The San Fernando Valley is bounded by the Santa Susana Mountains to the northwest, the Simi Hills to the west, the Santa Monica Mountains to the south, the Verdugo Mountains to the east, and the San Gabriel Mountains to the northeast. The Sierra Pelona Mountains (to the north) can be seen in parts of the San Fernando Valley from the gap between the Santa Susana and San Gabriel (Newhall Pass). The Los Angeles River starts at the confluence of Calabasas and Bell Canyon creeks behind Canoga Park High School in Canoga Park and flows east along the southern areas of the Valley. One of the river's only unpaved section can be found at the Sepulveda Basin. Another waterway, the Tujunga Wash, drains much of the western San Gabriel Mountains and, after passing through the Hansen Dam Recreation Center, winds south through the eastern communities of the Valley before merging with the Los Angeles River in Studio City. Other tributaries of the Los Angeles River include Caballero Creek, Bull Creek, Pacoima Wash, and Verdugo Wash. The valley's elevation varies from between about 250 and 1,200 ft. above sea level.
Most of the San Fernando Valley is within the City of Los Angeles, California, although several smaller cities are within the Valley as well; Burbank and Glendale are in the southeast corner of the Valley, Hidden Hills and Calabasas are in the southwest corner, and San Fernando, which is completely surrounded by the City of Los Angeles, is in the northeast Valley. Universal City, an enclave in the southern part of the Valley, is unincorporated land housing the Universal Studios filming lot. Mulholland Drive, which runs along the ridgeline of the Santa Monica Mountains, marks the boundary between the Valley and the communities of Hollywood and Los Angeles' westside.
Los Angeles' administrative center for the Valley is in Van Nuys. The area in and around the former Van Nuys City Hall is home to a police station, municipal and superior courts and Los Angeles city and county administrative offices. Northridge is home to California State University Northridge. The 1994 Northridge Earthquake (January 17, 1994 which measured 6.7 on the Richter Scale), one of the few major earthquakes to have struck directly under a major city, was epicentered in neighboring Reseda just east of the intersection of Elkwood Street and Baird Avenue. An earlier major temblor (in 1971), The Sylmar Quake (February 9, 1971 and measured 6.5 on the Richter Scale), was also a killer, having destroyed the Olive View and Veterans Administration Hospitals, and rendered the east west Interstate 210 useless for a number of years due to severe damage. Prior to development, before the arrival of the Los Angeles Owens Valley Aqueduct water, the valley was a bleak semi-desert, too dry for extensive agriculture over more than a small part of the valley. The water brought farming with some major crops including corn, cotton, persimmons, lemons, oranges, and walnuts. The advent of three new industries - motion picture, automobile, and aircraft - spurred urbanization and population growth. World War II and a subsequent post war boom accelerated this growth so that by 1960, the valley had a population of well over 1 million.
The Valley shares the Los Angeles Basin's dry, sunny weather. Although the southwestern edge of the Valley is less than 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the Valley can be considerably hotter than the Los Angeles Basin during the summer months and cooler during the winter months. Temperatures in the Valley normally reach as high as the nineties and triple-digits during latter part of summer and early fall, from around late June through early October. The West Valley community of Woodland Hills has set the highest recorded temperature in the City of Los Angeles of 119 °F (49 °C) in 2006, the coldest recorded temperature was in Canoga Park 18 °F (-8 °C) in 1989. Also, rainfall accumulations tend to be slightly higher in the Valley during the rainy season in comparison to the Los Angeles Basin and the coast. The valley is more likely to get snow during winter months than the Los Angeles basin, although snow in San Fernando valley is quite rare. The last measurable accumulation of snow in the valley was in 1988 while the last measurable accumulation of snow in the Los Angeles basin was in 1960. The Valley is prone to smog, particularly in the summer, because of the mountain ranges surrounding it and because vertical motion in the atmosphere is often blocked by temperature inversions. Environmental regulations and improvements through the years have cut the smog levels almost in half since they peaked in the 1960s.
