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Sunland-Tujunga is nestled in the Foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and is a community served by two post offices in the northeasternmost corner of Los Angeles. Though Sunland and Tujunga began as separate settlements, they are today linked through a single police station, branch library, neighborhood council. chamber of commerce, City Council district, high school and various civic organizations. As an example, the Little Landers Historical Society studies the history of the entire area. The merging of these communities under a hyphenated name goes back as far as 1928 with a baseball box score printed in the Los Angeles Times.
The two post-office delivery areas are divided by Mount Gleason Avenue, with Sunland on the west and Tujunga on the east. Mount Lukens within Tujunga is the highest point in Los Angeles at 5,074 ft (1,547 m). For most of its history, the Sunland-Tujunga valley was described as either rural or semirural. Shadow Hills, a neighborhood within Sunland, is one of the few areas in Los Angeles which is zoned for horse ownership,
Sunland and Tujunga were originally home to the Tongva people. In 1840 the area was part of the Rancho Tujunga Mexican land grant, but later developers marked off a plot of land known as the Tejunga Park, or the Tujunga Park, Tract. The name Tujunga is assumed to have meant "old woman's place" in the extinct Tongva language, where Tuhu "old woman" is a term for Mother Earth in Tongva mythology.
Sunland began life as Monte Vista in 1885, when 2,200 acres (8.9 km2) of the Tejunga [sic] Park tract were divided into lots ranging from five to 40 acres (160,000 m2). One of the first uses of the new tract was the planting of 40 acres (160,000 m2) of olives, which made it the largest olive orchard in Los Angeles County. In 1887 the Monte Vista Hotel was being served by the Sunland Post Office. By 1906, the appelation Sunland was being used by the Los Angeles Times rather than Monte Vista. A 1907 story noted that Sunland was the "first supply store, and a good one, about seven miles from the railroad" at San Fernando, at the mouth of the Little Tejunga and Big Tejunga canyons (the old spelling).
In 1908, Sunland was referred to as difficult to access, at a height of 1,500 feet (460 m) "over rough mountain roads." An automobile trip from Los Angeles took "a long day" to complete. In 1910, a Los Angeles Times correspondent wrote about Sunland:
The place is aptly named. . . . one gets no inkling of the beauties till he is right in the town. Great live oaks, scattered with Nature's reckless disregard for expense, give the place a stately quiet. . . . In the center of town the oaks are so thick that the sun is baffled, and this section has been made a public park, which is the Fourth of July and general hot-weather rendezvous of the country round, from Glendale to San Fernando.
By 1923, Sunland had a population of about 2,000 and an active chamber of commerce. The sloping hills of what was called the Monte Vista Valley were the site of vineyards for table grapes, and the town's sole industry, a cannery, specialized in packing olives from local trees. Monte Vista Park in the center of town attracted picnickers, and there was a County Home for Children, sponsored by women's clubs and other organizations. This charity was a descendant of the Monte Vista Lodge, a home for "undernourished children" organized by social worker Belle N. Hall and opened in 1921 by the Council of Community Service. It had 45 rooms in a former hotel on 2.5 acres (10,000 m2) of land. just a block from Sunland Park.
After Tujunga was organized as a city in 1925, a move sprang up in Sunland to be annexed to the new municipality, but the idea was rejected "by a heavy vote" in October of that year, and activists in the then-Monte Vista School District turned their attention to a proposed $21,000 bond issue for a new school building.
In 1907, social philosopher and community organizer William Ellsworth Smythe joined forces with real estate speculator Marshall V. Hartranft to found what Smythe believed would be a kind of utopia. The movement had been successful in establishing colonies in San Ysidro, California, and in Idaho. The utopianists had as their slogan, "A Little Land and a Lot of Living," and the founders divided their community into 1.5-acre (6,100 m2) lots which they called "little lands." A community center built from local river rock, Bolton Hall, was dedicated in August 1913 and still stands as a historical monument and museum operated by the Little Landers Historical Society.:32–39
Tujunga was home to John Steven McGroarty, California Poet Laureate, from 1933 until his death in 1944. McGroarty was also a playwright and U.S. Congressman (Democrat, 11th District). He lived in a home he built himself and completed in 1923, known as Rancho Chupa Rosa. The building is a Historic Cultural Monument (#63) of the City of Los Angeles and is now known as the McGroarty Arts Center.
