Section 2: Community Profile

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Why Plan for Natural Hazards in the City of West Covina?

Natural hazards impact citizens, property, the environment, and the economy of the City of West Covina. Earthquakes, earth movements, flooding, wildfires and wind storms have exposed West Covina residents and businesses to the financial and emotional costs of recovering after natural disasters. The risk associated with natural hazards increases as more people move to areas affected by natural hazards.

Even in those communities that are essentially "built-out" i.e., having little or no vacant land remaining for development, population density continues to increase when low density housing is replaced with medium and high density development projects.

The inevitability of natural hazards, and the growing population and activity within the city create an urgent need to develop strategies, coordinate resources, and increase public awareness to reduce risk and prevent loss from future natural hazard events. Identifying the risks posed by natural hazards, and developing strategies to reduce the impact of a hazard event can assist in protecting life and property of citizens and communities. Local residents and businesses can work together with the City to create a natural hazards mitigation plan that addresses the potential impacts of hazard events.

Geography and the Environment

The City of West Covina has an area of 16 square miles and is located in eastern Los Angeles County.

The terrain of the city is relatively flat with assorted rolling hills averaging an elevation of 381 feet. The elevated portion of the city is largely located in the east and southeast quadrants. The area is often referred to locally as the South Hills area, but geographically the area is part of the San Jose Hills. The San Jose Hills, as a topographic feature, extend from Bonelli Park at the borders of the City of La Verne in the east; to the intersection of Lark Ellen Avenue and Amar Road in the west. Elevations in the City range from the high of 1280 feet to a low of 320 feet.

Community Profile

The City of West Covina is rich in history. The City itself was incorporated in 1923.

The City is served by the I-10, I-210, I-605, CA 60 and CA 57 freeways, and the major arterial highways are Sunset Avenue, Glendora Avenue, Azusa Avenue and Citrus Street which run north-to-south, and Valley Blvd., Amar Road, Cameron Avenue and Puente Avenue which run east-to-west.

6map1comm profile
Passenger transportation is provided by Foothill Transit, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Metropolitan Transit District (MTD) and 'Go West' Shuttle services. In addition, two (2) Metrolink stations in adjacent cities serve the city further expanding accessibility in and out of West Covina.

Major Rivers

The nearest major river is the San Gabriel River. This river may have an impact on the City of West Covina. Normally, this river channel is dry and only carries a significant water flow during a major rainstorm. The river channel is part of the County Flood Control District and the city is protected by the Army Corps of Engineer Santa Fe Dam project. Portions of the northwest corner of the City would be impacted if this dam failed while holding a significant amount of water.


Temperatures in the City of West Covina are typical Southern California temperate climate. Temperatures spike in late August and September with it not unusual to run multiple 100+ degree F days .Late fall increases the chances of Santa Ana conditions bringing higher daytime temperatures and very low humidity. Temperatures rarely drop below 30 degrees F in the winter months (November-March).

Rainfall in the Los Angeles area, including West Covina, averages about 15 inches per year. However the term "average rainfall" is misleading because over the recorded history of rainfall in the City of West Covina, rainfall amounts have ranged from no rain at all in some years to very wet years during "El Nino" conditions. The "El Nino" is the condition where higher than normal sea temperatures exist in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The higher temperatures allow the storms moving east over California to carry greater amounts of water. The reverse condition "La Nina" can cause drought years.The greatest amount of rainfall occurs in the months of January, February, and March.

Furthermore, actual rain fall in Southern California tends to fall in large amounts during sporadic and often heavy storms rather than consistently over storms at somewhat regular intervals. In short, rainfall in Southern California might be characterized as "feast or famine" within a single year. Because the metropolitan basin is largely built out, water originating in higher elevation communities can have a sudden impact on adjoining communities that have a lower elevation.

Minerals and Soils

The characteristics of the minerals and soils present in West Covina indicate the potential types of hazards that may occur. Rock hardness and soil characteristics can determine whether or not an area will be prone to geologic hazards such as earthquakes, liquefaction and landslides.

The geological formation of soils within West Covina consists of sandy gravel, sandy silt, sandy clay, silty clay and clay. The soil in the area north of Interstate 10 (San Bernardino Freeway) is primarily sandy gravel and sandy silt. The area between the Interstate 10 Freeway and Amar Road is primarily sandy silt and silty clay. The area south of Amar Road is primarily silty clay and clay. The South Hills area contains some landslide material in formation of its geological soil structure including various types of gravel, sand, silt and clay.

