California 27th District
In the early 20th century, when the movie business was young, the San Fernando Valley was a vast expanse of empty land that had been annexed to Los Angeles in 1915. Moviemakers, looking for filming sites for a western, drove past the vacant lots of Westwood, up narrow roads through the Santa Monica Mountains and over into the vast Valley, sheltered from ocean breezes and rain-bearing clouds by the mountains. Since then, this vast bowl of land has been transformed, first into 1950s suburbia, and then into a postmodern city of its own, economically vital and yeastily ethnic. Even in its suburban years, the San Fernando Valley was not entirely residential. Big factories provided jobs—the now shuttered General Motors Van Nuys assembly plant, the Anheuser Busch brewery, Rockwell (now Boeing) and Litton (now Northrop Grumman) defense plants. In those years, this was fast-growing, family-friendly territory. And politically, it was turf fought over by Republicans and Democrats.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
There is plenty of upscale territory left in the uplands of the Valley, in Granada Hills and Tarzana. The office blocks and mini-malls show unmistakable signs of affluence. In what had been the culturally arid Valley, lounges and bars have become prevalent. Urban planners have revived the planned community of Panorama City, which was the busy center of the Valley during the 1950s. In the inner lowlands of the Valley, new immigrants have moved to the growing communities of Reseda and Van Nuys. Some old neighborhoods have become rough enclaves, with youth gangs and boarded-up houses and apartments. Iranians and Chinese, Mexicans and Koreans, Israelis and Filipinos are keeping other neighborhoods diverse and solidly middle class. Even this multiethnic Valley has been unhappy to be linked with the city of Los Angeles, whose City Council imposes high taxes and irksome regulations. A Valley secession movement arose, and the issue was put on the November 2002 ballot. The Valley voted 51%-49% for it, with stronger support in the western part. But it needed a majority in all of Los Angeles to pass, and so it failed, though some embers of secession interest remain. In 2007, the Valley had 1.76 million residents, more than 40% of them foreign-born. Compared to most Americans and Californians, Valley residents make more money, spend more of it on housing, and endure longer commutes to work, according to the 2007 Valley census report.
The 27th Congressional District of California on the map looks like an inverted “U” over the San Fernando Valley, between the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains. On the east it includes part of Burbank, the home of NBC studios and Disney headquarters, and also blue-collar and heavily Hispanic neighborhoods filled with renters. To the north, are Sunland and Tujunga at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. The larger and more settled parts of the district are west of the 405 Freeway (roughly the dividing line between the East and West valleys), including most of Granada Hills, Northridge, Van Nuys, and Tarzana. This is a diverse district, indeed: 41% of residents are Hispanic, most of them Mexican, and 12% are Asian, roughly half of them Filipino or Korean. The district is comfortably Democratic, and traces of the Valley as the onetime base for President Ronald Reagan long ago disappeared.