Rowland Heights was originally part of the Workman Temple homestead in California's rancho days. Rowland Heights is an unincorporated community (not a city) dependent upon County of Los Angeles representation (County Board of Supervisors). Rowland Heights has grown significantly during the 1990s. Originally built on a pig farm that covered much of modern day Rowland Heights, the Rowland Homestead was mostly orange groves until the eastward sprawl from Los Angeles spawned lower middle-class communities and affordable housing developments then formed. As the 60 freeway was extended beyond the western boundary, the community continued growth equal to that of most communities in Southern Calfornia. Development next to the freeway, zoned for industrial investment, eventually helped to support the housing developments that continued well into the twenty-first century. The original John A. Rowland homestead is now behind the 99 Ranch Market near the corner of Gale Avenue and Nogales Street.
This area of the Los Angeles basin was once an inland sea before the last ice age. Many fossils can still be found around the area. One place that still has exposed fossils from ancient sea life that once swam this prehiaaastoric sea is located behind the McDonalds on Stoner Creek Road across from the Stoner Creek Car Wash, which locals called fossil hill. Local kids would go there to find treasures, such as sea life encrusted in sand dollars. Another interesting site to locals was the Nike Missile Base nestled in the hills overlooking the city, which was formally known as LA29. The site spanned nearly two miles in length across the hilltop between Rowland Heights and Brea, but the magazines, firing control site, radar pedestals, and tunnels are only ruins now.
Since the 1980s, many upper-middle-class immigrants from Taiwan and South Korea have settled heavily in the hillside homes of Rowland Heights (and in neighboring regions such as Hacienda Heights, Walnut, and Diamond Bar). Additionally, working-class Latinos have settled in the lower, flat sections. The city has developed an eclectic suburban "Chinatown" and "Koreatown", mostly in the form of upscale strip malls mostly on Colima Road, with another concentration around Nogales St. There are several large Asian supermarkets - such as a 99 Ranch Market (billed as the chain's largest location during the late 1980s, but no longer), Hong Kong Supermarket, and Monterey Park-based Shun Fat Supermarket (a relatively recent development that replaced Von's market) - in the area.
Once a predominantly white and hispanic population, this area has gradually become one of the Chinese centers in the greater Los Angeles. Originally formed by the stream of business expansions from Monterey Park (now a heavily Mainland Chinese enclave), which is the undisputed "Chinatown" of Los Angeles, Rowland Heights has become an area comparable to a "Chinatown" by itself largely populated by Taiwanese. Locals refer to Rowland Heights as "Little Taipei", due to its high concentration of Taiwanese restaurants and businesses. It has become the center for Chinese commercial and cultural activity in the south-eastern region of the San Gabriel Valley. While Rowland Heights and adjacent areas are still predominantly 49er Taiwanese (Mandarin: wai sheng ren or external-province person), in recent years many Mainland Chinese emigres have too been increasingly purchasing homes and starting small businesses in the area. As an example, some eateries of Taiwanese cuisine are now actually opened by Mainland Chinese. Additionally, there are several popular eateries in the area, including Supreme Dragon (serving Mainland Chinese noodle and dumplings), a Taiwanese-style food court inside a strip mall, and Hong Kong Chinese-style Richmond, British Columbia-based Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant (inside of the 99 Ranch Market center) as well as several trendy restaurants geared towards the young and affluent Asian population. More recently, a popular branch of the Taco Bell fast-food franchise very close to a local high school was replaced by a Vietnamese beef noodle soup (or Pho) restaurant, located at the corner of Colima Road and Otterbein Avenue.
Perhaps owing to Rowland Heights as the cultural center for the Chinese diaspora - thus far, mostly 49er Taiwanese with a growing number of Mainland Chinese - and as the connection to and from northern Orange County (mostly to the city of La Habra), Fullerton Road in Rowland Heights is among the heavily traversed roads in the region with frequent gridlocks.
As with most housing patterns in the Southlands, the wealthy homes are usually found on the nearby hills, while the more economical housing are located close to the freeways. In this case, these are located near Highway 60 by the City of Industry.
As part of an unincorporated community, Rowland Heights residents, circa 1980, formed a series of community based organizations, including the Rowland Heights Community Coordinating Council (or RHCCC; www.rhccc.netfirms.com) to give input to their government representatives (the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors) and their State and Federal legislators. Among the items of concern for the residents was the growth of the community away from a semi-rural setting to a more highly congested area. As a result, the Rowland Heights General Plan was formed to govern the growth of the community. Over the years these Rowland Heights community based organizations slowly disbanded until approximately 2000, when the Rowland Heights residents reestablished the RHCCC to take on the issues of unmitigated and unplanned growth (increased building density), traffic, lack of community services, among other items. Through hardwork, the residents were able to work with their County of Los Angeles representatives to put in place building density and design standards to control growth to some extent. To this day, the RHCCC continues to exist as a community-based organization of resident volunteers consisting of a Nine Person Board of Directors, a Development Committee, Community Improvement Committee, Membership Committee and other committees and task forces. The RHCCC is dedicated to provide a forum and a conduit for the flow of information for the residents of Rowland Heights regarding issues that affect the community and quality of life. It conducts a general meeting to present information to the public (including proposed development projects), a Board meeting to analyze community input and concerns and formulate a plan regarding how to address the same, a Development Committee to study proposed projects and their impact on the community, a Membership Committee to promote and increase awareness of community issues, and a Community Improvement Committee to address concerns with items such as graffiti abatement and community beautification.
Unlike its unincorporated neighbor to the west (Hacienda Heights), Rowland Heights has never held a cityhood election. However, recent talks about the County shortchanging the area in terms of basic services, the views of the RHCCC, the potential development of the hills above Rowland Heights along with annexation from the ever-encroaching Diamond Bar - concerned residents have banded together in a Political Action Committee the Rowland Heights Advocate for City Hood ID#1296887 to research the possibility of becoming a city. (web site www.rowlandheightscity.org)
A person who has had significant influence in meaningful change in Rowland Heights is 20 year resident Roy Humphreys. Known for his direct approach to problems afflicting the community, he is the champion of the "Graffiti Wars" before they were popular. He in chorus with his wife and son provide a cache of evidence to the Los Angeles County Sheriff which led to the first arrest and conviction of a major tagger in Rowland Heights. Through his work as vice president of the Rowland Heights Residents' Association and now President and founder of the Rowland Heights Advocate Inc., changes included covered bus stops, illegal sign posting removal, graffiti removal, and street swamp clearance. He has been a champion for cityhood for over three years and is working with the Rowland Heights Advocate for City Hood to educate the population of this community on the issues. His observations are published in the opinion section of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.