Understanding the geologic characteristics of City of West Covina is an important step in hazard mitigation and avoiding at-risk development.

Other Significant Geologic Features

The City of West Covina, like most of the Los Angeles Basin, lies over the area of one or more known earthquake faults, and potentially many more unknown faults, particularly so-called lateral or blind thrust faults.

The major faults that have the potential to affect the greater Los Angeles Basin, and therefore the City of West Covina are the:
  • San Andreas Fault
  • Newport Inglewood Fault
  • Palos Verdes Fault
  • Whittier Fault
  • Sierra Madre Fault
The minor faults that transect or have a close proximity to the City of West Covina include:
  • Walnut Creek Fault
  • San Jose Hills Fault
  • Red Hill Fault
The Los Angeles Basin has a history of powerful and relatively frequent earthquakes, dating back to the powerful 8.0+ San Andreas earthquake of 1857 which did substantial damage to the relatively few buildings that existed at the time. Paleoseismological research indicates that large (8.0+) earthquakes occur on the San Andreas fault at intervals between 45 and 332 years with an average interval of 140 years . Other lesser faults have also caused very damaging earthquakes since 1857. Notable earthquakes include the Long Beach earthquake of 1933, the San Fernando Earthquake of 1971, the 1987 Whittier Earthquake and the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.

In addition, many areas in the Los Angeles Basin have sandy soils that are subject to liquefaction. The City of West Covina has liquefaction zones as shown on map 5, this includes areas of the City of West Covina along the drainages of South Hills and along the most southwest corner of the city.

The City of West Covina also has areas with land movement potential. Areas of historic landslides are shown on Map 6 and slopes susceptible to movement induced by an earthquake are shown on map 5. Most of these susceptible slopes are in the elevated San Jose Hills area.

Population and Demographics

The City of West Covina has a population of about 105,080 (109,083according to info provided by Area D) in an area of 17 square miles. The population of West Covina has steadily increased from the mid 1800's through 2000, and increased 9.4% from 1990 to 2000 according to the 2000 Census. This continued strong population growth is projected to continue within the east San Gabriel Valley.


popand dem chart
The increase of people living in West Covina creates more community exposure, and changes how agencies prepare for and respond to natural hazards. For example, more people living on the urban fringe can increase risk of fire. Wildfire has an increased chance of starting due to human activities in the urban/rural interface, and has the potential to injure more people and cause more property damage. But an urban/wildland fire is not the only exposure to the city of West Covina. In the 1987 publication, Fire Following Earthquake, issued by the All Industry Research Advisory Council, Charles Scawthorn explains how a post-earthquake urban conflagration would develop. The conflagration would be started by fires resulting from earthquake damage, but made much worse by the loss of pressure in the fire mains, caused by either lack of electricity to power water pumps, and /or loss of water pressure resulting from broken fire mains.

Furthermore, increased density can affect risk. For example, narrower streets are more difficult for emergency service vehicles to navigate. The higher ratio of residents to emergency responders affects response times, and homes located closer together increase the chances of fires spreading.

The City of West Covina is experiencing a great deal of in-fill building, which is increasing the population density, creating greater service loads on the built infrastructure, including roads, water supply, sewer services and storm drains.

Natural hazards do not discriminate, but the impacts in terms of vulnerability and the ability to recover vary greatly among the population. According to Peggy Stahl of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Preparedness, Training, and Exercise Directorate, 80% of the disaster burden falls on the public, and within that number a disproportionate burden is placed upon special needs groups, e.g. women, children, minorities, and the poor.

According the the latest census figures, (2000) the demographic make up of the city is as follows:
sect 2-3
The ethnic and cultural diversity suggests a need to address multi-cultural needs and services.

Although the percentage of poverty in the City of West Covina (6.8%) is about two-thirds that of the state's (10.4%), 8.9% of the people living in poverty in City of West Covina are under 18 years old, and 1.8% are over 65.

Vulnerable populations, including seniors, disabled citizens, women, and children, as well as those people living in poverty, may be disproportionately impacted by natural hazards.

Examining the reach of hazard mitigation policies to special needs populations may assist in increasing access to services and programs. FEMA's Office of Equal Rights addresses this need by suggesting that agencies and organizations planning for natural disasters identify special needs populations, make recovery centers more accessible, and review practices and procedures to remedy any discrimination in relief application or assistance.

The cost of natural hazards recovery can place an unequal financial responsibility on the general population when only a small proportion may benefit from governmental funds used to rebuild private structures. Discussions about natural hazards that include local citizen groups, insurance companies, and other public and private sector organizations can help ensure that all members of the population are a part of the decision-making processes.

