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ValleyBites: Rocketdyne Cleanup Ruled Unconstitutional, Granada Hills Charter High School in National Decathlon

Saturday, April 30, 2011 / No Comments
  • Assuming I read this correctly and I am not hung over from last night, the fine folks at have just published an article stating that the Federal Court overturned the cleanup of Rocketdyne's Santa Susana Field Lab (SSFL) up in the Simi Hills near Chatsworth. It was almost  one month ago that I talked about the SSFL here on this site (with cool links to videos and cleanup sites) in response to the Fukushima disaster in Japan which has become probably worse than Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.  

Back To The Future Series #3: First McDonald's Restaurant in the San Fernando Valley

Thursday, April 28, 2011 / 14 Comments
[Update April 13, 2017]: I received great anecdotal information regarding this location from Amber Dusk whose father was interviewed by the Long Beach Press-Telegram (pic below) in 1982.  Amber's dad was friends with Mr. Kroc since the 1930s and started an advertising agency in 1947 specializing in restaurant franchising.  Amber shares recollections re: McDonald's from her dad below:
The story of Peaks is kind of fun.  While this strange NoHo McDonald’s was being built, there was a glitch in the process, and the golden arches came out jagged.  At the time, the McDonald brothers had about a dozen loosely organized, unsophisticated franchises in Southern California. They just decided to call it Peaks.  I remember that jagged look from the few times we drove “all the way up to Victory”— from where we lived between Riverside and Moorpark—just to sample the burgers.

This history of Peaks came to me from my dad, a wonderful man named Walter Tilds. He met Ray Kroc in the ‘30s when Ray was a Lily Paper Cup salesman in the Chicago area.  Ray went on to distribute Multimixers for milkshakes to restaurants.  When my dad moved us from Chicago to the SFV in 1947, Ray got him his first advertising account with Multimixer.  Dad got to know the McDonald brothers through this association.  In 1954, he got a call from Dick McDonald who disclosed that he and his brother had become exhausted from the hamburger franchise hassle.  They planned to sell out and retire to Santa Barbara.  They wanted to give him first crack at taking over as buyer of their franchise operation.  But his ad agency was going great guns, and the offer just wasn’t right for him.  He connected the brothers with Ray, and the rest is history.

I don’t know how long that original building stood with those peaked arches.  We only went there a couple of times as a family in those early days.  My dad told me the story many years later when McDonald’s had, of course, become international and the story of “Peaks" was much more interesting and relevant.
1982 Long Beach Press-Telegram article courtesy Amber Dusk
[Update November 22, 2014]: The following image from Marla Watson's Facebook shows the front of the Mcdonalds sometime in the mid-60s with the Kris Kristensen Swim School. The second picture is what the McDonalds might have looked originally but I dont believe is the SFV location.

[Update February 1, 2012]: The site contains historical satellite images going back to the 50's (these images are available for purchase on the site without the watermarks and at a higher resolution). For the McDonald's location, the earliest year available was from 1953 shown below (click to enlarge) with a red arrow to show the McDonalds site. Since this image is a top down satellite view, its hard to see any arches but its also possible no arches were present at the time this image was taken because McDonald's opened in October 1953.

The next available year was 1972 shown below which is difficult to determine the architecture type at that time. Also, there appears to have been something constructed on the sides of the buildings which was previously parking as shown in the 1953 image. By the late 60's, the golden arches were removed to transition to the  low profile mansard roof and brick and shingle textures which is common today so its possible that this image does not contain the golden arches. On the very left side of this image, you can see the old Victory Drive In which I discussed in another BTTF post here.

This next image is from 1978 which you can see some kind of building transformation which definitely looks like the McDonalds today. So based on the comment from "Valley Guy", it appears that there was never a demolition as McDonalds simply built around the existing site probably to avoid lengthy downtimes and increased costs. This also explains why the restrooms are always accessed on the right side of the restaurant in a majority of the existing McDonald's location. I didnt bother with the other years available because there are obviously no differences. You can also see that the Victory Drive In is no longer present and has been converted into a strip mall. This has unfortunately become a stereotype of  the Valley as this was way back in the 70's!

