At the corner of Vanalden Avenue and Rosita Street is a tiny patch of grass and shrubbery planted with a lone pine that has come to be known affectionately as "Frankel Park."
Back in the late '60s, Tarzana homeowner leader Louise Frankel led an effort to transform the traffic island from a weedy mud pit into a landscaped spot where neighbors would gather for the annual Christmas tree lighting. Frankel helped raised funds for the landscaping and sprinkler system, persuaded the city to maintain the plot and called the tree-maintenance department whenever the island began to look scruffy.
Friends say the campaign is just a small example of the big contributions Frankel has made to Tarzana. But, they say, it is indicative of the vision, energy and persistence that Frankel has brought to her work. Frankel is moving over the hill to Brentwood, 32 years after she and her husband, television producer Ernie Frankel, founded the Tarzana Property Owners Assn.
"She's a doer," said Irma Dobbyn, her longtime friend and fellow homeowner advocate. "When she sets her mind to it, she really sticks to it and gets it done."
The blond, hazel-eyed Frankel looks years younger than 71. Articulate and engaging, she can also be blunt.
"She has a personality that makes her a wonderful advocate for the community," Dobbyn said. "She's a good speaker, and she's not reluctant to voice her opinions."
Frankel played a significant part in saving two large tracts of open space from development--Corbin Canyon, north of Mulholland Drive and east of Winnetka Avenue, and an area known as The Great Wild, at the end of Reseda Boulevard in Tarzana.
Frankel was named by the city Commission on the Status of Women as one of 15 Pioneer Women of the Year in 1992, and was honored by the Tarzana Chamber of Commerce as Tarzana Woman of the Year in 1987.
"Louise Frankel and Irma Dobbyn practically wrote the Tarzana Community Plan, which has guided development in the community since (the 1970s) and is responsible for the fact that Tarzana looks more like a village, as compared to Encino with its high rises," said Liz Tigar, secretary of the homeowners association.
Still, Tarzana has changed over the years, the rural community giving way to a bustling suburb.
"Deer used to come up to our front yard," Frankel reminisced. "People had stables and horses. They used to ride up and down the street. We all knew each other . . . our kids used to go to the same schools."
Frankel is moving to Brentwood to be closer to her daughter, Elin Schwartz, who lives there. She and her husband, who will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary Oct. 21, have another daughter and six grandchildren.
The activist does not intend to retire from public service just because she is moving over the hill. Currently a member of the Los Angeles County Economy and Efficiency Commission, she said she would like to serve on another commission, perhaps dealing with planning or zoning.
And it's not likely she'll stop caring about Tarzana.
Just recently, Tigar received a call from Frankel. She asked Tigar to make sure the city remembers to cut the grass at Frankel Park.