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A Series of Hometown Maps of Southern California Communities by Westwood Artist Paul Shaffer

May 11, 1986

Signs along Van Nuys Boulevard today read: "No Stopping 9 p.m. to 12 Midnight Wednesday-Friday-Saturday." Posted in 1980, they were to control crowds drawn by one of Van Nuys' oldest traditions--cruising, "American Graffiti"-style. It had begun in 1912 as a regular Saturday-night parade down the boulevard.

As the population of the San Fernando Valley grew, so did the number of cruisers. After World War II, thousands of servicemen who had passed through Los Angeles came back to settle in the Valley's residential tracts. By the mid-1950s, the boulevard was taken over every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night by carloads of teen-agers from as far away as Santa Barbara and San Diego. Counting townspeople who watched from lawn chairs, the crowd could number 20,000. Serious travel was impossible: in fact, the RTD set up an alternate route on the three nights.

By 1978, major crime in Van Nuys was up five to 10 times on those evenings. In 1983, police barricaded each end of the strip on cruise nights, putting a stop to the custom.

Founded 75 years ago, Van Nuys was one of the first planned communities in the United States. Four years later, it was annexed to Los Angeles (so it could tap into the water supply) and remains a part of the city.

The original settlement occupied one square mile. Today, the town, which covers 20.6 square miles, is home to 156,000 people, 10% of the Valley's population.

The median family income is $20,744. Multi-unit dwellings constitute 46% of the housing; the average value of each unit is $52,000. Almost half the 33,000 single-family homes are valued at less than $100,000.

There are 7,000 swimming pools within the town limits.

Van Nuys Airport is the third busiest in the world; in 1985, 492,382 takeoffs and landings were logged on its two runways, which accommodate only private and corporate aviation and air-taxi operations. The field is home base for the California Air National Guard and all eight of the Los Angeles Fire Department's rescue and water-dropping helicopters, as well as for 976 private, business and government aircraft. The airport was used to film background scenes for the 1942 movie "Casablanca," starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

The Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, at Sepulveda Dam, processes 20 million gallons of sewage per day, putting out 17 million gallons of reclaimed water. Its administration building was honored by the California Council of the American Institute of Architects as outstanding urban architecture.

The regional post office, at Sherman Way and Haskell Avenue, takes up more than one city block and processes 4 1/2 million pieces of mail per day, more than 90% of the mail delivered in the Valley.

In 1914, Van Nuys High School had 82 students in grades seven through 12; today the enrollment is 2,200 in grades 10 through 12. Famous graduates include Jane Russell, Bob Waterfield, Jayne Mansfield, Don Drysdale, Ira Reiner, Robert Redford, Natalie Wood, Stacy Keach and Kim Darby.

Los Angeles Valley College, on Fulton Avenue, is the second largest--after Pierce College--of the nine in the Los Angeles Community College District. Current enrollment is 15,416.

Actor Andy Devine served as honorary mayor from 1937 to 1958.

One-eighth of the Valley's businesses are located in Van Nuys, including 400 manufacturers.

Twelve of the town's 15 new-car dealerships are within a 16-block strip of Van Nuys Boulevard.

The General Motors Assembly Plant on Van Nuys Boulevard, which produces Chevrolet Camaros and Pontiac Firebirds, employs more workers than any other Van Nuys company. Its 5,300 employees turn out 54 cars per hour.

Anheuser-Busch Los Angeles Brewery, on Roscoe Boulevard, is the world's third-largest brewery, producing 3 1/2 billion cans of beer each year. The production line's 14 can fillers (two of which are the largest and fastest in the world) process 14,000 cans per minute.

The yearly sales volume of the Olga Company, intimate-apparel manufacturer with national headquarters on Haskell Avenue, totals $70 million. The firm was started in 1941 by two Polish immigrants with a $10 investment in a rented sewing machine and a piece of fabric.

Vitalize Van Nuys, a $16-million commercial rehabilitation project, was begun in 1978. Improvements to date include office-building construction, structural reinforcements, storefront renovations, and the planting of 70 trees downtown.

The six-block San Fernando Valley Administrative Center, in downtown Van Nuys, is the fifth-largest in California. Housing city, county, state and federal offices, it employs 2,500 people. Produced by Linden Gross. Research and text by Mary Allen Daily. Demographics reflect currently available figures.

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