The community of Reseda is bounded by the communities of Encino, Lake Balboa, Northridge, Sepulveda Basin, Tarzana, Winnetka and Woodland Hills. It had a population of 62,174 in 2000, according to the U.S. Census, and 66,574 in 2008, based on L.A. Department of City Planning estimates. With 10,600 people per square mile over its 5.87 square mile area, Reseda's density is average for the city of Los Angeles and average for L.A. County.
Reseda shares its early Native American and Spanish colonial history with much of the San Fernando Valley. The area originated as a farm town named "Marian" (or "Rancho Marian") that appeared in 1912. Its namesake, Marian Otis Chandler, was the daughter of Los Angeles Times publisher Harrison Gray Otis, a director of the Los Angeles Suburban Homes Company. H.J. Whitley was the manager of the Los Angeles Suburban Home Company. The Western Division of the Pacific Electric Railway 'Red Cars Line' expedited development after the Los Angeles Aqueduct brought water to City of L.A. annexed Marion.
About 1920, Reseda — named after a fragrant North African yellow-dye plant, Reseda Odorata, which grows in hot, dry climates — replaced Marian as a designation for a stop on the Pacific Electric interurban railway running along Sherman Way. The name "Reseda" was given first to a siding on a branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad in the south San Fernando Valley.
The population of early suburban Reseda was 1,805 in 1930 and 4,147 in 1940. By 1950 it had topped 16,000, but the construction of the Ventura Freeway to downtown L.A. lay ten years in the future, and most Reseda residents still bought fresh eggs, milk, honey and vegetables at stands along Ventura Boulevard. Reseda was one of the first suburbs in the San Fernando Valley. Its large ranches were sub-divided and the area was developed by realtors just as the veterans of World War II were returning home. The earliest families came to live among orange groves which were successively plowed under in favor of housing. At the time, most of the jobs were in the Los Angeles Basin, to the south, over the Santa Monica mountains.
By 1950, the Valley's population reached 400,000. The average new Valley home, in 1949, cost $9,000. By 1955, that same house could be resold for nearly $15,000. But even at that price, a household income of $6,000 a year qualified, possible for many considering Valley incomes continued to be above the national average. There were restrictive covenants until the 1968 federal Fair Housing Act (part of the Civil Rights Act) however, excluding 'non-whites' from ownership. By 1960, the average market value of a Valley home reached $18,850. During the 1970s, however, these costs and income patterns over the rest of the country began to reverse. Land and housing costs shot upward, while most incomes only crept. By the beginning of the 1980s, the average price of a home in the Valley reached $110,000. According to a 2004 study by the U.S. Bureau of the Census it had tripled that level. Although home values continued to increase, Reseda is now home to a wide range of middle class and blue collar families.
It is not widely known that the epicenter of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake was actually in Reseda. The epicenter at first was reported as being in San Fernando, then a few hours later "somewhere near Northridge", and was pinpointed in Reseda (near the intersection of Wilbur Avenue and Saticoy Street) about a week later. By this point, however, the media had dubbed it the "Northridge" earthquake and the name stuck.
Reseda has been featured in a large number of movies because many of its neighborhoods look like suburbs in more rustic parts of the country. Films set in Reseda include The Karate Kid, Boogie nights, Tuff Turf, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, with its car chase scenes down the channel of the Los Angeles River.
In the 1984 film The Karate Kid, character Daniel LaRusso, played by Ralph Macchio, had just moved to Reseda from New Jersey. The apartment building that Daniel lived in is on Saticoy Street (just east of Tampa Avenue), and the scene where Daniel is being chased in the empty field is next to the apartment building.
Reseda is mentioned in the Tom Petty song "Free Fallin'", Soul Coughing's "Screenwriter's Blues", and The Mountain Goats' "High Doses #2". The 1974 Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention release Roxy & Elsewhere contains, on the song "Dummy Up", a reference to the city as Napoleon Murphy Brock's character is asked where he is from during a vamp in the song and he is scoffed at by Zappa when he replies he is from Reseda. Also, the Zappa-produced album Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band contains a reference to the city at the end of the track "Hair Pie: Bake 1". Don Van Vliet asks a girl and boy where they've moved from, to which the boy replies, "Reseda". Van Vliet responds by saying, "She's nice".
In the film Boogie Nights, the night club scenes were filmed at The Country Club (was A Savon's Drugstore in the 1960s, now a church) on Sherman Way, a block east of Reseda Boulevard. The long opening shot tracks from the marquee of The Reseda Theatre (actually long closed) down the block and across a side street to the club entrance, then inside. The donut shop holdup takes place several blocks east of the club, which is the donut shop on Sherman Way called Miss Donuts, which used to be a Winchell's Donuts.
Several prominent scenes from the 1999 film Magnolia, also directed by Anderson, were filmed near the intersection of Sherman Way and Reseda, about half a block away from The Country Club. The 1995 film A Kid in King Arthur's Court places the home of the main character in Reseda. Both the beginning and ending scenes of the movie ostensibly take place on a baseball field in Reseda. In the film Erin Brockovich, certain scenes were filmed near Sherman Way and Yolanda Avenue.
The 1996 film Escape From L.A., starring Kurt Russell, was filmed in and around the portion of the Los Angeles River that runs through Reseda. The show My Name is Earl is often filmed in Reseda, captured to look like rural small town America. One episode about a hot dog stand was filmed at the Home Plate Burgers on the corner of Saticoy Street and Reseda Boulevard. Home Plate Burgers was also in an episode of The Office. The song "Errol Flynn," written by Amanda McBroom and performed by Barbara Cook on her 1994 album Live from London, contains a reference to Reseda as the hometown of the singer and her actor father.
The show 10 Items or Less is filmed in an actual store in Reseda (Jons Marketplace), often using real customers as extras. In the 1973 film, Sleeper, by Woody Allen, the scenes of the futuristic cars driving were filmed in the Los Angeles River wash that runs through Balboa Park near White Oak. This area was part of Reseda at that time, but now is part of Encino. Reseda Park is home to a large duck pond that in the 50s and 60s offered rental electric boats. Fishing is still allowed in the pond.