City of Vernon
Official seal of City of Vernon
Exclusively Industrial
Location of Vernon in Los Angeles County, California
Location of Vernon in Los Angeles County, California
CountryUnited States
CountyLos Angeles
Incorporated (city)September 22, 1905[1]
 • MayorHilario “Larry” Gonzales[2]
 • Total5.16 sq mi (13.36 km2)
 • Land5.00 sq mi (12.94 km2)
 • Water0.16 sq mi (0.41 km2)  3.10%
203 ft (62 m)
 • Total91
 • Density18.2/sq mi (7.0/km2)
Time zoneUTC-8 (PST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP Code
Area code323
FIPS code06-82422
GNIS feature ID1661636

Vernon is a city located 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Downtown Los Angeles in Los Angeles County, California, United States. The resident population was 91 at the 2000 United States Census. It has the smallest population of any incorporated city in California. The slogan on its official city seal is "Exclusively Industrial."[5]There are no schools, libraries, or grocery stores. Vernon is currently embroiled in a battle to save itself from disincorporation after City of Bell-like corruption was found to be widespread in what was called Vernon's "fiefdom.". [6] The city is mainly composed of industrial areas and touts itself as "Exclusively Industrial." Meatpacking plants and warehouses are common. No parks exist in the city limits, and stretches of grass are rare.[7]

Gloria Molina, a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which has also voted in support of eliminating Vernon stated: “It’s a nondemocratic empire that they have there, and it’s inappropriate that it is disguised as a city,” “The city has been a facade for some personal gain issues. The residents are employees of the city or major companies and consequently are controlled.” [8]


Stephen W. Kearny, one of the victors of the Battle of La Mesa.

Vernon is the historic site where the Battle of La Mesa occurred on January 9, 1847, the day after the Battle of Rio San Gabriel, which ended hostilities in Alta California during the Mexican-American war, 1846–1848. At the end of the 1800s it was a stretch of unincorporated grassland near Los Angeles' flourishing downtown.[9]

In 1905, Vernon was incorporated by ranchers James J. and Thomas J. Furlong and John B. Leonis, a merchant.[5] Vernon was incorporated to promote industrial development along the railroads in the area. John Leonis, of Basque origin, had come to Southern California in 1880 to work for his Uncle Miguel Leonis and later established his own ranch on unincorporated county land southeast of Downtown Los Angeles. Recognizing the importance of the three major railroads running through the area, he persuaded railroad executives to run spur tracks off the main lines and incorporated the adjacent three miles as the first "exclusively industrial" city in the Southwestern United States. He named the new city after a dirt road, Vernon Avenue, crossing its center.

Leonis created an enticing attraction, leasing property to the founders of the city, for a baseball stadium, a 7,000-seat boxing arena and the "world's longest bar", 100 feet long with thirty-seven bartenders.[9] As industrialists from the East Coast traveled to Vernon for heavyweight matches, Leonis sold many of them on locating their West Coast factories in his village. By the 1930s Owens-Illinois, Studebaker, and Alcoa had opened there, purchasing subsidized electricity from the new utility, Vernon Light & Power.[9] When Leonis died in 1953, he left an estate reportedly worth $8 million, including several parcels of land, to his grandson Leonis. Leonis Malburg first won a council seat in 1956 and was elected mayor in 1974.[9] "Vernon has long been dogged by accusations that it is a fiefdom run by a family that has held sway over the town for generations."[10]

In 1907, on the land leased from Leonis, the founders of the city marketed Vernon as a "Sporting Town." Jack Doyle, an entrepreneur, opened the Vernon Avenue Arena, where 20-round world championship fights were held starting in 1908.[5] Shortly thereafter, the Pacific Coast League built a baseball park. The Vernon Tigers won three consecutive league pennants.[5] The Vernon Tigers, a minor league baseball team in the Pacific Coast League, played from 1909 through 1925.

