I have just finished the Oct. 9 article "Of Relics and Rancor-Lost Village of Encino's Artifacts in Legal Limbo." I am a former member of the Northridge Archaeological Research Center (NARC) and became involved shortly after First Financial Group first proposed its development plans. I feel compelled to correct some long-standing misconceptions.
The name "Lost Village of Encino" is a complete misnomer. The only things I can think of that were ever "lost" are a few important facts.
First was the 1976 NARC report that contended that the remains on First Financial's building site were those of the village that Portola described on his 1769 expedition. Due to the potential historical and archeological importance of the remains, NARC archeologists testified at City Council hearings that the site should be preserved if possible or an on-site interpretive museum should be designed into the development.
Second, the previously known site covered much of the area of the proposed development. Third, in 1978 First Financial hired the archeological firm Scientific Resource Surveys (SRS) to challenge the NARC report. Fourth, NARC information, passed on to SRS, indicated that "bones and grinding stones" were found when the parking lot of Poppy's Star Restaurant was put in.
SRS excavations uncovered shell beads dating the site from 1000 A.D. to 1850 A.D., which lent strong support to NARC's contention. Despite this, SRS argued that the site was of little value because it was disturbed and had probably washed down from a high bluff directly behind it. So when the site was hit again in 1984 under the area of Poppy's Star parking lot, it could hardly have come as a surprise to SRS unless they were totally incompetent, an opinion shared by some archeologists. Of course, SRS never hesitated to take credit for the discovery of the supposedly "lost" village.
Based on the 1978 report, First Financial was allowed to begin grading, and then there was no turning back. Preservation and an on-site interpretive museum were now impossible since, if I remember correctly, First Financial had already said privately they would not include a special museum in their development as they were already paying for the archeology.
When the first bulldozer blade cut into the earth at the corner of Ventura and Balboa in 1979, the last hope of the San Fernando Valley to regain its sense of place and a respect for its own human past vanished. All that is left are one million artifacts, testimony to disembodied, now lifeless events in the past.
It is ironic that the artifacts are now being held captive in what is essentially a monetary dispute. After all, it was sheer economics that assured the elimination of the single strongest link to the Valley's human past. The only real victims of this tragic farce are all the residents of the Valley who have been completely cut off from the historical roots of the very place they call home.