The first Office of Street Superintendent, forerunner to today’s Public Works Director, was established by the Board of Trustees on May 27, 1913, barely one month after the city’s formal incorporation.
The first Streets and Alleys Committee, comprised of City Trustee Mulock and Hayes, was established on May 6, 1913. This Committee structure continued until at least 1929, when the Streets Committee again appears on stationery associated with the city’s adoption of the Regional Plan for Highways of the County of Los Angeles.
Many of the city’s early streets were dirt, petrolithic (oiled dirt) or maCADam paving, with the first major paving projects occurring along the historic routes that became San Gabriel’s major boulevards.
In 1925, San Gabriel Boulevard was widened from Hermosa to the railroad tracks, and increased to 72 feet wide with 15 ft. sidewalks. This project cost $150,000 and there was a four-day civic celebration when it was completed.
The old Public Works facility emerged sometime in the 1940s behind what is now the Police Facility. It has changed little in 75 years.
By roughly 1960, under direction of Director of Public Works Harry Keebaugh, the Public Works Department had grown into a full-fledged operation incorporating Engineering, Street Maintenance, Building Maintenance, Drafting, Building Inspection, City Planning, City Warehouse, City Shops and Sewer Sanitation.
By 1967, under Public Works Director Frank Forbes, permit values had grown to more than $4 million annually.
In 1964 the department laid 3500 tons of asphalt and poured more than 13,000 linear feet of curbs and gutters on Broadway, San Gabriel Blvd, Sycamore Drive, Bilton Way and others. At the time the department maintained 60 miles of streets, 142 traffic signal lights, 2 railroad crossing gates, 5300 parkway trees and 57 vehicles and equipment.
By 1990, Public Works became an operating division of the Community Development Department. But in 2009, with the Council finding the need for dramatic investments in infrastructure, a fully independent Public Works Department returned under the leadership of Bob Bustos.
In 2013, Daren Grilley became the first Public Works Director/City Engineer in several decades. The city departments were reconfigured to increase efficiency, placing parks and landscape maintenance (formerly in Parks and Recreation) into Public Works, and Engineering (formerly in Community Development) into Public Works.
Over the past 30 years the Public Works Department staff has grown from 20 to 31 full time employees, and the budget has grown (both operational and capital) from $1.6 million to $8.1 million.
Today, the department maintains 80 miles of paved public streets, 12 miles of storm drains, 500 catch basins, 72 miles of sewers and 1,300 manholes, 37 signalized intersections, more than 50 miles of sidewalks, more than 100 city vehicles, 17 bridges, parks and facilities, city trees, street lights, city signs, engineering and more.