Long famous as the model town for post-WWII urban development, Lakewood is a pleasant green city just inland of Long Beach, close to the white sandy beaches of the Pacific Coast and to the cultural, sporting, and entertainment attractions of the wider Los Angeles region. A plentitude of parks and gardens distinguishes Lakewood from other suburban towns. Mayfair Park is a popular community recreation spot, and Monte Verde Park has a beautiful nature trail.
Lakewood has a variety of cultural happenings throughout the year, including the fantastic Pan-American Fiesta, the town’s oldest community event. The family orientated nature of the community is reflected in the wide range of recreational events and classes offered by the City.
Lakewood is in Los Angeles County, California, about 10 miles inland from downtown Long Beach and about 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. Several key interstates and highways pass through or surround Lakewood, including I-605 and North Lakewood Boulevard, which pass through the city on their way east from the coast to inland Los Angeles. Artesia Boulevard passes north/south between Lakewood and Paramount, intersecting with I-605 in Lakewood and I-710 in neighboring Long Beach.
Lakewood has a good bus and rail service to Los Angeles and to surrounding Orange County centers, and the local DASH transit service helps active senior citizens and disabled adults get around town.
Lakewood residents have access to three bus systems with local connections: the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Long Beach Transit (LBT) and the Orange County Transit District (OCTD). Comprehensive routes reach communities throughout the Long Beach, South Bay, Torrance, Los Angeles, and Orange County regions. Many routes serve the Lakewood Center Mall, or connect with the two local rail stations.
There are two light rail lines that pass through Lakewood: the Blue Line (at the Del Amo Station) and the Green (at the Aviation Station), and these journey to Los Angeles.
Lakewood is about 25 miles from Los Angeles International Airport, which can be reached via the free Green Line train shuttle service. The LAX shuttle is timed to operate on a complimentary schedule.
The close of the Second World War saw the men who returned from Europe, Asia, and the Pacific keen to settle down and raise families, and urban centers like Los Angeles saw unprecedented “booms” in suburban development. In 1949, a group of three Jewish developers bought the boggy beet and lima bean fields that were to become present day Lakewood, and worked together to develop a community that would be ethnically diverse, friendly, and economically viable for its residents. Facing prejudice and sometimes scorn, the men planned their city, helped by young lawyer John S Todd, who designed a new civic plan for self-governance that accorded more self-determination to citizens.
Lakewood was the nation’s largest and fastest built post-War community, and a model for future city developments. Heralded as “the city they built in six months” Lakewood was a city of sturdy and affordable mass produced homes. Egalitarian planning led to Lakewood having plenty of parks and one of the first regional shopping malls in America—the largest of its day. Other new towns were quick to follow suit, thus beginning the death of the downtown shopping district in many places. Amenities were carefully located under half a mile from every home, so that families who could not afford cars would still be able to shop and enjoy parks.
Lakewood was incorporated in 1954, after a long struggle to resist incorporation by the town of Long Beach. Other municipalities were quick to follow the independent model set up by Lakewood, and this revolutionized local government in California.
New families moving into Lakewood found their neighbors to be ethnically diverse, something that is still the case today. Lakewood’s Pan American Festival was set up in 1948; this celebration is proudly marked to this day.