The Southern part of the Valley stretches along Ventura Boulevard. This is the cultural artery of the Valley and where you’ll find all the best eating and drinking venues. The very nicest homes are also found in the hills just South of Ventura.
Canoga Park once went by Owensmouth and is a district in the San Fernando Valley that is bordered by Woodland Hills, West Hills, Chatsworth, and Winnetka. It was originally the home of two Native American tribes who were settled in the Simi Hills and along the Los Angeles River. In the late 1800s, the area became part of the Mission San Fernando. After the Mexican War of Independence, it became part of the Rancho Ex-Mission San Fernando.
The southern half of the San Fernando Valley was purchased by the San Fernando Homestead Association in 1863 to establish wheat ranch operations. The American town, founded in 1912, was originally called Owensmouth because it was called the new mouth of the Owen’s River by a real estate salesman. It was a little brother to the bigger city of Van Nuys and often promoted itself with a baby motif. The name was changed to Canoga Park in 1930 and at the time had a number of farms involved in fruit and vegetable production as well as some livestock and horses. The area was also home to some movie and television location filming.
Due to a lack of an independent water supply, Canoga Park was annexed into the City of Los Angeles in 1917. In the 1950s, a number of aerospace companies, including Rocketdyne and Boeing, made their way to Canoga Park and in the 1980s a large section of the area was re-appropriated to become West Hills and Winnetka. The town has a fairly diverse community and is mostly made up of suburban neighborhoods with a few light industrial and commercial areas. There is a recreation center in Canoga Park called the Lanark Recreation Center. It has lighted outdoor basketball and volleyball courts, a children’s play area, lighted football and soccer fields, an indoor gym, picnic tables, and an auditorium.
Named for one of the ranches given to the Mexican government by the Indians, Encino sits along the 101 Freeway and borders up to the edge of the Santa Monica Mountains, sandwiched between Tarzana and Sherman Oaks. The area is home to two major medical centers and primarily provides employment in the healthcare business. The area is overwhelmingly Caucasian in demographic, with almost 90% of the population classified as white.
Encino is home to the Los Encinos State Historic Park, which includes the original nine-room de la Ossa Adobe, a blacksmith shop, a pond, and a natural spring. The Sepulveda Dam Recreation area has a cricket complex with some of the best grass cricket pitches in the United States. Many famous stars have played there since the late 1800s. There are also two municipal golf courses, one short course and one medium length, both with cart and club rental, classes, a lighted driving range, a lounge, chipping and putting greens, and a restaurant. There’s an off-leash dog park also in the Sepulveda Basin, where your favorite pooch can roam free while you rest in the picnic area.
Encino has been the setting for popular songs and movies, including Encino Man and Frank Zappa’s 1982 hit song, Valley Girl. A number of well-known films were shot in the area, including Fast Times at Ridgemont High and The Karate Kid. In addition to a spot in show business, Encino has a place in the sports world with a velodrome and oval track which has been the site of outdoor bicycle racing since 1963. Encino was also notably the site of the Encino Oak Tree, a giant California live oak that died following an El Nino storm in 1998. Today a monument sits in its place at the corner of Ventura Blvd. and Louise Avenue. In keeping with the nature theme, L.A.’s largest Earth Day festival takes place at Woodley Park each year.
NoHo Arts District
The NoHo Arts District is a relative newcomer in the San Fernando Valley, born out of a small stretch of the communities of Valley Village and North Hollywood. It is a cluster of theaters, cafes, art galleries, and shops, mostly set along relatively short stretches of Magnolia Blvd., Lankershim Blvd., Burbank Blvd., and Vineland Ave. There are more than 20 professional theaters in the area as well as professional dance studios and the largest number of music recording venues in the West. Access to the district is easy from Universal City, Hollywood, and Downtown Los Angeles, as the Red Line of the Metro stops right in the thick of things at the North Hollywood Station.
The district was established in 1992 by members of the Universal City/North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, choosing the name NoHo as a reference to the location in North Hollywood and a play-off of New York City’s artsy SoHo District. This change helped developed a once primarily lower to middle-class suburb into something much greater – a collection of art and a home for the artists who ply their trade in the galleries, theaters, and dance studios in this small annex.
