The increase in the ethnic diversity of the San Fernando Valley during the 1980s was remarkably widespread, with minorities moving in greater numbers to virtually every block of every street in every community.
At the same time, the number of Anglo residents dropped in about 240 of the roughly 315 census tracts dividing the Valley. Anglos now represent 58% of the area’s roughly 1.5 million residents, down from 75% a decade earlier, according to 1990 U.S. Census data.
The number of Anglos living in the Valley dropped from 938,829 in 1980 to 896,211 in 1990, a decline of 4.5%. Anglos now represent a minority of those living in every East Valley community between North Hollywood and Sylmar, according to an analysis of 1990 U.S. Census data.
In the 1980s, the population changes that transformed the Valley from a mostly Anglo, middle-class suburb were fueled by increases in immigration, the aging of Anglo residents compared with other groups, the upward mobility of minorities and the construction of thousands of apartments that drew nonwhites out of traditional enclaves in the northeast Valley, experts and observers said.
The percentage of Latinos in the Valley jumped from about 19% to about 30% and their numbers nearly doubled from 234,819 to 461,269. Asians and Pacific Islanders nearly tripled, to 124,727, and now account for 8% of the area’s residents. The number of black residents increased by about 20,000, but grew only slightly in proportion to the other groups and now represent 3.4% of those living in Valley, the data showed.
Among the most dramatic of shifts occurred in North Hollywood, where the percentage of Anglos fell from 72% in 1980 to just under 50% in 1990, and in Sylmar, where Anglos represented 53% of the population in 1980 and 39% just 10 years later.
Still, the Valley as a whole has a greater percentage of Anglos than the city or county. Anglos account for 40% of the population countywide and 37% citywide, according to census data.
The affluent south Valley areas of Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Encino and Tarzana are still more than 85% Anglo. But in a growing area of the east and central Valley floor they are no longer in the majority, which could fuel a continuing process of “white flight” in the future.
“In general, whites prefer areas where there might be up to 20% or 25% minorities, but when these areas start to tip beyond that, whites begin to leave,” said William A. Clark, the chairman of the geography department at UCLA, who has researched the attitudes of people living in racially mixed areas.
He said most groups, not just whites, prefer to live in an area where their group is at least a plurality. Clark said other factors that may have contributed to the 4.5% drop in the number of white residents in the Valley included continuing dissatisfaction with Los Angeles city schools and the aging of the area’s white population compared with other ethnic groups, meaning Anglos are less likely to have children living at home.
Prof. James P. Allen of the Cal State Northridge geography department, using state driver’s license records, found that Los Angeles County lost population to every other Southern California county in numbers greater than those arriving from those counties. The county also lost population to Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona.
That trend, he said, accounts for some of the decline in the Valley’s Anglo population. And he said that, as Valley residents become increasingly unhappy with crowding, traffic, smog, crime and high housing prices, the out-migration could continue or even accelerate.
Van Nuys had several tracts that experienced a large drop in the number of whites coupled with big increases in the numbers of all three minority groups. Van Nuys Homeowner Assn. President Donald Schultz attributes many of the changes he has seen in his neighborhood to apartment and condominium construction.
“Many of us are very unhappy with what’s going on . . . and the vast majority of the people who have been here 10, 15 or 20 years would move out if they could,” said Schultz, who is Anglo. “It’s primarily the deteriorating quality of life . . . overdevelopment, overcrowding, too many apartments and far too many . . . undocumented, illegal aliens.”
He said city officials tell his group that the growing population of the area must be accommodated by building affordable housing. But, he said, “what’s happening is it’s not being spread around equitably. You don’t see low-income apartments in Sherman Oaks and Encino and Tarzana. They’re crowding it into areas that just can’t keep up with it anymore.”
Not everyone has reacted to the changes the way Schultz has. Frances Smith said she has lived in the same pleasant corner house in a well-kept area of modest houses in Van Nuys for 35 years. The census tract lost 18% of its Anglo population during the past decade and the numbers of Latinos, Asians and blacks all more than tripled.
“The ethnic population has certainly taken over,” said Smith, an Anglo who described herself as a 70ish grandmother. But the area’s charms--its convenience to freeways and shopping and the quiet of smaller streets off the main drags--remain even with the development of offices and apartments nearby.
“The people who have stayed are staying here,” she said. “We’ll stay until they take us out in a pine box.”
CSUN geography professor Gene Turner analyzed about 315 census tracts that include the Valley, Burbank, Glendale and part of the Santa Monica Mountains and found that the number of black residents increased in 271 tracts, although the size of the increase was often small. Latinos added to their numbers in 310 of the tracts and Asians increased in 307 of them.
Concentrations of Latinos increased most dramatically in Reseda, Sunland-Tujunga, Van Nuys, North Hollywood, Mission Hills and Panorama City where they doubled or nearly doubled in proportion to other ethnic groups.
The increase in Latinos is not a single phenomenon but, rather, several parallel ones, said Prof. Carlos Navarro, the associate dean of the School of Humanities at CSUN.
While some Latinos are climbing the economic ladder and going from Pacoima or San Fernando or East Los Angeles to more fashionable areas of the Valley, newly arrived immigrants often live in areas of ever-greater concentrations. The population of San Fernando, for example, grew by 27% during the 1980s but the number of Anglos dropped by 35% and now Anglos make up less than 15% of the city’s residents. One of the city’s three census tracts, southeast of San Fernando Road, is more than 94% Latino.
