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NEIGHBORLY ADVICE

A hideaway in Sherman Oaks

May 07, 2006|Nola Sarkisian-Miller | Special to The Times

Pride of ownership is in full bloom in the Sherman Oaks community of Magnolia Woods, where Bob Vila disciples are ambitiously expanding their homes to accommodate growing families and interests. With friendly neighbors, easy Westside access and parks, residents want to stay put.

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A bit of history

Bounded by Magnolia, Burbank and Sepulveda boulevards and Kester Avenue, Magnolia Woods is a tract that was considered a part of Van Nuys until 15 years ago.

It's still a point of contention, especially around things like the ZIP Code and mail service. To some residents' chagrin, it's necessary to use the Van Nuys ZIP Code of 91411 in the area. And the Sherman Oaks post office -- located on the south side of Magnolia -- doesn't serve Magnolia Woods residents, who actually receive mail from the Van Nuys branch. A sore spot with many who prefer the cachet of Sherman Oaks.

A drive through the area suggests a lot of devotees of home improvement TV channels live here. Why have so many Magnolia Woods residents been bitten by the remodeling bug? Perhaps it can be attributed to the age of the properties, most of which are three-bedroom, 1,500-square-foot ranch-style homes built in the 1940s and '50s.

Supply and demand

For a long time, Magnolia Woods' property values languished along with the rest of the San Fernando Valley's stagnant prices. But when the real estate market took off and lifted values throughout Los Angeles County, buzz began circulating about the hidden gem of Magnolia Woods.

In the last three years, prices have risen about 40% but still hover below prime Sherman Oaks real estate adjacent to Ventura Boulevard, according to David Hitt, a Coldwell Banker broker and a nine-year resident of Magnolia Woods.

"Properties do not stay on the market for long here," Hitt said. In March, a three-bedroom, two-bath home of 1,510 square feet fetched $789,000.

Among the roughly 475 single-family homes (which are surrounded on the major thoroughfares by apartment and condominium complexes), Hitt said there are fewer than half a dozen listings, including a three-bedroom fixer at $699,000 and a three-bedroom, two-bath home for $825,000.

The real story

So what does the community and location offer for more than $750,000? Valley residents eager to head over the hill for work and leisure enjoy fast access to the Westside via the 405 Freeway and canyon roads.

Pop culture buffs may appreciate the proximity to the Sherman Oaks Galleria -- considered the birthplace of the Valley Girl label and present home to Starbucks and the Cheesecake Factory, as well as a 16-screen movie theater.

Leafy streets, picket fences and well-manicured lawns lend curb appeal to the area, which is undergoing a home improvement wave as residents forgo relocation options.

"We have no complaints about this neighborhood," said Kezia Jauron, a six-year resident of the community who recently added a second story to her home and is the president of the Magnolia Woods-Sherman Oaks Residents Assn. "We hit the jackpot when it comes to nice neighbors, and everything is here. Where else would we move?"

Now in its third year, the association came about to fight an attempt at mansionization in the neighborhood. The legal battle is still brewing, but an annual spring festival, traffic mitigation efforts and a push for community emergency response training are among the group's positive offshoots.

The real lure, however, is for families. Play-dates are aplenty in the neighborhood, where swings sway on frontyard trees and a number of support groups for moms have members living here.

If backyards feel cramped, there is the great outdoors. Less than two miles east is the Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks Recreation Center. West of Magnolia Woods is the 225-acre Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve, spanning the Sepulveda Dam and Haskell Creek in a setting where woodpeckers, sycamores and desensitized urban dwellers can mingle.

Report card

Also appealing to families is the Kester Avenue Elementary School, serving children through fifth grade and scoring 876 out of a possible 1,000 on the 2005 Academic Performance Index Base Report. Part of the L.A. Unified School District, the Richard Neutra-designed school, among the first built with separate buildings, boasts the highest API score of Sherman Oaks area elementary schools. Van Nuys Middle School and Van Nuys High School scored 638 and 639, respectively.

Historical values

Residential resales:

Year...Median Price

1990...$260,750

1995...$200,000

2000...$283,000

2005...$625,000

*2006...$669,250

*Year to date

Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; api.cde.ca.gov; www .neighborhoodlink.com/

shermanoaks/magnoliawoods/.

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