The Two Cities of Stanton
Depending on how you look at it, the City of Stanton was founded in 1911 or 1956; and both times it’s an interesting story.
The story of the original City of Stanton starts early in 1911, when the City of Anaheim quietly obtained an option on the J.M. Gilbert Ranch southwest of town along Cerritos Avenue. Anaheim was looking for a location for what was politely known as a “sewer farm” back in those days – an open air spreading ground for the city’s sewage.
When the word got out, the folks who lived around the Gilbert Ranch weren’t very happy. Anaheim replied that with all our modern technology, septic tanks and all, a sewer farm wouldn’t be any menace at all. Then why don’t you put it in your city? the ranchers replied.
Well, it happened that one of the biggest landowners in the area was Phil Stanton. He had just completed a term as Speaker of the California State Assembly, and just lost the Republican nomination for governor to Hiram Johnson. Stanton was one of the major developers in Orange County in those days. He had already been involved in the founding of both Seal Beach and Huntington Beach.
It was Phil Stanton who came to the ranchers’ aid. He felt that no city had the right to impose something like a sewer farm on an area that did not want it. But what to do?
First, Stanton met with Anaheim city officials and tried to talk them out of the sewer farm project. He even offered them part of his ranch up on Brookhurst as an alternate site. He said he could handle the loss of property value it would bring, but these ranchers could not. But Anaheim was adamant. They wanted the Gilbert Ranch.
So Phil Stanton came up with another plan. If the area would incorporate as a city, they could block any sewer farm plans. At the time, there was no town of Stanton; just a few small crossroads communities – Benedict, Clair, Hansen, Magnolia. There were a couple of churches and a school or two, but no downtown, and no general name for the area. So the ranchers decided to name their new city after Phil Stanton.
The incorporation election was held on May 23, 1911, with about a 90% voter turnout. The measure passed 76 to 65.
The new City of Stanton was the largest (in area) in all of Orange County, taking in about ten square miles. Yet the population was only about 750. One of the first acts of the new city council was to pass an ordinance banning all sewer farms.
Anaheim didn’t give up. Mr. Gilbert had gotten cold feet, but they forced him to complete the sale, and tried to have the incorporation election set aside by the court. But it was no use – both the incorporation and the ordinance held.
The Benedict townsite, along the Pacific Electric tracks at Beach and Katella, changed its name to Stanton, and some development followed. They even got a post office and a newspaper – The Stanton Optimist. But once the threat of an Anaheim sewer farm had passed, there was little reason to remain a city, and the original City of Stanton dis-incorporated in 1921.
Thirty years later, a different sort of threat appeared. In the early 1950s, western Orange County was growing like mad and annexation wars were breaking out all across the area. Incorporated cities like Anaheim and Buena Park were expanding rapidly, and unincorporated communities like Garden Grove, Cypress, Stanton, and Los Alamitos were feeling threatened. Tract housing had begun moving into Stanton, and the residents realized that if they didn’t do something, they were just going to get swallowed up into one of the neighboring cities – or more likely, into several neighboring cities.
So in 1955 the residents of the Stanton area began circulating petitions to call another incorporation election. The original proposal was for a six square mile city, to try and take in as much territory as possible. But the Board of Supervisors, in trying to balance all the different incorporation efforts underway, cut down Stanton’s request to about one square mile; an area with a population of about 1,300.
The City of Stanton’s second incorporation was held on May 15, 1956 and passed 185 to 126. Victor Zuniga, a longtime local businessman, was elected mayor. By 1960, the city had tripled in size, and the population had swelled by nearly 900%, from about 1,300 to over 12,000. Today (at about the same size) the population is about 38,000.