IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD : North Hills: A Change in More than Name Only

Compiled by Times researcher CATHERINE GOTTLIEB

One-half of a central San Fernando Valley community changes its name, trying to secede from the half perceived as seedier and more crime-plagued. Now, to the surprise of of all, both sides are working to organize their community.

BACKGROUND

When residents in part of the community of Sepulveda tried in 1991 to divorce themselves from their larger neighborhood by changing their area's name to North Hills, residents left behind, furious at what many felt was a retreat from dealing with community problems, embraced the new name as well. Today, with most of the bitterness faded, some of the organizational energy created by the name-change flap remains. More residents and business owners are participating in crime-watch groups, resident associations and other community groups.

Still, North Hills has yet to rid itself of the crime and blight that prompted the initial divorce efforts. The reports for the most violent crimes--murder, robbery and aggrevated assault--are down somewhat, but concern about prostitution, drug and gang activity--the effects, many believe, of Valley-wide commercial and residential overdevelopment.

Many residents are hopeful that increases in community involvement and meetings with elected officials will help to solve some of the problems; some are concerned that efforts to include different ethnic and racial groups--especially the area's large Latino and burgeoning Asian populations--need to be increased.

Population: 37,916

1980-90 population change: +28.2%

Population by Race and Ethnicity:

Hispanic Anglo Asian Black Other

Household Income Distribution:

Black: less than $25,000

Hispanic: $25,000-$35,000

Anglo: $35,000-$50,000

Other: $50,000-$75,000

Asian: Over $75,000

OTHER NAME CHANGES

Portions of other San Fernando Valley communities have changed names in the past two years:

Parts of North Hollywood to:

Valley Village, Sherman Oaks, Studio City and North Hills

Part of Van Nuys to: Sherman Oaks

Parts of Reseda to: Encino and Tarzana

HOMEOWNER

ANNE MADDEN

Homeowner in eastern North Hills for three years, secretary of North Hills Coordinating Council

There are things we need to do to help the police as well as help ourselves. That's the concept behind partnership.

I went to this meeting (with residents from the west side of North Hills) and I didn't know anybody there. When I told them where I was from one woman said, "Oh you're from the side that has problems that affect us." I actually found that to be a good sign--the fact that she even said that means that they're aware that there are problems, and they're aware that the problems are affecting them. I think they may join in with us because they are hearing that a bunch of us are over here working and trying to make the situtation better.

PASTOR

REV. DR. LEE R. LOUDERBACK

Pastor of Sepulveda United Methodist Church

I am sorry we lost the name Sepulveda, but some good has come out of it. I think the name change issue shook some people into reality, saying we've got a problem here that needs to be dealt with.

People become overwhelmed with these problems. We must realize we have to start by solving pieces of it. People need to have enough courage to go after one little piece of the problem they think they can tackle.

We're not going to get somebody from the outside to magically come in to do this for us. We have to do it ourselves. Maybe that's what the name change--whether intentionally or not--has come to be about: developing community action.

RENTER

MELINDA LEWIS

Resident for six years

We still don't have full representation within some community groups. The Latino community and people of color are probably not as fully represented as I would like to see. I think that's changing, but it takes time.

For instance, when I go to the Sepulveda Recreation Committee I see mostly blacks; when I go to the Neighborhood Watch I see mostly whites; when I'm at my Noble School Parent Committee, I see Latinos. I just don't think that whatever that magic button you push to bring it all together hasn't quite been pushed yet, but I think it's happening. At my parent center group we've had a cultural diversity series going on every other week, and we've invited other organizations to participate.

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