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Making the San Fernando Valley

Making the San Fernando Valley: Rural Landscapes, Urban Development, and White Privilege

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 316
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  • Book Info
    Making the San Fernando Valley
    Book Description:

    In the first book-length scholarly study of the San Fernando Valley-home to one-third of the population of Los Angeles-Laura R. Barraclough combines ambitious historical sweep with an on-theground investigation of contemporary life in this iconic western suburb. She is particularly intrigued by the Valley's many rural elements, such as dirt roads, tack-and-feed stores, horse-keeping districts, citrus groves, and movie ranches. Far from natural or undeveloped spaces, these rural characteristics are, she shows, the result of deliberate urbanplanning decisions that have shaped the Valley over the course of more than a hundred years. The Valley's entwined history of urban development and rural preservation has real ramifications today for patterns of racial and class inequality and especially for the evolving meaning of whiteness. Immersing herself in meetings of homeowners' associations, equestrian organizations, and redistricting committees, Barraclough uncovers the racial biases embedded in rhetoric about "open space" and "western heritage." The Valley's urban cowboys enjoy exclusive, semirural landscapes alongside the opportunities afforded by one of the world's largest cities. Despite this enviable position, they have at their disposal powerful articulations of both white victimization and, with little contradiction, color-blind politics.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-3757-9
    Subjects: Population Studies, Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. 1-22)

    In 1965, Lifetime Savings and Loan, a bank serving Los Angeles’s suburban San Fernando Valley, mailed an advertisement for the vast new Porter Ranch subdivision to potential home buyers. Carved out of the former property of real-estate tycoon George Porter, Porter Ranch would be the largest residential subdivision in the San Fernando Valley’s history to date, housing more than forty-three thousand people in nearly twelve thousand units; sixteen schools and twenty churches were also included in the plans. Total development costs were estimated at over $350 million, and construction would take more than ten years to complete. When finished, Porter...

  6. PART ONE Creating the Foundations of Rural Whiteness, 1900–1960

    • CHAPTER ONE Creating Whiteness through Gentleman Farming
      (pp. 25-60)

      From the first decades of Anglo-American control after 1848 well into the twentieth century, Los Angeles was an explicitly and unabashedly white supremacist place. The choices that planners, real-estate developers, capitalists, and other city builders made about land use in the developing region were intended not only to attract investment and generate profit but also to solidify Anglo-American control and achieve white racial supremacy. “Gentleman farming,” or small-scale suburban agriculture, was an important part of their urban development strategy. Through gentleman farming, planners and policy makers intended to create in Los Angeles a new model of urbanism, one that uniquely...

    • CHAPTER TWO Narrating Conquest in Local History
      (pp. 61-84)

      Storytelling, through the writing of local history, was a crucial dimension of the Anglo-American conquest of Southern California and the U.S. West. From the 1920s through the 1960s, real-estate developers and community builders, often working in tandem with middle-class social groups, commissioned local professionals to write histories of the San Fernando Valley, which they then distributed to potential home buyers and tourists. The local history texts produced about the Valley during this period are the first written histories of the Valley, but like all histories, they reflect the ideologies and political-economic interests of their creators. Overwhelmingly, these history texts highlight...

    • CHAPTER THREE Producing Western Heritage in the Postwar Suburb
      (pp. 85-114)

      In 1998, Tinsley Yarbrough, professor of politics at East Carolina University and western film aficionado, set out to document the production locations of western films throughout California. Financed and edited by Albuquerque-based Video West productions, Yarbrough’s cinematic tour included landmarks of western filmmaking in the San Fernando Valley and its outskirts, such as the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth and Corriganville in Simi Valley; Monogram/Melody Ranch, the Andy Jauregui Ranch, and Walker Ranch, all in Placerita Canyon; as well as other sites throughout California’s Central Valley and deserts. In painstaking detail, Yarbrough shows his viewers every rock, road, and tree from...

  7. PART TWO Consolidating Rural Whiteness, 1960–2000

    • CHAPTER FOUR Protecting Rurality through Horse-Keeping in the Northeast Valley
      (pp. 117-146)

      In 1966, Glenn Haschenburger, an activist from the semirural community of Shadow Hills at the northeast end of the San Fernando Valley, explained the reasons for his neighborhood’s activism to a reporter from the Los Angeles Times. Just a few years earlier, Shadow Hills had been designated the city’s first “horse-raising zone,” which guaranteed minimum lot sizes of twenty thousand square feet (approximately one-half acre), zoning for horses and other livestock on suburban lots, and the indefinite protection of the neighborhood’s “rural atmosphere.” Activists there were struggling to preserve their new zoning in the face of the San Fernando Valley’s...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Linking Western Heritage and Environmental Justice in the West Valley
      (pp. 147-182)

      At the same time that horse owners in Shadow Hills were working to create the city’s first horse-keeping district, citing the threats that suburban development posed to the San Fernando Valley’s rural western heritage, the owners of the Valley’s western movie ranches were engaged in a similar struggle. By the late 1950s, the movie ranches and associated production locations had begun to experience a slow but steady decline, because of both the waning popularity of westerns relative to other genres as well as the incursion of suburban infrastructure and population expansion into filming areas. For years, the Valley’s production-ranch owners...

  8. PART THREE Rural Whiteness in the Twenty-first Century

    • CHAPTER SIX Urban Restructuring and the Consolidation of Rural Whiteness
      (pp. 185-204)

      The institutionalization and formalization of the San Fernando Valley’s rural landscapes examined in the previous two chapters occurred during a period of radical transformation in racial politics at the local, regional, national, and global scales. As we have seen, beginning in the 1960s, explicit white supremacy gave way to a position of official “color blindness,” which is now widely regarded to be the dominant racial discourse in the United States. However, this discursive and ideological shift coincided with growing inequality, propelled by the intersections of economic restructuring, demographic change, and political choices to disinvest in social-welfare programs. Together, these changes...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Beliefs about Landscape, Anxieties about Change
      (pp. 205-230)

      On a sunny March afternoon in 2003, I arrived at the Shadow Hills home of Patricia Wheat. Wheat, a white woman in her mid-sixties, met me in the drive-way, wearing her characteristic jeans and cowboy boots, and greeted me warmly in a voice made hoarse by a lifetime of smoking cigarettes. Wheat’s property, a sprawling six-acre ranch, is one of the few large parcels that remain in Shadow Hills. Wheat is a fixture in local politics and social life; many other people in the neighborhood had urged me to speak with her. Like so many other residents of the San...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT “Rural Culture” and the Politics of Multiculturalism
      (pp. 231-263)

      Whiteness in the northeast San Fernando Valley at the beginning of the twenty-first century remains persistently but tenuously linked to the rural landscape, within a city where whites are now a numerically declining but structurally privileged minority. Within this context, the historic relationships between the rural landscape, the urban state, real-estate developers, and capital are being reworked and redefined, and so too are the meanings and articulations of whiteness. Contemporary rural inhabitants of the northeast San Fernando Valley struggle to position their lifestyle as valid and valuable amid the shifting needs of the metropolitan region. In response to the perceived...

    (pp. 264-270)

    The processes that I have analyzed in this book are far from obsolete. Nor are they limited to a few neighborhoods on the fringes of the San Fernando Valley. Rather, the central practices of rural urbanism persist in shaping the linked development of metropolitan regions and racial formations in the contemporary American West. In this brief concluding chapter, I apply the book’s key findings and insights to understand how urban interests at the turn of the twenty-first century continue to produce rural places as a project of American empire and whiteness throughout the U.S. West; similar processes are under way...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 271-298)
    (pp. 299-310)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 311-320)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 321-321)