The Poxon China Company was founded by George Wade Poxon (b 1887, Castle Donington, Leicestershire, England) and his wife Judith (née Furlong) who in 1913 were married at St Martha's Church in Vernon. The church had been built by the Furlong family in 1913. George Wade Poxon, a cousin of George Albert Wade (later Colonel Sir George Albert Wade), was well known as the chairman of Wade Potteries Limited in England, which produced Wade Whimsies. George Wade (b. about 1863 Tunstall, Staffordshire, father to George Albert Wade and uncle to George Wade Poxon) owned a pottery in Burslem, Staffordshire, England. The Wade family had been associated with the pottery industry for many years. George Wade Poxon was a member of the Royal Science Academy. At the age of 24, in 1911, he emigrated to the United States. The kilns were located on the Furlong ranch.

Vernon Kilns was founded in July 1931 after Faye G. Bennison purchased the Poxon China Company in Vernon, California. The Poxon China Company had its headquarters on 52nd Street, which is now part of Los Angeles. Bennison continued to produce Poxon lines, using Poxon shapes until an earthquake in 1933 forced Bennison to develop new and original shapes for the company. Two fires in the late 1940s almost brought the destruction of Vernon Potteries, Ltd., but Bennison decided to rebuild and the company continued to thrive. The company was not able to compete when a flood of foreign imports hit the American shelves and in 1958 Vernon Kilns sold all its holdings to Metlox. Metlox continued to market some Vernon shapes and patterns under the division Vernonware until 1989. The company produced dinnerware, art pottery, figurines, ashtrays and other popular items. All products were of earthenware, with clays from Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and England. Glazes were developed from minerals mined in California, and many patterns, including all of the plaids, were hand painted.

Vernon returned to being exclusively industrial around 1919. Two giant stockyards were opened and meat packing quickly became the city’s main industry. Twenty-seven slaughterhouses eventually lined Vernon Avenue from Soto Street to Downey Road until the late 1960s.[5]

Studebaker 4-Door Sedan

In the 1920s and 30s, heavy industries such as steel U.S. Steel and Bethlehem Steel, aluminum Alcoa, glass Owens, can-making American Can and automobile production Studebaker sprung up in the city. The 1940s and 50s added aerospace contractors Norris Industries, box and paper manufacturers, drug companies such as Brunswig, and food processors General Mills and Kal Kan. Giant meat packers Farmer John and Swift flourished.

In 1932, after a dispute with Southern California Edison over industrial rates for electricity, John Leonis sponsored a bond measure to authorize the building of the city's own Light & Power plant, which is still operational today, providing the city with its notably lower utility rate.[5]

Corruption charges

On November 15, 2006, the investigation into public corruption charges in Vernon resulted in charges being filed against the city’s mayor, Leonis Malburg, as well as his wife, his son, and the former city administrator. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office had launched an investigation in April 2005 following allegations that the city’s former administrator, Bruce Malkenhorst Sr., had misappropriated public funds for personal use.

Their investigation uncovered evidence of voter fraud, ironically, against the ruling family who tried to keep out new residents. Leonis Malburg, who has been mayor for 50 years, claimed he lived in a small Vernon apartment in the 2800 block of Leonis Boulevard (named after his grandfather, also a mayor), when in fact he was living in Hancock Park, Los Angeles. His wife and son also claimed to live in Vernon, voting in Vernon elections though evidence indicated they too lived in Hancock Park. Charges against the Malburgs include voter fraud, assisting unqualified voters, false registration, and perjury.

Bruce Malkenhorst is charged with 18 counts of "misappropriation of public funds" for reportedly taking $60,000 of city money for personal use. His salary from the city had been $600,000. Malkenhorst is still collecting his pension of $499,674.84.[11] In 2010, Malkenhorst received a reported $510,000 annual salary as city administrator; plus health benefits,[12] and is the number one person of the 9,111 retired California government workers receiving the highest pensions in excess of $100,000 from CalPERS.[11]

Elections of 2006

The city held no contested elections from 1980 to 2006; The Los Angeles Democrat said city officials virtually "handpick their colleagues": Out of the five current City Council members, four were appointed, not elected by the voters. [6]

Most of the city's less than 90 voters are city employees who live in homes rented at a nominal fee. In 1979 a firefighter tried to run for mayor and was immediately evicted and told he couldn't run. In 2006 a group of outsiders tried to move into Vernon and run for office. The city tried to cancel their registrations but was ordered to allow them to run and to count the ballots. Almost none of the city employees voted for them. Leonis Malburg, the mayor for fifty years, was convicted of voter fraud, conspiracy, and perjury in December 2009. The former city admininistrator has charges pending for misappropriating public funds.

