- Associated Press - Friday, June 19, 2015

VERNON, Calif. (AP) - Vernon has long been an oddity in Southern California - a city devoted almost exclusively to industry, with a population hovering around 100 people who lived in city-owned homes.

That’s about to change.

A series of City Hall corruption scandals led to reforms. And next month, an apartment complex will welcome 102 new residents, effectively doubling the population.

The apartments will be Vernon’s first privately owned residences in decades and mark a pivot for a city that long fought to keep people out.

“The times have changed and Vernon is changing with the times,” Mayor Michael McCormick told the Los Angeles Times on Friday (http://lat.ms/1ITRR5S ).

Those who move into Vernon will find that the city isn’t like any other they’re likely to encounter. There are about 1,800 businesses in Vernon, with roughly 55,000 workers.

Historically, Vernon’s tightly controlled population allowed city leaders to avoid contested elections.

Vernon owned all the homes, which it gave to city employees and relatives at heavily subsidized rates. Over the years, the city evicted dissenters, drove out newcomers and even tore down homes to prevent outsiders from moving in.

There was little scrutiny of how government worked. One city administrator made $1.6 million one year. In recent years, three top city leaders were charged with public corruption.

Since state lawmakers threatened to disband the city in 2011, Vernon has slashed salaries of council members, set term limits and imposed more competitive bidding for city contracts.

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