Come and Stay Awhile


Vicky and Michael Walker didn’t live in Toluca Lake, but they often walked along the tree-lined streets, passing an old house with a fairy-tale look that they grew to love.

As renters in a nearby community, the Walkers, who have two young sons, began to dream of owning the house, but they weren’t sure they could afford the neighborhood, and the house wasn’t even on the market.

Then what Vicky Walker remembers as “a magical thing” happened. She and her husband heard that the owner, a woman in her 90s who had moved to a convalescent hospital, might be willing to sell at a price they could afford.


“She had to meet our whole family, because she loved the house so much,” Vicky Walker recalled. “She started living in the house in 1937 and raised her family there.”

The elderly woman returned to the house for a final visit, then sold it to the Walkers about a year ago.

The woman’s tenure in the house was not unusual for Toluca Lake. Many residents have lived in the same houses for decades. Bob Hope, Toluca Lake’s most famous resident, has owned his house since the 1930s.

For the comedian and countless others in the entertainment industry over the years, the location of Toluca Lake has been a plus. “Bob always said he could practically walk to work at NBC,” said Hope’s spokesman, Ward Grant.

The community is also near Universal and the Burbank studios. Paramount and other Hollywood studios are a short drive “over the hill,” as locals say.


Toluca Lake is a relatively flat, predominately residential community of 6,000 residents north of Universal City. It is bounded by Cahuenga Boulevard on the west, Magnolia Boulevard on the north, Clybourne Avenue on the east and Universal Studios on the south.


Most of the houses in Toluca Lake are more than 40 years old, and the prices range widely, from a two-bedroom fixer at $280,000 to a couple of mansions, including comedian Jerry Van Dyke’s, at about $2.7 million. The median price is in the $500,000 range, for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house about 2,000 square feet in size, said realty agent Jon Molin of Ramsey-Shilling Associates.

Michael Walker, 41, and Vicky, in her 30s, paid $250,000 and have put more than $100,000 and considerable personal labor into their home. The couple, who own All That Glitters jewelry kiosks in about a dozen Los Angeles-area malls, spent two months just cleaning up the inside of their new house before moving in.

“It was beyond fixer,” said Molin, who represented the Walkers with his associate Shirley Duenckel in buying the house, which had plumbing and other problems.

“The Walkers had to clean out the raw sewage, and they had to jack up the rotted floor,” Molin recalled.

They installed new plumbing, refinished the turret and the barrel ceiling, and put on a new, steeply pitched roof, bringing craftsmen from as far away as Florida who were familiar with the Cotswold style.

“We’re still not done with it,” Vicky Walker said, “but we love it, and we love Toluca Lake, because it is so family and community oriented.”


What is now Toluca Lake started out as a ranch of a few hundred acres owned by Gen. Charles Forman, a shareholder in the Lankershim Ranch Land & Water Co. Forman named his ranch, which included a spring-fed lake, Laguna Toluca after Toluca de Lerdo, in central Mexico, where his wife was born.

By the 1890s, the California community was developed enough to be considered a town site. Later, the area was expanded by a few streets. There is still a lake in Toluca Lake, although access to it today is limited to owners of the homes along its shores.

The lake covers about five acres, its water varying in depth from 18 inches to 10 feet. “You can swim in the lake, but I wouldn’t drink the water,” Molin said. Non-motorized boats are allowed.

Canoes were used on the lake in filming “Our Gang” comedies in the ‘20s. The swan, now a village logo, left the lake when neighborhood dogs swam faster, Molin said.

Toluca Lake also has its famous Lakeside Country Club, established by a syndicate of Hollywood financiers who bought 152 acres of the ranch for housing in 1923.

Bob Hope always liked the location of Toluca Lake, but he was attracted to the area by the golf course and his pal, actor / singer Bing Crosby.


“Bob always says that he moved to Toluca Lake because Crosby said it was one of the best places on earth and, besides, there is a golf course nearby. He still belongs to Lakeside,” Hope’s spokesman said.