In 2006, a controversy arose concerning a few people who moved into Vernon and ran for city council. This marked the first time in more than two decades that there was a competitive race for city council. In 2006, eight people converted a 1950s era office building into a five-room apartment (the building had previously been used as a tanning facility turning sheepskin into billiard/pool pockets), and three of them filed to run for office. The city responded by cutting off their power and moving to evict them as illegal squatters. [13]

The City of Vernon had the men followed by private investigators carrying unlicensed firearms on at least two occasions, one of which resulted in the arrest of a private eye in South Pasadena in February 2006. The City of Vernon alleged that the men were part of a hostile takeover attempt by convicted felon Albert Robles, who nearly bankrupted the nearby city of South Gate as treasurer and Eduardo Olivo a former Vernon attorney who also worked with Albert T. Robles, in South Gate.

On June 30, California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson called on the city to count the votes and expressed his support for the state to take over the responsibility of conducting the city's elections. During the trial it was alleged that all three of the newcomer candidates had direct ties to Albert T. Robles. Alejandro Lopez is a first cousin, David Johnson Jr., is the brother-in-law of a business partner, Don A. Huff is associated through Eduardo Olivo. In March 2006, Judge David P. Yaffe ruled the city cannot prohibit legally registered voters who reside within its boundaries from running for city council. The city had to be ordered to allow the election to proceed. An election was held under a court order on April 11, 2006. But the city clerk, Bruce Malkenhorst Jr., refused to count the ballots until the legal disputes were resolved. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Aurelio Munoz, temporarily ordered the ballots to be sealed. In August 2006, Judge Munoz ruled that the newcomers were trespassing on private property, that they received free rent and jobs prior to registering to vote and that they were involved in a scheme orchestrated by Albert T. Robles and Eduardo Olivo to "steal" the election, but that such actions were not illegal. On October 16, 2006, it was announced that city officials are ready to count the votes from the contested April 11 election. The officials failed to prove their claim of voter fraud. A judge granted Vernon's motion to count the votes.

The challengers lost by a landslide.

Vernon's industries

Consisting almost entirely of warehouses and factories, the city's main industries are food service manufacturing, metalworking, and manufacture of glass and plastic equipment. Housing is owned by the city and its few residents are employed within the city limits. There are approximately 46,000 direct and 54,000 indirect mostly skilled workers employed by business within the City of Vernon. Among the multitude of businesses is Bon Appetit Bakery, Papa Cantella's Sausage Company and Farmer John Meat Packing, whose products are highly visible in many supermarkets, convenience stores and service stations. True Religion, a national designer of luxury jeans and other apparel, is headquartered in Vernon. The city is also home to several odiferous rendering plants, food processors, smelters and metal working companies.

As the city is primarily industrial, with an extremely small residential population, it boasts a number of singular city services. Vernon is just one of 25 cities in the United States with a Class 1-rated fire department[5] and one of four cities in California with its own health department, which specializes in industrial issues. It has a strong police force, municipal owned housing for city employees, and a light and power department with extremely low rates, in some cases 40% cheaper than Southern California Edison and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.[5] These services are designed towards the industrial interests of the city and governmental support; city government employees and their relatives, [6] make up the majority of the residential sector. In 1989 Vernon formed a redevelopment agency, which has since invested tens of millions of dollars to develop property within the city to successfully attract and retain business.[5]

Companies based in Vernon include seafood processors Red Chamber and PAFCO, apparel companies BCBG Max Azria and True Religion, foodservice company Goldberg and Solovy Foods, and hot sauce company Tapatío.

