The San Fernando Valley is bounded by the Santa Susana Mountains to the northwest, the Simi Hills to the west, the Santa Monica Mountains to the south, the Verdugo Mountains to the east, and the San Gabriel Mountains to the northeast. The Los Angeles River is thought to originate in Chatsworth and flowing east along the southern areas of the Valley. One of the river's only unpaved section can be found at the Sepulveda Basin. Another waterway, the Tujunga Wash, comes down from the San Gabriel Mountains and winds south in the eastern communities of the Valley before merging with the Los Angeles River.
Most of the San Fernando Valley is within the City of Los Angeles, California, although several smaller cities are within the Valley as well; Burbank and Glendale are in the southeast corner of the Valley, Hidden Hills and Calabasas are in the southwest corner, and San Fernando, which is completely surrounded by the City of Los Angeles, is in the north Valley. Universal City, an enclave in the southern part of the Valley, is unincorporated land housing the Universal Studios filming lot. Mulholland Drive, which runs along the ridgeline of the Santa Monica Mountains, marks the boundary between the Valley and the communities of Hollywood and Los Angeles' westside.
Los Angeles' administrative center for the Valley is in Van Nuys. Northridge is home to California State University Northridge. The 1994 Northridge Earthquake, one of the few major earthquakes to have struck directly under a major city, was epicentered in neighboring Reseda just east of the intersection of Elkwood Street and Baird Avenue. An earlier major temblor (in 1971), The Sylmar Quake, was also a killer, having destroyed the Olive View and Veterns Administration Hospitals, and rendered the east west Interstate 210 useless for a number of years due to severe damage. Prior to development,before the arrival of the Los Angeles Owens Valley Aquaduct water, the valley was a bleak semi-desert, too dry water for extensive agriculture over more than a small part of the valley. The water brought farming, followed quickly by residental and commercial development.
The San Fernando Valley is an urbanized valley in southern California, lying mostly within the city limits of Los Angeles.
The San Fernando Valley is home to several large and many small parks. Griffith Park, the largest of Los Angeles' municipal parks, lies at the southeastern end of the valley, straddling the eastern end of the Hollywood Hills. Two large recreation areas occupy the flood control basins behind Sepulveda Dam and Hansen Dam. O'Melveny Park above Granada Hills protects the upper reaches of Bee Canyon, at the eastern end of the Santa Susana Mountains.
In the past decade, many large tracts of undeveloped or ranch lands in the mountains surrounding the Valley have been acquired for parkland. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and its affiliated agencies have purchased or otherwise acquired many of these lands, which are maintained as parkland by the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, California state parks, or local parks districts. In 2003 the Ahmanson Ranch, a 2,983 acre (12 km²) property in Ventura County at the west end of the Valley, was purchased by the State of California, and dedicated as the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve on April 10, 2004.
Prices for houses in the Valley are some of the highest in the U.S. In August of 2005, the median price of an average one family, two bedroom, one bath, home in the San Fernando Valley reached over $600,000. In 1997, it was only $155,000. In the summer of 2003, it reached $400,000 and by July 2005, it reached $578,500. From July to August (one month) 2005, it rose by $100,000. At this rate, the average home is expected to reach $1 million sometime soon.
The extreme price rise is due to a housing shortage in the high-demand area, and real estate speculation. California's population is expected to continue to grow rapidly. California's Building and Safety codes are some of the toughest in the nation, pushing out small construction businesses. Building contractors and speculators are getting wealthy, while many low income families must rent apartments rather than own a home, because they cannot afford the high down payment. The entertainment industry is drawing hopefuls from all over the U.S. Large Latino families and new legal and illegal immigrants are also contributing to the population increase, as well as the large number of jobs available.