Friday, May 18, marked the 89th anniversary of Eagle Rock’s annexation in 1923 to the City of Los Angeles. Okay—the number 89 isn’t exactly auspicious. But it’s a milestone worth commemorating. After all, the City’s extraordinary problems occasionally unleash a nostalgia in some Eagle Rock circles for the time when the community managed its own affairs.
Patch asked Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society President Eric Warren to reflect on Eagle Rock’s momentous merger with what might be called “Mother Los Angeles.” Here are his responses to the questions we posed:
Patch: Why did Eagle Rock decide to merge with Los Angeles in 1923—and was there more to the merger than an insufficient supply of water in the growing neighborhood?
Warren: In press accounts at the time, the most discussed issue was the instability and insufficiency of groundwater supplies for an exploding suburban population. This was complicated by the lack of sewers, which made the pollution of these supplies increasingly likely.
Other looming problems seem to have been the lack of a local high school, and growing population pressures on the three elementary schools that had been built in 1917 after a three-year struggle to pass a bond issue. ( was built in 1927. New brick structures were constructed at Rockdale Elementary, which was not previously in Eagle Rock City, , Eagle Rock, San Rafael, and in the 1920s. The last two were also not in the City of Eagle Rock, but are now in the district.)
It is my feeling that the governing structure of the City—an elected board of trustees— was increasingly incapable if coping with a mushrooming population and the demands of growing residential development.
Do you think Eagle Rock did the right thing in throwing its lot with the City of Los Angeles? Why or why not?
The issue was decided by a popular vote—1,917 citizens voted, annexation won by a majority of 297. Most of those who had substantial economic interest in development seem to have favored annexation. It seems clear that some solution other than continuing as a tiny city was necessary.
Some people in Eagle Rock think the neighborhood should become an incorporated city once again. Is that a dumb idea or what?
This idea reappears periodically. Petitions were circulated about 10 years ago to do this. I would doubt that the area has a sufficient tax base to support independence, given current restraints on property taxation and the small number of large retail stores.
Given that an insufficient supply of water was a key reason for Eagle Rock’s union with Los Angeles, how precarious do you think L.A.’s own existence is in light of a looming water crisis facing the city?
As I am unacquainted with the circumstances of this “crisis,” I am unable to supply an answer. I suspect that should such a “crisis” exist we could get along with considerably less water. We already have done much to reduce consumption in the past few years.
History teaches us that the existence of civilizations has always been precarious. Continuing organized collective and individual effort will always be necessary to sustain complex and affluent societies.