
    (pp. 53-66)

    Jim Stafford’s civics education continued under the tutelage of Los Angeles County’s infamous and visionary supervisor Herbert Legg. Legg represented the first district, a huge political-economic jurisdiction that stretched east from downtown Los Angeles, following the contours of the San Gabriel Valley, to the San Bernardino County line. The LeRoy, New York, native held that powerful position for nearly three terms—from 1934 to 1938 and again from 1950 to 1954—practically a political lifetime, until a heart attack ended his career.

    Jim’s habits of secrecy obscure the early roots of his relationship with Legg, but their first contact appears...

  8. CHAPTER 4 GRADUATION DAY
    (pp. 67-80)

    Jim Stafford’s first year on the planning commission involved organizing the formation of newly incorporated Lakewood, dealing with the accelerating pace of homebuilding in the San Gabriel Valley, and, most importantly, executing Herbert Legg’s idea of reserving portions of the adjoining La Puente Valley for industrial use. At one point, however, in about 1954, when the Lakewood plan began to reveal its potential, Legg and perhaps the railroads decided that creating an industrial city offered the best vehicle for obtaining their desired results. According to Laurence Peck, Industry’s first chamber of commerce director, the push for incorporation unquestionably came from...

  9. CHAPTER 5 “WE DON’T LIKE THE DIRTY DEAL”
    (pp. 81-102)

    Jane Stafford did not know that her husband had served on Los Angeles County’s regional planning commission until she saw it on a TV newscast that aired in 1967. As she recalled, George Putnam, the flashy KTLA Channel 5 reporter known for his rightwing populism, would “all but call him a ‘crook’ during the evening news” for pushing the city to condemn an eighty-acre landfill located within a five-hundred-acre area known as the Little La Puente Hills. Putnam, who loved to defend the little guy against city hall, not surprisingly sided with the landfill owners against the city, which wanted...

  10. CHAPTER 6 TRIANGULATING THE THRONE
    (pp. 103-112)

    According to Industry businessman Robert K. King, a wholesale dealer in rare and expensive hardwoods, admission to Jim Stafford’s world hinged on how King chose to answer a question. In a series of interviews he gave after Jim’s 1983 indictment on bid-rigging and kickback charges, King offered his tale of seduction and disgrace, beginning in 1968, a few years before Industry’s redevelopment projects formally got off the ground, when the lumber dealer first explored the idea of relocating his business to Industry.¹ The episode offers an intimate look at the way in which Industry’s officials served their railroad clientele and...

  11. CHAPTER 7 SOWING A FIELD, CLIMBING A TREE
    (pp. 113-130)

    It should come as no surprise to learn that the Southern Pacific’s man in Industry, Wilfred Steiner, was also the man to recruit Warner W. Hodgdon. Steiner believed that Hodgdon could repeat the magic he had performed as director and financial consultant of San Bernardino’s redevelopment agency, where he had quickly succeeded in qualifying that chronically depressed city for federal and state redevelopment funding.¹ Perpetually optimistic, Steiner was practiced at the art of can-do publicity, and he no doubt recognized the San Bernardino native as a kindred spirit, one whose winning personality had infected both community leaders and the area’s...

  12. CHAPTER 8 SCARING THE PESTS AWAY
    (pp. 131-144)

    Industry’s critics did not prevent the city from transforming into a redevelopment juggernaut. They didn’t even slow it down. But the schools, the good government types, the small business owners and homeowners who had failed to curtail redevelopment in their own backyards heard and felt those criticisms, though often in unanticipated ways.

    In the mid-1970s, amid generalized anxiety about skyrocketing property values, opponents of redevelopment either willingly lent their arguments to critics of big government or saw them hijacked by those critics. The media’s “benign neglect” of redevelopment reporting during its first thirty years of existence had the set the...

  13. CHAPTER 9 THE OTHER CHINATOWNS
    (pp. 145-162)

    When interviewed years later by the FBI, Hodgdon made it clear that it was his idea, not Jim’s, to pull off the biggest land buy the city had yet attempted: the 2,500-acre Tres Hermanos Ranch that straddled the Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside county lines. It was his prize and, until its sale, had been a historic chunk ofTimesmogul Otis Chandler’s family real estate empire. The texts of that deal—letters, memoranda, property appraisals, city resolutions, and dozens of other documents—show that Hodgdon was working to acquire it as early as 1978, the same year in...

