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Topanga, mountain mellow but oh so pricey
Having years ago shunned its reputation as the region's UFO-sighting capital, today's Topanga Canyon is home to an eccentric collection of nature lovers, artists and anyone else willing to trade city accessibility for open spaces. While vintage VW campers still chug up Topanga Canyon Boulevard's S-curves, odds are high that SUVs are barreling along behind.
Topanga is the green oasis in the greater Los Angeles concrete desert, and its soul is the 11,000-acre Topanga State Park -- wilderness parkland in the Santa Monica Mountains just a spit from "urbania." Topangans hike, bike and ride horses over the 36 miles of trails, rarely encountering another soul. Secluded and virtually crime-free, family-friendly Topanga's 18.2 square miles are home to just 5,500 residents.
Good news, bad news
How much do you like nature? Raccoons in the garbage, rattlesnakes in the woodpile and mudslides wreaking commuting havoc on the boulevard.
Then there's watching the deer from your deck, falling asleep to coyotes howling and showing your kid the constellations without interference from city lights.
You want convenience? Move to the Valley. Real Topangans learn to make grocery lists. And there is a certain charm to picking up your mail at the post office from a postmistress named Cinderella (yes, that's her real name).
The Buddha mural on the boulevard, a landmark created by local artist Kedric Wolfe, is the backdrop for many Topanga families' annual holiday card photos. And while a true Topangan would never leave Fido out of that photo, dogs are barred from the state park. They are, however, welcome with open paws at Red Rock Canyon Park, off Old Topanga Canyon Road.
Don't be misled by the crystal shop or the New Age restaurant that rates its food on a spirituality scale: Topanga is among L.A. County's priciest communities.
Listings in the neighborhood known as the Post Office Tract are higher because of their scarcity and close proximity to Topanga State Park. The houses are also generally newer. Those seeking more temperate weather head southwest to the Fernwood-Pacific area. Spectacular views are spurring new development off Tuna Canyon Road and in the area known as the Mesa. More than 25% of the current listings are in excess of $1 million, and almost anything below $600,000 jumps off the shelf.
Topangans live in everything from converted chicken coops to multimillion-dollar contemporary architectural homes. There are some horse properties, homes with land for vineyards and many creatively expanded bungalows. Some houses are graced with river rock fireplaces hand-built by the late master stonemason and Topanga resident Jack Rice. Cabins, mansions, a hexagon house: The cookie cutter definitely was not here. Topangans pay a premium for individuality. You won't see many mushroom houses -- the kind that sprout up big and ugly overnight and overwhelm their surroundings.
Topanga Elementary School ranks among LAUSD's finest with high test scores. Credit goes to a strong parent base and many longtime teachers.
On the market
As of mid-November, agent Casey Kelley of Coast & Canyon Realtors reported 38 homes listed for sale, (excluding the Top o' Topanga mobile home community), ranging from $495,000 to $2.5 million.
Single-family detached resales:
*Year to date
Sources: DataQuick Information Services, Coast & Canyon Realtors.