San Fernando Valley

Happy anniversary to the Valley

annex-map-1918-raremaps-com-200.jpgOn this day in 1915, the voters of the San Fernando Valley chose to join the city of Los Angeles — and nothing here was ever the same. The annexation 95 years ago married two distinct cultures and climates, and more than doubled the size of Los Angeles. The original 1781 Spanish land grant had laid out a pueblo of 28 square miles; annexing places like Highland Park, Hollywood, San Pedro and Wilmington had expanded the city limits to 107 square miles. In one giant swoop, the Valley brought in 169.89 more square miles. There was land, but not many people: the annexation vote passed with just 681 yes votes to 25 nays.

Most inhabitants lived in and around dusty new farm towns that were founded on abandoned wheat fields during construction of William Mulholland's Owens Valley aqueduct. To use the aqueduct's water, the towns had to join the city. The photo above (click to enlarge) shows the first settlers in Van Nuys trudging off the train from Los Angeles to start new lives where no trees shaded the sun or broke the wind. It would take them a year or so to realize Van Nuys was built in the path of flooding on Pacoima Wash. For a little L.A. moment of Zen, here's the same spot this weekend — the train tracks have been replaced by the Orange Line busway at Van Nuys Boulevard. Video link

Noted: Three of the new Valley towns — Van Nuys, Marian (now Reseda) and Owensmouth (now Canoga Park) — were linked to Los Angeles by a streetcar line on Van Nuys and Chandler boulevards and Sherman Way. Yes, in 1915 you could commute from Canoga Park to downtown L.A. without a car.

Photo: Los Angeles Public Library / Herald Examiner Collection


Book: The San Fernando Valley: America's Suburb

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