Sylmar Portrait

The name Sylmar is a fusion of the Latin words for “forest” and “sea.”

In the early 1890s, the Los Angeles Olive Growers Assn. purchased 1,000 acres of Maclay Rancho, part of which encompassed Sylmar, and cultivated acres of olive trees. From the San Gabriel Mountains above, Sylmar once looked like a “sea of trees.”

Today, less than 10% of this foothill area is zoned for industrial use, and the community remains close to its historic roots.

Major events include the 1971 Sylmar quake, which killed 64 people and injured several thousand. Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, under construction when the quake hit, was severely damaged and later was demolished and rebuilt. The interchange of the San Diego and Foothill freeways also was under construction when the 6.4 temblor struck; it, too, collapsed.



* Stetson Ranch Equestrian Park: One of only two public equestrian centers in Los Angeles. Used heavily by horse riders, the riding arenas, trails and parking lots were recently improved.

* Wilson Canyon: Nature lovers were pleased by the acquisition of a 255-acre swath of oak- and scrub-covered parkland in Wilson Canyon, in the foothills north of Olive View-UCLA Medical Center. The park was once slated for a housing development.

* Mission College--The youngest community college in Los Angeles’ nine-campus district continues to grow. An $11-million library and computer resource center is under construction and will open late next year.


* Juvenile detention: Sylmar Juvenile Detention Center is the temporary home of about 700 troubled juveniles. After it opened, members of the community-spirited Sylmar Coordinating Council adopted the center and now continue to collect clothes, toys and other items for children being held there.

* General plan: A general plan for growth is being implemented by Los Angeles planners. The blueprint attempts to cluster development along major routes, leaving other areas for horse keeping and rural pursuits. But some say developers have already encroached too much.

* Landfills: Sylmar sits between two landfills: Sunshine Canyon Landfill to the west, in Granada Hills, and Lopez Canyon Landfill to the east, in Lake View Terrace. Though neither dump is actually in Sylmar, many Sylmar residents have joined their neighbors’ fights for closure of those landfills.


* Sports: The boys’ and girls’ athletic teams from Sylmar High School are strongly supported by the community. The football team won the city section 4-A title in 1992 and 1994. The girls’ volleyball team won the city 3-A championship in 1994.

* Olive View: Residents and employees at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center joined forces in August to protest planned cuts and layoffs at the Los Angeles County-run hospital. Despite their efforts, the county budget crisis forced dramatic staff reductions and cutbacks in services offered at the hospital.

* Hang gliding: High-flying members of the Sylmar Hang Gliding Assn. serve a valuable purpose when gliding over the hills near Sylmar’s El Cariso Park. Members are part of an airborne arson and crime watch, reporting fires, automobile accidents and any other problems spotted below.

Community Profile

Population: 59,996

Median age: 29

Number of households: 17,306

Persons per household: 3.5

Owner-occupied housing units: 69%

Population below poverty level: 10.8%

Population over 18 with bachelor’s degree or higher: 12%


Average household income is slightly higher than the Los Angeles city average.

Sylmar: $47,587

Citywide average: $45,701

Northeast Valley: $44,444

Southeast Valley: $48,182

Northwest Valley: $56,427

Southwest Valley: $61,722


Latino: 52%

White: 39%

African American: 4%

Asian: 4%

Other: 1%

Sources (for table): 1990 U.S. Census, Sylmar Chamber of Commerce


Sources: Staff reports

Researched by TIM MAY / For The Times