[Update August 31, 2011]: I received the following info in an email from "SJM" regarding the McDonalds site:
The “golden arches” on Victory Blvd, just west of Coldwater Canyon back in the 50s actually was not called McDonalds.  It was called Peak’s.  It looked exactly like McDonalds, and likely was the franchisee.  But it had a different name.  I remember the 11 cent burgers and 15 cent fries, or the other way around, and the milkshakes.  It was next door to the Victory Drive in, where we’d go as little kids in the back of the station wagon.  It was many years before it changed names. (and, as a throw away, there was a popular swim school across the street – and I could go on and on).
[Original Post]
So I received a request for what was/is the first McDonald's in the San Fernando Valley. I was unsure and had to do some major researching. So here it is as requested:

Back To The Future Series #3: First McDonald's Restaurant in the San Fernando Valley
So where is the first McDonald's restaurant in the San Fernando Valley? If you are thinking logically, it should  be closer to L.A. than say in the West Valley as the population migrated west over the years. If you were thinking North Hollywood, that is correct!

ValleyBites: Paris Hilton Attacked at Van Nuys Courthouse, Kardashians Earn $65 million in 2010, Three Calabasas Students Arrested for Vandalism, Big Royal Wedding and Valley Plans, Carpool Construction Begins on 5 in Burbank

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 / No Comments

Celebrity Real Estate: Scott Baio Purchases in Woodland Hills

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The always hilarious Your Mama at the Realestalker has just posted that Scott Baio purchased a home in the Westchester County Estates in Woodland Hills. This home was purchased in November 2010 for $1,890,000. This home spreads out over 6,312 sqft with 5 Bed/4.5 Baths and includes a home theater amongst other amenities. Most remember Scott Baio from Charles in Charge and the recent reality TV show, Scott Baio is 45....And Single. I dont know what he is doing now nor do I care.

San Fernando Valley Itinerary

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 / No Comments
The L.A. Times ran an article over the weekend titled, San Fernando Valley: 11 Micro Itineraries. Its a great piece by Christopher Reynolds presenting almost a mini history of the Valley while discussing things to do. I was thinking about writing something similar in response to the high gasoline prices. Essentially, my point was going to be, you can still have fun in the Valley and reduce your gas consumption. Well, the L.A. Times beat me but nonetheless, they did a better job than I probably would have. At any rate, I reproduced the article below highlighting some key points. This is a long article so read when you have free time. Also, check out the video in the link to the article above.

ValleyBites: LAPD Copter Shot in Van Nuys, Panorama City Resident Shot, Sylmar Police Officer Dies in Crash, Man Shot in Van Nuys Motel, Burbank Receives Award, Easter Celebrated in Porter Ranch Tent

Monday, April 25, 2011 / No Comments
  • An LAPD Helicopter was shot in Van Nuys near Saticoy and Densmore. The fuel tank was hit which started to leak and required an emergency landing at Van Nuys airport. One suspect was arrested and the second escaped. Really! Are we in Iraq? Whats with all the violence lately?
  • A man in Panorama City was shot, suspects flee in a truck at the corner of Woodman Avenue and Community Street.

The Oldest and Second Oldest Homes in the San Fernando Valley


[Update August 1 2011]: My internet browsing skills suck because I came across an article at published in January 17, 2011 discussing the second house below for sale. As the commenter suggested, this house was moved to Reseda to make way for the Hollywood freeway. So it seems that this property is not an original SF Valley home. On a separate note, this property sold in July 13 for $380,000 which is $14,000 less than the original list price. Hopefully the new owners can share any stories or findings from this historical gem.

[Original Post]:

The L.A. Times ran an article over the weekend about the Valley's oldest (and still standing) house in the Sunland-Tujunga-Lake View Terrace area. Its a wood frame folk Victorian built in 1896 and occupied by Raymond Shelly whose grandpa built the home. Its amazing that this house is still standing after earthquakes, storms, etc. What's the maintenance like on a home this old?

Celebrity Real Estate: Taye Diggs Purchases Home in Studio City

Friday, April 22, 2011 / No Comments
[Update July 17, 2014]: Taye Diggs and Idina Menzel have listed this home for sale on July 16, 2014 for $2,995,000. You can read more about it here.

[Original Post]

The always hilarious Your Mama at Realestalker has just posted that Taye Diggs of TV drama, Private Practice, and wife, Idina Menzel have purchased a home in the Fryman Canyon area of Studio City. Taye purchased the home for $2,090,000 which measures 4,931 square feet and has 6 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms.

ValleyBites: Burbank Baseball Coach Gives Players Beer, Later Fired, Click and List Realty Owner in Granada Hills Arrested for Home Fraud, Richard C. Dunn, Dies, Leading Broker in Valley

Thursday, April 21, 2011 / No Comments
  • Baseball Varsity coach, John Schwer, of John Burroughs High School in Burbank was fired for giving his students beer on a recent trip to Arizona. Three assistant coaches were also fired as well as the remainder of the season canceled. As a player, whats better, drinking beer on the road or losing your season? On a separate note, someone always finds out in the end. You cant hide this stuff.

