Simi Valley topped the FBI's list of safe, large cities in the nation in 2002. It's a favorite bedroom community of law enforcement. "At least one cop lives on every block," said Bryan Fleming, with Re/Max Gold Coast Realtors. At the eastern edge of Ventura County, residents enjoy lower tax and car insurance rates than if they lived in Los Angeles County. Downtown L.A. is less than an hour away on Metrolink.
Off the growth chart
The community grew so quickly in the early '60s that grade school children attended a newer school closer to home each year and sometimes were transferred twice in the same school year. The Rocketdyne testing lab that once shook the ground and lighted the night sky is now quiet. The city incorporated in 1969 and for the last 20 years has enforced a slow-growth ordinance.
With 34.9 square miles surrounded by the Santa Susana Mountain Range to the north and east and the Simi Hills to the south, most residents have a mountain view. Chumash rock paintings still exist in caves in the surrounding hills, and remnants of a stagecoach route used in early westerns are visible where the Old Santa Susana Pass Road snakes to Chatsworth.
The city has succeeded in bringing high-paying jobs to the community. It is in the planning stages for a new Regional Town Center anchored by Robinson's May and Macy's department stores, accompanied by upscale boutique shops. A Pavilions grocery store is also planned.
The Simi Valley Hospital is undergoing expansion, so soon services for which residents have had to travel to Thousand Oaks or the San Fernando Valley will be available in the community.
Residents lament the lack of unique restaurants and the need to travel to Thousand Oaks or "over the hill" to Los Angeles for entertainment beyond a blockbuster movie. "The Importance of Being Ernest," performed by the Santa Paula Theater Center at the Simi Valley Cultural Center, doesn't satisfy many young adult residents. As they have for decades, they still travel to the Valley for a social scene. "I could go to bars here," said James Dickson, 21, "but they're full of older people."
Recreation facilities include four golf courses, an equestrian center, numerous trails and tennis courts, a newer YMCA and an ice rink.
Good news, bad news
Rather than the tracts of starter homes constructed in the '60s, developers are building move-up homes in the $500,000 range in master-planned communities, some with golf courses. But not everyone is pleased. Longtime residents miss the bucolic atmosphere of two-lane roads and crisscrossing groves of eucalyptus, which served as windbreaks. And businesses can't attract lower-paid workers to a community with little affordable housing and a rental vacancy rate of less than 1%. Many residents are opposed to high-density housing in their neighborhoods. However city planners and developers have managed to agree on a plan for a 390-unit complex near the Metrolink station that will include some subsidized apartments.
In early September, 271 homes and condominiums were on the market, ranging from $169,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bath, 657-square-foot condominium to $2.9 million for a 5,000-square-foot home with two guesthouses, two pools, a workshop and basketball court. New homes in the Wood Ranch development sell for up to $1 million.
Simi Valley is home to about 118,000 people. Close to 90% of the housing is single-family homes and condominiums. Areas such as the Indian Hills development near the Simi Hills Golf Course still have room to grow, and more developments are planned in conjunction with the Regional Center project.
Simi Valley Unified School District oversees 21 elementary schools, three middle schools and four high schools, including a technology magnet and a continuation high school. According to the California Department of Education Web site, the average 2002 API score for elementary school was 764, ranging from a low of 664 to a high of 879. The middle schools averaged 744. Scores for the high schools averaged 718.
Single-family detached resales:
*year to date
Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; U.S. Census; www.realestate.com; Bryan Fleming, Re/Max Gold Coast Realtors; "Simi Valley, a Journey Through Time," published by the Simi Valley Historical Society; California Department of Education: www.cde.ca.gov; Peter Lyons, city planner, City of Simi Valley; www.ci.simi-valley.ca.us.