“We are seeing more racial isolation in a lot of census tracts,” including many in North Hollywood and other areas outside the Northeast Valley, Navarro said. “That’s true of a lot of major metropolitan areas elsewhere in California as well.”
“When you become more and more racially isolated, the middle class and working class ethnics will leave . . . and you have a brain drain and that becomes a profound problem for . . . that community,” Navarro said.
Although many minority residents of the northeast Valley have moved to the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys, as well as to areas of the west San Fernando Valley, many have merely relocated to areas nearby where more apartments have been built.
An area of Panorama City along Van Nuys Boulevard and north of the Panorama City shopping center is a case in point. Apartments line both sides of the boulevard between Nordhoff Street and Woodman Avenue in an area that Ray Torres remembers being largely vacant when he arrived from Mexico 10 years ago.
“All of this is new. There was nothing here,” said Torres, 25, who with his wife, Maria, manages a new 40-unit apartment building along that strip. “It’s a fast-growing area now.”
Most of the families who live in the building are Latino and Maria Torres said they allow families to share units so they can afford the rents, which range from $650 to more than $1,000 for a three-bedroom unit.
The population of the triangular area that includes that building--an area west of Woodman Avenue, north of Nordhoff Street and east of the Pacoima Wash--grew in population by 136% during the decade. The white population fell 15% as homeowners sold out to developers, but the Latino population jumped more than sixfold, to 6,825, the black population jumped fivefold and Asian population leaped more than sevenfold, to 1,525.
Using water meter data, the Los Angeles rent stabilization office reported that the Panorama City-Sepulveda-Mission Hills area has 19,453 apartments, compared with half that many in the Pacoima-Sun Valley area. North Hollywood, which was also a fast-growing area that attracted many minorities, has 33,081 apartment units. The figures do not include units not served by individual meters.
Blacks also moved in greater numbers to many communities across the Valley, beyond their traditional areas of concentration in Pacoima. As a result, although the Valleywide black population increased by 20,000, the proportion of blacks in Pacoima and Arleta dropped from 20% to 10%. The proportion of blacks in Sunland-Tujunga dropped from 12% to 7%.
Asians seemed to move in greater numbers to more affluent parts of the Valley than other minority groups. The proportion of Asians increased most rapidly in upscale areas such as Chatsworth, Porter Ranch, Woodland Hills, Northridge and Glendale, with the greatest change occurring in Granada Hills. Asians represented about 6% of the population in that community in 1980 and now make up about 13% of the 56,350 residents.
Dr. I-Shou Wang, chairman of the geography department at Cal State Northridge, said many Asians moving to the Valley are attracted by new houses in West Hills, Porter Ranch and Chatsworth. “My impression is that these are middle-class Asian-Americans and they like to buy new houses as they move in or move up or as the new immigrant arrives,” Wang said.
He said, however, that when the U.S. Census Bureau releases more detailed breakdowns of Asian-Americans, the numbers will probably show concentrations of Koreans, Thais, Cambodians and other groups in other areas of the Valley.
Middle-class Asians are less likely to live in tightly knit enclaves, said Gary Peters, associate dean of the school of social and behavioral sciences at Cal State Long Beach.
“When any group really starts to become suburbanized, they’ve made it into the middle class and they do start to disperse,” he said. “They are looking for whatever everybody else is looking for. They are no longer looking to live within their own group. They don’t need to as much because their own behavior patterns are becoming more like those of the rest of Americans.”
SAN FERNANDO VALLEY
ANGLOS 1980: 74.8% (938,829) 1990: 58.4% (896,211)
LATINOS 1980: 18.7% (234,819) 1990: 30% (461,269)
ASIANS 1980: 3.7% (47,023) 1990: 8% (124,727)
BLACKS 1980: 2.6% (32,952) 1990: 3.4% (52,06)
TOTAL 1980: 1,253,623 1990: 1,534,267
ETHNIC POPULATION CHANGE
Trends in the San Fernando Valley by percentage
COMMUNITY* ANGLOS LATINOS ASIANS BLACKS 80 90 80 90 80 90 80 90 Agoura Hills na 86 na 8 na 7 na 1 Arleta / Pacoima 24 14 52 71 20 10 4 4 Burbank 79 69 16 23 3 6 0.5 2 Canoga Park / Woodland Hills 84 71 10 18 4 8 1 2 Chatsworth / Porter Ranch 86 72 7 13 5 13 1 2 Encino / Tarzana 90 86 6 8 3 4 0.9 2 Glendale 74 64 18 21 6 14 0.3 1 Granada Hills 84 72 8 12 6 13 1 3 Hidden Hills 93 89 5 7 1 3 1 0.4 Mission Hills / Panorama City 69 37 20 44 7 11 4 7 North Hollywood 72 50 20 40 5 6 2 4 Northridge 82 69 11 17 5 12 2 3 Reseda / Van Nuys 81 63 13 26 4 8 2 3 San Fernando 29 15 69 83 1 1 0.5 0.9 Sherman Oaks / Studio City 90 86 6 7 2 4 1 3 Sherman Oaks / Van Nuys 75 54 18 35 4 6 2 5 Sunland / Tujunga 70 63 14 25 4 5 2 7 Sun Valley 57 35 33 53 8 9 2 2 Sylmar 53 39 41 52 5 4 3 4 Westlake Village 96 89 2 4 1 6 0.4 0.8
* Areas defined by City of Los Angeles
Figures are rounded off. Percentages may not add up to 100.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau information compiled by Richard O’Reilly, director of computer analysis and Maureen Lyons, statistical analyst