Each year, more restaurants, urban, loft-style living communities, and shops are springing up in the area, bringing greater class, style, and refinement, as well as a new host of dining, living, and entertainment options, including modern apartments, local chain favorites like Starbucks and Coldstone, and a Valley outpost of the popular Hollywood sports bar and hot wings spot, Big Wangs. Older complexes like the American Renegade Theater and historical theaters like the El Portal have been redesigned and renovated and the entire community is undergoing efforts to beautify the area and make it more appealing to businesses. Storefronts are continuously being revamped along Magnolia, Lankershim, and Burbank Blvd.
Officially named North Hollywood in 1927, this region of the Valley, which has also been known as Toluca and Lankershim, sits near the 170 and the 101 Freeways, just a short ride over the hill from Hollywood. It is home to a smaller neighborhood, known as the NoHo Arts District.
The area is known historically for being the site of the signing of the Treaty of Cahuenga, which ended the US and Mexican fight in California. The treaty was signed at an adobe house that sat along what is now Lankershim Blvd. In the early 1900s, the city was known as “The Home of the Peach,” because the major employer in the area was a fruit cannery, the Bonner Fruit Company. In more recent history, North Hollywood gained notoriety, when in 1997, it was the location of a major shootout between LAPD and two armed gunmen at a Bank of America branch on Laurel Canyon Blvd. Two suspects were killed and fifteen people were injured during the terrifying incident which involved over 200 police officers.
North Hollywood is home to the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, a non-profit organization, which was formed to advance telecommunication arts and sciences and to help promote creativity and leadership in the television community. The annual Emmy Awards are put on by the Television Academy each year.
Recreation in the area can be found at North Hollywood Park, which has a jogging trail, picnic areas, and public restroom facilities. Weekends often see the park full of activities, from joggers and small workout groups to family picnics and birthday parties. On the creative side, the more recent development of the NoHo Arts District as an art-centric neighborhood development has brought exciting life to the area and many local residents are part of the entertainment community. In recent years, the area has seen new life in the form of modern loft-style living, new and popular dining and entertainment options, and a resurgence of local and community theater.
Living along the Los Angeles River, the Native American Tongva tribe was the first inhabitants of the San Fernando Valley district known as Reseda. Following the departure of the Indians, Reseda became a farm town, called Marian, in 1912, named for the daughter of the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, Harrison Gray Otis. It was around 1920 that the community was renamed Reseda, after a North African dye plant that grows only in hot, dry climates, similar to that of the area.
Reseda is considered one of the first actual suburbs in the San Fernando Valley and was being subdivided and developed as World War II veterans were making their way home. Orange groves gave way to housing tracts and by 1950, the population in the Valley had reached 400,000. In the 1980s the area saw an influx of Latino immigrants. That, along with a natural decline in the Caucasian population as a result of aging and lowering birth rates, and a decreasing level of income, resulting in the neighborhood changing over from a middle-class community and moving back towards the working-class town it had previously been.
A little-known fact about the area is that the actual epicenter of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake was located in Reseda, near the intersection of Wilbur Avenue and Saticoy Street. Early reports had put the shaker in Northridge, but by the time tests determined the actual origin, the name had already stuck.
Reseda has been both the location and filming place for a number of major motion pictures, including The Karate Kid, Boogie Nights, and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The last movie has some very famous chase scenes filmed along the channel of the Los Angeles River. Reseda is also mentioned in music, from Tom Petty’s song, “Free Fallin,” to Soul Coughing’s “Screenwriter’s Blues.”
Reseda has its own park, which has a large duck pond. During the 50s and 60s, the pond used to have a boathouse where you could rent electric boats by the hour. The park also has lighted outdoor basketball and tennis courts, a lighted baseball diamond, a children’s play area, a community room, an outdoor, seasonal unheated pool, picnic tables, and barbeque pits.
