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Making the San Fernando Valley

Rural Landscapes, Urban Development, and White Privilege

Laura R. Barraclough

Publication Year: 2011


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.


Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation


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p. v

List of Illustrations

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p. vii

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pp. ix-xii

Completing this book offers a welcomed opportunity to reflect back on my intellectual trajectory and the many, many people who have shaped my growth, both personal and academic. The questions that I raise in this book have been with me for a long time — certainly since my time as an undergraduate at the University of California, San ...

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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 ...

PART ONE: Creating the Foundations of Rural Whiteness, 1900-1960

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1. Creating Whiteness through Gentleman Farming

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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 ...

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2. Narrating Conquest in Local History

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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 ...

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3. Producing Western Heritage in the Postwar Suburb

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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 Albuquerquebased VideoWest productions, Yarbrough's cinematic tour included landmarks of western filmmaking in the San Fernando Valley and its outskirts, such as the ...

PART TWO: Consolidating Rural Whiteness, 1960-2000

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4. Protecting Rurality through Horse-Keeping in the Northeast Valley

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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 ...

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5. Linking Western Heritage and Environmental Justice in the West Valley

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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 ...

PART THREE: Rural Whiteness in the Twenty-first Century

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6 Urban Restructuring and the Consolidation of Rural Whiteness

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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 ...

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7. Beliefs about Landscape, Anxieties about Change

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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 driveway, 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 ...

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8. "Rural Culture" and the Politics of Multiculturalism

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pp. 231-262

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 ...


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pp. 264-270


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pp. 271-298


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pp. 299-310


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pp. 311-319

E-ISBN-13: 9780820337579
E-ISBN-10: 0820337579
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820335629
Print-ISBN-10: 0820335622

Page Count: 316
Illustrations: 10 b&w photos, 3 maps
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation
Series Editor Byline: Nik Heynen, Deborah Cowen, and Melissa W. Wright, Series Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 676699963
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Making the San Fernando Valley

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Subject Headings

  • Cultural pluralism -- California -- San Fernando Valley -- History.
  • San Fernando Valley (Calif.) -- Geography.
  • Landscapes -- Social aspects -- California -- San Fernando Valley -- History.
  • San Fernando Valley (Calif.) -- Rural conditions.
  • Social change -- California -- San Fernando Valley -- History.
  • Whites -- California -- San Fernando Valley -- History.
  • San Fernando Valley (Calif.) -- Race relations.
  • San Fernando Valley (Calif.) -- Social conditions.
  • Urbanization -- California -- San Fernando Valley -- History.
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