  14. CHAPTER 10 JIM’S BUSY PERIOD
    (pp. 163-178)

    Jim’s apparent disinterest in the Tres Hermanos acquisition coincided with a very busy, you might even say chaotic, chapter in his life. He had his hands full: he was engineering his divorce, hiding his wealth from his estranged wife, feeding his raging alcoholism, managing his deepening partnership with Ed Roski, Jr., and staying on top of a bid-rigging and kickback scheme that brought him more phony checks than he knew what to do with. If that were not enough, somewhere in the middle of a jumbled three-year period beginning in 1977, he began indulging in even more grandiose schemes, playing...

  15. CHAPTER 11 ASSEMBLING JIM’S PORTRAIT
    (pp. 179-189)

    The details of Jim’s portrait had begun to accumulate since Industry’s incorporation. Pieces of that identity had sporadically appeared in the local press but, like jagged bits of tile, had not yet formed into public mosaic we would later accept as his likeness. Nor had the local press made the city’s image synonymous with Jim’s or even made up its mind about his place in the city’s hierarchy since it had previously portrayed city attorney Graham Ritchie as the architect of Industry’s injustice.

    Everything changed on June 26, 1980, when theLos Angeles Herald Examinerpublished the first installment of...

  16. CHAPTER 12 JIM’S HOT VEGAS TIP
    (pp. 190-203)

    Jim’s next big chance to extend his money-laundering operation came in the spring of 1981, when Bank of Industry director Owen H. Lewis told him about the hot investment tip he had received from his pal Clifford Aaron Jones, one of the most storied and politically connected casino lawyers in Las Vegas history. Desperate for new places to hide his money, Jim liked what he heard from Nevada’s former lieutenant governor. His ensuing casino adventures, filled with international political intrigue and even the furtive delivery of a paper bag stuffed with hundred-dollar bills, offers a rare peek at dealings that...

  17. CHAPTER 13 A PUNISHING GAZE
    (pp. 204-214)

    Special Agent Keller’s power to inspect the most intimate moments of Jim’s life and Jim’s anxious anticipation of that surveillance had begun to take their toll. We can detect that stress in the text of Jim’s actions and statements, in his desperate efforts to cover his tracks. One might even say that Keller, in tempting Jim to interrogate his every action and thought, was making him sick, although no doubt Jim’s lifetime of drinking and steak-and-potato eating had also aggravated his growing cardiovascular problems.

    Still, it is hard to pin down exactly when Jim realized he had to do something...

  18. CHAPTER 14 PERFORMING HIS WHITENESS
    (pp. 215-230)

    Jim scheduled a September 13, 1983, meeting with Lucilla Rowlett and her husband at the Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge in Leesville, Louisiana. In the course of that meeting, he paid her the first of two 1,000-dollar bribes. Rowlett tape-recorded the conversation with a voice-activated Nagra recorder that the FBI had put into her purse. The transcripts of this and subsequent recordings would help the prosecution clinch its case against Jim. They also showed his desperate bid to keep her loyalty. To do so, he resorted to a personal cultural technology, the one he had inherited from his father: he tried...

  19. CHAPTER 15 BURYING THE BODY
    (pp. 231-245)

    The transcript of a September 17, 1984, telephone conversation between Frank Wood and Roger Haines gives an early glimpse of how the City of Industry was bracing itself for the legal onslaught it expected after Jim’s conviction. Haines, a contractor who had admitted to playing a minor role in the bid-rigging conspiracy, had agreed to secure evidence against his co-conspirators in hopes of receiving a reduced sentence. Wood, the general contractor Jim had befriended in Carpinteria fourteen years earlier, had been indicted for his role in the scheme. After trying several times to speak to Wood (“FW” in the transcript),...

  20. EPILOGUE: BECOMING HIS PAPER SON
    (pp. 246-260)

    The 1988 settlement that the district attorney imposed on Graham Ritchie essentially erased his influence in the City of Industry. The city attorney had been one of the last obstacles preventing Ed Roski, Jr., from taking Jim’s place in Industry. Now Ed made his move. He started making the big decisions in the city, started acting as if he had inherited Jim’s power. Meanwhile, Industry underwent its own transformation.

    Whether by accident or design, the metamorphosis started inauspiciously in April 1989, when Ed told city officials that he and his partners wanted to take up the city’s earlier pledge to...

  21. NOTES
    (pp. 261-308)
  22. INDEX
    (pp. 309-316)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 317-318)