Stretching over 8 square miles, between Studio City, Van Nuys, and Encino, Sherman Oaks is a largely urbanized district in the San Fernando Valley. Drive along Ventura Blvd, and you’ll see commercial skyscrapers sandwiched between shopping centers. Residential development includes dense areas of apartments and condominiums as well as pockets of streets with single-family homes. Sometimes the two are even sided by side as you make your way down a street in Sherman Oaks. It is a Valley hub for shopping and business.
Historically, Sherman Oaks was one of the original communities in the San Fernando Valley to participate in active real estate development. As early as 1913, the Los Angeles Suburban Homes Co. began purchasing acreage in the area to subdivide into housing tracts. Sherman Oaks is not a separate city and still falls under the jurisdiction of the City of Los Angeles. Many financial corporations, including banks and brokerage firms, are headquartered in Sherman Oaks. Shopping is also a prominent industry in the community, with several high-end boutiques dotting Ventura Blvd. The Sherman Oaks Galleria, which was badly damaged during the Northridge Earthquake was once known as a 1980’s iconic locale, where valley girls used to meet with their friends. The label valley girl stuck after being made famous in the 1983 movie, Valley Girl. The Galleria has since been rebuilt into an open-air shopping, dining, and entertainment mecca. The community also has a more traditional mall, The Westfield Shopping Town Fashion Square, which is bookended by Bloomingdales and Macy’s and has everything you could want in between.
In the recreation department, Sherman Oaks has a number of activity options at the Van Nuys Sherman Oaks Park. There’s an auditorium, two lighted baseball diamonds and six unlighted ones, lighted indoor and outdoor basketball courts, a children’s play area, a community room, lighted football and soccer fields, lighted tennis courts, and an indoor gymnasium. The Van Nuys Sherman Oaks Pool offers nearby seasonal outdoor heated swimming. There is also a Senior Citizen Center on the park grounds, which has an auditorium and meeting and banquet rooms of its own, as well as two kitchens, a play area, and even a spot to play shuffleboard. The separate tennis courts facility has eight courts. And just nearby, should crave some good old-fashioned family fun, you can find Castle Park, which has an arcade, batting cages, and miniature golf.
Studio City earned its moniker in the 1920s when a man named Mack Sennett moved his studios to a spot near Colfax Avenue and Ventura Blvd. Today those same studios fall under the CBS family and are known as CBS Radford. It’s a seven-square-mile district with a balance of residential and commercial properties and is a mecca for quality shopping, dining, and entertainment in the San Fernando Valley. The area is famous with the locals for having one of the highest concentrations of quality sushi restaurants anywhere in the Valley.
Studio City is home to Beeman Park, the local recreation center, which has an auditorium, barbeque pits, a lighted baseball diamond, outdoor basketball and tennis courts, a children’s play area, and picnic tables. They boast the second-largest youth baseball program in the public parks. They also have a number of other programs and classes available. Smaller pocket parks, Moorpark Park and Woodbridge Park both have children’s play areas and picnic tables.
If you crave a bit of the outdoors and a chance to hike, visit nearby Fryman Canyon, located just off Laurel Canyon Blvd. at Fryman. The local fire road will take you up and around the hills and the path offers lovely views of the Valley on a clear day. And in the Spring, when the mustard flowers are in full bloom, the whole area is blanketed in a wash of yellow flowers. When you hit the end of the trail you can wander down through an elegant residential neighborhood and admire the architecture of the sprawling homes.
Studio City is known for having some of the best public schools in the Los Angeles Unified School district, including the renowned Carpenter Elementary. The desirability of living in the 91604 zip code has resulted in property values and rents being higher in this area than in many of those surrounding it.
Surrounded by Reseda, Woodland Hills, Encino, and the Santa Monica Mountains, the San Fernando Valley district makes its way along the major roads of Reseda Blvd, Tampa Avenue, Wilbur Avenue, and Burbank and Ventura Blvds. Most of the residents of the area are in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains just south of Ventura Blvd. A unique rural area called Melody acres sits just north of the Ventura Freeway.