In 2008, Vernon was named Los Angeles County’s “Most Business Friendly City” for Cities with less than 50,000 residents by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.[5]

2010 Corruption charges

In 2010, amidst a flurry of corruption charges involving the mayor, city council and local businesses, the Los Angeles District Attorney began consideration to disincorporate the city. If this were to take effect, Vernon would be the third incorporated place in California's history to be disbanded, after Cabazonin 1972 and Hornitos, in 1973. [6]

State Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is set to introduce a bill that would disband all cities with a population of under 150. Disincorporation would make the tiny city of Vernon an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County. According to the state Department of Finance, Vernon is the only city in California with under 100 people. Vernon officials have vowed to fight the measure, although some of them are under investigation for corruption. "The issue here is about the complete lack of transparency and accountability in Vernon," Pérez said. "We cannot tolerate a situation where a handful of individuals are able to use an entire city as their own personal fiefdom." [14]

Although Vernon and Bell share a border in Southeast Los Angeles County, they are very different cities. Bell is a working-class, largely immigrant city with 38,000 residents. Vernon has fewer than 100 residents and is largely a business and industrial hub, however they share similar city woes and questionable leadership..[10] Vernon's City Official salaries rival those of the city of Bell.[15]

Expanding legal action against excessive salaries and pensions in two southeast Los Angeles County cities, (then) Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. has subpoenaed testimony from the city of Vernon. Brown's subpoena seeks testimony under oath from Vernon officials about compensation and pension benefits for six highly paid city officials, one of whom received more than $1.6 million in a single year, for his city of less than 100 residents.

In the Vernon subpoena, Brown asked the city to designate one or more persons most knowledgeable to testify about compensation and retirement benefits given to Eric T. Fresch, former city administrator and deputy city attorney; Donal O'Callaghan, former city administrator and utilities director; Roirdan S. Burnett, city treasurer/finance director; Jeffrey A. Harrison, former city attorney; Bruce Malkenhorst Jr., former city clerk; and Bruce Malkenhorst Sr., former city administrator.[16]

According to media reports and other sources, Fresch was paid $1.65 million in 2008; O'Callaghan was paid $785,000 last year; Burnett, $570,000 last year; and Harrison, $800,000 last year. Malkenhorst Jr. was paid $290,000 in 2008. Malkenhorst Sr., who retired in 2005, receives a pension of more than $500,000 a year, the highest in the state. [16]

O'Callaghan was indicted by a Los Angeles grand jury on three felony counts of conflict of interest and misappropriation of public funds. Malkenhorst Sr. has been convicted of fraud and is under investigation for several other charges. [17]

The Los Angeles Times reported that Eric T. Freschthe, the former Vernon city administrator, who now serves as a legal consultant, has passed the $1 million mark for the last four years. He was paid almost $1.65 million in salary and hourly billings in 2008, when he was serving as both city administrator and deputy city attorney.[18]

Others in Vernon received $570,000 to $800,000 in 2009. Former City Attorney Jeffrey A. Harrison earned $800,000 in 2009 and City Treasurer/Finance Director Roirdan Burnett made $570,000. In 2008, Harrison was paid $1.04 million.[18] In 2009, the Vernon city administrator and municipal utility director Donal O’Callaghan, was paid nearly $785,000. He has been relieved of his duties while city officials conduct a "comprehensive review" of his and his wife's financial business with the city.[19]

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office is looking into a 2009 contract between the city of Vernon and an energy firm owned by the wife of the then-city administrator. In September, 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported that the inquiry follows the newspaper’s report that Donal O’Callaghan received $243,898 in consulting payments through June, 2010, through Tara Energy, Inc., the company run by his wife, Kimberly McBride. The payments were in addition to O’Callaghan’s yearly salary of $380,000. The District Attorney’s office stated prosecutors are working to determine whether the contract represented a conflict of interest.[20]


Vernon is located at 34°0′4″N 118°12′40″W / 34.00111°N 118.21111°W / 34.00111; -118.21111Invalid arguments have been passed to the ((#coordinates:)) function (34.001213, -118.210979).Template:GR Vernon's zip code is 90058

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.2 sq mi (13.5 km2). 5 sq mi (12.9 km2) of it is land and 0.2 sq mi (0.5 km2) of it (3.10%) is water.


