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91352: Junkyards in Sun Valley

Ryan McRee

Sun Valley is a neighborhood in Los Angeles city proper, in the northeast San Fernando Valley, bordered by Burbank, North Hollywood and Valley Glen to the south, Shadow Hills, Pacoima, and Lake View Terrace to the north, and Panorama City to the west. The 91352 ZIP code has a population of nearly 48,000 within 11.67 square miles. The population is majority white with a sizable Latinx minority. The median home value is about $338,000 with a median income of just below $49,000. The population has a significantly larger-than-average number of single parents, and the population of children under 18 is large compared to the national average. Part of Sun Valley is also located in the 91605 ZIP code, and the total population of the neighborhood is about 56,000.

Situated at the base of the Verdugo Mountains, Sun Valley is located on what was originally a Tongva/Fernaneño Native American village called Wixánga, named after the prickly pear cacti native to the area. The area was settled by European Americans when the Southern Pacific Railroad was constructed through the east San Fernando Valley in 1876, linking Northern and Southern California. The small town of Roberts was established when Roberts’ General Store sprang up in the area, which was used as a post office and water-tank station. In 1896 the community changed its name to Roscoe, supposedly after either a train robber or one of the workers on the train when it was robbed; the true story remains unclear. By that time only seven families lived there. California Highway 99 opened in 1915, and the city was annexed by the city of Los Angeles in the 1930s. World War II brought a new wave of manufacturing to the area, and a suburban community sprang up. In 1950, the name of the neighborhood was changed to Sun Valley by residents and local businesses. In 1995, La Tuna Canyon became its own neighborhood separate from Sun Valley.

One major feature that has marred the beauty of the area is the high number of junkyards in Sun Valley. In the 1980s there were over fifty junkyards in the neighborhood; a local businessman joked that it was the “auto-wrecking capital of the state.” One of these junkyards, the Aadlen Bros. Wrecking Yard, became locally famous for being a location in over 200 movies and TV shows, and props and set pieces from its many years of shooting were strewn all over the property (including “Bruce,” one of the models used for the shark in Jaws). After 53 years of business, Aadlen Bros., otherwise known as the “U Pick Parts” junkyard, closed in 2015. At its peak, over 25,000 cars were dismantled and crushed there per year, with as many as 100 cars per day streaming in during the Great Recession’s cash-for-clunkers buyback deal. Though the number of junkyards in Sun Valley has been on the decline, the landscape is still pockmarked by landfills and the neighborhood is a major source of waste disposal for Los Angeles. Community pride is high among locals, but the scars of the auto and real estate boom of the 1960s can still be felt. As the population of the San Fernando Valley began to explode, the fallout needed somewhere to settle.

Despite its difficulties, Sun Valley boasts a number of attractive features and landmarks. The Pink Motel, a retro 50s-style motel built in 1946, is an eye-catching roadside attraction off San Fernando Road. The motel has been featured in a number of movies and TV shows, including Netflix’s GLOW, Dexter, Drive, The O.C., and Westworld. In La Tuna Canyon, the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants serves as a nursery and gallery that features and fosters education around California native plant life. For those interested in architecture, the Stonehurst Recreation Center Building is an example of stonemason Daniel Lawrence Montelongo’s 1920s construction on what is now known as the Stonehurst Historic

Preservation Overlay Zone—a neighborhood of 92 homes built out of local river rock. The Community building was saved from demolition when local residents petitioned to have it designated a historical landmark in 1977. And for hikers, the 2.25 mile La Tuna Canyon Trail ascends 975 feet and offers beautiful views of the San Fernando Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains.

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