The West is the newest part of the Valley and where you’ll find the cleanest air and most of the remaining nature. The hills around Calabasas and Agoura contain excellent hiking trails, not to mention the homes of many celebrities who enjoy the brand-new upscale homes being built there.
Agoura Hills sits in the eastern Conejo Valley, near neighboring communities of Calabasas, Malibu, and Westlake Village. The area was originally settled by the Chumash Indians around 10,000 years ago and was once known as Picture City because Paramount Pictures owned a ranch in the area, which was often used for filming Westerns. When the first post office was established, the postal department informed the chamber of commerce that they would need to submit a list of ten potential town names. Agoura came from the name of one of the more colorful early landowners in the area and was selected because it was the shortest of the ten choices.
It’s an area that is rich with hills and canyons and became an important ranching community with the arrival of the Spanish and the banishing of the Indians in the late 1700s. In the 1900s sheep and cattle ranches gave way to agriculture and the area was planted with celery, orchards, and wheat. The area became a home development community after that due to concerns of the farmers regarding their water supply. An influx from outside water sources ensured the community’s survival and growth and new highways continued to encourage development in the area. Agoura Hills saw its most rapid growth in the 1960s and officially became a city in 1982.
Agoura Hills is known for having an active live music scene and is specifically known for the nu-metal scene, which has been made famous by acts like Incubus and Linkin Park. Agoura Hills is home to the Canyon Club, a concert venue that has hosted major acts like Peter Frampton, Boys 2 Men, and REO Speedwagon. Though it used to be a fairly homogeneous community, it’s been gradually growing more diverse, and now has Hispanic, Jewish, and Iranian populations with a visible presence in the community.
Calabasas is a fully incorporated city that is located along the southwestern edge of the San Fernando Valley and falls just into the side of the Santa Monica Mountains. It is next to Woodland Hills and Agoura Hills and is fairly close to the beach community of Malibu, just separated by the mountain range. Calabasas is known as a fairly affluent community, with a number of mansions and gated homes. It is home to several celebrities including reality television stars, and the Kardashians, and boasts some spectacular views from its hillside homes.
Calabasas is home to the Leonis Adobe which dates from 1844 and can be counted as one of the oldest structures in the entire Los Angeles area. The name Calabasas comes from the Spanish and means pumpkin or squash and the city celebrates its history with an annual Pumpkin Festival in the Fall. In addition to the Pumpkin Festival, the city sponsors many public events including an annual Fourth of July spectacular and a fine arts festival. The weather in Calabasas is similar to that of the rest of the Valley, but due to the bordering hills and canyons, Calabasas usually stays a bit cooler during hot weather than neighboring areas.
In addition to its famous residents and historical landmarks, Calabasas also has a Hindu Temple, a large Civic Center with a library, meeting rooms, and an amphitheater. The Civic Center is also home to the city’s very own television channel – CTV (The Calabasas Channel). Industry-wise, Calabasas has a lot of technology companies. While less than during the dot-com days, there are still enough to make a significant presence.
The preservation of the environment has always been an important issue for the residents of Calabasas. In 2006, a second smoke ordinance was issued, prohibiting smoking in all public places, including outdoor environments like parks. They also work hard to preserve many of the existing open areas of space, doing their best to prohibit overcrowding and overdevelopment, which can result in hazardous effects on the environment.
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.
The Tongva tribe of Native Americans, who lived alongside the Los Angeles River, were the first people to call Reseda in the San Fernando Valley home. In 1912, after the Indians left, Reseda changed into an agricultural community called Marian, after the daughter of Harrison Gray Otis, publisher of the Los Angeles Times. The town was called Reseda sometime about 1920, after a North African dye plant that can only flourish in hot, arid climes like the one in the vicinity.
World War II veterans were returning home as Reseda, one of the first real suburbs in the San Fernando Valley was subdivided and built. Orange trees were replaced with housing developments, and by 1950, the Valley’s population had risen to 400,000. The region experienced an influx of Latino immigrants in the 1980s. The area transitioned from a middle-class neighborhood to a working-class town as a result, along with a natural fall in the Caucasian population brought on by aging and declining birth rates, as well as a decline in income.
