September 22, 2017
My Sept. 8 column – part of an occasional series related to Yorba Linda’s 50th anniversary – recalled that Herb Warren was the only person elected to the first City Council who opposed incorporation, although he later stated those who supported cityhood were “farsighted.”
Three other members of the city’s first governing body elected from a still-record field of 27 candidates also reflected on Yorba Linda’s initial years as a city in separate interviews with Dennis Swift for the Cal State Fullerton oral history program in 1988.
Two – Roland Bigonger and Bill Ross – were pleased with the city’s evolution during the first 20 years, while the third – Whit Cromwell – expressed reservations about the city’s direction.
Bigonger, the top vote-getter in the 1967 election, became the city’s first mayor. He was re-elected to a two-year term in 1970, but didn’t run in 1972. He won another term in 1986, but lost re-election in 1990.
“I think that Yorba Linda has developed nicely,” Bigonger told Swift. “I think that the first City Council intended this kind of development to occur. … I think that the General Plan adopted in 1972 set the pattern for development – the large lots we had.”
Bigonger added: “I feel that the city is a good city to live in, and I would probably choose Yorba Linda, if I had to choose a place to live in,” noting, “I am very pleased with the way Yorba Linda has developed.”
Ross was a Yorba Linda Homeowners’ Association president who lobbied county officials on zoning and development matters before incorporation. He placed third in the 1967 election, but ironically, the low-density advocate lost when opposed by a slower-growth slate in 1970.
“I think the city as a whole came about and was originally planned for by our early people,” Ross told Swift. “It is just a great place to live and have kids grow. We love it today and we loved it then.”
He added: “Yorba Linda has been very good to me and my six children and our successful real estate office and contracting business. We have been here now for over a quarter of a century – it certainly feels like home.”
Cromwell, as postmaster, wasn’t active in the cityhood movement. He ran second in 1967, was re-elected to a two-year term in 1970, sat out 1972, but won a third, final term in 1974. He also served as a director of the Yorba Linda Water District from 1978 to 1990.
Yorba Linda “did not come out like I wanted it to 100 percent,” he told Swift in 1988. “I think we completely missed it, because what we did was drive (out) ordinary people. … I wanted to see my kids right here, where they had their roots in the ground.”
Cromwell added: “I really wanted to see a little different type of city than what we have,” but he noted, “I am still here, so it must be alright.”
Burt Brooks, the fifth member of the first council, wasn’t interviewed for the oral history program. Bigonger died in 1997, Cromwell in 2001 and Ross in 2010.
Jim Drummond is a longtime Yorba Linda resident. He gives his opinion on local issues weekly. Send e-mail to email@example.com.