Tujungans led by McGroarty first wanted to become a city of the sixth class to be called "Verdugo Hills" in 1924, and a petition to that effect was submitted to the Board of Supervisors, which postponed the idea indefinitely because of concerns about the proposed boundaries.
Tujunga was nevertheless incorporated after an election on April 21, 1925, with the southern border following the Rancho Tujunga boundary. A. Adams was elected treasurer, and Mrs Bertha A. Morgan was chosen as city clerk. Bolton Hall served as the City Hall until Tujunga was consolidated with Los Angeles in 1932.:35
One of the first orders of business for the new city of Tujunga in 1925 was an attempt to enlarge the municipality by taking in the foothills south and southwest of the new city—bounded on the east by the "La Crescenta Rancho line, south to Big Tuna Canyon" and west to the then-Los Angeles boundary and Wicks Road. The attempt failed because Los Angeles annexed the area first.
Tujunga's 1,500-foot (460 m) elevation and geographic isolation from the San Fernando Valley and the Los Angeles Basin freed it from some of the air pollution that was a problem in many other parts of Greater Los Angeles. Because of this, it attracted many asthmatics early on. Coronet magazine once called Tujunga "the most healthy place in the world." In 1929, the Tujunga City Council set policy to establish zones where "sanitariums and other institutions for the care of tubercular patients" could be established.
The major part of today's Sunland was annexed to the city of Los Angeles effective August 4, 1926. La Tuna Canyon was annexed in 1927. On June 23, 1927, the city of Los Angeles held an election for much of the same territory as claimed by Tujunga, above, and the annexation passed, "based largely on a big block of votes within an old-folks' home at Sunland which can participate in the Community Chest funds when and if they are within the city limits of the greater city." The result was a legal dispute that had to be settled in the courts.
The famous grove of oak trees, owned by the county, and widely known as the Monte Vista Park of Sunland, is involved in the dispute. The municipality of Tujunga has already agreed to release its authority over the park to the county authorities, so that administration . . . will continue for ten years without change, except as to police protection in event of disorders.
The first election for Tujunga to be consolidated with Los Angeles was held on February 15, 1927. In heavy rain, voters turned down the idea by a vote of 594 to 354. A second election held in March 1930 also resulted in defeat for annexation, "by a large majority." John Steven McGroarty was on a committee opposing annexation called "All for Tujunga." The third and final election in January 1932, however, resulted in a favorable vote to join Los Angeles, even though the actual transfer was delayed by inaction of state authorities. Tujunga finally gave up its independence and joined the city on March 8, 1932.
Los Angeles City Councilman Howard Finn of Sunland died in office on August 12, 1986, and his Northeast San Fernando Valley First District was left without an incumbent. At the same time, the City Council was under a court order to redistrict itself in order to provide more representation for Latinos. After a bitter contest in which Finn's semirural constituents fought against being combined with more built-up areas and amid traces of ethnic animosity, the result was to move the vacant First District seat into a redrawn, 69-percent Latino area north and west of Downtown Los Angeles and to place Sunland-Tujunga into a reshaped Second Council District, already represented by Joel Wachs. It was a Y-shaped configuration "with only a long, thin finger of territory" connecting Sunland-Tujunga on the north with Van Nuys on the south. A lawsuit against the plan was dismissed in late September by U.S. District Judge James M. Ideman.
Despite the fact that Wachs had struggled to prevent being assigned to a district that was 90 percent new to him, the councilman was warmly greeted when he arrived to meet his new constituents in a reception at the Sunland-Tujunga Municipal Building. He found an area with a down-home, rural flavor and about 30 percent of the voters in his new district. He told a reporter:
There hasn't been one nasty person, one hostile . . . They want to be friends. . . . In the second largest city in the U.S., that you can have an area like this to live in is just fantastic. Wherever I've gone, preserving the life style seems to be the No. 1 issue.
