Most Profound Changes Sweep N. Hollywood


As the San Fernando Valley goes, so goes North Hollywood, only sooner.

The changes that swept across the Valley in the 1980s, sharply altering the face of what was once everyone’s idea of what a suburb should look like, were even more pronounced in North Hollywood, a Times analysis of new U.S. Census Bureau figures indicates.

Throughout the 1980s, Latinos flocked to the Valley, Anglos migrated to adjacent valleys, and substantial numbers of blacks and Asians joined the mix, turning the Valley into a multiracial, multiethnic demographic kaleidoscope.

In the Valley’s southeast corner, where the World War II-era house-building boom began, all those trends were more dramatic, suggesting that today’s North Hollywood could be tomorrow’s Valley.


When the 1980s began, North Hollywood was 71% Anglo and 23% Latino, with a scattering of blacks and Asians.

By decade’s end, the community’s statistical profile had shifted dramatically--to 50% Anglo, 40% Latino, 6% Asian and 4% black. North Hollywood’s population grew by 30% during the decade to 119,000.

A startling 22% of those residents immigrated to the United States after 1980. But even that figure doesn’t fully measure immigration’s effect, because it does not include the number who arrived before 1980 and the American-born children of these immigrants--two measures the census bureau has not yet produced.

Another confirmation that immigration from Latin America powered the engine of change is that 36% of North Hollywood households now speak Spanish, up from 19% only 10 years earlier.


Other statistics indicate that, as could be expected in areas of high immigration, residents of North Hollywood lost ground economically compared to other Los Angeles County communities. While the median family income countywide increased by 19% during the decade, adjusted for inflation, the income of North Hollywood residents grew by only 3%.

As elsewhere in the Valley, North Hollywood’s population changes have occurred in what often appears to be random fashion, resulting in rich and poor, Anglo and Latino, living in close proximity.

But the Latinization of North Hollywood is evident everywhere, longtime residents say.

Neighborhood coffee shops are giving way to check cashing stores and swap meets. Fewer recreational vehicles are seen in driveways. Produce trucks now make regular rounds.

One island that has resisted such change is Valley Village, an enclave of 4,500 early ranch-style homes and newer apartments between the Ventura Freeway and Burbank Boulevard, west of the Hollywood Freeway.

Valley Village’s residents last year successfully petitioned the Los Angeles City Council to permit the area to secede from North Hollywood, allowing them to advertise their houses for sale as Valley Village homes and to use Valley Village as their mailing address--although the census bureau still includes them with North Hollywood in statistical breakouts.

As with the seven other neighborhoods in the Valley that have sought a name change since 1986, Valley Village no longer wanted to be associated with a community that has grown old, heavily Latino and crime-plagued.

Three of the eight name-change petitions have come from North Hollywood neighborhoods, prompting Susan Levy, president of the North Hollywood Residents Assn., to complain: “No one wants to be associated with this community anymore.”


Tom Paterson, a leader of the Valley Village secession drive, said the move “was more than an attempt to boost property values, and it had nothing to do with ethnic demographics. It was one economic level seeking to have its own identity.”

Houses along Valley Village’s lushly landscaped, graffiti-free streets cost up to $800,000, and a two-bedroom, two-bath entry-level house will run $300,000, residents say.

Elsewhere in North Hollywood, that same size entry-level house can be purchased for as little as $150,000, real estate agents say. And the cheaper house is likely to have an overgrown, dusty yard and to be in a neighborhood reeling from crime, with gang graffiti splattered on block walls and street signs.

Confounding generalizations, a downwardly mobile street in North Hollywood is often next to one in which residents resolutely keep up their yards and paint their houses.

“It used to be all nice little houses that young couples bought with GI loans,” bemoaned Laurie Dinkin, a lifelong resident of North Hollywood who moved to Valley Village 31 years ago.

“But now large areas are just a shame. I’m appalled at the way some of these new people keep up their places.”

David Poster, who moved to North Hollywood 30 years ago and who now owns eight rental houses, said he often can’t figure out what makes one street fall into disrepair and another carry on as if nothing has changed.

But he speculated that the process is accelerated on streets in which single-family houses are being replaced by apartments, an uneven process that he said began about three decades ago.


The apartments provided living quarters for the first immigrants from Mexico who arrived in North Hollywood in the mid-1970s, he said.

In the 1980s, Foster said, Latinos became his prime customers as house renters. He termed them “very good tenants” but acknowledged he is dismayed at the neighborhood deterioration that usually goes with the arrival of large numbers of poor people from Third World countries.

“Generally, the people are fine,” he said, “but the houses go downhill because there are so many people in a house and there isn’t the same emphasis on keeping a place up.”

He paints over gang graffiti at least once a week on a wall surrounding one of his rental houses on Dehougne Street and worries that “gangs are getting worse.”

But a different neighborhood perspective comes from Maria Peres, who has lived in a dilapidated converted garage with her son two blocks down the street from Foster’s rental house since emigrating from the state of Zacatecas in central Mexico three years ago.

“It’s not getting better, it’s not getting worse,” she said over the roar of traffic on nearby Laurel Canyon Boulevard. “It’s a nice neighborhood. People are friendly.”