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Bradys put this Valley niche on the map
Woodbridge Park is Studio City without as much flash. The cars aren't as fancy, the clothes aren't as showy and the homes aren't as ritzy, but affluence is still the standard for those who call this neighborhood home.
Over the last century, North Hollywood has watched its real estate domain diminish as residents sought new identities and monikers such as Toluca Lake, Studio City and Valley Village. Now, there are even neighborhoods within these neighborhoods. Woodbridge Park is a neighborhood of Studio City.
At one time, poultry farms and wheat fields studded the landscape of North Hollywood. When the Red Car trolleys began servicing North Hollywood in 1911 and connecting the suburb to cities and jobs, the area turned into a hub of real estate activity. Momentum downshifted after two "great" catastrophes — the Depression of the 1930s and the Los Angeles flood of 1938.
Eventually, postwar euphoria caused another surge of interest, as GIs sought out starter homes. Proximity to the studios and the aerospace industry kept the area's homes in demand and a community evolved.
What it's about
An enclave buffered by Tujunga and Vineland avenues, Ventura Boulevard and Moorpark Street just south of the 101 and 170 freeway interchange, the area's southern edge dead ends into the Los Angeles River, restricting access via Ventura Boulevard.
Woodbridge Park residents used to contend with busloads of tourists gawking at its most famous landmark: the split-level home (now with a fenced frontyard) seen on most episodes of "The Brady Bunch," which aired on ABC from 1969 to 1974.
These days the area draws a number of celebrities-in-transit, such as "The West Wing" star Allison Janney and "Two and a Half Men" star Jon Cryer, many of whom lease a home while they shoot a pilot or a season's worth of episodes at nearby studios.
At times, finding a home that's for lease is easier than finding one to buy in Woodbridge Park, say local real estate agents.
"People looking to trade up don't want to part with their home, so they lease it," said Zane Zubalsky, an agent with the John Aaroe division of Prudential California Realty in Studio City.
It's true that a lot of people don't want to leave the community, including Guy Weddington McCreary, a local historian whose mother made the decision to let "The Brady Bunch" use her ranch-style home for the show. (She sold the property in 1973, and McCreary now lives elsewhere in the neighborhood.)
"My family's been here for around 119 years so I'm not going anywhere," said McCreary, whose ancestors helped found Lankershim, which later became North Hollywood.
Some homes even pass through the generations. Resident Kathryn Christy, 58, inherited the two-bedroom, one-bath, ranch-style home where she grew up, about 50 years after her father bought it for $12,000 in 1949.
"It's paid for and what I'd call a good investment in an area with lots of beauty and caring neighbors," said Christy, a documentary filmmaker.
The crown jewel of the neighborhood is the block-long stretch of shops — with nary a chain in sight — called Tujunga Village. Part Montana Avenue, part Larchmont Boulevard, part hippie bohemia, this retail secret is about low-key, high-quality businesses and services, such as a day spa, a yoga studio and hair salons. Residents find common ground at Aroma Café, where they debate and write scripts and some even order freshly scrambled eggs for their dogs.
Many are buzzing over the recent opening of the Gelato Bar, a gelato and espresso cafe owned by Gail Silverton, sister to famed Campanile and La Brea Bakery co-founder and pastry chef Nancy Silverton.
Celebrity-seekers know the area's real claim to fame is Vitello's, the Italian restaurant where Robert Blake dined the night of his wife's murder in 2001. "We use that as a promotional selling point," said Rick Shaw, a 10-year resident of the area who owns Two Roads Theatre. He said the restaurant's past isn't hurting Woodbridge Park's future. "Good celebrity noir helps everybody."
On the market
Real estate prices haven't taken a nose dive from the notoriety. It's a rare deal that will get a buyer in a home for less than $800,000.
There are currently eight listings in an area of about 375 homes. Selections include a two-bedroom, 1,600-square-foot house for $919,000 and a three-bedroom, 2,139-square-foot property listed at $1,099,000.
Woodbridge Park students attend Rio Vista Elementary School in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which scored 797 out of a possible 1,000 on the 2006 Academic Performance Index Growth Report. Walter Reed Middle School and North Hollywood Senior High School scored 747 and 655 respectively.
Sources: Randi Lieberman, John Aaroe division of Prudential California Realty in Studio City; Rick Simon, http://www.californiamoves.com/enrique.simon ; api.cde.ca.gov.