Neighborhood Spotlight: North Hollywood offers suburbia 2.0

North Hollywood has its humble roots in a wheat field alongside the Tujunga Wash where, during the late 1800s, brothers-in-law Isaac Lankershim and I.N. Van Nuys subdivided their huge family holdings and founded the settlement of Toluca.

They were selling the dream of citrus grove ownership, 40 acres at a time, and it was citrus that would define that corner of the valley for many more years.


By the time the Pacific Electric Railroad ran a trolley out to the town's train depot in 1911, it was known as Lankershim. That trolley connection led to suburbanization, and when William Mulholland opened the spigot on the Owens Valley Aqueduct a few years later, it became clear the town would soon become part of the sprawling new metropolis that was lapping against the southern flank of the Santa Monica Mountains.

In the 1920s, the town of Lankershim — like many stars who come to L.A. and change their names to something glamorous and evocative — rebranded itself once more by thumbing its nose at geography and calling itself "North Hollywood." Like its namesake on the other side of the hill, there were movie studios, and later, during World War II, there was the aviation industry.

After the war, returning G.I.s flocked to L.A. in general, and the Valley in particular, where good aviation and other manufacturing jobs could still be found. The homes that were built for them, the strip malls they shopped and dined at, and the freeways that allowed them to zoom back and forth across the city, cemented the Valley's reputation as America's Suburb, the model for postwar sprawl.

Like the rest of the city, North Hollywood is working to undo that atomization.

Around the Red Line station — and the still-standing Lankershim Depot — transit-oriented housing has risen. The subway and the Orange Line connect the area to downtown and to the office parks of the West Valley. An Arts District has brought new life to the historic commercial district on Lankershim Boulevard.

And, as ever, relatively affordable houses are making North Hollywood a destination for strivers looking to own a piece of the American dream.

Neighborhood highlights

Tiki No bar on Lankershim Boulevard.
Tiki No bar on Lankershim Boulevard. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

A transit makeover: It pioneered the suburb, but North Hollywood has also led on what transit-oriented development looks like in modern L.A.: dense residential and commercial projects near a subway stop.

The NoHo Arts District: Willed into existence by neighborhood leaders in the early '90s, the Arts District continues to thrive as a dining and entertainment hub.

Bargain hunter's dream: You can still buy a home in North Hollywood for around half a million dollars.

Neighborhood challenge

Employment flight: Like the rest of the Valley, North Hollywood has seen its well-paying manufacturing jobs leave, making it harder for long-term residents to stay in their neighborhood.

Expert insight

The El Portal on Lankershim Boulevard was built in 1926 for vaudeville acts and silent movies. It now features live theater and other entertainment.
The El Portal on Lankershim Boulevard was built in 1926 for vaudeville acts and silent movies. It now features live theater and other entertainment. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Edgar Castro, a real estate agent who has specialized in North Hollywood for more than a decade, said the neighborhood offers "a little bit of everything" for buyers, from entry-level properties to high-end homes.


He emphasized Noho’s proximity to the 5, 170 and 101 freeways, as well as the Metro Red Line stop at Lankershim Boulevard and Chandler Boulevard. Its location also makes it convenient for people working at nearby studios.


"Right after Burbank, they realize that North Hollywood is the best choice for them price-wise, because they get more property for their money," he said.

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Market snapshot

In April, the median price for combined condominium and single-family home sales in North Hollywood was $540,000 based on 104 sales, according to CoreLogic. That was a 10.7% increase over the previous year.

Report card

Within the neighborhood boundaries is Fair Avenue Elementary, which scored 824 out of a possible 1,000 in the 2013 Academic Performance Index. Maurice Sendak Elementary had a score of 810, and Oxnard Street Elementary scored 803. Lankershim Elementary, Victory Boulevard Elementary and Roy Romer Middle had scores of 796, 770 and 735, respectively. East Valley Senior High scored 625.