Ford Long Beach Assembly Plant Physical and Environmental Setting

The close to 40 acre site was split in jurisdiction, but all in the industrial zone of the harbor, as it is today. Only 12 acres were in Long Beach, while 28 acres were in Los Angeles. However, the entire water front was in Long Beach.

The setting was ideal for a Ford plant: along the north side lay Cerritos Channel with the new drawbridge to the west of the site. Terminal Island fronted the site across the channel giving it full protection there in the inner harbor. On the east the protected frontage provided for a long unloading dock and enough room for Ford's own turning basin. Northward lay additional land on which to expand, and along the west was the Badger Avenue approach and the Union Pacific railroad tracks. The latter ran in from the north, and spur lines could readily be built into the plant warehouse and alongside the dock. The uninterrupted flat building pad was ideal for the unusual inside acreage of one of Ford's modern one-storied automobile factories. Long Beach's mild weather, much of the time between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit would not demand much protection against extremes in heat or cold. Cargo ships could enter the main channel, turn west at the turning basin, and come directly into the Ford dock. Soon after entering the main channel, they would have passed the Edison Plant. Thomas Edison was Henry Ford's close friend.

One day the geology of the area would be of particular importance to the Ford Motor Company. It consisted of generally low-lying terrain with alluvium and terrace deposits of the Los Angeles River and ancestral streams covering the underlying, older, marine sedimentary units. These tertiary strata, some 7,000 to 11,000 feet thick, consisted of Pliocene and Upper Miocene age marine shales, siltstones and sandstones. Anticlinally folded strata here had been responsible for the accumulation of a vast amount of petroleum in the huge Wilmington oil field. It was judged to be 11 miles long and three miles wide. Oil pumped from the Wilmington field would eventually cause subsidence, sinking of the land, of nearly 30 feet over the crest of the anticline. When Ford selected the site no one had any idea that such a serious problem lay in the future.