Beginning in the late 1400s, Spanish explorers arrived in the New World and worked their way to the California coast in 1542. The colonization process included "civilizing" the native populations in California by means of establishing various missions. Soon afterwards, a town called El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula (Los Angeles today) would be founded and prosper with the aid of subjects from New Spain and Native American labor.
One soldier, Jose Manuel Nieto, was granted a large plot of land by the Spanish King Carlos III, which he named Rancho Los Nietos. It covered 300,000 acres (1200 km²) of what are today the cities of Cerritos, Long Beach, Lakewood, Downey, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs, part of Whittier, Huntington Beach, Buena Park, and Garden Grove.
The Nieto family would eventually come to own the rancho exclusively and was divided five ways among Nieto's heirs during the nationalization of church property by the Mexican government, with Juan Jose Nieto retaining the largest plot called Rancho Los Coyotes. Nieto called the area of Rancho Los Coyotes where Cerritos is located today "Sierritos" or "little hills" although no natural hills exist in modern-day Cerritos.
After the Mexican-American war, the rancho would eventually wind up in the hands of the Los Angeles and San Bernardino Land Company which encouraged development and rail lines to be built by Henry E. Huntington and his Pacific Electric Railway company. It is through rapid development combined with improved transportation systems that formed the modern-day city of Artesia in Rancho Los Coyotes in 1875, and from it, the City of Dairy Valley.
The City of Dairy Valley was incorporated on April 24, 1956, as a reaction to nearby Artesia's rapid urbanization. The City's name symbolized the more than 400 dairies, 100,000 cows and 106,300 chickens found within its limits. The cows outnumbered the City's 3,439 residents by 29 to 1. The chickens outnumbered the residents by over 30 to 1. At its peak, the City produced more dairy than any other place in the nation, surpassing even the entire state of Wisconsin.
Two years later, Dairy Valley voted to become a chartered California city. As land values and property taxes in California rose in the early 1960s, agriculture became increasingly unprofitable, and development pressures increased. In a special election held on July 16, 1963, residents voted to permit large-scale residential development. As a reflection of its newly planned suburban orientation, the City's name formally changed to "Cerritos" on January 10, 1967, after the nearby Spanish land grant Rancho Los Cerritos, which figured prominently in the region and after Cerritos College in neighboring Norwalk.
Cerritos is a prime example of the "fiscalization" of California politics after the tax revolt of the 1970s and the passage of Proposition 13. The only way for California cities to raise long-term tax revenue in light of Proposition 13 was to create as many commercial zones as possible to take advantage of the percentage of county sales tax allocated back to municipalities as sales tax revenue. Cerritos was one of the first cities in Los Angeles County to develop large-scale retail zones, such as the Los Cerritos Center and Cerritos Auto Square, and achieved stunning success. City leaders reinvested funds into the community with large public works projects and an increasing number of community services and programs.
The current progressive nature of the Cerritos government and the unusually strong tax-base is best reflected in its facilities. In 1978, Cerritos dedicated the nation's first solar-heated City Hall complex. In 1993, the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts opened its doors. In 1994, the City unveiled the Cerritos Towne Center project that combines office, retail, lodging, fine arts and dining in an open-air location. In 1997, the City opened the Cerritos Sheriff's Station/Community Safety Center to provide public safety services. In 2002, the City rededicated its public library. In 2006, the City celebrated its golden anniversary with memorials and the unveiling of a sculpture garden. The assessed valuation of the City of Cerritos is nearing the $6.5 billion ($6,500,000,000) mark.
Between 1970 and 1972, Cerritos was the fastest growing city in California. The population exploded from 16,000 to 38,000. Since the 1980s, Cerritos has attracted a large number of upper-middle class Filipino, Korean and Chinese immigrant families, making it the city with the second largest Asian/Asian American population in the nation, after Monterey Park, California. The "A-B-C" (Artesia-Bellflower-Cerritos) region, as well as the neighboring cities in the Gateway Cities region, are considered one of the most ethnically diverse and rapidly growing areas in the world. According to a California State University, Northridge study, Cerritos was the most ethnically diverse city of its size in California.
On August 31, 1986, Aeroméxico Flight 498 on approach to Los Angeles International Airport was struck by a small Piper aircraft that had strayed into an air traffic control zone reserved for commercial flights. Eighty-two people died, including 15 people on the ground. The Piper crashed into Cerritos Elementary School's unoccupied playground, but the Douglas DC-9 fell inverted (upside-down) out of the sky and plowed into dense residential zones, immediately flattening four houses. Eight more houses were destroyed by the subsequent fire before firefighters could bring it under control. The incident is memorialized with a new sculpture installed in the Cerritos Sculpture Garden.