Wachs served on the council for 15 more years. He resigned effective 2001, and a city redistricting commission took the opportunity to propose a shakeup in boundaries, splitting the Second District in two. Before that could be considered, though, Wendy Greuel was elected to the City Council. In March 2002 she reopened the Sunland-Tujunga field office (closed by Wachs), and the redistricting plan was never heard of again. Greuel served until July 2009. She was succeeded by Paul Krekorian.
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Generally thought to be a part of the San Fernando Valley, Sunland-Tujunga is actually located in a valley of its own — the Tujunga Valley — which opens into the northern edge of the larger San Fernando Valley. Also known as The Rock, the towns lie on a large bedrock close to 2,000 feet above sea level with mountain ranges on both sides. Sunland-Tujunga maintains some of the cleanest air in Los Angeles.
Most of the area is located within the northernmost limits of the City of Los Angeles. Portions of Big Tujunga, Little Tujunga and Kagel canyons are in the unincorporated area served by the County of Los Angeles.
Major geographic features include Big Tujunga Canyon whose waters have spread out at its mouth over the centuries to form the Tujunga Wash, the largest natural flood plain in Southern California and a feature clearly visible from earth orbit. The Wash feeds into Hansen Lake which was created by the construction of Hansen Dam, one of the longest dams in the world when it was built.
The San Gabriel Mountains, with its series of magnificent mountain peaks that separate the Los Angeles basin from the Mojave Desert, forms the north and northeast borders of the valley while the Verdugo Mountains separate the Tujunga Valley from the communities of Glendale, Burbank, and the rest of the Los Angeles metropolitan area to the south.
In 2009, the Los Angeles Times's "Mapping L.A." project supplied these neighborhood statistics based on the 2000 census, showing that Sunland, including Shadow Hills, had a census-measured population of 28,414 in 2000. Tujunga was slightly smaller, at 26,527. In both Sunland and Tujunga, the percentage of white people was high for the county. The percentages of divorced males, married females and divorced females were among the county's highest.
Sunland (without Shadow Hills)
Population: 15,316. Median household income: $68,720, high for the city of Los Angeles but about average for the county. The percentages of residents 25 and older with a high-school diploma and some college education were high for the county.
Population: 13,098. It was a moderately diverse neighborhood. The area had a high family income. The median age at 39 was old for both the county and the city. The percentages of veterans who served during World War II or Korea and Vietnam were among the county's highest.
Population: 26,527. Median household income: $58,001. The percentages of residents 25 and older with a high school diploma and some college education were high for the county. The median age was 36, old for the city of Los Angeles but about average for the county. The percentage of residents ages 35 to 49 was among the county's highest. 9.7 percent of the population were veterans, high for the city of Los Angeles but about average for the county overall. The percentage of Vietnam veterans was among the county's highest.
Comparison of Sunland and Tujunga with nearby neighborhoods
Shadow Hills is given separately from the rest of Sunland. Most percentages are rounded to the nearest whole figure.
Sunland and Tujunga are within the Los Angeles Unified School District. Residents are served by:
Sunland Park was originally known as Monte Vista Park.
The Haines Canyon Park in Tujunga is an undeveloped park used for brush clearance. It is open to visitors from dawn to dusk; the Los Angeles Park Department said that it does not recommend the park for public use.
The Sunland Recreation Center serves as a police department stop-in center. It has a 250-seat gymnasium that is also used as an auditorium. In addition the facility has a lighted baseball diamond, lighted outdoor basketball courts, a children's play area, a community room, a lighted athletic field, picnic tables and tennis courts. Annual events there include the Easter Carnival and the Watermelon Carnival in mid-August. In addition, the Verdugo Mountain Park is east of central Sunland and south of La Tuna Canyon Road.
Howard Finn Park, named after the City Council member who died in 1986, is a 2-acre (8,100 m2) park opened in late 1990 behind the Sunland-Tujunga Municipal Building.
Fehlhaber-Houk park was built at the northwest corner of Tujunga Canyon Boulevard and Elmhurst Drive on a 1.2-acre (4,900 m2) vacant lot donated by brother and sister J.L. Houk and Elizabeth Swanson in 1975. The parcel had been part of a 58-acre (230,000 m2) ranch owned by Raymond and Irene Fehlhaber.