The real epicenter of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake occurred in Reseda, close to the intersection of Wilbur Avenue and Saticoy Street, which is a little-known fact about the neighborhood. The shaker was initially said to be in Northridge, but by the time tests revealed the true origin, the name had already taken hold.
A number of big-budget movies have been filmed in Reseda, including The Karate Kid, Boogie Nights, and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Famous chase scenes from the most recent film were shot near the Los Angeles River’s channel. From Soul Coughing’s “Screenwriter’s Blues” to Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin,” Reseda is acknowledged in music.
There is a park in Reseda with a sizable duck pond. The pond once had a boathouse where you could hire electric boats by the hour throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In addition, the park has lit tennis and basketball courts outside, a lit baseball diamond, a kids’ play area, a community room, a seasonally heated outdoor pool, picnic tables, and barbecue pits.
The San Fernando Valley neighborhood is located along the major thoroughfares of Reseda Boulevard, Tampa Avenue, Wilbur Avenue, Burbank, and Ventura Boulevards, and is bordered by the communities of Reseda, Woodland Hills, Encino, and the Santa Monica Mountains. Most of the locals live in the Santa Monica Mountains’ foothills, just south of Ventura Boulevard. Just north of the Ventura Freeway is Melody Acres, a distinctive rural enclave.
Two country clubs in Tarzana have golf courses in the Santa Monica Mountains. This area of the Valley is fairly prosperous and has a number of gated communities. Another area that originally belonged to the San Fernando Mission was Tarzana. After it joined the United States, it briefly served as a number of sizable cow ranches, and then, in the 1870s, it operated as a sizable wheat farm. The Los Angeles Suburban Homes Company bought the land in 1909, transforming it into Runnymede, a more residential neighborhood. Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author of Tarzan, acquired a sizable plot of land in 1915 and began construction on Tarzana Ranch, a house. The town was then christened Tarzana in honor of Burroughs and his fabled tale by the locals.
With a typical family income of over $73,000, Tarzana has a primarily White (almost 80%) population, followed by Asian and African-American. A growing number of Iranian Americans live in Tarzana, which is also noted for having a large number of Persian eateries, bookstores, and language schools. A long-standing and well-established Jewish community can also be found nearby.
Like many other districts, Tarzana has a recreation complex with a gym/auditorium and a park with picnic tables, a baseball diamond with lights, lighted outdoor basketball, and volleyball courts, and barbecue pits.
Warner Center is an important edge community that is technically part of the Woodland Hills area of the San Fernando Valley, though it stands on its own as a place of commerce and activity. It was built to both generate jobs in the Valley and to relieve some of the traffic issues to and from Downtown Los Angeles and acts as the lively center of jobs and entertainment for the more residential portions of Woodland Hills. It is now home to several large and important companies in the area. First designed and envisioned in the 1970s, this relative newcomer was considered a completed project by the mid-90s.
Warner Center is primarily a business and shopping district and is comprised of both low-rise office buildings and skyscrapers as well as two major shopping malls, Westfield Promenade and the nearby Westfield Topanga, which include a host of shopping options as well as restaurants and movie theaters. The three tallest buildings are all next to each other and rise above the landscape like a miniature skyline, marking this activity hub and making it visible from the 101 Freeway. Retail presence includes a large Westfield Promenade, which is a shopper’s delight and has an extensive selection of shops from boutiques to large department stores.
The district is named for Harry Warner, who is the oldest of the Warner Brothers. He had been the owner of the land since the 1940s. Adjacent to the high-rise buildings, sits Warner Center Park, the land for which was donated by Harry Warner’s family. The park boasts a beautiful Pavilion, which is the permanent home of the Valley Cultural Center’s Concerts in the Park series, a number of free outdoor concerts on Sundays in the summer, starting in June and finishing up on Labor Day each year.
Encompassing postal codes 91307 and 91304, West Hills is a San Fernando Valley District and part of the City of Los Angeles. It’s bordered by Chatsworth, Canoga Park, Woodland Hills, and Hidden Hills. There are two major creeks in the West Hills, Bell and Dayton Creeks. They are part of the headwaters of the Los Angeles River and help contribute to the presence of indigenous wildlife in the area. In addition to the wildlife, West Hills was once the homeland of Tongva and Chumash Indian tribes, who lived close to Bell Creek. What is now known as Bell Canyon Park was once the popular meeting and trading area for the Native Americans and a nearby cave, the Cave of Munits is believed to be the home of a mythical Chumash shaman.