The Cerritos Redevelopment Agency has two project areas: the Los Cerritos Project Area, and the Los Coyotes Project Area.
| Los Cerritos|
| Los Coyotes|
|Area||940 acres (3.8 km²)||1,600 acres (6.5 km²)|
|Location within the city||western half||eastern half|
|Expiration||May 2016||May 2016|
In 2004, an extension of the Cerritos Sheriff opened in the Los Cerritos Center mall in order to increase a visible presence at the shopping destination.
Cerritos lies along the Los Angeles County and Orange County border. The cities bordering Cerritos on the Los Angeles County side include Artesia in the center, Bellflower, Lakewood, Norwalk, and Santa Fe Springs. Buena Park, La Mirada, and La Palma border the City on the Orange County side. Other cities in the region include Cypress in Orange County, and Hawaiian Gardens, Long Beach, and Signal Hill in Los Angeles County.
The former postal ZIP code of Cerritos was 90701 and was shared with the City of Artesia; however, it was later changed to an exclusive 90703 to accommodate the increasing number of new addresses in the City during the mid-1990s.
The City of Cerritos, as well as most of coastal Southern California, generally has a Mediterranean climate. The name derives from its similarity to the climate of areas along the Mediterranean Sea. Summers are warm to hot, and winters are cool, rarely falling below freezing. Precipitation in Cerritos occurs predominantly during the winter months.
Cerritos also has a unique "semi-marine" climate pattern. The fog that typically covers the beach cities rarely reaches Cerritos, but the breeze that comes along the San Gabriel River from the Pacific Ocean has a significant cooling effect. Cerritos is rarely affected by the smog, Santa Ana winds, and smothering heat of the Los Angeles Basin.
There are 15,390 households out of which 40.9% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 73.9% are married couples living together, 10.9% have a female householder with no husband present, and 11.3% are non-families. Nearly 8.9% of all households are made up of individuals and 3.1% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 3.34 and the average family size is 3.54.
The population is spread out with 24.5% under the age of 18, 8.8% from 18 to 24, 25.8% from 25 to 44, 31.3% from 45 to 64, and 9.7% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 39 years. For every 100 females there are 94.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 91.3 males.
The median income for a household in the City is $73,030, and the median income for a family is $76,944. Males have a median income of $50,103 versus $37,421 for females. The per capita income for the City is $25,249. About 5.0% of the population and 4.0% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 5.4% of those under the age of 18 and 5.3% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line. The average annual income of a household is $87,700 (approx. 15,900 total households as of 2006).
Employment within Cerritos is primarily located in two districts, Los Cerritos Shopping Center and Cerritos Industrial Park. Businesses found in the Industrial Park provide jobs in light manufacturing and assembly of electronic and automotive parts, among other things. United Parcel Service, the City's largest employer with a staff of 6,000, is located in the Industrial Park. Los Cerritos Center provides for more than 2,500 full and part-time positions and the Cerritos Auto Square employs 2,088 people. Retail and industrial trades are responsible for the City's $2.6 billion taxable retail sales and the $6 billion assessed property valuation.
According to the California State Board of Equalization, Cerritos residents are the second highest retail spenders in California (second to Beverly Hills) averaging $36,544 per resident. Applied Development Economics, in a presentation for the Cerritos Economic Commission on February 14, 2006 states that total annual household spending on retail is about $365 million a year with new car dealerships, grocery stores, department stores, service stations and eating places having the strongest demands.
A business survey conducted by Applied Development Economics in February 2006 revealed that the total consumer breakdown in Cerritos is: 25% from residents from other parts of Southern California, about 21.9% from Cerritos residents, 18% from commuters, 16% from neighboring communities, 13% from business to business/employee transactions, 10% from residents of Orange County, 5% from households from outside of Southern California, mainly to purchase vehicles from the Auto Square.
The Cerritos Auto Square is a planned auto mall combining all auto dealers within the City into one, large three-block center accessible through two freeways. It grosses sales of $1.1 billion and provides half of the sales tax revenue for Cerritos.
Since September 1971, the Los Cerritos Center has been an integral source of retail tax revenue. The total gross lease area is and is the City's second largest retail-revenue source, producing $561 per square foot ($368 million total) as of 2007. The tax revenue generated from the Los Cerritos Center totals approximately $3.7 million a year.
