Wendy Leung, Staff Writer
Created: 09/24/2010 06:04:04 PM PDT
EASTVALE – It wasn’t long ago when crop land and dairies were all that made up this freeway-adjacent town.
Today, with a multiplex theater, a trendy frozen yogurt shop and a half-dozen dairies clinging to its rural heritage, Eastvale is set to incorporate.
On Friday, with a community parade and a fireworks show, residents will mark cityhood.
Irene Long, a one-time City Council candidate who’s already working to get Costco to set up shop, isn’t looking back.
“I don’t miss the flies,” she said.
In June, residents of the northwestern Riverside County town — east and south of Ontario and Chino and west of the 15 Freeway — went to the polls and said yes to incorporation. They elected a maiden City Council – Adam Rush, Kelly Howell, Ric Welch, Jeff DeGrandpre and Ike Bootsma.
At its first official City Council meeting on Friday, Rush, 29, a Riverside County community planner and the top vote getter is expected to be sworn in as mayor.
Eastvale’s journey from dairy land to suburbia was fast and furious. The estimated population is 46,264, up from just 6,000 people 10 years ago and 1,500 people 20 years ago. The tract homes, shiny and new in developments named Swan Lake, Cloverdale Farms and Serafina, are evidence of this population explosion.
“I think it’s a community that’s very connected with young families like us,” said Rush, who along with his wife, Kristin, are new parents of a 14-month daughter. “There’s good schools … we have a school and a park within walking distance.”
Dickie Simmons has lived here for eight years. His five children and 10 grandchildren all reside in Eastvale.
“It’s neat, clean, new and vibrant,” he said.
Simmons is a strong advocate for cityhood, spending many hours outside supermarkets collecting signatures and informing residents about the benefits.
“We want local control,” he said. “We want the decisions made by local residents. They’re the ones who have the heart for Eastvale.”
Pro-incorporation folks were also fearful that neighboring Jurupa, with its own cityhood plans, would swallow up Eastvale.
“There’s a very substantial difference between Eastvale and Jurupa,” Rush said. “(Jurupa) is an older community with a higher median age.”
The relatively affordable new homes and good schools have attracted a surprisingly high number of law enforcement personnel. According to Hal Justice, a retired Los Angeles Police Department captain, there is more than 1,000 firefighters and police officers residing in Eastvale.
About 40 of them have formed the Eastvale Law Enforcement and Firefighters Association, a group serving as the eyes and ears of the community.
“We want Eastvale to be known as a law enforcement and firefighting town,” said Rob Medrano, who works for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. “Our whole goal is to make it the safest city.
“Simi Valley used to be one of the safest cities in California. The reason is there was a huge population of police. But they never organized like we did.”
Crime is relatively low in Eastvale. But there is some gang activity and several weeks ago, a drug deal gone bad led to a homicide.
For the most part, Medrano said it’s very safe.
“The word is getting out,” he said. “Individuals who have a criminal mind know it’s best to go around or go through the city but behave.”
Justice, who serves as president of the association’s board, said the group will be active in the civic and political process. He said the group will likely oppose potential projects such as affordable housing or head shops coming to town.
A former Pasadena resident, Justice first noticed the area while visiting his sister-in-law.
“We started looking at these housing developments and found a house we fell in love with,” he said. “The rest is history.”
Justice said he likes his quiet neighborhood.
“The only thing we don’t like is that shopping is inconvenient,” he said. “The services haven’t caught up with the growth.”
Eastvale Gateway, a Lewis Retail Centers development on Limonite Avenue, is the hub of the city. With an Edwards Cinema boasting 14 screens, the shopping plaza also has Borders, Pinkberry and for now, City Hall.
Inside a 1,000-square-feet space that once housed Tarbell Realtors is where Interim City Manager Robert Van Nort and his staff conduct city business.
Staff members have been busy trying to get a city off its feet. Regular meetings with the City Council-elect have been taking place at Rosa Parks Elementary School.
This week, with just two microphones and a cassette tape recording the meeting, city leaders discussed which computer software to buy, what the website domain name should be and what should be on the city’s official stationary. About 20 people, including a couple of speakers during public comment, showed up to the school’s multi-purpose room.
One of them is Long, one of the 18 candidates for City Council. Long supports incorporation but wonders if it’s a good idea in this economy.
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