Encino, named after the Spanish word for the shady oak trees that have graced the land for hundreds of years, retains a strong sense of its place in San Fernando Valley history.
The Gabrielino Indians settled in the area, which was a popular stopping place on trade routes, because of its natural springs. More than a million artifacts have been found in the vicinity, including European beads thought to be gifts from Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola, who led the first European expedition in 1769 to what is now the San Fernando Valley.
The community’s residents enjoy the convenience of a central location along the Valley’s southern boundary.
“You can go north or south on the 405, and east or west on the 101,” said Gerald A. Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino. “The low crime rate and good-quality schools are an attraction here.”
Homeowners of Encino works closely with another homeowners group, the Encino Property Owners Assn., to maintain the area’s character. The groups have banded together to fight traffic congestion, noise from nearby Van Nuys Airport and overdevelopment.
Encino has always been a magnet for celebrities. In the 1930s, the city named entertainer Al Jolson its honorary mayor. Today, Stephanie Zimbalist, Shirley Jones and Marty Ingels are among those who call it home.
But Encino has earned its fame for more than just its residents. The Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area, just a few miles from Ventura Boulevard, is a haven for wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts.
Height restrictions keep most commercial buildings on Ventura Boulevard to low-rises, giving the area a somewhat open feel. The Encino Town Center, which houses a movie theater, restaurants and a cluster of stores at Ventura Boulevard and Hayvenhurst Avenue, serves as the “town square.”
Most of the city’s homes were built in the 1950s, in ranch or contemporary styles; offerings include prewar tract homes in older sections of the community and large estates on land that was once ranches or farms.
Marly Tempel, an agent with Coldwell Banker, called Encino the “Beverly Hills of the Valley” because of the high income level of many residents. Tempel added, “It’s a melting pot here, with a large Russian, Iranian and Armenian community.”
On a recent day, the least expensive house listed for sale was a 981-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bathroom place for $539,000. At the other end of the price range was a 7,000-square-foot, six-bedroom, six-bathroom house for $3.9 million.
Condominiums, Tempel said, are also popular, and listings ranged from $189,990 for a 465-square-foot studio to $850,000 for a 1,985-square-foot, two-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath unit.
Encino is a family-oriented city. There’s an Easter egg hunt every year and events at Los Encinos State Historic Park. There are hiking trails and areas to bicycle.
The Encino Chamber of Commerce closes a section of Ventura Boulevard annually for the street fair called “A Taste of Encino,” which features food from local restaurants, entertainment and vendor booths.
People go fishing, boating, jogging and walking around the Anthony C. Beilenson Park, an 80-acre water recreation facility within the Sepulveda Flood Control Basin. The Encino Velodrome has tracks for cycling, and several golf courses are in the area. There are two dog parks -- the Sepulveda Basin Dog Park and Laurel Canyon Dog Park -- nearby.
Schools in Encino are part of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
On the 2004 Academic Performance Index, Emelita Street Elementary scored 823 out of a possible 1,000; Encino Elementary scored 793; and Lanai Road Elementary, 849. Students go on to attend Portola Middle School in Tarzana, which scored 749 on the performance index, or Mulholland Middle School (613) in Van Nuys, then to Birmingham High School (615) in Van Nuys or Reseda High School (611) in Reseda.
*Year to date
Sources: api.cde.ca.gov www.encinochamber.org www.lahacal.org Bill Jasper, president of the Encino Property Owners Assn.; DataQuick Information Systems.