Today's North Hills, home to the largest branch library in the Los Angeles system and a new state-of-the-art ambulatory care facility for veterans, is a far cry from the chicken and rabbit ranches that dotted the area in the early part of the century.

As modern amenities improve the look of North Hills, residents are working with police and city officials to improve its quality of life, an issue that led to a divisive name change from Sepulveda to North Hills a few years ago.


Quality of life: Community leaders are particularly concerned about drug trafficking on the east side of the San Diego Freeway, ever-petitioning the city for more police.

A special citywide LAPD task force created with grant money from the state has focused on outdoor drug trafficking in North Hills since July 1995, with various investigations underway, said Jim Miller, an LAPD narcotics detective. The Narcotics Enforcement Surveillance Team's mission is to arrest major drug suppliers after arresting smaller dealers.

Although gang activity was down 18% Valleywide from 1995 to '96, a few neighborhoods east of the San Diego Freeway remain some of the roughest in the Valley, said Officer James Ruffner of the Valley Bureau's CRASH unit, the LAPD's gang detail. There is a handful of prominent Latino gangs in the area, he said. Drug use and prostitution within North Hills apartment houses are of greater concern to landlords since damage to buildings from the Northridge earthquake caused property values and rents to drop.


Quake recovery: The 1994 Northridge earthquake delivered a major blow to North Hills, especially in the Orion-Parthenia neighborhood on the east side, one of 17 severely damaged communities to be deemed "ghost towns." Earlier this month, executives of Neighborhood Empowerment and Economic Development, or NEED, which bought several quake-damaged buildings, were given 30 days to fix up three buildings in the Orion-Parthenia area. The Los Angeles Housing Department and NEED, a nonprofit organization run by political allies of Councilman Richard Alarcon, have been criticized for their lack of progress in the neighborhood. Despite its lack of experience, NEED has been awarded almost $11 million in Housing Department loans and grants.


The flatland now known as North Hills was named Mission Acres around 1915 by early developers who carved out 1-acre plots large enough for raising chickens, vegetables and even rabbits.

Residents voted in 1927 to officially call the 5-square-mile region Sepulveda, in honor of Francisco Sepulveda, who had been the acting mayor of Los Angeles in 1825.


Veterans clinic: North Hills' largest landmark, until recently officially known as the Sepulveda Veterans Affairs Medical Center, a city block at Plummer Street and Haskell Avenue. By March, its new 242,000-square-foot ambulatory care center will be fully operational, replacing the old hospital facility that was destroyed in the Northridge earthquake. Long-term nursing care will continue to be offered, but those who need to be hospitalized will be sent elsewhere.


Library: The modern, $5 million Mid-Valley Regional Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library opened in March in North Hills at Nordhoff Street and Woodley Avenue. The largest branch library in the Los Angeles system, it houses more than 70,000 books, with a capacity for 120,000, and circulates about 40,000 each month.

Sources: Staff reports, "California Name Places," "The San Fernando Valley Then and Now," North Hills Community Coordinating Council, Office of City Councilman Joel Wachs

Researched by THOMAS SCHULTZ and STEPHANIE STASSEL / Times staff writers


Community Profile (includes Mission Hills and Panorama City)

Population: 107,876

Median age: 29.2

Number of households: 33,986

Persons per household: 3.2

Owner-occupied housing units: 47%

Population below poverty level: 15.6%

Population over 18 with bachelor's degree or higher: 16%


Average household income is lower than the citywide average.

North Hills: $39,711

Citywide average: $45,701

Northeast Valley: $44,444

Southeast Valley: $48,182

Northwest Valley: $56,427

Southwest Valley: $61,722


Latino: 44%

White: 38%

Asian: 11%

African American: 7%

Other: 1%

Note: these add up to 101% due to rounding.

Source: 1990 Census

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