ValleyBites: Sherman Oaks Man Steals $13.6 Million from Medicare, Glendale Cops take Joyride to Vegas, Later Fired, Chatsworth High Student Killed in Hit and Run

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  • Eduard Aslanyan, 37, of Sherman Oaks plead guilty to stealing $13.6 million from Medicare. Now you know why healthcare is so expensive.

ValleyBites: Survivor host Jeff Probst Buys Gene Autry Estate in Studio City, CA Budget Crisis Might Impact Valley Transportation Projects, 3 Shot Outside Reseda Bar, Caregive Allegedly Rapes Autistic Child in Northridge

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 / No Comments
  • Your Mama at the RealEstalker has written that Survivor Host Jeff Probst recently purchased the Gene Autry Estate in Studio City. The estate was purchased for $5 million which consists of 7,893 sqft, 5 Bed/7Bath. The home is situated in the Fryman canyon area which is home to numerous celebrities. 

[Update: 26 May 2011] Is Housing Making A Comeback in Chatsworth?

Monday, April 18, 2011 / 1 Comment
Update: the home discussed in this post at the bottom finally sold on May 25, 2011 for $610,000. This was $240,000 less than the original listing from 1 year and 8 days ago. Additionally, the sale price was $19,000 lower than the last asking price. I am sure the homeowners are relieved this is over.

The fine folks at have asked the question, Is Chatsworth’s Housing Market Finally on the Upswing? I will start off by saying NO with my rationale below.

The publication of this article seems suspect as this is the time of the year when the home buying season begins. Typically the weather is better for open house visits (well in SoCal, its good year-round but in the snow states, its a different story) and families tend to move in the summer to avoid transferring into the middle of the school year. With that said, I expect activity to pick up naturally. The question becomes, is the housing market getting better in Chatsworth in terms of pricing and overall health.

ValleyBites: Chatsworth Is On Fire (Not Literally)

Sunday, April 17, 2011 / No Comments
There were two separate fire related incidents in Chatsworth on Saturday and Sunday. 
  • The first incident occurred when two people in a townhome were awaken to a fire in their living room due to candles left burning. They tried to extinguish the fire themselves but that didnt work and they narrowly escaped. The LAFD responded quickly and were able to douse the fire causing about $25K in damages.

ValleyBites: Man dies in Granada Hills Crash, Watch Royal Wedding in Woodland Hills, Lenny Dykstra arrested in Encino, 100 Cats in North Hills Home, and Another Universal Studios Fire

Saturday, April 16, 2011 / No Comments
  • Unfortunately, a 24 year old man died driving down Balboa Blvd when his vehicle lost control on Firday night. Dont know cause of accident, but remember to slow down as cops are on the look out in the valley. 

Back To The Future Series #2: Valley Music Theatre (60s-70s), Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall (80s - 2004)

Thursday, April 14, 2011 / 6 Comments
[Update: May 22, 2014]: Found three more awesome pictures.
Valley Music Theater on June 14, 1965 with rock 'n' roll singers Desi Arnaz, Billy Hinche, and Dino Martin. Image courtesy Los Angeles Public Library/Valley Times Collection
Image courtesy The Gear Page
Image courtesy Charles Okonski Facebook
[Update: October 15, 2012]: Found the two pics and a flyer below from the internet that I thought might be of interest.

Above images courtesy Greg Gorski Facebook

Image courtesy MSFV
[Update: March 11, 2012]: I recently acquired a ticket from the Woody Allen show in 1972. I hope this thing is real because I paid a good amount of money for it. 

[Update: June 09, 2011]: see an updated post here discussing plans for a mixed use apartment dwelling targeting senior citizens and commercial space.