Historical population

As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there were 91 people, 25 households, and 23 families residing in the city. The population density was 18.2/mi² (7.0/km²). There were 26 housing units at an average density of 5.2/mi² (2.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 47.25% White, 1.10% Asian, 47.25% from other races, and 4.40% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 89.01% of the population.

There were 25 households out of which 56.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 92.0% were married couples living together, and 8.0% were non-families. 8.0% of all households were made up of individuals and none had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.64 and the average family size was 3.78.

In the city the population was spread out with 37.4% under the age of 18, 6.6% from 18 to 24, 34.1% from 25 to 44, 15.4% from 45 to 64, and 6.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29 years. For every 100 females there were 89.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 111.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $60,000, and the median income for a family was $63,750. Males had a median income of $46,250 versus $33,750 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,812. None of the population and none of the families were below the poverty line.

Most of the 91 residents of Vernon were city employees. Many lived in housing owned by the city government. As of 2006 about 44,000 people who work in Vernon daily live outside of Vernon.[7]

Government and infrastructure

County, state, and federal

The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services operates the Whittier Health Center in Whittier, serving Vernon.[22]

In the state legislature Vernon is located in the 22nd Senate District, represented by Democrat Kevin de León, and in the 46th Assembly District, represented by Democrat John Pérez. Federally, Vernon is located in California's 34th congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of D +23[23] and is represented by Democrat Lucille Roybal-Allard.

The United States Postal Service Vernon Post Office is located at 5121 Hampton Street.[24]


Vernon residents are zoned to schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

See also


  1. ^ "Incorporation Dates of California Cities". Retrieved 2007-01-18.
  2. ^ "City of Vernon - Hilario "Larry" Gonzales". Retrieved 2009-12-04.
  3. ^ "Vernon city, California - Fact Sheet - American FactFinder". Retrieved 2007-01-18.
  4. ^ "USPS - ZIP Code Lookup - Find a ZIP+ 4 Code By City Results". Retrieved 2007-01-18.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "The City of Vernon". The City of Vernon. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
  6. ^ a b c d
  7. ^ a b Krasnowski, Matt. "Is tiny, industrial Vernon a model city or corrupt fiefdom?." San Diego Union-Tribune. December 24, 2006. Retrieved on June 2, 2010.
  8. ^ ttp://
  9. ^ a b c d "Welcome to Paradise". Forbes. February 26, 2007.
  10. ^ a b Vernon, CA Paychecks Rival Those In Bell | Sweetness & Light
  11. ^ a b California Pension Reform's 'The CalPERS 100K Club'
  12. ^ "The Pension Bell Tolls -". 2010-08-10. Retrieved 2010-08-17.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Allen, Sam (December 5, 2010). "Bill targets Vernon's cityhood - Los Angeles Times". Los Angeles Times.
  15. ^ Christensen, Kim; Allen, Sam (August 20, 2010). "Like Bell, California city of Vernon pays leaders huge salaries". The Washington Post.
  16. ^ a b "L.A. Now". Los Angeles Times. October 21, 2010.
  17. ^
  18. ^ a b Christensen, Kim (August 20, 2010). "Hefty paychecks for Vernon officials rival those in Bell". Retrieved 2010-08-20.
  19. ^ "Vernon official relieved of duties pending city review of finances -". Chicago Tribune.
  20. ^ Becerra, Hector; Allen, Sam; Christensen, Kim (September 28, 2010). Los Angeles Times ((cite news)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. ^ "CENSUS OF POPULATION AND HOUSING (1790-2000)". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2010-07-30.
  22. ^ "Whittier Health Center." Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. Retrieved on March 18, 2010.
  23. ^ "Will Gerrymandered Districts Stem the Wave of Voter Unrest?". Campaign Legal Center Blog. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
  24. ^ "Post Office Location - VERNON." United States Postal Service. Retrieved on December 6, 2008.

Further reading