Porter Ranch residents are no strangers to the winds that come howling through the area tucked beneath the Santa Susana Mountains at the northwestern tip of the San Fernando Valley. Once inhabited primarily by grazing sheep, today this calm outpost of Los Angeles, graced with lush parks, attracts residents seeking sanctuary from the urban hubbub.
In the late 1800s, the northern half of the San Fernando Valley was divided into nearly equal thirds among Charles Maclay, George Porter and his cousin, Benjamin Porter. Even as Valley communities began springing up, the northwestern slice, above today's Northridge, remained rural and isolated.
Today's Porter Ranch was part of Benjamin's share. His heirs sold the last 4,150 acres in 1962 for $4,819 per acre. Mountain lions, roadrunners, rabbits and other wildlife were plentiful when Porter Ranch, one of the Valley's last areas to be developed, began booming in the 1970s.
What it's about
Used to be, Porter Ranchers -- who by and large like their isolation -- had to travel to parts south and west to get to a shopping center.
That changed when Wal-Mart, which anchors a shopping center at Rinaldi Street and Corbin Avenue, opened in 2000.
The north Valley community is known for its schools and lovely older residences near the golf course at Porter Valley Country Club. Actors and others seeking privacy buy upscale homes in gated neighborhoods. An abundance of green space, including Palisades Park, which bisects the community, and Porter Ridge, Limekiln Canyon, Aliso Canyon and Moonshine Canyon parks, provides hiking, biking and a rural feel.
The country club, established in 1968, is a gathering place for families to swim, golf and play tennis.
Baseball enthusiasts flock to local Little League games, which attract some of the area's best players. The Northridge City Little League played in the 1994 Little League World Series championship in Pennsylvania; the team was defeated by Venezuela.
When Becky and David Leveque, both 57, first laid eyes on Porter Ranch in 1970, they fell in love with the hilly geography. "It felt like the wilderness," Becky Leveque said. She and David eventually settled into their current 3,000-square-foot home on the golf course that she calls her "big-sky house," for its wide-open views of the natural surroundings.
Jeff LaCour, 60, recalled friends running through the hills of Porter Ranch when he was young, wielding sticks in case they "ran into coyotes and wild dogs." He also remembers an October in the mid-'80s when the hillside west of Tampa Avenue was "on fire and tumbleweeds were blowing down" the main thoroughfare.
"It made for a spectacular Halloween," he said.
Good news, bad news
Although Porter Ranch boasts some of the cleanest air in the Valley year-round -- some of which is attributable to winds that sweep through the community regularly -- those same winds, which have been clocked at 70 mph, take down trees and holiday lights.
There are about 9,874 single-family homes and condos in Porter Ranch. Currently, 160 houses are listed for sale, from $460,000 for a three-bedroom in 1,518 square feet to $1.9 million for a four-bedroom in 5,186 square feet. There are 27 condos listed, from $248,000 for a two-bedroom in 852 square feet to $749,000 for a four-bedroom in 2,389 square feet.
Porter Ranch students attend Los Angeles Unified School District's Castlebay Lane Elementary School, which scored 917 out of a possible 1,000 on the 2007 Growth Academic Performance Index Base Report; Beckford Avenue, Darby Avenue and Germain Street elementary schools scored 911, 846 and 827, respectively.
Robert Frost Middle School scored 763; Nobel, 837, and Lawrence, 743.
Granada Hills Charter High scored 816; Chatsworth Senior High, 704.
Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; www.cde.ca.gov; "The San Fernando Valley: America's Suburb" by Kevin Roderick; Jeff LaCour, agent at Re/Max Olson & Associates, Northridge; www.chatsworthchamber.com/history.phtml.