An industry town that walks on the mild side

Studio City, like most San Fernando Valley developments, sprang up seemingly overnight, replacing lettuce fields with a sprawling new neighborhood on the banks of the L.A. River.

Unlike other Valley tracts, Studio City brought an air of glamour to its dusty, semirural surroundings when, in 1928, silent-movie legend Mack Sennett threw a star-studded gala to mark the opening of his new studio lot near the corner of Ventura Boulevard and Radford Avenue.

Diners, grocery stores and other businesses popped up on newly widened Ventura Boulevard, and the kinds of tidy little factory-town tract homes that were built with the budget and needs of grips, costumers and scenic artists in mind soon spread out on both sides of the river.

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The Depression bankrupted Sennett, but the B-movies kept rolling off the assembly line on Radford, as Republic Pictures eventually took ownership of the lot and began its run of profitable matinee serials and John Wayne oaters.

With plenty of work opportunities for talent behind and in front of the camera, not to mention relatively cheap land, Studio City became a destination neighborhood for stars and script supervisors alike.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the land south of Ventura Boulevard began to be developed in earnest, with new tracts laddering up narrow, snaking streets all the way to Mulholland Drive. Like other parts of the city that had a high density of entertainment industry creatives in that era, Studio City south of the Boulevard features homes from masters of midcentury-modern design such as Raphael Soriano, Rudolph Schindler and Gregory Ain.

Today Studio City is still home to many celebrities and entertainment professionals. Aside from Mack Sennett’s old lot (now called CBS Studio Center), it’s just a few miles to Universal, Warner Bros. and Disney Studios, and Hollywood is just over the hill via Laurel Canyon or the Cahuenga Pass.

For those looking for a more low-key, paparazzi-free lifestyle, Studio City is it. Top-tier restaurants and boutiques line Ventura Boulevard all the way to Sherman Oaks — like Robertson Boulevard without the drama.

Neighborhood highlights

An entertainment pro’s dream: A short commute to work, or to drop the kids off at exclusive Harvard Westlake, equals an appealing work-life balance. Studio City is also far from the madding crowd of other celeb enclaves on the other side of the hill.

Take a hike: Wilacre and Coldwater Canyon parks offer some of the the best hiking in the Valley, with spectacular views (especially at twilight) and dog-friendly trails.

The Valley’s Main Street: If you can’t find it on Ventura Boulevard, it probably doesn’t exist. One of L.A.’s great commercial corridors, everything from world-class sushi, vegan restaurants, key copiers, auto body shops, dry cleaners and more is here, often right next to each other.

Neighborhood challenges

If you’re looking for walkable, transit-friendly urban living, this isn’t it. You’ll find yourself driving from street parking spot to street parking spot to run errands on the Boulevard, and the nearest Metro station is in Universal City. Repeat: You will drive. Everywhere.

Expert insight

“The great thing about Studio City: It’s not all high-end,” said Judy Graff, a real estate broker who lives in Studio City and specializes in the neighborhood.

The same is true when it comes to real estate.

“There's quite a variety of housing stock here, from town houses and condos, which are quite affordable, to of course estates up in the hills in Fryman Canyon,” she said. Because of that, “prepare yourself for a bidding war.”

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“It is a very desirable place to live,” she said. “Unless something is really priced high, a lot of people are going to want to go after the house."

Market snapshot

In March, based on a combined 40 single-family home and condo sales, the median price for the area was $1,110,500, up 15.3% from the previous year, according to CoreLogic.

Report card

Within the boundaries of Studio City is Carpenter Community Charter, which scored 943 out of a possible 1,000 in the 2013 Academic Performance Index. Rio Vista Elementary had a score of 898, and Walter Reed Middle scored 850. Carlson Home Hospital School came in at 589.

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