The Cerritos Towne Center is a power center which combines offices, retail, hotel and entertainment facilities in one master planned project. The Towne Center includes the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, a 203-room Sheraton Hotel and more than one million square feet (93,000 m²) of office space. The retail portion of the project includes several anchors and specialty shops. The project is bounded by 183rd Street to the south, Bloomfield Avenue to the west, Shoemaker Avenue to the east, and the Artesia Freeway (Route 91) to the north. The Towne Center, including the Cerritos Center, generates revenue in excess of $200 million a year.
In conjunction with the COW, the City also provides a Dial-A-Ride service for its disabled and elderly commuters.
Cerritos is directly served by three major California freeways:
The major thoroughfares in Cerritos are Alondra Boulevard, Artesia Boulevard, Bloomfield Avenue, Carmenita Road, Del Amo Boulevard, Norwalk Boulevard, Pioneer Boulevard, Shoemaker Avenue, South Street, Studebaker Road, and Valley View Avenue.
Airports that serve Cerritos include: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, Ontario International Airport, and the Long Beach Municipal Airport.
The Cerritos Fine Arts and Historical Commission has an "Art in Public Places Program" whereby the City commissions artists to create sculptures and fountains to be displayed in public points of interest, commercial property, and gateways into the City.
The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts (CCPA) features live performances in music, magic, comedy, dance and drama. The 154,000 square foot (14,300 m²) arts center has movable seats, floors, ceilings and stage areas; the end result being a theater that can transform into six distinctive seating configurations, ranging in capacity from 921 to 1,800 seats. The facility also houses three additional meeting and banquet areas. The CCPA was designed by architect Barton Myers.
The cost of the CCPA had reached over $60 million by the end of construction and scheduling. It was designed to serve as a cultural icon for people in the community and formally opened its doors on January 9, 1993 with a four-day performance by Frank Sinatra.
The CCPA collected four awards for design shortly after its opening and has been named one of the top grossing theaters in its category in the United States.
In the late 1990s, Cerritos recognized the ever-changing innovation in information technology and the Internet and plans for a second renovation were approved. During the reconstruction, all materials were moved off site to temporary trailers in the parking lot of the Cerritos Towne Center for two years. The second renovation and expansion was completed on March 16, 2002.
At the time of its rededication, the newly renamed Cerritos Millennium Library was the first building in North America to be coated in titanium panels. This $40 million library features an elaborate interior design with themed reading rooms in a variety of Old World and ultramodern styles A third floor was added to include several conference rooms and an outdoor terrace.
The Cerritos Library currently holds a Smithsonian Affiliation. It has been awarded American Library Association/American Institute of Architects "Award of Excellence" back in 1989. It was also honored with Reader's Digest's 2004 Best Library Award.
The Cerritos Sculpture Garden was dedicated on March 11, 2006 and included a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by representatives from Cerritos' Sister City, Loreto, Baja California Sur. It is located in the Civic Center and is designed to house approximately 20 sculptures to be phased in over the coming years. At the time of the dedication ceremony, three sculptures were already in place.
The garden was made to be able to accommodate future sculpture installations in a lush landscape.
The majority of Cerritos is under the jurisdiction of the ABC Unified School District with a small portion on the west side of the City bounded by Palo Verde Avenue on the west, the San Gabriel River on the east, Artesia Boulevard on the north, and South Street on the south that is under the jurisdiction of the Bellflower Unified School District.
Children in Cerritos attend a neighborhood elementary school (from kindergarten to sixth grade) before going onto a middle school (seventh and eighth grade) or high school (applicable only to students who are accepted and decide to attend to Whitney High School, which covers seventh to twelfth grade).
The Swim Center was used by Olympians for swimming practices during the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
The Pat Nixon Park is a recreational park that pays tribute to the late First Lady Pat Nixon on the site of her childhood home. The City of Cerritos undertook the project of building a Senior Center in 1993 to create a state-of-the-art public facility dedicated to its seniors with social events, services, life enriching programs and clubs. Also on the property is Pat Nixon's childhood home.
Heritage Park, a community park in the center of the City, pays tribute to Revolutionary America and the founding of the country. It re-opened to the public in 2002 complete with a refurbished colonial themed play island and moat.
Liberty Park, another community park in the western part of town, underwent massive renovation and re-opened to the public in February 2005 and features an updated community center, fitness center, rubberized jogging track, and children's playground. Camp Liberty, a children's amphitheater located within Liberty Park, is slated to be renovated during the 2006-2007 fiscal year.
Cerritos Regional Park houses the Cerritos Sports Complex, the skate park, and outdoor swimming pools. The unique characteristic is an artificial lake complete with sporting fish. Los Angeles County maintains 75% of Regional Park and Cerritos oversees the remaining 25%.