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Migrating West for a Better Quality of Life : Agoura: Low crime, low smog, good schools draw families to the west side of the San Fernando Valley.

August 29, 1993|ROSLYN ROZBRUCH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Rozbruch is a free-lance writer who lives in Sherman Oaks. and

When Jackie and Howard Flashberg's son was about to start first grade in 1978, the couple wanted to move out of the San Fernando Valley because they felt there were problems with the Los Angeles school system.

Friends told them about Agoura, located west of the San Fernando Valley. They said it was a growing area, with no smog, low crime and the excellent Las Virgenes school district.

The Flashbergs heard about a tract of homes going into construction. "We looked at a blueprint, picked our house and put a deposit down," said Jackie Flashberg, a paralegal who works in Century City. A year-and-a-half later, the Flashbergs moved into their 3,000-square-foot home. They paid $100,000; their house is now worth close to $400,000.

Even though there have been many changes in the area since then, the Flashbergs like what their community, now incorporated as the city of Agoura Hills, has to offer. "The (city Department of) Parks and Recreation puts on wonderful programs for tots, teens and families," said Jackie Flashberg.

Like many residents, the Flashbergs work in Los Angeles. They drive the scenic route--Las Virgenes Road to Pacific Coast Highway and the Santa Monica Freeway--to make their 25-mile commute easier. The quality of their life is worth the drive, said Flashberg, a certified public accountant. "We wouldn't live anywhere else," he said.

Not only families are attracted to Agoura Hills, senior citizens also like it. Dorothy and Ike Bordofsky moved there 20 years ago to be closer to their married daughter.

The retired couple started the senior citizens club, which now has more than 500 members. "People join for different reasons," said Dorothy Bordofsky. "The club has a lot to offer: tennis, golf, trips."

The Bordofskys still like living in Agoura, even with all of the changes. "There was cattle grazing where the Vons and Ralphs are now," she said. "But I don't mind that it's grown so much because it's a very friendly city."

Incorporated in 1982, the city of Agoura Hills has fewer than 20,000 residents. Its eight square miles are made up of rolling hills, pastures and scattered oak trees spanning both sides of the Ventura Freeway. The city lies between Lindero Canyon Road and Chesebro Road, and between the northern boundary of Oak Park Agoura and the Santa Monica Mountains.

The city is a small part of a larger Agoura that many residents still talk about as if it were one place. But actually there are three Agouras.

"When people ask for a library card and we ask where they live, they say Agoura," said Si Rimer, manager of the Las Virgenes Library. "We'll say what part? It's all Agoura. It just depends which legal entity you're talking about: the unincorporated (Los Angeles) county (part) of Agoura, Oak Park Agoura located in Ventura County, or Agoura Hills the incorporated city. It's very confusing."

All three areas even share the same ZIP code, but there are some differences. For example, since Oak Park Agoura is in Ventura County, it has a different school district and library. And, because Oak Park Agoura isn't as developed as Agoura Hills, there are fewer children in the schools and a smaller teacher/child ratio per class.

Long before all the confusion over the three Agouras, the Chumash Indians would travel inland from their coastal villages to hunt in the hills and meadows. Skeletons found in a local Indian cemetery date back more than 800 years.

King Philip of Spain ordered troops to invade the area and named it El Rancho de Nuestra Senora La Reina de Las Virgenes and granted it to Miguel Ortega, a veteran of the Spanish Army of Occupation. In the early 1800s the grant passed to Dona Maria Antonia Machado del Reyes. Her heirs built a hacienda known as the Reyes Adobe. Travelers would stop there for food and rest. The City of Agoura Hills and the Las Virgenes Historical Society are restoring the adobe.

The name Agoura comes from sheepherder Pierre Agoure, who moved to the area from France in 1871. Over a period of 35 years, he acquired almost 1,700 acres. In 1928 the U.S. Post Office named the area Agoura.

By the early 1900s, there were 10 other ranches in the area, and in 1966 the first tract of homes was built in Oak Park Agoura. Shortly after, developments sprouted up in the area now named Agoura Hills. The largest development in the city is Morrison Ranch. The first of its many phases was built 13 years ago.

It was rapid growth in the late '70s that caused residents to incorporate to control future development. As of now, a major portion of the home building is completed, but there is still commercial growth and developments in the outer areas continue to affect Agoura Hills.

One of the most controversial issues facing the Agoura Hills City Council over the years has been the removal of pole signs (tall signs advertising a business such as a restaurant or gas station) that line the Ventura Freeway.

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