Tarzana is home to two country clubs with golf courses in the Santa Monica Mountains. There are also a number of gated communities in this fairly well-to-do part of the Valley. Tarzana was another district that was once part of the San Fernando Mission, which was then followed by a time as a series of large cattle ranches once it became part of the United States, followed closely with a stint as a large-scale wheat farm operation in the 1870s. A purchase of the land by the Los Angeles Suburban Homes Company in 1909 turned the area into a more residential development, once called Runnymede. In 1915, Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs bought a large piece of land and built a home known as Tarzana Ranch. The townspeople later renamed the town Tarzana as a tribute to Burroughs and his legendary story.
The racial makeup of Tarzana is predominantly White (almost 80%), followed by Asian and African-American, with a median household income of around $73,000. Tarzana is home to a growing Iranian-American population and is well-known for having many Persian restaurants, bookstores, and language centers. There is also a longstanding and well-established Jewish community in the area.
Tarzana, like many other districts, has its own recreation center with a gymnasium/auditorium and a park with barbeque pits, a lighted baseball diamond, lighted outdoor basketball and volleyball courts, a children’s play area, and picnic tables.
Valley Village is a pocket neighborhood that is predominantly made up of small businesses and single-family homes. It has a fairly significant Jewish population. Though the community was formed in 1939, it wasn’t until the 1990’s that it was recognized as a separate community from its slightly more downscale neighbor North Hollywood, by the Los Angeles City Council. On the other side, Valley Village sidles up to the affluent neighborhoods of Sherman Oaks and Studio City. It is bordered by the Ventura and Hollywood Freeways, as well as Tujunga Ave. and Burbank Blvd. The neighborhood was most recently featured in the television program, The Sarah Silverman Show.
Valley Village has an active citizen advisory board, called the Neighborhood Council Valley Village, which elects representatives and works hard to give a voice to everyone in the community. It functions as a bridge between Valley Village and City Hall and consists of 15 board members who are elected by the Stakeholders. The group is divided among homeowners, renters, business owners, the educational community, the faith-based community, and the local senior and service organizations. This is a concerted effort on the part of the council to give a voice to every segment of their valued community. Valley Village even has its own website to help bring the neighborhood together via message boards and listings of local events.
The neighborhood has its own little park, Valley Village Park, which is an unstaffed pocket park, hidden off several residential streets and tucked in against the side of the 170 Freeway. It’s technically part of the larger North Hollywood Park, located just on the other side of the 170 Freeway, and is open from dawn until dusk. On any given weekend, families gather to throw outdoor parties, with barbeques and inflatable jumpers. In the afternoons, during the week, one end of the park often turns into an unofficial dog park, with neighbors gathering to chat while their furry friends run and play.
Falling right in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, Van Nuys was first developed as a town in the early 1900s. Though it was supposed to be built on a well-thought-out city plan, it is unfortunately prone to severe flooding during rainstorms. It is notable for its “auto row,” a long stretch of car dealerships dotted along Van Nuys Blvd, most likely brought about following the development of the General Motors Van Nuys Assembly Plant in 1945. It has a number of 1920s and 30’s era homes, as well as a police station and a branch of the Los Angeles Public Library.
Van Nuys was a new town in the Valley around 1911 and is named after Isaac Van Nuys, a man of Dutch descent, who took part in a ranching venture known as the San Fernando Homestead Association. Though it was the presence of the large development conglomerate, the Los Angeles Suburban Home Association that created what was known as “The Town That Started Right.” The city developed slowly throughout the early 1900s and was a solidly middle-class neighborhood until the late 1970s. Like much of the Valley, the median income has dropped since then.
There are a number of public schools in the area, as well as the Van Nuys Recreation Area, which has an auditorium, a gymnasium, meeting rooms, baseball diamonds, and lighted basketball and tennis courts. There are also picnic tables and barbeque pits for family outings. Van Nuys also functions as a county seat for the San Fernando Valley. It has a Government Center, which contains a branch of the Los Angeles Country Superior Court, the Van Nuys Police Station, and the Van Nuys offices for Los Angeles City Hall, as well as the Van Nuys State Office Building and branch of the Los Angeles Public Library.