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Saturday, Dec 9, 2023

FIVE—Remember When?

A lot has happened since the Business Journal was launched in 1996. A lot has stayed the same too. O.J. Simpson was still on trial. The Menendez brothers were finally convicted. Tommy Lasorda retired as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. And Shaquille O’Neal signed with the Lakers. Over the hill, the San Fernando Valley was still reeling from the Northridge Earthquake. Empty storefronts and vacant office buildings told the story of an economy shaken by a recession and the greatest natural disaster in its history. Ventura Boulevard was lined with scaffolding and freeways were filled with Ryder trucks headed out of town. The Feds slashed the budget for subway funding, dealing what would turn out to be a crushing blow to the metro rail that was to have connected the eastern and western ends of the Valley. And the secession movement, while just a seed of an idea, had become worrisome enough to persuade Mayor Richard Riordan to initiate a proposal for city charter reform. And the San Fernando Valley Business Journal published its first issue. Much has changed in five years. Much remains the same. Here, a look at some of the events we remember and some that may have been forgotten in the first five years of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. Now You See It Once one of the largest business tenants in the San Fernando Valley, CareAmerica Health Plans was among the most highly visible insurance companies housed in the Warner Center area. But in 1997 the company was acquired by Blue Shield of California and, as its services were absorbed by its new parent, the name CareAmerica disappeared from the Valley landscape. Whatever Happened to Whatshername? Former Assemblywoman Paula Boland was termed out of office in 1996, before the San Fernando Valley secession movement became front page news. But it was Boland, a Republican from Granada Hills, who first introduced the legislation that cleared the way for secession by eliminating the city’s veto power over such an effort. Last year, she formed Finally Restoring Excellence in Education (FREE), a group that gathered enough signatures to launch a study on the break-up of the LAUSD. And though she has been absent from the public eye of late, Boland is now rumored to be considering a run for City Councilman Hal Bernson’s seat in 2003. The More Things Change In 1996, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority managed to condemn 130 acres owned by Lockheed Martin Corp., and then attempted to purchase the land to build a new terminal. Five years and $10 million in legal and other fees later, the Airport Authority is still trying to build its new terminal. The Airport Authority did buy the 130 acres. But the land wasn’t the real problem. The city and the Airport Authority have spent years battling each other over how large the new terminal should be. And even after they settled on a 14-gate terminal, the city asked the agency to go back and update its environmental study, prompting the airport to pull the application. Today, some of the land is up for sale, and the Airport Authority is now hoping to build its terminal on yet another parcel, an adjacent 41-acre site. Kind of Like Waterworld, Washed Up What Universal had planned was going to be huge. A $2-billion expansion with a new theme park, hotels, restaurants and retail stores, studios and offices. But don’t expect to see anything like it perched on that hill. All that remains of the planned 5.9-million-square-foot expansion is an extra 90,000 square feet of restaurants and shops at CityWalk. Universal battled the city and local residents for years over its master plan and finally tabled it. Just as well. The original owners who began the effort, MCA Inc., were acquired by Seagram Co., which has since been acquired by Vivendi, a global conglomerate that has aimed most of its efforts at the former Seagram music holdings and thinks master plan is a rap group. Don’t Bank on It Banks used to seem like the kinds of conservative institutions that remained unchanged forever until a few years ago, that is. By 1997, as merger mania swept the banking industry, three venerable Valley names were on their way to extinction. First Nationwide Holdings Inc., parent company of California Federal Bank, merged with Golden State Bancorp Inc., parent company of Glendale Federal Bank, replacing the name GlenFed, which once dotted Valley neighborhoods, with CalFed. That takeover was quickly followed by Washington Mutual Inc.’s acquisition of Great Western Financial Corp., Chatsworth’s local corporate citizen. And WaMu went on to acquire H.F. Ahmanson & Co. and its Home Savings of America subsidiary. Can you say, Bank of America? Don’t Let the Door Hit You… Price Pfister’s headquarters offices and manufacturing facilities in Pacoima employed 1,000 workers in 1996. Along came NAFTA, and the faucet and hardware maker moved most of its manufacturing to Mexico. Earlier this year, the remaining 120 administrative jobs were eliminated when the functions were moved to parent company Black & Decker in Orange County (although about 60 of those employees did make the move). You might say Price Pfister helped turn off the faucet where employment in Pacoima is concerned. The Mouse That Roared The Walt Disney Co. closed out 1996 with revenues of $12 billion and 8,000 employees. For the year 2000, the most recent full year available, Disney recorded revenues of $25 billion with 120,000 employees. Is This What They Mean by Open Space? Completed in 1991, Warner Center Plaza III was the last building to be constructed in the original Warner Center, a 120-plus acre development in Woodland Hills, and it had the dubious distinction of remaining virtually empty for much of its first decade. By 1996, little more than 20 percent of the 25-story, 591,000-square-foot building was occupied. Today, hardly any vacant space remains available. Except for a measly 4,000 square feet, the tower has been filled to capacity with a roster of tenants that includes SunAmerica Inc., Health Net Inc. and KB Home. Fade to Black The San Fernando Valley got 32 new movie theater screens in 1996 and theater operators like Mann Theatres, Edwards Cinemas and Pacific Theaters made plans for more than 100 additional screens in 1997. But by the end of 2000, only Pacific is still building in the Valley with its planned megaplex at the renovated Sherman Oaks Galleria. Market saturation and competition resulted in bankruptcy filings by Mann and Edwards, proving you can get too much of a good thing.

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