Northridge covers an area of 9.47 square miles and is 807 ft. above sea level. The population in 2000 was 57,561 (US Census); 61,993 in 2008 (L.A. Dept. of City Planning). The neighboring communities are Chatsworth, Granada Hills, Lake Balboa, North Hills, Porter Ranch, Reseda, Van Nuys and Winnetka.
Major streets in the area include Roscoe Boulevard, Devonshire Street, Nordhoff Street, Corbin Avenue, Tampa Avenue, and Reseda Boulevard. The Ronald Reagan Freeway (State Route 118) runs along the northern edge of Northridge, and provides access to the rest of the Los Angeles area freeway system. The area code is 818 and zip codes are 91324 through 91330.
Like much of the San Fernando Valley, Northridge was first home to the Native American Tongva (“people of the earth”) and Tataviam (“people facing the sun”), who first arrived in the area over 2,000 years ago, and whose descendants still live in the Valley.
Spanish Missionaries arrived to the area in 1769, claiming the entire San Fernando Valley for the King of Spain. In 1797 they established the Mission San Fernando Rey de España. The area went from ranchos and land grants, to agricultural tracts, and was split into ever smaller pieces, but continued to be mostly agricultural well into the 20th century.
The modern community was founded in 1910 as Zelzah station, a Southern Pacific depot town at the Colonel Henry Hubbard & "Bud" Wright Hawk Ranch north of Los Angeles.
Shortly after the Los Angeles City Aqueduct opened in 1913, Henry Hubbard became a member of Aqueduct Board. The following year Zelzah Grammar School opened and citizens formally voted for annexation to the City of Los Angeles and Owens River water rights in 1915. William Mulholland, engineer of the mammoth project, lived nearby and maintained one of many large rancho tracts remaining from the Spanish, Mexican and Californio land grant days.
Zelzah Acres became the name of one of those early housing tracts carved from the former enormous Rancho Ex-Mission San Fernando lands joining nearby towns of Chatsworth Park, Lankershim, Owensmouth, San Fernando and Van Nuys. The post office and train depot were renamed North Los Angeles in 1929 and finally Northridge in 1938.
Farm land eventually proved more valuable as housing than as agricultural land, as WWII veterans moved into the area and abundant citrus groves were replaced with housing tracts. Most of the single family homes in Northridge are original or modified tract homes from that era. More recently, larger apartment complexes and condominium buildings have been built to accommodate younger residents and students at California State University, Northridge.
Many aerospace and defense contracting companies emerged in Northridge, thriving off of the space race and the Cold War arms race. Even after the Cold War part of Northridge still has “clean-industrial” zoning with hundreds of high tech and industrial companies employing thousands of people.
Northridge Earthquake. A major moment in the history of Northridge was the January 17, 1994 Earthquake, magnitude 6.8, which killed 57 people and injured over 9,000. The epicenter was at Reseda Blvd. and Saticoy St. a little to the south. Thousands of buildings, homes, roads and infrastructure were damaged and was a deeply traumatic moment for the community. One result, even more than 15 years later, is that this community is one of the best prepared for disasters anywhere in the nation. Individuals, community groups and Neighborhood Councils are still highly engaged in emergency preparedness for themselves and interested and supportive of policy and actions to improve emergency planning and response.