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NEIGHBORLY ADVICE

Agoura Hills: a quiet 'gateway' in the Valley

November 03, 2002|Jeff Bertolucci | Special to The Times

Agoura Hills offers families an escape from the clutter and chaos of the nearby San Fernando Valley megalopolis. The upscale bedroom community of 20,537 has top-ranked schools, easily accessible hiking trails and scenic vistas of the Santa Monica Mountains. It was incorporated 20 years ago and is about 40 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, between the San Fernando and Conejo valleys.

Drawing card

This is a quiet, low-crime community where parents still allow their children to walk to school. Hillside parks and hiking trails ring the town, creating an ideal environment for backpack outings. And Agoura Hill's proximity to the Ventura Freeway corridor makes it convenient for commuting to nearby white-collar hubs.

Wow factor

The city bills itself as "the gateway to the Santa Monica National Recreation Area" and for good reason: The northern arm of the rugged preserve forms a half-circle around the town, creating permanent open space and providing mountain views for most residents. The area was called Picture City in the 1920s, when Paramount Studios shot movies here.

Insider's view

Agoura Hills has a laid-back, family-friendly feel that's increasingly rare in larger communities. Block parties aren't uncommon, and neighbors often know each other's names. The beaches of Malibu are a quick trip (15 to 20 minutes, traffic permitting) over Kanan Road to the ocean, and nearby Westlake Village offers a variety of upscale shops and restaurants.

Good news, bad news

Agoura Hills is freeway close to Los Angeles' major cultural attractions. Some neighborhoods, however, are too close to the 101 Freeway, making it impossible to escape the 24/7 din of speeding traffic.

Hot spots

Neighborhoods built in the 1980s and '90s have the largest homes, ranging from 4,000 to 6,000 square feet. Prices in the posh Morrison Highlands neighborhood range from $850,000 to $1.4 million.

Mid-range subdivisions include Chateau Springs and Morrison East Meadows, where homes from 2,400 to 3,400 square feet sell for $490,000 to $660,000.

Homes built in the '60s and '70s tend to be nondescript and smaller, but are affordable for younger families. Houses in the Lake Lindero and Hillrise neighborhoods are in demand, ranging from $315,000 to $485,000.

The Lake Lindero Country Club, with its community pool, tennis courts and nine-hole golf course, is a popular gathering spot.

Stock report

Single-family homes make up more than 80% of the city's housing stock. Condominiums and townhouses are scattered near the noisy 101 Freeway, but nearby Oak Park offers a better selection of multiunit housing.

Many of Agoura Hills' homes suffer from the tract-home blandness that afflicts many modern subdivisions, and the area lacks an eclectic charm present in many older communities.

Report card

Public schools in Agoura Hills are part of the highly rated Las Virgenes Unified School District, which serves more than 12,000 students from Westlake Village to Calabasas. The district's elementary, middle and high school test scores are well above state and national averages.

On the market

At the end of October there were 130 properties listed for sale, ranging from $172,500 to $2,395,000.

Historical values

Agoura Hills single-family detached resales:

Year... Median Price

1990...$388,250

1995...$344,000

2000...$379,000

2001...$410,000

2002...$459,500*

*year to date

Sources: DataQuick Information Services; Jim Cicchese, Re/Max Olson & Associates, Westlake Village; Cindee Zabner, Prudential California Realty, Westlake Village; www.ci.agoura-hills.ca; www.lvusd.k12.ca.us.

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