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Panorama City houses and curved street (Roderick 126)During World War II, the defense industry boomed in the San Fernando Valley. According to Greg Hise in his book Magnetic Los Angeles Planning the Twentieth Century Metropolis, the population of the San Fernando Valley grew 64% during the war. As a consequence, the housing industry also boomed. Private real estate developers transformed the landscape of the Valley into highly subdivided complete communities. For example, Kaiser Community Homes located its new project in Panorama City, by the Lockheed Airport. The choice of the site was mainly determined by the proximity of industry, such as General Motors, seen as potential employers of the future inhabitants. Kevin Roderick reveals in The San Fernando Valley America’s Suburb that the project of Panorama City was to build three thousand units of ready-to-move-in houses. The two bedroom dwellings came with a garage, a standardized floor plan and all the necessary fixtures for the price of $3,690.

 

Thus, contrary to popular belief, the Valley was not a bedroom community where all commuters were going back and forth from the Valley to their work place in Los Angeles. Promoters were determined to create a community for “living, work and play” (Hise 187). Housing was surrounded by school, recreational spaces, churches, commercial centers, and regional industries. “More than one hundred new industries within fifteen minutes”(Hise 187) was one of the most successful selling slogan of the Kaiser Community Homes.

 

The houses were typicallly one level ranch style tract homes. In comparison with pre-war housing, Kaiser Community Homes was maximizing floor plan flexibility. Promoters intended to create more spacious units with fewer small rooms. One of the main characteristics was the relocation of the kitchen into the rear part of the house to improve privacy and the ability of the housewives to watch their children play outdoors (Hise 201). Three bedrooms and duplexes were also available for a price range of $9,000 to $15,950 (Hise 201). The key to the Kaiser Community Homes project was the standardization of the floor plans and the parts. However, standardization was also their main disadvantage. Hence, to reduce monotony, the promoters curved the streets, varied the location of the garages, and used different façade paint colors (Roderick 126). In 1946, the Los Angeles Planning Commission joined the effort against the concept of a “bedroom suburb” in the Valley by creating a zoning ordinance to locate “self contained communities as nuclei for urbanization” (Hise 192). Since the intervention of Kaiser Community Homes in Panorama City, the desire to create complete communities in the San Fernando Valley has remained a constant preoccupation of developers.

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Picture 1:  Panorama City Houses and Curved Streets (Roderick 126)

Picture 2: Houses in Panorama city have similar features as the one on the previous picture. Today we recognize the structure of the houses built in the 40’s, and notice the signs of mass production.

 

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