On the road with Livability in Whittier, Ca.

February 28, 2014 at 5:50 am CST

We say that one of the reasons to do lists like our monthly top 10s and our annual Top 100 Best Places to Live  is that it gives us a chance to celebrate communities that might not otherwise receive their fair share of the limelight. After all, with our focus on the small to mid-sized communities, we’re often talking about places that aren’t typically on people’s radar.

We include ourselves in that pool.

Whittier Village Cinema in downtown Whittier, Ca.

I’ll admit, I hadn’t heard of Whittier, Ca. , before we named them one of the best places to live based on a comprehensive analysis of more than 40 different factors related to livability. Turns out, I’d seen the high school in the movie Back to the Future, but let’s face it, I wasn’t connecting those dots. But I’m thankful that the government and chamber of commerce invited me out to share the news in person during a city council meeting and a monthly breakfast put on by the chamber. I had the opportunity to talk about Livability.com, how we put together the ranking, and the role of livability (lowercase ‘l’) in attracting talent and businesses.

Whittier (pop. 85,000) is a town unto itself and also a suburb of Los Angeles. It’s about an hour in traffic east of LAX airport where I landed, glad to escape the horrid weather in Chicago, even if for just a day or so. Its downtown is full of local businesses and a stylish, renovated Deco-style theater. I didn’t get a chance to explore too far, sadly. But while in town I enjoyed a not-too-spicy Mexican dinner downtown at Bizarra Capital, one of the reasons the L.A. Times recently described Whittier as an “ ascendant foodie city ”.

Nearly every conversation I had came back to a common theme. Namely that Whittier is a great place to live because of its people. That’s a total cliché, granted. But the interesting twist is that it related not so much to the individuals, but in the organizations they are a part of. The chamber of commerce meeting helped raise funds to recognize the work of its outstanding police officers. The city council meeting was attended by community leaders from groups like the superintendents of the schools, the Uptown Association historic district, the county supervisor’s office and more.  They were all there to share in the achievement of being a top city because each of those organizations had worked to make it so and were continuing to improve on its strong foundation.

The next morning, at the chamber’s monthly breakfast, about 175 business leaders came out to network and share in the community news. They were joined by members of the city council and the Mayor Pro Tem, allowing the community great access to its elected leaders.

Livability editor Matt Carmichael presents an award to Whittier Mayor Bob Henderson and other community leaders.

In the coming year our writers and editors will be out visiting some of our top 100 best places to live. We’ve already been to Palo Alto and Berkeley and have more content planned. We hope to see what makes your town a great town soon and put some more cities on our map.

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