“Bob Hope and Bing Crosby put Toluca Lake on the map, but you could say that Andy Garcia and Denzel Washington have helped keep it there,” Molin said.


Garry Marshall is another well-known resident. He produced the sitcoms “Happy Days” and “Laverne and Shirley” (co-starring his sister, director Penny Marshall), and he directed such movies as “Pretty Woman” (1990). He has lived in Toluca Lake since 1968.

Marshall was drawn there, he said, “by the legend that Bob and Bing hired a geologist to answer the question: Where is the best place to live [in the L.A. area]? The geologist said, ‘Toluca Lake, because a breeze comes up every afternoon at 3.’

“Sure enough,” Marshall said, chuckling, “the breeze does come, sometimes in 110-degree heat.”

Marshall and his wife, Barbara, paid $85,000 for their first Toluca Lake house. After eight years, they bought a house nearby for $140,000.


It’s difficult but not impossible to find Toluca Lake housing at such a price today, provided condo living suits your taste.

There are 389 condos in Toluca Lake and 860 single-family homes, according to Raoul Contreras of Continental Lawyers Title. There are also some apartments, starting at $650 a month, sources say.


A new condo owner is longtime resident Don Page, a columnist who writes “about the human predicament,” as he puts it, for the Tolucan, the local weekly newspaper.

Page, 59, had rented in Toluca Lake for 25 years before he and his wife, Leslie, bought a two-bedroom, 1,300-square-foot condo about six months ago.

“We were in some nice apartments, but I got tired of giving all of my money to the government,” Page said. He and his wife paid about $200,000 for their unit, he said, “and that was a bargain for Toluca Lake.”

Molin has sold a couple of condos during the past year that were less expensive, however. They were bank repos--one for $109,000 and the other, on the Burbank side of Toluca Lake, for $88,000--”but these are not the norm,” he said.


Even in an expensive neighborhood, however, it is possible to get a deal, as Brent and Donna Nelson learned late last year when they bought a house for $400,000.

Although built in 1948, their three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom home has such modern touches as recessed lighting and skylights.

The Nelsons, in their 40s, bought in Toluca Lake for two reasons: location (he is a composer for the daytime soap “Days of Our Lives”) and neighborhood ambience.

“It’s a great neighborhood and a great place to raise kids,” Donna Nelson said. The Nelsons have a preschooler and a college-aged daughter.

Part of the ambience is the friendliness, which prompts strollers to say hello when walking their dogs at night, residents say.

“It’s a great place to take a walk,” Page said.

“There aren’t as many restaurants now, and there isn’t as much open space, but it’s still quiet here.”


For residents with children, there are schools for every level: Toluca Lake Elementary; Walter Reed, a junior high with an honors program, and North Hollywood High, a magnet school.

“We are the jewel of the valley when it comes to schools,” said Sally Burford, seventh-grade vice principal at Walter Reed.

“We have fantastic music and performing arts programs, after-school sports and clubs, from fly-fishing to whatever interests the students. And we’re on the higher end of test scores.”

The community has “a very low crime rate, because the people of Toluca Lake are very organized,” said Officer Nancy Reeves, who is in charge of the area for the Los Angeles Police Department.

“If there’s a problem, it’s solved quickly, because there is a strong homeowners association and a strong Neighborhood Watch.”

There is also the Toluca Lake Garden Club, which is marking its 50th anniversary this year. The club maintains planters and trees in the commercial part of town.


The commercial strip is only a few blocks along Riverside Drive, but it had the one business Marshall wanted when he moved there.

“I’m from the Bronx, and all I wanted was a flat place to live near a drugstore,” he said.

Recently, he decided that he wanted something more: a 99-seat theater where he could see and probably produce or direct a play.

Page has long held that Toluca Lake has everything except a legitimate theater. “Now,” he said, “Garry Marshall is building one.”