The Northern part of the Valley is heavily residential and has some of the newer suburban homes of the area. Places like Northridge tend to be very commercial and apartment centric (for the students) but go north to Porter Ranch and you’ll find some very nice gated neighborhoods.
A San Fernando Valley district that falls under the umbrella of the City of Los Angeles, Chatsworth was another area that was once home to a number of Native American tribes, including the Chumash. There is even a local area, the Burro Flats Painted Cave that today remains a memorial of the Chumash culture, including its rock art and spirituality. The first Europeans made their way to the area in the mid-1700 and it became part of the route the Spanish would travel between the missions. In 1821, the area became part of Mexico and then finally was absorbed into the U.S. in 1873 as part of the single largest land grant in California.
The present town, first called Chatsworth Park, was developed in 1888. It is a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood with over 70% of the population classified as White. There is still a small Native American presence and 16% of the people living in Chatsworth are Hispanic. Chatsworth is made up of bedroom communities, large multi-family complexes, ranches, shopping centers, and farms. It also has quite a bit of property that is still horse-zoned, allowing you to tie your horse to a hitching post outside the local restaurant, should you have one.
The Chatsworth Transportation Center and train station serve 20 daily trains on the Metrolink between Ventura and Downtown Los Angeles. There are also 10 trains a day passing through via Amtrak’s California Pacific Surfliner, making Chatsworth a major transportation hub in the West Valley. Chatsworth also can claim to have more parks and parklands than most communities in Los Angeles, as it contains a number of scenic and natural open spaces including Chatsworth Park North, Chatsworth Park South, Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park, Chatsworth Oaks Park, Stoney Point Park, Chatsworth Trails Park, and Sage Ranch Park. These areas contain miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails as well as picnic areas, sports recreation centers, rock climbing, and even campsites.
Reachable via the Ronald Reagan, San Diego, and Golden State Freeways, Granada Hills is a City of Los Angeles district in the San Fernando Valley. It sits just north of North Hills and Northridge. It is the site where the Valley’s first oil well was drilled back in 1916 and the town was first founded and known simply as “Granada” in 1927. “Hills” wasn’t tacked on until about 15 years later. The area was primarily used as orchards and dairy farms, growing apricots, oranges, walnuts, and beans. Peek in the neighbor’s back yard and you might see reminders of the former citrus groves in the form of clusters of orange, lemon, or grapefruit trees.
Granada Hills is home to the second largest park in Los Angeles which extends over 670-plus acres of land and contains a significant portion of undeveloped area. The highest point in Granada Hills is Mission Point, a popular destination for the cycling and hiking set. If you’re lucky and head up on a clear day, you may catch a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean or a swath of Downtown Los Angeles. Keep an eye out for the wildlife too as there are deer, golden eagles, bobcats, mountain lions, raccoons, and coyotes who all call the Mission Point area of Granada Hills home sweet home. If you prefer a more organized activity, there’s a recreation center called Petit Park, which has an auditorium, playground, sports facilities, and picnic areas.
Granada Hills has made its mark a few times throughout history. The Granada Hills Little League won the World Championship in 1963. A terrifying shooting took place at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in 1999, where fortunately no one was killed. And in 1959, during his visit to California, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, passed through the area to inspect housing developments and view the “American model home.” Heading along a stretch of White Oak Avenue between San Fernando Mission and San Jose Street will put you on “Christmas Tree Lane,” a line of 101 Deodar Cedar Trees. Native to the Himalayas, the trees are valued because of their size, beauty, and timber.
Lake View Terrace
A suburb nestled in the northeast part of the San Fernando Valley, Lake View Terrace is reachable via the Foothill Freeway (I-210). It’s a middle-class community with a fairly mixed racial profile made up mostly of Latinos, African-Americans, Whites, and Asians. Horse ranches have been in the neighborhood since the 1800s and there is still a significantly-sized equestrian community. It is also one of the last few areas in the City of Los Angeles where you are allowed to keep your horse at home with you.
Lake View Terrace is notorious for being the site of the Rodney King beating by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1991, and was the setting of the 2008 film by the same name, Lakeview Terrace, though interestingly enough, the neighborhood that was used in filming was not in the area. One side of the area is densely populated and the other is much more rural, and it is often considered a “hidden area” that many people do not know about.
