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Affordable Homes Draw Families to Valley : Reseda: Despite earthquake, ethnically diverse community holds appeal for first-time buyers.

July 31, 1994|ROSLYN ROZBRUCH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Rozbruch is Sherman Oaks freelance writer. and

After Ronit and Hilton Sher were married in the mid-1980s, they moved to the United States from their native South Africa and rented a townhouse-style condo in Reseda.

"We saw a nice condo on a beautiful street in Reseda. We liked its central location," said Ronit Sher, an executive secretary who works in Chatsworth, "and found it was the most reasonably priced place to move."

Nine years later, when the Shers, now with two young sons, decided on a home of their own, they stayed in Reseda for the same reasons they rented.

They bought a half-acre lot and built a 3,000-square-foot two-story home with four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a formal living and dinning room, and a family room. And the neighbors, said Ronit Sher, "are fantastic."

"We bought a property and built a house that someplace else would have cost us double," she said.

Reseda, an ethnically diverse community of 80,000, including Latino, Asian and Middle Eastern residents, is situated in the center of the San Fernando Valley. It is bounded by Roscoe Boulevard on the north, by Victory Boulevard on the south, by Corbin Avenue on the west and by White Oak Avenue on the east.

Like the Shers, Elaine Adler was also attracted to Reseda for its affordability when she bought her home 21 years ago.

"When my husband and I went to buy a house, we looked in West Los Angeles, but everything was old and small," Adler, a public librarian, recalled.

"So I made an appointment with a realtor in the San Fernando Valley. I told her our price range and she took me to this house. I was impressed. The house was almost new and it looked enormous to me."

The Adlers paid $37,500 for a three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,400-square-foot home.

There have been some changes since Elaine Adler bought her house two decades ago. She's now single with two sons and two dogs, and her Reseda home is considered to be in Tarzana.

Over a year ago, residents campaigned to change the name of a square mile section of Reseda located between Victory Boulevard and Topham Street. "I'm in Tarzana now, but the ZIP code is the same, so none of the neighbors use the name," Adler said.

But even with the change, her feelings about where she lives are the same. "It's a nice home to start out with and end up with," she said.

Reseda is a moderately priced neighborhood, said Herb Lambert, a real estate agent with the Jon Douglas Co. in Encino. "Even though there are some new houses, most of the homes were built in the '50s and have three bedrooms and 1 1/2 baths," he said.

Prices range from $92,000 for a 900-square-foot home with two bedrooms and one bath to $237,000 for a 2,300-square-foot home with four bedrooms and three baths, he said. The median house sells for about $144,000 and is 1,200 square feet with three bedrooms and 1 1/2 baths. Condos sell from the $90,000s to the mid-$100,000s.

After the quake, Lambert said, home prices fell only a small percentage because they are already low.

Reseda's business district, located near the intersection of Sherman Way and Reseda Boulevard, has several blocks of storefront shops as well as a variety of international markets and restaurants.

In the last several years the business community has had problems with boarded-up stores, dilapidated buildings and graffiti. With the Northridge earthquake (the epicenter was actually in Reseda), there's also been damage to buildings, causing some businesses to go under.

A group called the Reseda Business and Community Alliance is trying to turn the business district around. They expect to receive federal earthquake relief funds and plan to use the money to renovate buildings and clean up the streets to attract new business.

Before it became a San Fernando Valley suburb, the land was home to sheep and cattle ranches. But a drought in the late 1800s killed many of the animals, and soon after, the ranches were replaced by farms growing wheat, lima beans and lettuce.

In 1913, the landowners, the Suburban Homes Assn., planned to develop the area. They named the community Marian, after the daughter of Gen. Harrison Gray Otis, one of the association's directors. The post office objected to the name because there already was a town named Mariana. So the name was changed to Reseda, a Spanish word for the mignonette flower that grew in the area. Reseda remained an agricultural community until late 1940, when several tracts of homes were built and the population started to grow.

Efren and Daisy Masangkay bought in Reseda nine years ago, after looking throughout the San Fernando Valley for several months. They bought a 1,400-square-foot home with three bedrooms and two bathrooms on a half-acre lot for $116,000.

With three children, a large yard was top priority for them. "I wanted a place for them to play and I wanted some privacy. We have a huge back yard," said Efren Masangkay.

Their house is well built, the couple knows for sure. Although only two blocks from the epicenter of the Jan. 17 quake, it suffered only minor cracks.

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