The area is within the following political districts:
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In the past, Ben Hurwhich? raced his chariot in Big Tujunga Canyon and Lancaster Lake (now long since gone) adjacent to Sunland Park was home to Tarzanwhich? in the jungle hunk's first silver screen epics. All The Kings Menwhich?, Mildred Pierce, Meet John Doe, The Craft, Ernest Goes to Camp, River's Edgewhich?19571986 are a few of the numerous films shot in Sunland-Tujunga.
Streets within the Sunland and Tuna Canyon annex to Los Angeles were renamed in June 1929. The main east-west road, previously known as Michigan Avenue, became Foothill Boulevard. Other streets were renamed as follows: Los Angeles Street to Apperson Avenue, Sherman Street to Hartranft Avenue, Center Street to Grenoble Avenue, North Street to Wentworth Avenue, Third Street to Woodward Avenue and Hill Street to Hillrose Avenue. Manzanita Drive was renamed McGroarty Avenue in honor of John Steven McGroarty, who lived nearby.
In the 1960s, the Sunland-Tujunga Chamber of Commerce took an active stand in opposition to routing the proposed Foothill Freeway through Shadow Hills, claiming the neighborhood's "rural atmosphere" would be destroyed and would wipe out 28 more homes than an alternate route.
After years of discussion and delay, the final stretch of the 48.6-mile (78.2 km) freeway—through Sunland-Tujunga—was scheduled for dedication on April 3, 1981, with State Transportation Director Adriana Gianturco presiding. Exits in Sunland and Tujunga are, from west to east, at Sunland Boulevard, La Tuna Canyon Road and Lowell Avenue (shared with La Crescenta).
In January 2009, hardware company Home Depot announced it was giving up a five-year lease to turn a former Kmart store at the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Woodward Avenue into a big-box store of its own. The proposal had opposition from Sunland-Tujungans, whose neighborhood council had set up a page on its website to track Home Depot's plans.
The Los Angeles Times reported:
Opponents also mobilized hundreds of people to turn out for meetings on the project, including a marathon seven-hour session that turned into a shouting match over day laborers and immigration. Home Depot, in turn, had retained a team of expensive lobbyists who arranged for buses to transport supporters to meetings at City Hall. In 2006, one of those lobbyists sent a memo promising to feed and transport 150 people in orange T-shirts to a City Council hearing where they would appear in favor of Home Depot—at a cost of $24,000 to the company.
After the City Council demanded that Home Depot carry out an environmental impact report, the company filed a lawsuit against Council Member Wendy Greuel, accusing her of improperly interfering with the process. The company paid $2 million to lobbying firms on behalf of the project.
In its early years, Sunland had its own school district—called Monte Vista—and Tujunga was also served by its own district. In March 1926, Tujunga voters approved a bond issue for a 20-acre (81,000 m2) high school site. On January 8, 1929, the county Board of Supervisors approved a petitions by Tujungans to join the Los Angeles School District.
A 1966 plan to require students of the equestrian community of Shadow Hills to switch from the overcrowded and virtually all-white Mount Gleason Junior High School in Sunland to the more diversified Maclay Junior High in Pacoima was opposed by the Shadow Hills Homeowners Association. A charge of de facto segregation was made by Los Angeles Valley College instructor John Buchanan, who lived in Pacoima, and by the Sunland-Tujunga Human Relations Council, whose president, Paul Tsuneishi, said overcrowding at Mt. Gleason resulted in classes being held on an auditorium stage, a corrective physical education room and a multipurpose room. Shadow Hills, midway between the two schools, was an optional attendance area for either school, and 215 of its children were attending Mount Gleason, versus just 22 at Maclay. One African-American was among the 2,030 students enrolled at Mount Gleason, while 25 percent of the 1,200 students at Maclay were African-American and 27 percent were Mexican-American.
Glenn Haschenburger, president of the homeowners' association, denied the charge, stating that "We were not even aware of the racial composition at Maclay." He added that students were not taking a school bus to Maclay because "We believe riding and caring for horses is part of producing good citizens. They can't ride horses if they spend all their time riding buses to and from school."