[Original Post]:
So what do Bob Hope, Michael Jackson, and God all have in common in Woodland Hills? Continue reading to find out.(Check here for the first BTTF series on Clem Ruh Chevrolet)

This site was originally called Chalk Hill which was between Taft High School and St. Mels Catholic Church at 20600 Ventura Blvd Woodland Hills.  In 1963, Bob Hope (he loved investing in SFV R.E.), Cy Warner, and Art Linkletter built the Valley Music Theatre by pouring tons of concrete over a rounded-off hill. When the cement hardened, dirt beneath the dome was excavated which became known as the "theatre in the round" seen in the postcard picture to the left. It first opened in 1964 with a production of the Sound of Music. According to an online petition site to keep it from being demolished, this theatre played to the following acts:
Ray Charles, the Doors, Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds, Ike & Tina Turner, Peter, Paul & Mary, BB King, Lou Rawls, Three Dog Night, Jim Croce & the Spiral Staircase, among others. Sammy Davis Jr., Johnny Carson, Don Rickles & Woody Allen also performed in the futuristic domed structure. (check out pics of the Doors shown below from website)

Can you imagine all of these music & entertainment legends hanging out on Ventura Blvd? I can see Sammy Jr or Carson hanging out at an after party at the local Pickwicks Pub (well not till after 1974).  This was truly an  amazing site to add to the Valley files that only a limited amount of people had the chance to experience.

Unfortunately, this site faced financial difficulties in addition to parking constraints (the theatre held approx 2800 people so with parking limited, it was quite the walk up from Ventura Blvd) that only a couple years later forcing Bob Hope to try other methods to bring in revenue like promoting boxing matches. So Hope did what any other struggling investor would do and jump ship. The site was sold to the Jehovah's Witness (JW) and became their Kingdom hall in 1980 through 2004. Michael Jackson and his mother also attended this theatre before he left JW (remember that disclaimer in the Thriller video about not believing in the occult, thats when he supposedly left JW). The bottom postcard pictures depict JW era:

The story doesnt end there. The JW wanted to move on from this deteriorating site and with the still challenging parking situation, make a move to the promised land of Santa Clarita. So they sold right in the middle of the housing boom for $30 million (which was a great deal with their initial purchase price of $1 million) to a developer with the intentions of razing it to build condos/retail center.  Note: Back in 1989, JW was trying to sell the property and in 1990, an application for a Hisorical Cultural Monument was submitted which would have put the property in protected status so it could never be demolished. Something tells me that JW opposed this so that they could sell their property.  

Then came the subsequent housing bust. In 2007,  JPI Development of Texas, purchased the property and later demolished it. In April 2009, JPI defaulted on their loan of $41.8 million and was seized by Bank of America where it now sits empty. Not sure of its current status but I believe its still available for purchase or possibly a joint effort from the bank. 

Check out Abandonedbutnotforgotten for pictures just before it was demolished shown below:

This is what Google Maps show today. By zooming in/out, you can see the site before and after demolition:

This post wouldnt be complete with my own set of pics so here is the site as it stands today. Kinda eerie being up there all alone with nothing to protect me from the wild. This wouldnt be the Valley without some graffiti.

When I take a step back and think about this site, it seems it was doomed to failure from the beginning having changed so many hands for such short durations. It seemed like it was destined to demolition. This is unfortunate as this site had 1) a unique architecture 2) diverse history and use and 3) something to be proud of as Valley and Woodland Hills residents. Oh well, thats the theme for the Valley these days, knock down and build an apartment or retail complex. Pretty soon we will have nothing to remember of the original days of the Valley. I would like to end by going full circle back to a concept design for this site which shows the evolution to the final design courtesy of the CSUN Digital Library.

Hills of Woodland Blog......good general blog post prior to demolition article post with contributions from various knowledgeable JW
L.A. Daily News article from 2009
Los Angeles Times 1989 article
Los Angeles Times 1990 article
CSUN Digital Library

Latest Newsbites: LAPD Targeting Speeders in Sherman Oaks, Another School Campus Shutdown, and Luke Perry Protesting Against LAUSD Cuts

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Another crazy day in the Valley:

  • This is unfortunately going to be old news but cops are cracking down on speeding in Sherman Oaks, 67 speeding tickets were issued this morning with one driver caught doing 71 in a 40 mph zone. This is near Notre Dame high school so be on the lookout. Its probably too late now, but maybe its best to not rush in the morning. Who knows you might save some gas too. L.A. Daily News Article

Nicolas Cage Finds His Stolen Comic Book in the SFV worth $1 million

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 / No Comments
I couldnt believe this when I read it, but a Superman comic book that Nicolas Cage (remember him from the movie, Valley Girl, might have been his best performance) bought 11 years ago was found in a storage locker in the San Fernando Valley. The comic book was stolen from his house 10 years ago which is estimated at a value of $1 million. 

 The moral of this story is if you need to hide something for 10 years, the SFV is a good spot. 