The official first rancho and adobe settlement in the South-East part of The San Fernando Valley was occupied by The Reyes family, in what is now Encino, California, but a rancho settlement in the North-East part of The San Fernando Valley was occupied by The Cota Family, near the mission at San Fernando, California.
The treaty ending the Mexican-American War in California was signed near the mouth of the Cahuenga Pass (at the southeast corner of San Fernando Valley) at an a adobe owned by The Verdugo Family at Campo de Cahuenga in 1847.
After the construction of the Owens Valley-Los Angeles Aqueduct, the mostly rural area was annexed by the city of Los Angeles in 1915, more than doubling the size of the city. A highly fictionalized story based on these events is told in the film Chinatown (1974). Los Angeles continued to consolidate its territories in the San Fernando Valley by annexing Laurel Canyon (1923), Lankershim (1923), Sunland (1926), Tuna Canyon (1926), the incorporated city of Tujunga (1932), and Porter Ranch (1965). The additions expanded the Los Angeles portion of San Fernando Valley from the original to today. Six cities incorporated independent from Los Angeles: Glendale (1906), Burbank (1911), San Fernando (1911) Hidden Hills (1961), Calabasas (1991). Universal City is an unincorporated enclave that is home to Universal Studios theme park and Universal CityWalk.
In 2002, Los Angeles residents defeated a proposal under which the San Fernando Valley portion of the City of Los Angeles would have seceded and become an independent incorporated city of its own. Had the proposal passed, it would have created a new municipality of with about 1.3 million residents. The new Valley City would have been the sixth most populous city in the U.S., just ahead of Phoenix. Los Angeles would have become the third largest city in the nation, behind New York City and Chicago.
The Valley attempted to secede in the 1970s, but the state passed a law barring city formation without the approval of the City Council. In 1997, Assemblymen Bob Hertzberg and Tom McClintock helped pass a bill that would make it easier for the Valley to secede by removing the City Council veto. AB 62 was signed into law by Governor Pete Wilson. Meanwhile, a grassroots movement to split the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and create new San Fernando Valley-based school districts became the focal point of the desire to leave the city. Though the state rejected the idea of Valley-based districts, it remained an important rallying point for Hertzberg's mayoral campaign, which proved unsuccessful.
Before secession could come out for a vote, the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) studied the fiscal viability of the new city and decided that the new city must mitigate any fiscal loss incurred by the rest of Los Angeles. LAFCO concluded that a new San Fernando Valley city would be financially viable, but would need to mitigate the $60.8 million that Los Angeles would lose in revenues. Secessionists took this figure as evidence that the Valley gave more money to Los Angeles than it received back in services. This triggered a petition drive led by Valley VOTE to put secession on the ballot. Measures F and H not only decided whether the Valley became a city but voters also got to pick a new name for it. The proposed names on the ballot were as follows: San Fernando Valley, Rancho San Fernando, Mission Valley, Valley City and Camelot. Along with Measures F and H, elections were held for fourteen council members and a mayor.
Valley politicians such as State Senator Richard Alarcon and City Council President Alex Padilla opposed the initiatives. The leader of the LAUSD breakup and former congresswoman and busing opponent Bobbie Fiedler also campaigned against secession. Supporters pointed out that the Valley suffered from many of the same problems of poverty, crime, drug and gang activity as the rest of the city.
The proposal passed with a slight majority in the Valley, but was defeated by the rest of Los Angeles voters due to a heavily-funded campaign against it led by former Los Angeles mayor James Hahn. Republican Assemblyman Keith Richman of Northridge was voted in as mayor of the stillborn city. Richman and other activists behind the secession movement attempted to redirect their civic energies toward influencing Los Angeles city politics, but their efforts largely fizzled. Hertzberg's 2005 mayoral campaign, which received heavy support in the Valley, nonetheless finished in third place (only a few percentage points behind incumbent Mayor Hahn), and no secession supporters were elected to positions on the Los Angeles City Council.
