When Los Angeles' Community Redevelopment Agency wanted to manage earthquake rebuilding efforts, the homeowners filed a lawsuit to prevent the move and won.
"We resisted government control," said Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn. (SOHA).
Sherman Oaks also played a key role in the drive for Proposition 13, the 1978 property tax limitation initiative, and was the epicenter of the ill-fated San Fernando Valley secession movement in 2002, Close noted.
"People in Sherman Oaks are involved in the community," Close said. "We're continually upgrading the Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks War Memorial Park, and there's a real effort to protect the Santa Monica Mountains from overdevelopment."
The Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks park, which has ball fields, picnic grounds and activities for senior citizens, is a popular site for family gatherings.
The retail main street of the community is Ventura Boulevard, where an eclectic mix of independent stores flourishes, including trendy boutiques and CD and clothing resale stores. The historic La Reina Theatre is a day spa with eateries nearby. Merchants cater to a young, hip clientele.
"We have everything you could want in the way of shopping," said Heather Farquhar of Dilbeck Realtors in Sherman Oaks. "You can walk the strip on Ventura, or you can go to the Sherman Oaks Galleria and Fashion Square mall for chain stores."
How it grew
Sherman Oaks was one of the early communities in the Valley. It was developed by Gen. Moses Hazeltine Sherman, a partner in Los Angeles Suburban Homes Co., which subdivided 1,000 acres and sold the land for $780 an acre in 1927.
Decades later, the teenage mall-speak -- "Like totally!" "Fer sure!" -- was captured in Frank Zappa's 1982 "Valley Girl" song.
The Sherman Oaks Galleria became a setting for the 1982 comedy "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and the home of the Valley Girl.
The community has predominantly traditional and postwar tract houses, but Farquhar said many smaller homes are being demolished and replaced by large, mostly Mediterranean-style homes.
After the Northridge quake, much of the housing stock was upgraded in the reconstruction process, and the value of property has risen steadily.
On the market
In early May, there were 96 houses listed for sale in Sherman Oaks, ranging from a $590,000, 843-square-foot fixer-upper to a $4.5-million estate. There were 20 condominiums on the market, priced from $289,000 for an 866-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bath unit to $749,900 for a 2,073-square-foot, three-bedroom and three-bath condo.
The community supports its local schools through the SOHA Foundation for Sherman Oaks Schools, which gives a grant of $5,000 to $10,000 to one of its elementary schools each year.
Schools in Sherman Oaks are part of the Los Angeles Unified School District. On the 2004 Academic Performance Index, Chandler Elementary scored 761 out of a possible 1,000; Dixie Canyon Avenue Elementary, 801; Kester Avenue Elementary, 839; Riverside Drive Elementary, 784; and Sherman Oaks Elementary, 832. Students go on to attend Robert A. Millikan Middle School, which scored 737, and Ulysses S. Grant High School, 602; or Van Nuys Middle School, 621, and Van Nuys High School, 635.
*Year to date
Sources: DataQuick Information Systems, api.cde.ca.gov, www.shermanoakschamber.org, www.sohainfo.com, Heather Farquhar and Steven Levinson of Dilbeck Realtors, Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn.