Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design


Save your neighborhood from obscurity

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

Perhaps the last remaining  last remaining Bob’s Big Boy drive-in by Thomas Hawk.
There is nothing in the valley, I'm often told. Just endless tracts of condominiums, roads and remnants of old ranchos. Los Angeles' list of Historic Cultural Monuments seems to agree, out of more than a thousand landmarked properties, less than 100 are found in the Valley, said Ken Bernstein in a recent community meeting held at the Los Angeles Public Library's Van Nuys branch.

But in an area about 260 square miles, how can nothing happen? It's a question that's been perplexing me ever since I moved to this part of town two years ago. Since then, I've found that it's not a question of something happening, but something being remembered and passed down.

In his book, Forgotten Modern, author Alan Hess posits: "We have allowed self-selection, chance, and biased parties to write our history. That is acceptable for the first draft, but today we need a more systematic means of assessing significance and preserving the best examples." He was talking about the hidden side California modern architecture, but he could well be talking about everyone's natural dismissal of the goings on in the Valley. (Note: there are exceptions.)

But there is time enough to change that. The Office of Historic Resources has launched SurveyLA, a first-ever systematic program to identify significant historic resources throughout the city. Created with a multi-year grant agreement with the Getty, SurveyLA has the ambitious goal of finding out what really are important historic resources in all of Los Angeles. They've already gone through Phase 1, but are only starting to cover the Valley. If there was ever a time to speak up, now would be it.

Survey teams are finishing up inventories in: Sherman Oaks-Studio City-Toluca Lake-Cahuenga Pass; North Hollywood-Valley Village; Encino-Tarzana; Canoga Park-Winnetka-Woodland Hills-West Hills. Next year, they'll begin, Phase 3 in Sun Valley-La Tuna Canyon, Van Nuys-North Sherman Oaks, Chatsworth-Porter Ranch, Northridge, Reseda-West Van Nuys, Granada Hills-Knollwood and Sylmar.

Sure, big things always happen in Hollywood or Downtown, but so it did in the Valley. It's a Wonderful Life was filmed in Encino, Elvis bought some of his rhinestone-encrusted outfits in North Hollywood, even a missile launch site sits in this area. What happened in the Valley? I--and a few thousand new settlers--would like to know. To you, it might be insignificant, but for someone new to the neighborhood, it could be something.

Drop some knowledge on the Office of Historic Resources at or fill up this form to send in suggestions. It's time to fill in the missing pieces of the Los Angeles puzzle.


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