Many neighborhoods of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley have 'seceded' from one another in the form of renaming and reforming known community boundaries. Groups are motivated by the desire to disassociate themselves from undesirable connotations that some communities have inherited and, in the process, increase property values. Lake Balboa broke away from Van Nuys. Valley Village, Studio City and Valley Glen separated from North Hollywood. West Hills and Winnetka separated from Canoga Park. Porter Ranch seceded from Northridge. Arleta successfully broke off from Pacoima but was thwarted in its attempts to carve out a separate ZIP code. The separate districts are in name only as none of the communities have actual governmental authority and all of the communities remain politically part of the City of Los Angeles.
The San Fernando Valley had a population 1,996,347 in 2000. In 2004, the Los Angeles County Urban Research Unit and Population Division estimated that its population had dropped to 1,808,599. The largest cities located entirely in the valley are Glendale and Burbank. The most populous districts of Los Angeles in the valley are North Hollywood and Van Nuys. Each of the two cities and the two districts named has more than 100,000 residents. Despite the San Fernando Valley's reputation for sprawling, low-density development, the Valley communities of Panorama City, North Hollywood, Van Nuys, Reseda, Canoga Park, and Northridge, all in Los Angeles, have numerous apartment complexes and contain some of the densest census tracts in Los Angeles.
Latinos and non-Hispanic whites are nearly even in numbers, combining to comprise more than four out of five Valley residents. In general, communities in the northeastern, central, and southeastern parts of the Valley have the highest concentration of Latinos. Non-Hispanic Whites live mainly along the communities along the region's mountain rim and in the northwestern and southern sections of the valley. The city of Glendale has a large and influential Armenian community. The cities of San Fernando, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, and the Tarzana area of Los Angeles are quite homogeneous in racial makeup.
Asian Americans make up 10.7% of the population and live throughout the Valley, but are most numerous in the city of Glendale and the Los Angeles communities of Chatsworth, Panorama City, Porter Ranch and Granada Hills. African Americans compose 5.1% of the Valley's population, living mainly in the Los Angeles sections of Lake View Terrace, Pacoima, Reseda, Valley Village, Van Nuys, and Northridge. Another large ethnic element is the Iranian community with 200,000 people living mainly in west San Fernando Valley. The valley is also home to a large and influential Jewish community.
Poverty rates in the San Fernando Valley are lower than the rest of the county (15.3% compared to 17.9%). Nevertheless, in eight San Fernando Valley communities, at least one in five residents lives in poverty.
The Pacoima district of Los Angeles is widely known in the region as a hub of suburban blight. Other San Fernando Valley communities, such as the Los Angeles sections of Mission Hills, Arleta, and Sylmar, have poverty rates well below the regional average, even lower than neighborhoods populated by a higher number of white residents.
Many wealthy families live in the hills south of Ventura Boulevard; as a result, the phrase "South of the Boulevard" has become a buzzword in the local real estate industry.
Communities of the City of Los Angeles
+Common usage of the term San Fernando Valley include these communities that are in Crescenta Valley.
The Valley became the pioneering region for producing adult films in the 1970s and since then has been home to a multi-billion dollar pornography industry earning the monikers "Porn Valley", "San Pornando Valley" or "Silicone Valley" (a play on Silicon Valley and silicone breast implants). The leading trade paper for that field (AVN Magazine) is based in the Northwest Valley, as are a majority of the nation's adult video and magazine distributors. According to the HBO series Porn Valley, nearly 90% of all legally distributed pornographic films made in the United States are either filmed in or by studios based in the San Fernando Valley.
Although most of the Valley is part of Los Angeles, its development pattern is almost exclusively suburban, and the automobile is the dominant mode of transportation. Several freeways criss-cross the Valley, most notably, Interstate 405, U.S. Route 101, State Route 118, and Interstate 5. Most of the major thoroughfares run on a cartographic grid; notable streets include Sepulveda Boulevard, Ventura Boulevard, Laurel Canyon Boulevard, San Fernando Road, Victory Boulevard, Reseda Boulevard, Riverside Drive, Mulholland Drive, and State Route 27 (Topanga Canyon Boulevard).
