The Sun Valley Recreation Center is on Vineland Avenue.(Jesse Goddard / For The Times)
Among the facilities at the Sun Valley Recreation Center are a pool, sports fields and tennis and basketball courts.(Jesse Goddard / For The Times)
Sun Valley remains a strong option for residents priced out of trendier areas.(Jesse Goddard / For The Times)
The community has small businesses as well as large.(Jesse Goddard / For The Times)
Francis Polytechnic High is one of two public high schools in the community.(Jesse Goddard / For The Times)
The origins of Sun Valley were modest indeed: It started with a water tank.
In the 1870s, the tank was put there to serve a new spur of the Southern Pacific Railroad, and a tiny settlement sprang up around it. A family named Roberts set up a general store, and for a while, the San Fernando Valley spot bore its name.
In 1896, the name of the community, home to seven families, was changed to Roscoe for reasons that are still unclear. It is variously said to have memorialized an unfortunate railroad worker who met his end as a result of a train robbery, been a nod to the “roscoes” (archaic slang for guns) that local bandits used to commit those heists, or referenced silent-film star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who shot movies nearby.
Whatever the reason for the name, “Roscoe” stuck for nearly half a century, a span of time that saw the area transform from a semirural backwater to a bustling postwar bedroom community.
The first real development of the area began with the opening of State Route 99 in 1915, which spurred the opening of gas stations and motels. The businesses served the pioneering motorists who eschewed railroad travel in favor of making the arduous journey between Los Angeles and Bakersfield in their Dodge Tourings and Model Ts.
Beyond the narrow strip of civilization, quarries and landfills began to proliferate as a result of a perverse symbiosis — quarries created big holes, and the trash of rapidly growing Los Angeles meant the creation of plenty of trash to fill those holes.
World War II brought the next wave of development to Roscoe, which had been annexed by the city of Los Angeles in the 1930s. Nearby Lockheed Air Terminal (the current Hollywood Burbank Airport) was the center of the aerospace giant’s Southern California manufacturing operations during the war, where iconic planes such as the P-38 were built and tested.
Defense workers were drawn to the area to work in the plant, and developers sprang into action to build homes for them and their families. The character of Roscoe shifted to suburban, and in 1948 residents voted to rename the neighborhood Sun Valley.
The decline of the L.A. aerospace industry that began in the 1980s led to hard times for Sun Valley. The loss of relatively well-paying factory jobs caused economic dislocation that still affects much of the neighborhood in the flatlands.
An automotive time capsule: Sun Valley came of age with the automobile, and there are remnants aplenty of the heyday of car culture, including the Pink Motel and Cadillac Jack’s.
The great outdoors: Sun Valley residents can hike in the Verdugo Mountains, go horseback riding in Shadow Hills or take time to sniff the blossoms at the Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers.
Planes, trains, automobiles: Sun Valley is served by the 5 Freeway, the Hollywood Burbank Airport and the Sun Valley Metrolink Station, covering many major commuter bases.
It’s the economy: Like other areas of the region hard-hit by deindustrialization, Sun Valley has struggled to provide replacements for the jobs lost by Lockheed’s departure in 1992.
Helen Dubon Vela, a Century 21 Peak broker active in Sun Valley since 2007, said the area went through a rebirth in the late ’90s with the addition of the North Hollywood Metro station.
Although many artists and actors opted for North Hollywood, Sun Valley drew blue-collar families, and it remains a strong option for residents priced out of trendier areas.
In addition, Sun Valley accommodates a large number of businesses both big and small. As more people migrate north, however, homeless settlements have begun popping up in the industrial areas.
“With Sun Valley hosting larger companies and businesses, there has been more attention paid to the issues plaguing this northern area,” Dubon Vela said, adding that the city is taking on initiatives to address homelessness and affordable housing.
In the 91352 ZIP Code, based on 23 sales, the median sales price for single-family homes in May was $535,000, up 9.2% year over year, according to CoreLogic.
Of the 14 public schools in Sun Valley, 11 scored within the 700 range on the 2013 Academic Performance Index. Saticoy Elementary scored the highest, at 796.
Close behind were Strathern Street Elementary, at 789, and Roscoe Elementary, at 776. The area’s two public high schools, John H. Francis Polytechnic and Sun Valley High, scored 753 and 583, respectively.
Times staff writer Jack Flemming contributed to this report.