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NEIGHBORLY ADVICE

Kagel Canyon a rustic retreat, freeway close

February 15, 2004|Susan Carrier | Special to The Times

This San Fernando Valley canyon community, tucked into the Angeles National Forest, emerged in the late 1880s as a mining town. A spirit of rugged individualism continues today as residents brave threats from fires and floods in exchange for tranquillity and isolation.

Away but accessible

Kagel Canyon, an unincorporated community in Los Angeles County, seems far removed from civilization, but is less than a mile from the 210 and 118 freeways.

The transition to Kagel Canyon from suburban Lake View Terrace to the south is dramatic. Tract homes with sidewalks and street lamps suddenly give way to the canyon's rustic retreats and mountain trails. As longtime resident Bobby Glass put it, "As soon as you cross the line into Kagel Canyon, you enter a different world."

Residents claim that the nights are cooler than in nearby suburbs and the air, tinged with the scent of blue sage, is cleaner. The sounds of nature, from great horned owls and quail to coyotes and rattlers, take the place of the din of traffic.

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Stock report

About 300 homes are grouped into three sections: Upper Canyon, Middle Canyon and Lower Canyon. The hard-to-reach Upper Canyon has a high percentage of properties zoned for horses. Middle Canyon homes are set among oak and sycamore trees. Lower Canyon is further divided into three areas: the east trail, with views of the canyon; the west trail, with pricier homes offering city and canyon views; and the creek trail, with sought-after "creek view" property.

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Insider's view

Life in the Upper Canyon has its challenges. Since the county does not maintain the road in this stretch, the postal service does not deliver mail directly to homes. And, unlike other parts of Kagel Canyon, residents must supply their own water by tanks or wells.

The Upper Canyon is also home to squatters who reside in vacant cars and trailers and a flock of domesticated emus. Condors often soar along with hang gliders who take off from Kagel Mountain.

The trade-off for intrepid homeowners, such as Dawn Wardle and her husband Ken Tamburri, is plentiful access to riding trails for their two horses and a view of the Los Angeles Basin that, on a clear day, can extend to the ocean.

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Good news, bad news

The canyon has kept housing developments at bay because vacant lots are typically available in only 2,500-square-foot parcels. Home builders must go to multiple landowners to gather enough property to build.

Fires, floods, mudslides and earthquakes are typical threats for canyon dwellers but, according to Realtor and resident Mike Anderson of R.R. Gable, "The canyons attract a special kind of person and they're willing to put up with just about anything."

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Hot spot

Don & Cyn's Hideaway Country Bar & Grill, a western-style bar and restaurant with a view of the creek, is a favorite hangout. Locals often arrive by horseback and tie their rides to the hitching posts out back. Sometimes horses outnumber motorcycles in the parking lot.

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Report card

Kagel Canyon residents attend schools in three communities in the Los Angeles Unified School District. For kindergarten through fifth grade, students go to Lake View Terrace's Brainard Elementary School, which scored 720 out of 1,000 on the 2003 Academic Performance Index. Maclay Middle School in Pacoima scored 515, and Verdugo Hills Senior High School in Tujunga scored 596.

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On the market

There were three homes on the market in Kagel Canyon last week. Among them were an 1,800-square-foot home in Middle Canyon for $290,000 and a 1,624-square-foot view home in Upper Canyon for $449,000.

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Historical values

Single-family detached resales for the entire 91342 ZIP Code:

Year...Median Price

1990...$171,500

1995...$139,000

2000...$180,000

2002...$242,964

2003...$295,000

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Sources: "A History of Sunland/Tujunga," compiled by Sarah R. Lombard; Mike Anderson, R.R Gable; Los Angeles Unified School District website, www.lausd.k12.ca.us/; DataQuick Information Systems.

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