Land and Development

Development in Southern California from the earliest days was a cycle of "boom and bust". The Second World War, however, dramatically changed that cycle. Military personnel and defense workers came to Southern California to fill the logistical needs created by the war effort. The available housing was rapidly exhausted and existing commercial centers proved inadequate for the influx of people. Immediately after the war construction began on the freeway system, and the face of Southern California was forever changed. Home developments and shopping centers sprung up everywhere and within a few decades the central basin of Los Angeles County was virtually built out. This pushed new development further and further away from the urban center.

The City of West Covina General Plan addresses the use and development of private land, including residential and commercial areas. This plan is one of the City's most important tools in addressing environmental challenges including transportation and air quality; growth management; conservation of natural resources; clean water and open spaces.

The environment of most Los Angeles County cities is nearly identical with that of their immediate neighbors and the transition from one incorporated municipality to another is seamless to most people. Seamless too are the exposures to the natural hazards that affect all of Southern California.

Housing and Community Development

The City of West Covina offers an excellent mix of single and multi-housing stock, of which 66.5% are owner occupied. One particular issue the city faces is the scarcity of housing and a lack of affordable homes. The median value of a home within West Covina for year 2004 is $370,000 , up from 26.7% over the year due to the current trends of low interest rates, and shortage of housing. Due to the increase in home prices, there has been an increase in demand for affordable housing. From year 2000 census statistics there were 32,058 total housing units. From that same year it was identified that there were 31,411 occupied units; 20,894 were owner occupied.

With regards to development issues, the Community Development Commission (CDC) has engaged in activities that promote the quality of life for the citizens of City of West Covina. This large-scale effort consists of neighborhood and other public facility improvements, rehabilitation of existing housing and new housing development. A portion of the funding for the said program is provided by The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Community Development Commission also helps to promote economic prosperity throughout the City and promotes development while maintaining quality of life and integrity of the environment.

The City also participates in the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which is the primary resource available to address both housing and non-housing community development. City of West Covina's CDBG allocation for the year 2004 is approximate anticipated to be approximately $1,461,122.

There is an increased concentration of resources and capital in City of West Covina. The best indicator is the increasing per capita personal income in the region since the 1970's. Per capita income is an estimate of total personal income divided by the total population.

This estimate can be used to compare economic areas as a whole, but it does not reflect how the income is distributed among residents of the area being examined. The City's per capita personal income is also increasing relative to California and the United State's average per capita incomes, resulting in a more affluent community than the average population.

Subtle but measurable changes occur constantly in communities that increase the potential loss that could occur in a major disaster. There are number of factors that contribute to this increasing loss potential. First, populations continue to increase, putting more people at risk within a defined geographic space. Second, inflation constantly increases the worth of real property and permanent improvements. Third, the amount of property owned per capita increases over time. Information from the U.S. Census Bureau shows gains in average housing standards and are as follows:

Table 2-0-1 Housing Standards

sect 2

In looking at the greatest recorded earthquakes in American history, and compare the level of population and scale, development today that existed at the time of the event, the scale of potential damage is staggering.


Employment and Industry

Mitigation activities are needed at the business level to ensure the safety and welfare of workers and limit damage to industrial infrastructure. Employees are highly mobile, commuting from surrounding areas to industrial and business centers. This creates a greater dependency on roads, communications, accessibility and emergency plans to reunite people with their families. Before a natural hazard event, large and small businesses can develop strategies to prepare for natural hazards, respond efficiently, and prevent loss of life and property.

The City business climate has been strong and growing with concentrations of Services, Retail Sales, Offices, Health Care and some Industrial. West Covina is home to major business centers such as The Lakes at West Covina, the Wells Fargo Tower, the Los Angeles County Regional Government / Civic Center Complex, the region's dual retail powerhouse - Westfield Shoppingtown at West Covina and the Eastland Shopping Center, major regional auto-centers and five medical facilities and one trauma center. There are over 200 physicians and surgeons, ten chiropractors, and fifty dentists and orthodontists serving the community. Hospitals providing health care include Citrus Valley Health Partners (three facilities), Kaiser Permanente Medical Group and Doctor's Hospital of West Covina.

City of West Covina provides over 17,409 jobs. The City's employment rate is currently at 95.3%. According to the State Employment Development Department, the State's employment rate for 2003 was 93.2%.