After the Spanish came to the area, West Hills became part of the nearby mission and then later, after the Mexican independence, part of the Ex-Mission. Once under American control, West Hills was originally part of what was once Owensmouth and is now known as Canoga Park. West Hills wasn’t formed formally until 1987 when homeowners on the western side of Canoga Park filed a petition to form their own new community.
There are two historic ranches still in the area, Orcutt Ranch Estate, and Shadow Ranch, as well as the home of a silent film star. All three have been awarded Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument status, with the recognition and protection that comes along with it. Orcutt Ranch Estate was built in 19020 and is an adobe-style residence. The park surrounding the ranch has the Orcutt Ranch Horticultural Center, which offers self-guided walking tours, scheduled home tours, community gardens, and an annual public citrus harvest. The home and park are also available for weddings and events. Shadow Ranch and the surrounding lands which are now a park, were purchased in 1869 and boast a plethora of eucalyptus trees that create the shade and shadows for which the ranch is named.
Winnetka is a San Fernando Valley district located in the west-central part of the Valley, next to Canoga Park, Woodland Hills, Chatsworth, and Reseda. It also falls between the Los Angeles River and the Southern Pacific Coast Line railroad. It’s a town that was born around 1920 when a man named Charles Weeks made his way to the area at the request of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce to establish a number of small egg farms. He had originally developed his formula for raising eggs further north, in East Palo Alto, CA, and he applied that formula to this new area.
The community grew up into a small farming establishment called Weeks Poultry Colony. Later, it was renamed Winnetka. Weeks had owned a farm by the same name in Winnetka, Illinois. The area remained rural and predominantly used for agricultural purposes until after World War II. Originally part of the Canoga Park district, Winnetka formally separated to form its own district in the 1980s.
The population of Winnetka is mostly a fairly even mix of Latino and Caucasian, with smaller groups of Asians and African-Americans rounding out most of the demographic. The median household income puts the neighborhood in the middle class and the school system falls under the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Winnetka has a few smaller park and recreation activities, including the Winnetka Recreation Center, Quimby Park, Runnymeade Park, and the Winnetka Child Care Center. Most of the parks offer some sort of organized activity venues, from indoor gymnasiums to baseball diamonds, tennis and basketball courts and children’s play areas, though Quimby park does not have toilet facilities. The Child Care Center is operated by the city of Winnetka and takes children from ages 3-13, with a capacity for 59 after-school children and 40 preschool children.
Originally named Girard, Woodland Hills is a San Fernando Valley district located in the southwestern part of the region near West Hills, Canoga Park and Calabasas. Some of the neighborhoods in Woodland Hills trail up the side of the Santa Monica Mountains. Once inhabited for over 8,000 years by the Native Americans, the area became part of the Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana once the Spaniards came to stay.
Following Mexican Independence, it became part of the Rancho Mission Ex-San Fernando and then finally was bought by the Americans in the 1860s. Because of the size of the area purchased in what was known as the biggest land transaction ever recorded in Los Angeles County, it would be almost 12 years before Woodland Hills would be developed, trailing behind earlier developments of Van Nuys and Canoga Park.
Woodland Hills is known for having some of the warmest weather in the entire San Fernando Valley, with temperatures often reaching well into the triple digits during the heat of summer. In contrast, it can often be the coolest place in the winter and is classified as having a Mediterranean climate. Speaking demographically, Woodland Hills is almost 80% White, with Asians making up another 7%, and African Americans garnering about 12%. The rest is a fairly even mix of Pacific Islanders, African Americans, and Native Americans.
Woodland Hills is a heavily suburban community with many interconnected neighborhoods. It sports a recreation center at Shoup Park, which is 19 acres in size and has a number of facilities, including an indoor gymnasium/auditorium, a lighted baseball diamond, outdoor lighted basketball, and tennis courts, a lighted soccer field, a children’s play area, a football field, and an outdoor, seasonal swimming pool. Serrania Park is a local pocket park with a children’s play area, picnic tables, and hiking trails. If you want a little more adventure, you can head to the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, a regional park along the western boundary of Woodland Hills, which has an extensive trail network for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback rides. A trip to the top will reward you with a panoramic view of Woodland Hills and the surrounding areas.