Sun Valley is a community in transition, one that is striving to improve its image and increase the quality of life for its residents. A new swimming pool just opened at the Sun Valley Recreation Center, trees are being planted on major roads and a police substation is operating out of the Chamber of Commerce building. While it’s still home to the huge red and white exhaust stacks of the Valley Generating Station power plant, the Bradley Landfill, gravel pits and sprawling salvage yards, residents would rather Sun Valley be known for the hard-working industrious community that it is.
Its neighborhoods vary from the Shadow Hills horse properties and the moderately affluent hillside homes north of Glenoaks Boulevard to the hundreds of apartments and condominiums built along Sunland Boulevard in recent decades. The once mostly white, blue-collar population has been supplanted by Latinos, who now make up more than half of Sun Valley residents.
“Sun Valley is an area that was particularly hard hit as a result of defense industry closures. It was also neglected by government services for many years,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon, who grew up in Sun Valley. “The recent improvements. . . and those coming-the new Sun Valley Metrolink Station and other projects- have really rejuvenated the hopes of the community to put it back on the right track.”
The community took root in 1874, when state Sen. Charles Maclay acquired about 56,000 acres stretching from Sunland Boulevard west to the Chatsworth area. Two years later, the Southern Pacific Railroad was constructed through the area. The dawn of the automobile age further shaped the community, although it continued to grow slowly--at the turn of the century, only seven families lived there. Around 1915, California 99, then the main highway between Los Angeles and Bakersfield, was opened, and a Roscoe family boasted owning the first-ever gas pump along the highway. The community was annexed by the city of Los Angeles in the 1930s. During and after World War II, houses and various manufacturing businesses sprung up as Sun Valley matured into a suburban, bedroom community.
What’s in a Name:
In the area that is now Sun Valley, a small town called Roberts sprung up, named for the proprietors of Roberts’ General Store, the only business in town. In 1896, the community’s name was changed to Roscoe, for reasons that are still a matter of debate. In 1950, the community’s name was changed to Sun Valley after a campaign by local businesses and residents.
Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative: New trees are being planted, and unique street lights, bus shelters, drinking fountains and park improvements are in the works, thanks to the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative. Established in 1993 as a pilot city program, it aims to improve major thoroughfares in six communities throughout the city. City officials say they hope it will make Sun Valley a safer and friendlier place to do business.
Renaming of Sunland Boulevard: At the request of Sun Valley residents and business people, Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon last year suggested a stretch of Sunland Boulevard, from Sherman Way to Stonehurst Avenue, be renamed Sun Valley Boulevard. Proponents believe it would strengthen the community’s identity and distinguish it from nearby Sunland. The change is expected to happen by the end of the year, according to city officials.
Creation of community of La Tuna Canyon: In August 1995, La Tuna Canyon broke away from Sun Valley to become its own community recognized by the Los Angeles City Council. Some residents of this community wanted to be known as Rancho La Tuna Canyon, but in the end, the “rancho” part was dropped. This new community includes the Theodore Payne Foundation, a nonprofit educational center that also sells native plants.
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(Census data include parts of Pacomia, Sunland and Kagel Canyon)
Median age: 29.7
Number of households: 23,835
Persons per household: 3.5
Owner- occupied housing units: 63%
Population below poverty level: 13.6%
Population over 18 with bachelor’s degree or higher: 12.5%
Average household income is slightly below the citywide average.
Sun Valley: $42,142
Citywide average: $45,701
Northeast Valley: $44, 444
Southeast Valley: $48,182
Northwest Valley: $56,427
Southwest Valley: $61,722
African American: 2%
Source: 1990 Census
Sources: Offices of Los Angeles City Council members Richard Alarcon and Joel Wachs and staff reports; Researched by STEPHANIE STASSEL and STEVE RYFLE/Los Angeles Times.