There are 3,681 licensed businesses located within the City of West Covina. Of these, 290 are apartments; 1,007 are home based businesses; and 2,384 commercial businesses.

Mitigation activities are needed at the business level to ensure the safety and welfare of workers and limit damage to commercial infrastructure, especially office complexes mentioned above. Employees are highly mobile, commuting from surrounding areas to commercial and business centers. This creates a greater dependency on efficient circulation, communications, accessibility and emergency plans to reunite people with their families.

The city's close proximity to several major sources of transportation gives the residents access to regional, national and international markets. The Ontario International Airport is located approximately 20 miles east of the city and is serviced by most domestic carriers. The Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is located approximately 40 miles west of the City.

The Metropolitan Transit District serves the city locally with two routes. West Covina serves as a transit hub for bus service within the San Gabriel Valley. Together, the nationally award-winning Foothill Transit District and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), provide over 400 bus arrivals and departures in West Covina daily. These buses serve express and local routes throughout West Covina and the greater Los Angeles County area.

The city is served by two Metrolink train stations in the nearby cities of Covina and Baldwin Park. Metrolink provides daily rail commuter train service between residential and major commercial areas throughout Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura Counties.

The City also offers local shuttle bus services, providing convenient connections between regional malls, Civic Center, Senior Citizens' Center, regional hospital facilities and the Baldwin Park Metrolink train station.

West Covina enjoys easy access to the Los Angeles Freeway System. A major freeway, Interstate 10 (the San Bernardino Freeway) runs through the northern section of the city. The following major freeways also serve the city:

State Highway 60 (Pomona Freeway) to the south;
Interstate 605 (San Gabriel Valley River Freeway) to the West; and
State Highway 57 (Orange Freeway) to the east.

Any disruptions to these transportation resources from a disaster would adversely affect the ability of customers, employees and suppliers to reach West Covina businesses.

Table 2-0-2 Type and Mix of West Covina Businesses


Table 2-3 Major West Covina Employers


Transportation and Commuting Patterns

The City of West Covina is the13th largest city in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Statistical Area (LAMSA) and the 50th largest in the State. Over the past decade, the LAMSA experienced rapid growth in employment and population. According to statistics kept by the AQMD, in 2003 there were 123,728 vehicles registered to addresses within West Covina. This is an increase of 12,119 vehicles, or 9.7%, over the total vehicles registered in 1998.

Private automobiles are the dominant means of transportation in Southern California and in the City of West Covina. However, West Covina meets its public transportation needs through a mixture of a regional transit system and various city contracted bus systems. The Metropolitan Transit District (MTA) provides both the local bus, Foothill Transit, and the light rail, Metrolink, service to West Covina and to the Los Angeles County metropolitan area.

Also, included in the public transportation system in West Covina is a shuttle bus service and a "Dial A Ride" service. The shuttle bus, "Go West," is a scheduled route that services the entire city. The "Dial A Ride" service is limited to seniors and disabled residents only and is on a request-for-service basis.

In addition to this service, the City promotes other alternative transportation activities. One of the alternative modes of transportation encouraged by the City is bicycling. There are 40 miles of shared and dedicated bike paths in the city, including a significant trail adjacent to the flood control channel that connects adjoining cities.

Another less significant alternative mode of transportation is horseback. There are currently approximately two miles of horse trails that runs along the south side of the Los Angeles County flood control channel between Barranca Street and Holt Avenue.

The City of West Covina is served by the 60 (Pomona Freeway) and the 10 (San Bernardino Freeway), connecting the city to adjoining parts of Los Angeles County. The City maintains approximately 236 miles of streets including 14 miles of major arterials, 50 miles of collector streets, and 172 miles of residential streets. These streets were built over the last 70 years, with a majority of them constructed between 1950 and 1980. There are also 19 minor bridges included in the infrastructure of the city.

The traffic on most of the major streets reaches the street capacity during peak hours. As the population and the daily transit increase, there is an increased risk that a natural hazard event will disrupt the travel plans of residents across the region, as well as both local, regional and national commercial traffic.

Localized flooding can render roads unusable. A severe winter storm has the potential to disrupt the daily driving routine of hundreds of thousands of people. Natural hazards can disrupt automobile traffic and shut down local and regional transit systems.

Section 2 - Community Profile Endnotes

i County Board of Supervisor's Minutes from February 5th, 1923; Minute Book 83, Page 239
ii Peacock, Simon M.,
v City of West Covina Budget 2003-2004
vi San Gabriel Valley Tribune Friday August 20, 2004
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