Despite the dominance of the automobile, the Valley has two Metro subway stations, in Universal City and North Hollywood, which opened in 2000 as an extension of the Metro Red Line Subway connecting the Valley to Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles. The Orange Line, an east-west Bus Rapid Transit bus-way was opened in October 2005, connecting the North Hollywood Metro station to Warner Center in the west Valley. The new line features "train-like" articulated buses and very high frequency of service. Long-promised daily bus service between Sylmar and Santa Clarita began operating in 2006. Two Metrolink commuter rail lines connect the Valley to downtown Los Angeles, merging into one at Burbank. These operate on a limited schedule serving commuters only during regular work hours. Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner has stations at Burbank Airport, Van Nuys and Chatsworth. Five Metro Rapid bus rapid transit lines (the 734, the 741, the 750, the 761, and the 780) serve the area, with more planned. Metro service is planned and operated by the San Fernando Valley Sector under policies and oversight of its Governance Council
In the past decade, many large tracts of undeveloped or ranch lands in the mountains surrounding the Valley have been acquired for parkland. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and its affiliated agencies have purchased or otherwise acquired many of these lands, which are maintained as parkland by the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, California state parks, or local parks districts. In 2003 the Ahmanson Ranch, a 2,983 acre (12 km²) property in Ventura County at the west end of the Valley, was purchased by the State of California, and dedicated as the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve on April 10, 2004.
The Valley suffers from California's state-wide housing affordability problems. In August 2005, the median price of an average one family, two bedroom, one bath, home in the San Fernando Valley reached over $600,000. In 1997, it was only $155,000. In the summer of 2003, it reached $400,000 and by July 2005, it reached $578,500. From July to August (one month) 2005, it rose by $100,000. A cooling off was noted in 2006, when between November 2005 and November 2006, median prices rose by the smallest amount of any 12 month period since mid-1997. Indeed, November prices were lower than October prices, and sales for November had fallen 19.1% compared to a year earlier. The United States housing market correction hit the San Fernando Valley in 2007, with the median sales price falling from $660,000 at the peak in May 2007, to $500,000 by March 2008
The first and third The Karate Kid films (1984 and 1989 respectively) were mostly filmed and set in the Valley, while the second entry (1986) starts there but in the six-month flashforward, moves its story to Okinawa. A Cinderella Story (2004) also takes place in the San Fernando Valley.
Alpha Dog (2007) was based on a true story that happened in the San Fernando Valley in 2000, and it was mostly filmed in the Valley in Fall 2004, but, for legal reasons, it was fictionalized within the film to take place in the San Gabriel Valley instead.
In the 1994 movie Pulp Fiction directed by Quentin Tarantino, The Valley is referenced by Samuel L. Jackson's character, Jules, as being a place where Marsellus Wallace had no friends. This was in response to John Travolta's character, Vincent, accidentally shooting a man point blank in the face there in broad daylight.
The lifestyles of Valley teens in the 1980s, and their slang (Valspeak), were satirized in the Frank Zappa song "Valley Girl." The song featured his daughter, Moon Unit Zappa, performing Valspeak (example: "Like, grody to the max!").
Bing Crosby had a #1 hit song in 1944 called "The San Fernando Valley", written by Gordon Jenkins.
The protagonist of Tom Petty's song "Free Fallin'" has ended a relationship with a Valley girl, and mentions various locations and landmarks associated with the area: "It's a long day living in Reseda," "all the vampires walkin' through the Valley/ move west down Ventura Boulevard," and "I wanna glide down over Mulholland."
Roy Roger's song "Make My Home the San Fernando Valley."
"Van Nuys" by released in 2007 on the album "The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack."
"Van Nuys (Es Very Nice)" by Los Abandoned is a lament about the many immigrants who have left their country for the seemingly mundane and uncomfortable lifestyle in Van Nuys: "The summer's hot, it's hell the bus is always late/ The great big cloud of smog that makes you choke and hate/ Y dejaste tu pais por esto?"