This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

Living in the San Fernando Valley in the 1980s

I was staying at a friend's place in Calabasas last year and decided to take a tour of the neighborhood by jumping on to one of the free shuttle buses that do continuous loops through the neighborhoods. I just wanted to do some sight-seeing, and it was pretty cool.

I was the only passenger most of the time, and the driver and I started talking. I recalled living in The San Fernando area, specifically Canoga Park, in the 1980s, and she asked, "was it nice back then?". That's when I realized, wow, that was a long time ago!

To answer her question right away, no, Canoga Park was not nice back then. I'm sure there was a time when it was, but I'm not that old. My memories of Canoga Park, and the San Fernando Valley, are filtered through my being young, and just starting my career. And although Canoga Park was the cheapest place to live in the west valley, that's all it had going for it. I worked in Woodland Hills and was making plans to try to move to a nicer area, like Thousand Oaks. But, as I say, I was young and was able to laugh it off.

What I remember most about Canoga Park in the 1980s was the sound of car alarms, 24/7. Whether the sound was nearby, or off in the distance, it never, ever, ended. This was in the days before car alarms stopped after a few minutes, so some just went on until the battery in the car died. And it was crowded. My apartment had one (1) parking space assigned to me, and if someone else was in it, I had to go drive around the neighborhood for quite a while looking for street parking.

The apartment complex where I lived, at Mason and Saticoy, were all "studios". That is, a single room with a half-wall division for the bed area. I really didn't care, it was just a place to hang my hat until I found something better. It was about 500 square feet. Big enough for a kitchen, a living room, and a single bed. But what really surprised me is that I was the only one that I knew who was living alone in one of these apartments in the entire complex. Most of the apartments had families, and the one directly across from me housed eight young men, who slept there in shifts. This was my first lesson on poverty, and crowding.

While I was living in Canoga Park in the 1980s, the city passed a law limited the number of people who could live in a one-bedroom apartment. That number was 12. Twelve. I have told that story many times, but if you never lived in a place like that, you would never believe it, and I don't blame you.

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