The Los Angeles school board approved the boundary switch in a 4-3 vote on July 14, 1966. The Times reported:
Nearly 200 persons who filled the board meeting room greeted the action with boos and catcalls, "My child will never go to Maclay!" and "The Communists started to take over in 1928!"
On September 19, 1966, a procession of about 40 cars followed a hearse from the edge of Shadow Hills to Mount Gleason Junior High, parents paraded with picket signs and leaders "removed a model red schoolhouse from the hearse and laid it in front of a mock headstone" as a eulogy to the concept of the neighborhood school.
Staff writer Jerry Cohen of the Los Angeles Times reported that
"A lengthening shadow hovers across the sunny, foothill community of Shadow Hills, the shadow of racial tension. . . . a pervasive bitterness has spread through the quiet neighborhood . . . Neighbor is set against neighbor ; . . . old friendships have dissolved. . . . Even churches and youth groups, the Boy and Girl Scouts, have been splintered by bitterness. Root of the discord is the dispute over which junior high school Shadow Hills children should attend."
The Times article was attacked by Edward L. Fike, editor and publisher of the Record-Ledger newspaper of Sunland-Tujunga, who wrote that "The suspicion grows and grows that the Board of Education by a one-vote margin knowingly sacrificed the Shadow Hills neighborhood upon the altar of forced integration as demanded by agitators and by the U .S. government as its price for federal aid."
Nine years later, it was said that the boundary change actually led to a drop in enrollment at Maclay as parents, both white and minority, moved their students elsewhere—sometimes through falsifying addresses and sometimes through a so-called Statement of Residence in which parents asserted their children would be living with somebody else five nights a week within a different school's boundaries. About this circumstance, Mike Castro of the Los Angeles Times wrote:
Mrs. Edna Susank, principal of Mt. Gleason Junior High in Sunland, said that discussions with parents when a false address is discovered reveals an adamant attitude, sometimes with table thumping, that they will not send their child to an inferior school.
On January 21, 1977, an estimated 4,000 students—about half the total enrollment—stayed away from classes at nine Sunland-Tujunga schools as parents, led by Samm Ferris of Sunland, staged a one-day boycott to protest any idea of mandatory busing. About 35 "concerned mothers" picketed three elementary schools as well as Mount Gleason Junior High and Verdugo Hills High schools.
In May of the same year, Donna Kent of Sunland-Tujunga became president of the local chapter of Bustop, a citywide group opposed to the busing program. She said her chapter managed to raise $1,000 of the $5,000 needed monthly for lawyers, by holding raffles, rummage sales and Tupperware parties.
In August 1980, as the school district was making plans to bus some students from Sunland Elementary School to Pacoima, about 100 parents met at the school to protest. Parent Betty Reeve said she and others had organized a "Yellow Flu" campaign to keep students away from school and show that "our kids are sick of riding a yellow school bus."
Nevertheless, a busing procedure resulted in white elementary students from Apperson Street, Sunland, Plainview Avenue and Mountain View elementary schools in Sunland-Tujunga being exchanged with minority counterparts in Lake View Terrace, Sun Valley and North Hollywood. Mount Gleason Junior High and Verdugo Hills High schools did not take part. Mandatory busing was ended by a decision of the California Supreme Court on March 12, 1981, and when the practice was finally stopped the next month, most of the Sunland-Tujunga pupils returned to their neighborhood schools, but most of the previously enrolled minority students continued to be bused into Sunland-Tujunga on a voluntary basis.
By February 2010 Mount Gleason Middle School had been on a federal list of under-performing campuses for 12 years, and a group of parents organized to take advantage of a new state law in an attempt to force administrative changes. The law, dubbed the "parent trigger", could compel districts to take drastic action to fix failing schools if a majority of parents petitioned for an overhaul. In an interview, four parents told CNN reporter Thelma Gutierrez in October 2010 that Mount Gleason was unsafe and they wanted the principal ousted. An official of the Los Angeles Unified School District messaged CNN that the school had followed proper procedures and had taken "corrective action."
Nearby communities, cities or areas