With their second child on the way, Dan and Jill Rosen first looked for a bigger home for their growing family among the affluent enclaves of eastern Ventura County's Conejo Valley.
But the Rosens put thoughts of Ventura County aside after stumbling upon the home of their dreams in Porter Ranch, a growing community in the northwestern San Fernando Valley.
The Rosens, both 37, found that they could get much more for their money in Porter Ranch than in Thousand Oaks. The couple paid in the mid-$500,000s for a 3,600-square-foot home with spacious rooms and high ceilings.
"I originally thought I wanted to be out in the Westlake-Thousand Oaks area," Jill said. "But we just couldn't find anything that compared to the safe feeling of being in a gated community in Porter Ranch and in a house that we absolutely loved."
Because Porter Ranch is situated along the Valley's northern edge, it's off the beaten path of the Valley floor, creating an "out of the way" feeling that the Rosens love.
At the same time, the couple's new home is just a seven-minute commute from Dan's job at a financial investment firm in Chatsworth.
"Since I live so close to my office, when my kids get older I'll be able to take time out to see them play sports and attend their recitals," Dan said. "I'll get to watch them grow up."
Nestled among the rolling foothills of the Santa Susana Mountains, Porter Ranch is a predominantly residential community in the upper end of Northridge. Its clean streets and low crime rate have made it an attractive place for retirees and families with young children to buy a home.
And it has also become a destination point for a growing number of Asian American families, observers say. Another feature unique to Porter Ranch is that many of the community's homes have been built by two companies that plan to build thousands more homes in the area.
The boundaries of Porter Ranch vary, depending on whom you ask. The unofficial borders, according to city demographers, could be the Ronald Reagan Freeway to the south, the Santa Susana Mountains to the north, Aliso Canyon wash to the east and the city's border to the west.
As of 1996, there were an estimated 16,300 people living in that area.
But those boundaries are unlikely to sit well with longtime residents who contend that the community begins at Devonshire Street, where statues of two mounted horsemen were erected after the original subdivision was built in the early 1960s.
One thing is certain, however, and that's that most of the community's growth in recent years has taken place north of the Ronald Reagan Freeway. And Porter Ranch's fresh housing stock, according to Harriet Cohen of Todd C. Olson Estate Brokerage, is its biggest appeal.
"It's what brings the people," said Cohen, who represented the Rosens in their purchase. "They like new homes."
Homes in Porter Ranch sell for a wide range of prices, Cohen said, with the median home price about $375,000. At the low end, smaller homes start at about $230,000, while luxury homes sell for $900,000.
The mix of prices in Porter Ranch turned out to be a blessing for residents Tom and Lisa Moon. For six years the couple lived in a 1,700-square-foot home in one of the community's older neighborhoods, west of Wilbur Avenue.
So when Lisa became pregnant with the couple's second child, they faced a problem with an easy solution: finding a more spacious home to buy in another Porter Ranch neighborhood.
Their search led them to a 2,600-square-foot home with four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a swimming pool. The Moons paid in the low $300,000s for their home, which is in the same gated community where the Rosens bought.
The additional space allows Tom, a 33-year-old mortgage broker, to telecommute between a home office and his main office in Sunland.
"He works late, and I'm always going to the park or to the library with the kids, so I wanted to live somewhere safe," Lisa, 27, said.
Though the Moons enjoy their new neighborhood, Lisa notes that it differs from their previous one, where she had forged close bonds with her neighbors.
"There are some other stay-at-home moms like me, but the rest of the people seem to work long hours," Lisa said. "In the summertime it's not uncommon to see people walking and bicycling at 8 p.m., which is when many of them get home from work."
Her husband, Tom, added: "Porter Ranch is not a community of old money with a lot of doctors and lawyers. There are more young professionals here who are starting out, working hard and making good on the American dream."
That's not to say that residents hesitate to get involved if a need arises, according to Los Angeles police Officer Rick Gibby, a senior lead officer assigned to the Porter Ranch/Granada Hills area.
"Porter Ranch has a really good Neighborhood Watch program," Gibby said. "They can muster 1,500 people for a meeting, which they did a few years ago when follow-home robberies were a problem. Following the meeting the robberies ceased."