Meet Former Dodger Great Steve Yeager at Jersey Mike's Subs in Granada Hills

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The LA Daily News has an article out about former Dodger catcher and World Series co-MVP Steve Yeager. You can apparently meet him everyday for lunch at Jersey Mike's Subs in Granada Hills which he started about 18 months ago with his wife, Charlene and Gillian Armenta. In other unrelated news, did you know Steve posed for Playgirl. I unfortunately came across that in the article, talk about TMI. Something tells me that Steve lives in the Valley and probably in Granada Hills. 

Anyways, the store is located on Chatsworth between Zelzah and Lindley. You can also connect with their Facebook page.

[Update December 2, 2011]: Celebrity Real Estate: Good News, Tori Spelling Leaving Encino

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[Update December 2, 2011]: This home sold for $2,500,000 on December 1, 2011 representing a massive loss of $445,000 in less than three years. Additionally, this home took 9 months to sell and was reduced $699,000 from original list price.

According to the hilarious Your Mama at the Real Estalker, Tori Spelling has listed her Encino Mansion (6,718 sqft, 6 BD/6.5BA) on the Market with a list price of $3,199,000. She purchased this property with her husband, Dean McDermott, in October 2008 for $2,945,000. Based on today's lousy market, she might even take a loss when you factor commissions. 

Most people probably remember her from the Beverly Hills, 90210 Series in the 90's. I think she does some reality shows today. Dont think it matters as she is probably set for life from her deceased father, Aaron.

Rumor has it that she is heading back over the hill to probably live in Beverly Hills, Bel Air, or Holmby Hills.

Real Estalker

Property Listing

Property Records

Back To The Future Series #1: Clem Ruh Chevrolet

Thursday, April 7, 2011 / 5 Comments
Back To The Future Series #1: Clem Ruh Chevrolet 21100 Sherman Way Canoga Park
Welcome to the first Back to the Future Series (not the movie). The goal of this series like you may have seen in Then And Now books is to show how a location, site, place, etc from the past has changed when compared to today. This should be a lot of fun as this may get those faded memory cells thinking again about a location that might have had an effect on your life way back then(obviously this isnt for the children).

So for the first BTTF series, I picked something random that was sitting in front of me at the time (the old picture that is) so there is nothing special about this one being the first. Check back often for more exciting BTTF series updates. 

[Paragraph edited on 12/22/2011 based on comment below from Anonymous]
Clem who? How many remember Clem Ruh Chevrolet on Sherman Way in Canoga Park. It was started by Ruh in the early 60's through the 70's. This dealership was later transferred to Jim Bess sometime after Ruh's death in the mid 70's. I visited this dealership with my Dad in the late 80's which was presumably under the ownership of Jim Bess. I cant recall exactly what happened but my Dad walked away without a car purchase. However, my Dad did eventually purchase from Galpin Ford. I have no idea how many lost deals similar to my Father's took place at the former Clem Ruh/Jim Bess Chevy dealership but I can imagine that the changes in the auto industry, foreign competition, and changing demographics of the West Valley might explain why they are no longer present as a Chevy dealership. This is also symbolic of the demise of the Big 3 automakers as the market share has been dwindling for decades to foreign competitors due to lack of cost control (Big Unions with Big Demands) and reduction in quality. Dont get me wrong, Chevy makes good cars and trucks and their Corvettes are real bargains compared to European counterparts. At any rate, this is what happens when you get complacent and fail to keep up industry changes.

Small Creek Threatened near Topanga Mall

Sunday, April 3, 2011 / 1 Comment

Over at the LA Creek Freak, Jim Anderson has reported that a small creek near the Topanga Mall on the corner of Victory and Owensmouth will possibly be converted to a pipe thus destroying  the natural habitat. This is due to expansion plans of the Village at Westfield Topanga to make way for a Costco service station.

There is also an article in the L.A. Daily News.

I guess time will tell on what eventually happens.

World's First Partial Nuclear Meltdown in the San Fernando Valley

Friday, April 1, 2011 / 3 Comments

For my second ever post, there were so many topics to choose from to jump-start this blog like the San Fernando Mission, the early pioneers, the influence of movies, Valley culture, celebrities, etc, etc. But I thought the best way to start would be to discuss a matter garnering media attention today; the Fukushima Nuclear Meltdown as a result of the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Also check out this first hand account from a worker at the plant when the earthquake hit courtesy of the BBC.

You are probably wondering how this relates to the Valley. Well, it doesn't. What does relate, is that unfortunately, the Valley suffered the worlds first partial Nuclear Meltdown back in 1959. Yes, the world's first, right in the backyard of the SFV.