El Monte, California, is an independent city in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, 12 miles east of downtown LA. The San Gabriel and Rio Hondo rivers form the city's eastern and western borders.
Spanish soldiers and missionaries were the first non-indigenous visitors to El Monte, in the late 1700s and early 1800s. They gave the area its name, which means "the wooded place" in Spanish. The first settlers came at the height of the California gold rush in 1849; they found good land but little gold.
El Monte's population is just under 116,000; about 72 percent of that population is of Hispanic or Latino descent. The median income in El Monte is well below the California average, although the cost of living is still high, like it is elsewhere in Southern California.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
El Monte is situated at a major traffic hub in the San Gabriel Valley, at the intersection of the San Bernardino and San Gabriel River freeways (I-10 and I-605).
Some distinct areas within El Monte include:
- Tyler Corridor, or Tyler Avenue Heritage District. This downtown area, situated between I-10 and Garvey Avenue east of Santa Anita Avenue, includes many of the community's important facilities, such as the public library, El Monte Community and Civic Center, El Monte Historical Society Museum, and an aquatic center.
- Ramona/Valley. A high-traffic area just north of the Tyler Corridor, Ramona/Valley is identified by two important thoroughfares: Ramona and Valley boulevards. The El Monte Valley Mall and nearby commercial outlets are in this neighborhood.
- Little Five Points. This low-income area is southeast of downtown El Monte. Garvey Avenue, Valley Boulevard, Durfee Avenue, Kingerman Street and Peck Road form a rough pentagon shape to define the neighborhood's boundaries.
These three districts were chosen as the focal points of a concerted philanthropic effort spearheaded by the California Community Foundation, called the El Monte Community Building Initiative. The foundation has given grants to community-based nonprofits for projects such as health outreach, graffiti cleanup, youth programs and public art installations.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Historically an agricultural community, El Monte industrialized during and after World War II, with the aviation industry leading the way. The city now has a mixed economic base, with manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, health care services and administrative financial services among the leading industries. Some of the top employers in El Monte include:
- Longo Toyota and Lexus, reputed to be the largest auto dealership in the United States in new-car sales
- Wells Fargo Bank, which has an operation center in El Monte
- Saint-Gobain Container, the global manufacturer of bottles, jars and other materials
- Aerotek, an aerospace and engineering firm
- Vons Distribution Warehouse
- El Monte RV, a nationwide RV and motor home rental agency that began in El Monte
- El Monte Historical Society Museum contains artifacts, photos and furnishings from the early history of the town.
- American Military Museum (American Heritage Park Museum) in South El Monte features an outdoor staging area with many vintage military vehicles such as Sherman tanks, jeeps and other armored fighters.
- La Historia Society Museum (Museo de Los Barrios) is a museum in the Tyler Corridor that commemorates the nine historic barrios of El Monte and the immigrants who populated them. La Historia Society was formed in 1998 to preserve the rich history of the area's Latino community. Its founding president, Ernest Gutierrez, was elected mayor of El Monte in 2007.
- California Institute for Chinese Performing Arts showcases traditional Chinese opera and cultural performances on its El Monte stage and throughout the region.
- Whittier Narrows Natural Area is a wildlife sanctuary on the San Gabriel River. Hundreds of bird species can be seen here, including some on the endangered list. Recent visitors have also spotted bobcats and mountain lions in the area. The Whittier Narrows Nature Center is currently situated within the nature area, and a larger Discovery Center is in the works.
- El Monte Aquatic Center is a new resource for the community, offering swimming lanes, scuba classes and other water-based activities.
El Monte has no colleges or universities of its own, but residents often take classes at nearby colleges, including:
- Rio Hondo College (Whittier)
- Whittier College (Whittier)
- East Los Angeles College (Monterey Park)
- Pasadena City College (Pasadena)
El Monte is within the nation's second-largest media market, Los Angeles. The region's main newspaper is the Los Angeles Times, the second-largest metropolitan daily in the United States. La Opinion, an L.A. daily, has the highest circulation of any Spanish-language newspaper in the United States.
Some local television stations include:
- KCBS Channel 2 (CBS)
- KNBC Channel 4 (NBC)
- KTLA Channel 5 (CW)
- KABC Channel 7 (ABC)
- KFLA-LC Channel 8 (America One, digital low-power)
- KCAL Channel 9 (independent)
- KTTV Channel 11 (FOX)
- KCOP Channel 13 (myTV)
- KWHY Channel 22 (Independent, Spanish-language)
- KCET Channel 28 (PBS)
- KMEX Channel 34 (Univision)