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NEIGHBORLY ADVICE

A village concept with commuters in mind

With about a third of Valencia's workforce employed in the Valley, Los Angeles or the Glendale/Burbank corridor, it is a haven for commuters. Transportation and a pleasant way to enjoy weekends are essential. Commuter services are available via Metrolink or buses. Recreation includes everything from biking to the thrill rides at Magic Mountain.

March 30, 2003|Gail S. Tagashira | Times Staff Writer

The basics

One of eight towns that make up the city of Santa Clarita, Valencia is a planned community 35 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Created by Newhall Land & Farming Co. in the mid-1960s, Valencia was designed by urban planner Victor Gruen, who believed residents should be able to walk or bicycle to nearby destinations without having to cross busy streets in much the same style as some European towns.

Gruen introduced the village concept where schools, recreation centers, shopping and homes were built in phases to minimize the need to drive and make each neighborhood as self-sufficient as possible.

Valencia is made up of 26 "villages" or neighborhoods from the tract subdivisions of Old Orchard, completed in 1967, to Bridgeport, the newest complex with its man-made waterways.

Wow factor

The Santa Susanna, San Gabriel and Sierra Pelona mountains ring the valley, and 18 community parks allow hikers, picnickers and horseback riders access to uncrowded areas. For water enthusiasts, Castaic Lake sits adjacent to the town limits.

Drawing card

Valencia has a family-friendly atmosphere, solid schools, a balance of open space and easy access to shopping, recreation, schools, churches and businesses through 25 miles of winding paseos, which invite residents to leave their cars at home and walk or bicycle. Except for in the nature preserves, the paseos are well-lighted and, children can in-line skate and skateboard safely away from traffic. Adults can jog from early morning to late at night.

Hot spot

The six-block-square area encompassing the Valencia Mall, River Oaks Shopping Center, Town Center and the Promenade offer entertainment, recreation, dining, extensive shopping and a Spectrum Club.

Good news, bad news

While Santa Clarita built and maintains three Metrolink stations, parking and security are adequate only at one station. Frustrated commuters pay the price of parking tickets while residents lose street parking spaces to commuters.

High levels of naturally occurring calcium and magnesium make it necessary for most Valencia residents to treat their drinking water and forgo automatic ice dispensers unless they install copper plumbing.

With the departure of the Mann Theatres in February, the one remaining mega-plex offers limited cinematic choices. Most of those are geared toward families and young audiences. A church has replaced the movie theater on the once aptly named Cinema Drive.

Report card

Public schools in Valencia are part of three school districts: Saugus Union Elementary, Newhall Elementary and William S. Hart Union High. At the elementary level, 2002 Academic Performance Index scores ranged from 752 to 886 on a scale of 1,000. Middle and high school scores ranged from 693 to 825. While parents sometimes complain of overcrowding, new schools are opening at the rate of about one a year.

Insider information

The city proudly points to its big events, such as the Bella Via Italian Street Painting Festival, the SBC Senior Golf Classic and this weekend's Cowboy Poetry Festival, but smaller, more intimate gatherings in local parks and neighborhoods capture the intimacy and friendliness of the town.

On the market

In early March there were 136 properties for sale, including condos, townhomes and single-family homes, in addition to new homes coming on the market. Prices start at $132,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bath condo, with townhouses typically in the mid-$200,000s and detached homes from the $300,000s to $1.5 million for the 5,000-square-foot Taylor-Woodrow developed Woodlands homes.

Historical values

Single-family detached resales:

Year...Median Price

1990...$231,000

1995...$189,000

2000...$255,000

2001...$271,750

2002...$324,000

Sources: DataQuick Information Services; Newhall Land & Farming Co.; www.valencia.com; Mike Lebecki, Re/Max Realtors of Santa Clarita.

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