The epidemic of local name changes in the San Fernando Valley spread again Wednesday: Yet another portion of Van Nuys will be given to Sherman Oaks--carving Van Nuys Junior High out of its namesake neighborhood.
The office of Los Angeles City Councilman Marvin Braude, who represents the area, announced that an area of about 45 blocks will be renamed. The area is bordered by Van Nuys Boulevard on the east and the San Diego Freeway on the west, between Burbank and Magnolia boulevards.
It was at least the fifth such change in the Valley since 1986.
The latest name change began when residents of the affluent Chandler Estates area successfully campaigned to move it from Van Nuys to Sherman Oaks. Their victory two weeks ago set off their neighbors to the west, who decided that they also wanted to be part of the change.
Within three weeks, the residents organized, collected 1,000 signatures and dug up at least 22 original deeds showing that the area had once been considered part of Sherman Oaks.
Like the residents of Chandler Estates, they had argued that their neighborhood was part of Sherman Oaks until the post office classified it as a section of Van Nuys when ZIP codes were instituted in 1963, said Braude aide Rosalind Wayman. The result, she said, was that some residents had deeds that read "Sherman Oaks" while those of next-door neighbors read "Van Nuys."
"We're hopeful this will clear this up," Wayman said.
Well, maybe not.
"I don't know what they'll do about the school, since it's right here," said Mary Santangelo, looking at Van Nuys Junior High from her recently sold home on Albers Street.
The school sits squarely in the middle of the area that has now become Sherman Oaks.
"It's not surprising that something kooky would happen," said school secretary Brenda Clarke with a laugh. "I'm just wondering why anybody would want to change the name. What's that going to help?"
Assistant Principal Booker Moten was unaware of the name change but said some in the community have already suggested that the school change its name to honor a historical figure.
The rash of name changes began in 1986, when a portion of Canoga Park seceded to form West Hills, after many residents complained that Canoga Park had acquired a grubby image that hurt the value of homes in its most expensive neighborhood.
Other areas have followed suit, either independently--as in the creation of Valley Village from North Hollywood in February--or by shifting to some adjacent locale with a classier reputation.
Wednesday's action marked the second defection from Van Nuys--which some residents say is stigmatized by the presence of industrial and rundown commercial areas--to neighboring Sherman Oaks, an affluent mountain-slope neighborhood. Real estate sources said at the time of the Chandler Estates move that the name change could increase the value of a house by 5% to 10%.
Sonia Feron, an organizer of the latest campaign, was amused and pleased at how quickly the community mobilized behind the name change.
"It's incredible," she said. "We're very pleased. We feel that it was right because many of us bought these houses as Sherman Oaks."
Feron declined to comment on property values, but Charles Rich, who has lived in the area for 27 years, was delighted. "I think it's beneficial to our real estate values," he said, standing in front of his home on Killion Street.
Barry and Claudine Elkrief said they now expect their house on Killion Street, which they were asking $299,950 for in Van Nuys, to fetch as much as $350,000 in Sherman Oaks. "It will be much easier to sell too," Barry Elkrief said.
In fact, he said, he may put off trying to sell it altogether to see how the value increases. "If we can become Sherman Oaks now, maybe next year we can become part of Bel-Air," he joked.
Santangelo said she always considered herself a Sherman Oaks resident in any case.
"When you live on this side of Van Nuys, you do everything in Sherman Oaks anyway. You don't even associate with Van Nuys."
Don Schultz, president of the Van Nuys Homeowners Assn., sighed at the news of the latest departure.
"We've already lost one of the most prestigious areas of Van Nuys," he said, referring to the Chandler Estates secession. "I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. What other areas are going?"
Schultz has called the changes an attempt by "elitist" residents to distance themselves from Van Nuys' problems, raising property values for some by leaving the rest of the community to battle the problems alone.
He blamed politicians for "playing into this name-change syndrome," and warned that "unless the City Council gets a handle on this, it's going to get out of control, and anybody who lives near the border of an affluent community is going to ask for a name change."
Times staff writer Jim Herron Zamora contributed to this report.