If you crave a little of the outdoors, Lake View Terrace has plenty of options. You can choose from a horse community’s requisite equestrian trails to the many options at the Lake View Terrace Recreation Center, which has light outdoor basketball and tennis courts, an indoor gymnasium, a children’s play area, a community room, picnic tables, and barbeque pits. The Hansen Dam Aquatic Center has a 9-acre lake that is used for fishing, pedal boats, and public boating. If you want to learn to sail, you can take a boating class. A smaller 1.5-acre lake is available for swimming. There are also plenty of public restrooms, showers, and dressing rooms at the Aquatic Center. Summertime sees an excess of 2,000 people coming through the Aquatic Center for a little cool, wet fun.
The Ronald Reagan Freeway (SR 118) runs right through the middle of the suburban community of Mission Hills. The neighborhood also sits at the north end of snaking and long Sepulveda Blvd, which stretches from the northern starting point, all the way down through the city of Los Angeles. It is bordered by Granada Hills, Sylmar, and Pacoima as well as the City of San Fernando. It is a small and fairly upper-middle-class community with a relatively high median income in comparison with other Valley communities.
It was the original location of the Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana and is also home to the Andres Pico Adobe, the second oldest residence that is still standing in Los Angeles. The historical San Fernando Mission Cemetery is also still in use today.
Formerly known as Sepulveda and renamed in 1992, North Hills is one of the oldest communities in the San Fernando Valley. It sits between Northridge, Panorama City, Van Nuys, and Granada Hills. The district was originally named for the Sepulveda family, who claim roots that trace back to the founding of Los Angeles. The district even today retains much of its original small-town feel and has an active neighborhood community of residents committed to maintaining that kind of quality of life.
The area is fairly middle-class with a median household income of around $52,000. It is served by schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District and also has several private schools and magnet programs. The Mid-Valley Regional Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library is in North Hills and is one of the biggest in the San Fernando Valley, located at Nordhoff Street and Woodley Avenue.
Northridge, a community in the San Fernando Valley, is perhaps most famous for the 1994 earthquake that rocked the area. The 45-second, 6.7 shaker caused extensive damage throughout the San Fernando Valley and across the City of Los Angeles, including 72 deaths, over 9,000 injuries, and an estimated $20 billion in damage. Later studies showed that the quake’s epicenter was actually in Northridge’s neighbor, Reseda, but the name had already stuck. It was not the first earthquake to make its epicenter in the nearby area. The Sylmar earthquake in 1971 also caused severe damage to this community. Like other valley communities, Northridge did not originally go by the name it is called today. This 17-square-mile community was originally founded in 1910 as Zelzah station, a depot town for the Southern Pacific Railroad. The building of the nearby Zelzah Grammar School encouraged residential development and numerous housing tracts sprouted up. The place became known as North Los Angeles in 1929 and finally received the name Northridge in 1938. The population is over half white, with Asian and Hispanic being the other major races present in the community.
Northridge is a mix of residential living, shopping, business, and outdoor recreation. It has its own Hospital Medical Center and a large shopping mall, which was badly damaged during the earthquake but has since been renovated. For more physical pursuits, the Northridge Recreation Center offers up an indoor gymnasium/auditorium, barbeque pits, a lighted baseball diamond, lighted indoor and outdoor basketball courts, a children’s play area, picnic tables, a lighted soccer field, and tennis courts. There is also a pool, which is outdoors and heated seasonally. Nearby Dearborn Park also has some similar facilities and at Vanalden Park, you can even find a horseshoe pit, should you crave a game of an old favorite.
Pacoima sits between Mission Hills and Arleta and is a district neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, falling under the actual jurisdiction of the City of Los Angeles. The first inhabitants of the area were semi-nomadic Native American tribes and the name Pacoima comes from the language of one of these original settlers. The area maintained its nomadic origins and didn’t settle down into a permanent community until the late 1800s. The area was predominantly agricultural and provided a bounty of citrus, nuts, beans, wheat, and vegetables.
The presence of aircraft manufacturing giant, Lockheed’s main plant in nearby Burbank spurred the construction of a housing project in nearby Pacoima, and in the 1950s, the area changed almost overnight from a slow-paced farming community to a residential housing area for the employees of the nearby industrial plants and businesses. The neighborhood of Pacoima was home to the majority of the Valley’s African-American community by the early 1960s, as a result of racial discrimination in other areas.
