Mel and Marilyn Barry were renting on the Westside when they went searching for their first home. While standing at the top of Coldwater Canyon, looking down into the San Fernando Valley, they saw a new tract of houses under construction and fell in love with a three-bedroom model. They bought it for $15,900.
That was 39 years ago, and they still live in the North Hollywood community that is now called Valley Village.
"There were 28 homes built in the first tract, and there are still 11 original owners," said Marilyn Barry. Over the years, they've remodeled and expanded, and their house is now worth in the low $300s.
"We've thought about moving elsewhere, we've even looked, but this is such a convenient location," she said. "We're close to the freeway, and Coldwater Canyon makes it easy for us to drive to the Westside. Besides that, my best friend lives across the street."
Convenient location and friendly neighbors are just two of the attractions for residents of Valley Village. Situated 11 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, Valley Village is bounded by Burbank Boulevard on the north, the Ventura (101) Freeway on the south, the Hollywood (170) Freeway on the east and the Tujunga Wash on the west. The area, originally named Lankershim, once boasted small ranches with an abundance of plum, pear, apricot, peach and walnut trees. In 1927 the name was changed to North Hollywood.
Since the late '30s, the area has unofficially been known as Valley Village. Last year, the Valley Village Home Owners Assn., working with the Los Angeles City Council, got official recognition for the community name.
"With the (name change), there is more pride in the neighborhood," said Jerry Berns of the Jon Douglas Co. office in Sherman Oaks.
According to Berns, homes range in price from $189,000 for a small two-bedroom, one-bath to $750,000 for a 4,400-square-foot house on an oversized lot. The average Valley Village home has between 1,800 and 2,000 square feet, three bedrooms, two baths, a family room, living room and dining room and sells between $310,000 and $375,000.
There are some apartments and condos, but Berns said that "75% of the area is residential single-family homes."
When major motion picture studios were built in the 1930s near Valley Village, many people from the entertainment industry moved there. Today, the trend still continues.
When Disney executive John Garbett and his wife, Kristin, went house hunting, they checked out different neighborhoods and looked into schools for their daughters, ages 8 and 11.
"We went to all of the school open houses in the area. We were so impressed with the teachers at Colfax, we decided to make public school work for us. We chose a house in the area (of the school district)," said Kristin Garbett, who is president of the Parent-Teachers Assn. at Colfax Elementary School.
The Garbetts plan on having their daughters attend Walter Reed Junior High School. "It also has a good reputation. It has a highly gifted magnet program, a wonderful music program and a good faculty," she said.
They bought their 1937 three-bedroom, two-bath house more than six years ago, paying in the high $100s. It is now worth in the low-to-mid $300s.
"This is a great neighborhood," she said, "and I'm glad I'm raising my children here."
Another interesting aspect of life in the western section of Valley Village is the neighborhood's Jewish community. With many synagogues, Adat Ari El, Shaarey Zedek and Chabad, and schools such as Emek Hebrew Academy and Valley Torah High School close by, there's a mixture of Conservative, Orthodox, Sephardic and Hasidic Jews.
Adam and Judith Cohen moved to Valley Village because of the large Jewish population, choosing it over West Los Angeles. "There's a difference between the city and Valley Village, which is more suburban," she said. "A lot of Jewish people move here from the city because homes are more affordable."
Location was the main factor when Eric Egaas and Steve Rose decided to buy a house six months ago. Egaas works for Wells Fargo Bank in downtown Los Angeles and Rose is an associate producer at Paramount Studios in Hollywood.
"(Valley Village) made sense for where we both worked," Egaas said. "The realtor took us in areas that we could afford. We liked the layout of this house. It has nice features of an older home that newer homes don't have."
Their house was built in 1940 and has hardwood floors throughout. The formal dining room has crown moldings and wainscoting.
He also said that there is a mixture of older retired people and younger people in their 30s. "The neighbors are very friendly. I was pleasantly surprised."
Newlyweds Dan and Laura Millman were living in a condo in Brentwood when they decided to buy a house two years ago. Dan, a shopping-mall manager, was familiar with Valley Village and liked it. His problem was convincing Laura, a fashion designer, who preferred living on the Westside.
"I took her to see the best house we could afford on the Westside and then took her to Valley Village," Millman said. "After she saw what we could get for our money, she wanted to move here."
Their house, built in 1937, has oak floors, coved ceilings and large bay window in the living room.
"There's value buying a home from someone who's lived there for 35 years," Millman said. "There's an opportunity to take an older home and cosmetically fix it. Most of the homes remain in the character of the neighborhood. It has a real nice feel here."
At a Glance Population
1991 estimate: 18,501
1980-91 change: +16.1%
Median age: 39.3 years
Per capita: 22,612
Median household: 36,081
Less than $15,000: 19%
$15,000 - $30,000: 22.5%
$30,000 - $50,000: 25%
$50,000 - $100,000: 23.5%
$100,000 + 10%