Similar demographics often cross county lines
James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Created: 05/28/2011 09:32:56 PM PDT

Chino and Chino Hills share a Fire Department, a school district, a chamber of commerce and a freeway.

But all that sharing aside, the two San Bernardino County cities have deep differences. One is working-class, the other well-to-do. One is a century old, the other isn’t quite 20. One is home mostly to Latinos, the other has a large Asian population.

Which is why some leaders, experts and residents say Chino and Chino Hills shouldn’t be represented by the same lawmakers in Sacramento and Washington.

“I think they should part,” said Irene Garnica, a longtime Chino resident who has lived elsewhere for three years but is planning to move back. “I think they should, because we are different demographics as far as ethnicity.”

For those who want Chino and Chino Hills to have different representatives, and likewise for those who want Pomona to share representatives with Ontario and Montclair, ethnicity and demographics make a good case.

“Demographically, Pomona is much more similar to Ontario and Chino than to other Los Angeles County cities,” said Douglas Johnson, a research fellow with the Claremont McKenna College-based Rose Institute of State and Local Government. “And Chino Hills is kind of the mirror image of Pomona. It also doesn’t fit in with its in-county neighbors. It fits in more with Diamond Bar and Orange County.”

But those who want a unified Chino Valley and those who want Pomona to stick with its Los Angeles County neighbors rather than join with San Bernardino County cities, say there’s more to consider.

Counties or communities

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission, the group working to redraw the state’s political map, will take many factors into account when drawing districts. Among them, the commission is supposed to do its best to keep cities and counties intact and to respect “communities of interest” – areas that are socially, culturally or economically similar.

County lines, city borders and the boundaries of communities of interest are all given equal importance, Johnson said.

Which is why Chino Hills and Pomona could cause trouble.

Both cities are on the edges of their respective counties, and both have more in common – at least demographically – with cities across the county line than with their other neighbors.

Chino Hills, for instance, is significantly wealthier than Chino. Between 2007 and 2009, the median family income in Chino Hills was $100,327 – about 44 percent higher than Chino’s median family income of $69,803 – according to U.S. Census figures.

Chino Hills’ median income is much closer to that of the Los Angeles County cities of Diamond Bar – $90,508 – and Walnut – $95,507.

And while Chino’s population is nearly 54 percent Latino and 10 percent Asian, Chino Hills’ population is 29 percent Latino and about 30 percent Asian.

Ron Wall, chairman of the San Bernardino County Democratic Party, told the redistricting commission earlier this month that it makes more sense for Chino Hills to be split from San Bernardino County and be put into legislative districts that include the Los Angeles County communities of Diamond Bar, Walnut and Rowland Heights, all of which have sizable Asian populations.

“Ontario, Montclair, Chino and Pomona are predominantly Hispanic,” Wall said. “Chino Hills does have more in common with Diamond Bar and Rowland Heights.”

He said putting Chino Hills with those communities would give Asian residents better representation.

That’s a view shared by the Chinese American Citizen Alliance of the Greater San Gabriel Valley. The group has proposed linking Chino Hills with Diamond Bar, Brea, Walnut, Rowland Heights and other Los Angeles and Orange county communities.

But Wai-Min Liu, president of the Chinese American Association of Chino Hills, said he would prefer that Chino Hills be connected to Chino and the rest of San Bernardino County.

“Chino Hills is a gateway to San Bernardino County,” Liu said. “I believe our community would be better represented by someone who came from this community and has this community’s best interest in mind.”

Chino Hills Mayor Ed Graham said Chino Hills is a part of San Bernardino County and the Inland Empire, not part of Los Angeles County.

“It would be difficult for our community to get lumped into Los Angeles County,” he said. “We don’t interact politically (with Los Angeles County). We don’t interact socially.”

Kellogg Hill

There’s similar disagreement in Pomona.

Some say the city – despite being in Los Angeles County – has more in common with San Bernardino County cities and that it should share representatives with the likes of Ontario and Montclair.

Others say they would like to see the city and its representatives in Sacramento and Washington tied to its own county.

Like Chino Hills, Pomona is different demographically from its in-county neighbors. But while Chino Hills is physically connected to Chino, Pomona feels physically disconnected from its westerly neighbors.

“We have been that way for many, many years because of Kellogg Hill,” Pomona Councilwoman Paula Lantz said. “It is a geographical barrier.”

On top of that barrier, Pomona is poorer and has many more Latino residents than nearby Los Angeles County cities.

About 71 percent of Pomona residents are Latino, compared to about 31 percent in La Verne and San Dimas and 20 percent or less in Claremont and Diamond Bar. On the other side of the county line, Ontario and Montclair, like Pomona, are about 70 percent Latino, and the median incomes in those cities are only a few thousand dollars higher than Pomona’s.

“I think we have far more in common with our Inland Empire neighbors then we do with our L.A. County neighbors to the west,” Lantz said.

“If we’re honestly looking at drawing these boundaries in more geographically contiguous ways, it would seem intuitively obvious that we have more in common with our neighbors to the east.”

But Mickey Gallivan, president of the Historical Society of Pomona Valley, said Pomona has historical ties to other L.A. County cities and that demographics alone shouldn’t spell out the city’s destiny.

“I think there should be a district that is Diamond Bar, Claremont, La Verne, San Dimas, Glendora, Azusa – that kind of area,” she said. “Culturally, we work along with that area. Diamond Bar is working on a book on their history, and they come to us. The students in the La Verne and San Dimas school district, all the third-graders go to one of our (historic) sites.”

Mix and match

There’s a case to be made for and against keeping Chino Hills with other San Bernardino County cities, and keeping Pomona with other Los Angeles County cities.

And given all the factors the redistricting commission has to consider – including making sure each district has the same number of people – there’s no right or wrong answer.

Johnson said the commission is likely to look at all the input it has received, then make decisions based on two factors:

“Which side makes the better case, and which approach fits in the best with the rest of the map,” he said.

Redistricting commission member Peter Yao, a former Claremont councilman, said the commission will try its best to follow any advice that makes sense.

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