The late ’60s saw an influx of immigrants from Mexico, attracted by Pacoima’s low housing costs and the nearby manufacturing jobs. A departure by the more affluent African-American population resulted in the district becoming primarily Latino in nature, and the closing of factories and a loss of jobs sent the area into an economic depression. By 1994, Pacoima found itself in the unhappy position of being the poorest neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, with one out of three residents living in public housing. Despite the depression, residents have made an effort to keep the area neat, keep vacancies in the shopping centers and keep the homeless off the streets. Crime in the area hit an all-time high in the 1980s and housing projects were rife with the presence of drug dealers. The community rallied against the problem and lead efforts to minimize the number of liquor stores in the district, meet with gang members to come to agreements, reduce the number of drive-by shootings, and cooperate with the police to thwart crime. Pacoima has seen a significant decrease in crime since 2001 when police Chief William Bratton focused attention on the area.
Located in the northwest portion of the San Fernando Valley, near Chatsworth and Northridge, Porter Ranch is in an upscale neighborhood just south of the Santa Susana Mountains. The area was purchased in the late 19th century, by a man named Benjamin Porter. It had originally been part of the Rancho Ex-Mission San Fernando and for the first several decades of its existence, was primarily a collection of wheat fields. It eventually became home to the horse ranches of a number of celebrities and eventually, suburban development found its way to the remote community.
In cinema history, Porter Ranch is most notable as the location of the filming of large portions of the very famous film, E.T. the Extra-terrestrial, in 1982. A number of shots from the Steven Spielberg blockbuster featured views looking down on the Porter Ranch neighborhood that sits beneath the ridge in Palisades Park. E.T. Porter Ridge Park is the sight of the park scene at the end of the movie. Major development and construction did not occur in the area until just before that, in the 1970s. Nowadays, the neighborhood is mostly made up of gated communities full of upscale, single-family homes. Most of the residents commute to nearby cities such as Simi Valley and Downtown Los Angeles for work. There is also good public transportation access to the area via the Chatsworth and Northridge stations of the Metrolink commuter rail system.
The district has one of the higher median incomes in the San Fernando Valley and the population is over 60% White and over 30% Asian. The entrance to Porter Ranch was once marked by two horse and rider statues that flanked two corners on Devonshire. They remained through the 1960s and 70s but were finally removed to allow for greater residential development. Rumor has it that many years later, one of the statues was found in a local trash dumpster.
Once the site of the world’s second-largest olive groves, Sylmar, which means “Sea of Trees,” is situated just east of Interstate 5 and north of the city of San Fernando. Long before the areas were settled by the Spaniards, this was another home for the Tongva Indians. When the Spaniards arrived, Father Iballa, from the nearby Mission, recognized the similarity of the climate and soil to that found in the best olive-growing regions of Europe. By 1890, some businessmen from Illinois had bought up 2,000 acres of the land in the area and began a business of packing and selling the olives, which were known throughout the state for their sweetness and purity.
The ideal climate turned out to also be good for the treatment of respiratory problems and a tuberculosis sanitarium was opened in 1920, though it was destroyed by a fire in 1962. The 1971 Sylmar Earthquake destroyed the replacement medical center just after it was opened. The current Olive View-UCLA Medical Center now stands in its place and has been there since 1987. Though Sylmar shares many similar weather characteristics to the rest of the Valley, including dry sunny weather and minimal precipitation, the smog levels are generally lower as a result of the winds along the foothills that edge up one side of the community.
Sylmar has been ravaged by a number of natural disasters, from the 1971 Sylmar Earthquake and the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, the community suffered hundreds of millions in damages, not to mention a number of deaths and countless injuries. The district was again under siege from natural forces in 2008, when a massive wildfire, known as the Sayer Fire, burned its way along the foothills of Sylmar. It destroyed almost 500 residences and burned over 11,000 acres.
Like many others, the district has its own Recreation Center, which also functions as an LAPD stop-in center. It has auditoriums, a lighted baseball diamond, lighted basketball, and tennis courts, a children’s play area, a community room, an indoor gymnasium, and an unlighted soccer field, as well as picnic tables. Nearby, there is also the El Cariso Community Regional Park which has another lighted baseball diamond, basketball and tennis courts, children’s play areas, a community building, and even horseshoe pits. There’s also a kitchen area and picnic tables and a swimming pool. The Veterans Memorial Park has less organized sports venues but offers barbeques and picnic areas as well as camping grounds and public toilets.