Van Nuys Junior High School isn't in Van Nuys anymore.
The school and the approximately 45-block neighborhood around it on Wednesday joined the epidemic of local name changes in the San Fernando Valley.
From now on, the area--bordered by Van Nuys Boulevard on the east and the San Diego Freeway on the west, between Burbank and Magnolia boulevards--is part of Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles City Councilman Marvin Braude announced.
It was at least the fifth such change in the Valley since 1986.
Just two weeks ago, a neighboring area--the affluent Chandler Estates--had successfully campaigned to move from Van Nuys to Sherman Oaks. Residents in the neighborhood surrounding the school decided they also wanted to be part of the change.
So they organized, collected 1,000 signatures and dug up more than 22 original deeds showing that the area had once been considered part of Sherman Oaks.
Like the residents of Chandler Estates, they 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 Rosalind Wayman, an aide to Braude, who represents the area.
"I don't know what they'll do about the school, since it's right here," commented Mary Santangelo, looking across Albers Street from her home to Van Nuys Junior High School.
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 some historic person.
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--such as the North Hollywood neighborhood that in February was given the official name Valley Village--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 run-down commercial areas, to neighboring Sherman Oaks, an affluent mountain slope neighborhood. Real estate interests said at the time of the Chandler Estates move that the name change could increase the value of a house by 5% to 10%.
Charles Rich, who has lived for 27 years in the area that seceded Wednesday, was delighted: "I think it's beneficial to our real estate values," he said.
Don Schultz, president of the Van Nuys Homeowners Assn., sighed heavily at the news of the latest departure.
Schultz has called the changes an attempt by "elitist" residents to distance themselves from Van Nuys' problems.
"Unless the City Council gets a handle on this," he said, "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."