California 28th District
A hiker looking north from the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains in 1910 would have seen a valley almost totally empty and barren, 20 miles long and 12 miles wide. Separated by the Cahuenga Pass from rapidly growing Los Angeles and Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley was bought up in massive tracts by civic leaders as they were urging city engineer William Mulholland to build a huge 250-mile aqueduct from the Owens Valley to give Los Angeles water and persuading the city in 1915 to annex 200 square miles of the Valley. In the years after World War II, this was modern suburbia, filled with Leave It to Beaver families. Today the San Fernando Valley is postmodern urban, with Disney headquarters in Burbank and Universal City’s CityWalk shopping and entertainment center. The driver topping the crest today sees office towers looming out over slightly hazy air, shopping centers, occasional palm trees, stucco subdivisions, and the squat factory and warehouse buildings that have made Los Angeles County a top manufacturing locale. The Valley has aged, in some ways gracefully. Homeowners in Van Nuys, Sun Valley, and Granada Hills are forming preservation districts, maintaining the antic architecture of the Valley in the 1950s.
2008 Presidential Vote
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The people in the Valley have also changed. The 1950s white Anglo families with stay-at-home moms have been replaced by hard-working Latino families with parents juggling two jobs. But there is continuity: These are communities where people work hard trying to raise children who will have a better chance than they had. Pacoima, at the northern end of the Valley, where Rodney King was pulled over and beaten and arrested, is mostly Latino. Farther south, in Canoga Park, Van Nuys, and Burbank, was the industrial base—the GM plants were mostly shut down in the 1980s, and only one of the defense plants remains open, the old Rocketdyne plant, which is now owned by Pratt and Whitney. But now there are hundreds of small factories and multimedia plants where thousands of jobs have been created. The southern rim of the Valley, around Studio City and North Hollywood, is still heavily Jewish and is attracting new families who often send their kids to religious schools. There is a trendy and lively shopping strip along Ventura Boulevard. People with money cluster near the foot of the mountains around the Valley; those less well off settle on the flatlands beyond. But rich or poor, many of these neighborhoods were hit hard when the housing bubble burst in 2007 and 2008. With its perpetually inflated real estate market, the Valley suffered from a huge wave of foreclosures.
The 28th Congressional District of California consists of about half of the San Fernando Valley and some of the mountains to the south. It includes parts of Van Nuys and several miles of land on either side of the Hollywood Freeway, from the point where it comes through the Cahuenga Pass from Hollywood to the junction with the Golden State Freeway. Much of the northern end of the Valley, including Pacoima and the small city of San Fernando, is in the district. Mulholland Drive, which runs along the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains and the Ventura Freeway, is the southern border, until the district dips south to Hollywood Boulevard. Within these borders are affluent North Hollywood, Studio City, Sherman Oaks, and Encino, with big houses on twisting streets overlooking the Valley and just above the shops of Ventura Boulevard. The population of the district is about 57% Hispanic, mostly concentrated in the central and northern sections. But Hispanics are still not the majority voting bloc here, because many are not citizens, and many are children or young people not yet in the voting stream. The high Democratic percentages here are due as much to Jewish as to Latino voters. The spark of hope that some Republicans saw in this district when George W. Bush’s percentage rose from 24% in 2000 to 28% in 2004 was doused when Republican John McCain got only 22% in 2008.