Lake View Terrace, home to Hansen Dam, is a quiet equestrian community with two distinct faces: town and country. The east side is urban and densely populated, while the west has a rural feel, with homes zoned for horse-keeping and agriculture.
Lake View Terrace was once known as Rancho Tujunga, one of the original Spanish land grants. Forestry became the first means of livelihood for the area with the first settlers selling firewood to city folks in El Pueblo (now Los Angeles).
In the late 1800s, Homer and Marie Hansen established a horse ranch at the confluence of the Big Tujunga and Little Tujunga washes. By 1939, flooding in the northeast and southeast San Fernando Valley had become such a problem that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seized the land via eminent domain to build Hansen Dam. Along with Sepulveda Dam and Lopez Dam, Hansen is a vital source for flood-control protection for the San Fernando Valley as well as the city of Los Angeles.
Legend has it that Lake View Terrace derived its name from Holiday Lake, a 150-acre body of water that once sat behind Hansen Dam. A popular vacation spot in the 1950s, Holiday Lake has since dried up.
The L.A. community is a hub for outdoor recreation with its hills, lakes, three parks, two recreation centers, two golf courses and equestrian trails. It is home to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center and Hansen Dam Swim Lake, which welcomes up to 2,000 Angelenos looking to beat the heat on summer weekends.
Good news, bad news
Outside the east part of town, characterized by high-density housing and the occasional school, local residents have insisted on preserving open space. Miles of pristine hiking and equestrian trails remain intact. Developers seeking to mansionize have met resistance from residents who want to maintain their semirural lifestyle.
Over the years residents, spearheaded by the Tujunga Watershed Council, have won a number of battles to preserve the environment, most notably in November 2003 when they persuaded the Regional Water Quality Control Board to order the Army Corps of Engineers to remove construction debris from the Hansen Dam lakes.
Lake View Terrace gained international notoriety as the location of the Rodney King beating in 1991.
The community maintains a laid-back, rural image. However, some residents caution that it's not for everyone.
"If you don't like the smell of livestock, you shouldn't move here," said Carol Ford, president of the Valley Horse Owners Assn.
Ford moved to the community from Boston in 1989. She owned a beach house and was working toward a doctorate in Massachusetts but was lured to Lake View Terrace after sharing ownership of a horse with a friend. She was surprised to discover she could own a horse and a home affordably in California.
"I made my dreams come true in Los Angeles of all places," Ford said. "Today I own a home and two horses . We are able to live in a city and yet lead an agricultural lifestyle here."
Dan Montero, a resident of the community for over 10 years, found his first home in Lake View Terrace and currently has it for sale. "We've never had any trouble here," Montero said. "We were able to find a large home and a large lot for a good price."
In the northeast portion of Lake View Terrace, homes tend to be newer and pricier, according to real estate agent Omari Mark.
Fenton Grove, one of the only new neighborhoods, sits on top of Fenton Avenue with scenic views of the San Gabriel Mountain foothills. More established neighborhoods can be found farther east.
"Lake View Terrace is a hidden area and a lot of people don't know about it," Mark said. "The homes in Lake View Terrace are more affordable than homes in Sylmar or Tujunga, since those cities are more well-known."
On the market
As of late May, there were 17 residences for sale in Lake View Terrace. A sampling of recent listings included a three-bedroom, two-bath house on a 6,500-square-foot lot for $429,950 and a four-bedroom, two-bath, 2,100-square-foot house on an 11,000-square-foot lot for $699,000.
On the 2004 Academic Performance Index, Brainard Avenue Elementary scored 718 of 1,000; Fenton Avenue Elementary, 710; Sylmar's Olive Vista Middle School, 607; Sylmar Senior High, 574. Schools are part of the L.A. Unified School District.
Lake View Terrace shares a ZIP Code with Sylmar. Residential resale prices for 91342:
Year...Median Price 1990...$171,500
*Year to date
Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; realtor.com; wikipedia.org; imdb.com; Department of Education; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Deb Baumann, executive director of Tujunga Watershed Council; Vaquero Heritage Foundation; Valley Horse Owners Assn.