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Granada Hills: A QUAKE-WRACKED COMMUNITY

For many residents, Granada Hills is simply home. Home to the first post office in the Valley, (Lopez Station in 1869), home to the Valley’s first oil well (1916) and home of the Cagney Ranch, where America’s favorite screen gangster once lived and Gene Autry used to film the cowboy dream.

But the Northridge earthquake has had a devastating effect. Transportation, education and medical facilities remain crippled, and condemned buildings have left some neighborhoods half empty and transformed two into official “ghost towns.” Now neighbors are relying on a strong sense of community and history to rebuild.

History

Created on land divided by Charles Maclay and George K. Porter in 1881, the area was first known as the Sunshine Ranch--a hodgepodge of orange groves and chicken and rabbit ranches. In 1927, a contest was held to officially name the community, and the name Granada was chosen because of the likeness to the city in Spain.

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“Hills” was added to the name in 1942, and during the next several decades, the area grew in halves, divided by Rinaldi Street. Above Rinaldi are sprawling homes, equestrian ranches, the 18-hole golf course on the Knollwood Country Club, the Odyssey Restaurant and the Van Norman Dam, now drained and transformed into a wildlife sanctuary. Below Rinaldi is a mixture of commercial centers, shopping malls, apartments and homes.

Community Issues

“Right now, there are only two things going on in Granada Hills: the Sunshine Canyon dump and the earthquake recovery,”

Greig Smith, a Granada Hills resident who lost his home in the earthquake and works on the landfill issue as chief deputy for Los Angeles City Councilman Hal Bernson.

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Sunshine Canyon

Opened in 1954, this dump north of Granada Hills has been the target of controversy since 1984, when Browning-Ferris Industries proposed to expand the landfill’s capacity to 17 million tons in an environmentally sensitive oak woodland. Although the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the expansion last November, opponents have sought to block the plan with lawsuits and in June, a judge has issued a restraining order against BFI after the company felled 1,800 oak trees. Meanwhile, the city of Los Angeles is currently in negotiations with the company on a settlement.

Earthquake Recovery

Much of the community is on the rebound, from repaired homes to reopened shopping centers. But many symbols of the Jan. 17 temblor remain.

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Van Gogh Street School: The only public school still closed because of the temblor, Van Gogh Street School will be razed, then rebuilt within three years at a cost of $5 million. Geologic reports indicate that the location suffers from an unstable soil condition that would not support the structures during another strong earthquake. The Los Angeles school district will apply to FEMA for funds to level the existing school and construct a new one. Meanwhile, the 350 students are being educated in nearby Frost Junior High.

Simi Valley Freeway: California Department of Transportation workers have demolished and are replacing two quake-damaged bridges, the 700-foot Mission/Gothic bridge and the 400-foot bridge over the Bull Creek Canyon flood control channel. The $12 million project, which has squeezed the five-lane freeway into three lanes, was expected to be finished by Sept. 3, but Caltrans engineer Frank Latham said the project could be delayed an additional two weeks because of permit difficulties. And because the increased traffic flow is already over capacity, Caltrans has opted not to reopen several on-ramps until the project is completed.

Kaiser Permanente building: One of the most striking symbols of the Northridge earthquake, the gutted Kaiser Permanente office building and medical center on Balboa Boulevard, is no more. And, according to HMO’s officials, it will never be back. The demolition of the five-story office building in February has sent 91 employees and physicians to other medical complexes in Woodland Hills and Panorama City.

Community Profile

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Based on 1990 U.S. census figures.

Statistics Population: 56,352 Median age: 35 Number of households: 19,629 Persons per household: 2.8 Owner-occupied housing units: 73% Population below poverty level: 5.5% Population over 18 with bachelor’s degree or higher: 26% ***

Income

Average household income is 38% higher than the Los Angeles city average. Granada Hills: $63,115 Citywide: $45,701 Northeast Valley: $44,444 Southeast Valley: $48,182 Northwest Valley: $58,427 Southwest Valley: $61,722 ***

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Ethnicity White: 72% Asian: 13% Latino: 12% African-American: 3% Sources: The San Fernando Valley, Then and Now; 1990 U.S. census

Research by JEFF SCHNAUFER / For The Times


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