Neighborhood Spotlight: Sherman Oaks holds on to its suburbia and mall cred

The Sherman Oaks Galleria.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Now a vibrant community with mom-and-pop shops and quiet, tree-lined streets, Sherman Oaks was once blanketed by citrus groves, like much of the San Fernando Valley. But by the 1950s, it became one of the first commercially and residentially developed neighborhoods.

The Los Angeles Suburban Homes Co. bought 47,500 acres of land in 1909. A partner in the company and neighborhood namesake, Moses Hazeltine Sherman, purchased for himself a 1,000-acre parcel that would become the birthplace of Sherman Oaks. He developed and subdivided it in 1927, then sold it for $780 an acre.

The construction of Mulholland Drive, a route cradling the Santa Monica Mountains and offering spectacular views of Los Angeles, spurred development of the area.

And as movie studios outgrew Hollywood and pushed into areas such as Studio City, Sherman Oaks benefited, too. Film stars relocated to the Valley in search of a neighborhood that offered both proximity and privacy. Marilyn Monroe and Bing Crosby both owned homes in Sherman Oaks.


After World War II, Sherman Oaks went through a development boom. Its main retail corridor began to take shape, with several businesses springing up along Ventura Boulevard.

The neighborhood became a landmark for L.A. suburban and mall culture in the 1980s. The Sherman Oaks Galleria — featured in the films “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Valley Girl” — was damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake but has since been rebuilt as an open-air mall.

Neighborhood highlights

A bartender mixes a Honey Badger at a Sherman Oaks spot.
A bartender mixes a Honey Badger at a Sherman Oaks spot.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times )

Accessibility: In close proximity to the 101 and 405 freeways, the neighborhood provides easy access to West Los Angeles and neighboring Studio City.

William Mellenthin homes: Prominent Valley developer William Mellenthin constructed hundreds of homes throughout the Valley in the 1930s through the 1960s. His trademark “birdhouse” ranch-style homes feature a birdhouse on top of the garage, diamond-paned windows and storybook touches associated with the 1950s. Although most were remodeled, some remain in their original conditions.

Shopping ’til you drop: Sherman Oaks is famous for its shopping malls, including Westfield Fashion Square and Sherman Oaks Galleria. The Village at Sherman Oaks Business Improvement District includes several eclectic specialty shops and boutiques.

Recreation: There’s the Van Nuys Sherman Oaks Recreation Center, which has an outdoor pool, tennis courts, basketball courts, soccer fields, and Dixie Canyon Park, a 20-acre open space preserve with hiking trails.

Neighborhood challenges

Although Sherman Oaks has public transportation, with regular and rapid bus service, it isn’t served by a major rail system. Los Angeles Metro and the Federal Transit Administration are evaluating a major mass transit project that would run rail from Van Nuys Boulevard to San Fernando Road.

Expert insight

Arto Poladian, a real estate agent based in Sherman Oaks, said that when houses have come on the market lately, it hasn’t been uncommon “for things to get picked up between seven to 10 days.”

“The Sherman Oaks area is highly desirable to buyers because of its proximity to West Los Angeles, where real estate is even more expensive,” he said. And he noted that Sherman Oaks offers slightly larger lot sizes, homes with character and “a very good neighborhood feel.”

Market snapshot

In the 91403 ZIP Code, based on 14 sales, the median sale price for single family homes in May was $1.24 million, according to CoreLogic. The median single family home price for ZIP Code 91423 was $1.24 million based on 18 sales.

Report card

Dixie Elementary School topped the charts at 942 out of a possible 1,000, according to the 2013 API rating system. Sherman Oaks Elementary Charter School scored 880 out of 1,000. Robert A Millikan Middle School scored 875 out of 1,000.