There are so many places in California that inspire prose, poetry, and song. The state is the birthplace of surf culture, Hollywood, and the modern American wine industry.
More people know the cities within California that generate this fame and fortune more than they know the other states’ capitals.
Burbank, California is one of these cities, known for being home to several world-renown TV and movie studios, earning it the title of “Media Capital of the World.” While it doesn’t have a coastline for surfing, nor the wineries or vineyards of Napa, its location near L.A. and the famous San Fernando Valley put it on the map.
Why is San Fernando Valley called “the Valley”?
The San Fernando Valley is so-named because of its actual geographical reality: it is a valley, a long, low land sat between hills or mountains with a river running through it. The San Fernando Valley ticks all the boxes, hedged in by the Santa Susana, the Santa Monica, the Santa Ana, the San Gabriel, the Sierra Pelona, the Topatopa and the Verdugo Mountains and the Simi and Chalk Hills. The Los Angeles river runs right through the valley, flowing eastward. It is a valley covering 260 square miles at 600 to 1,200 feet above sea level (compared to the 3,000 ft+ elevation of the surrounding mountainsides).
Despite the area’s history dating back to Spanish colonial days, the idea of the Valley as its own entity formally took place in the 1970s when the Valley attempted to secede from Los Angeles as its own city. The failed attempt was brought back to life in 2002, when they Valley again failed to secede. However, some would argue that the therm “the Valley,” referring to the San Fernando Valley in particular, comes from pop culture. The first references to the area was in the ‘80s, with Frank Zappa’s song “Valley Girl” and the 1983 film of the same name, starring Nicolas Cage.
What parts of Los Angeles are considered “the Valley”?
(photo: Tom Adams)
The Valley has been called the suburban stepsister of Los Angeles; however, it does contain major parts of L.A. itself, including the unincorporated areas of Studio City and Universal City, homes to the Warner Bros., Walt Disney, and Universal film studios. It covers the whole north end of L.A., including Sundland-Tujunga, up Sylmar, and over to the West Hills. The Valley then continues beyond L.A. out through Calabasas and Westlake Village.
Aside from L.A., the cities of San Fernando, Burbank, and Glendale are all part of the Valley.
Where does the Valley start and end?
The Valley begins in the foothills of the various mountain ranges we mentioned that form an almost bowl-like shape that cradles the Valley from the east, north, and west. Its officially recognized end is the twisting and turning length of the famous Mulholland Drive, the road following the ridge line of the Santa Monica Mountains, separating Hollywood from the Valley.
Is Burbank considered part of the Valley?
According to the San Fernando Valley Service Council branch of Metro, the L.A. region’s transport agency; the Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce; and the L.A. County Economic Development Corporation: yes. Burbank in its entirety is part of the Valley.
According to residents, not so much. As one resident puts it: “Geologically, yes. Philosophically, no.” Many others agree with this assessment, citing the Valley to be an ideology more often than a geographical marker.
What is the stigma of the Valley? Why does everyone hate on it?
From the area of the Valley came the stereotype born within its borders. The concept of a “valley girl” is multifaceted, speaking to a socioeconomic and linguistic subculture that focuses on materialism, a unique dialect called Valleyspeak that relies heavily on upspeak, and an eventual manifestation of general airheadedness. All of these traits have developed and been attributed to the Valley since the 1980s, cementing themselves in a new, recognized subculture over time. The stereotype is embodied in the ‘90s cult film, Clueless.
The fact that the idea of a valley girl is associated with bimbos, dumb blondes, linguistic fillers (i.e. “like” and “whatever”), and more generally negative tropes shows the disparaging stigma surrounding the Valley. However, when asked about why L.A. people “hate” the Valley, valley girls are not mentioned.
As one Reddit user explains, “the reason people hate on it is because it’s identifiable.” It’s not terribly different from surrounding areas, but the fact that it is defined by its own term, “the Valley,” it’s easy to single out.
The general consensus is that it’s duller than L.A., having less night life, less entertainment venues, and less interesting restaurants, but makes up for that fact by having more affordable housing.
Some view this as a negative factor, presuming that its affordability makes the Valley poorer, lacking the class of its neighbors. For east coast émigrés trying to adapt to the ways of the west coast, it’s viewed as the New Jersey of L.A. Extremely suburban and, while so close to the big, shiny city, nothing in comparison.
The biggest complaint against the Valley seems to be the heat, facing considerably hotter temperatures than the more costal regions of L.A. that manage to catch a breeze, whereas the inland Valley, fenced in by hills and mountains, doesn’t catch a break. L.A. can be anywhere from 10 to 20 degrees cooler than the Valley at any given time.