By CHRIS DENINA Staff Reporter San Fernando Valley bankruptcy filings have dropped to their lowest level in more than a year another reflection of the Valley’s improving economy. Chapter 13 (individual) bankruptcy filings dropped to 264 in November, a 7 percent decrease from October. Meanwhile, the 966 Chapter 7 (liquidation) bankruptcy filings in November marked an even sharper drop, falling 26.7 percent from October and 9.4 percent from the year-earlier period. Not since February 1996 have the numbers of filings been this low. “It’s a sign of optimism and (a) healthy business environment,” said Jack Kyser, chief economist at the Economic Development Corp. of L.A. County. Kyser cited strong technology and entertainment industries, and overall employment growth as contributing to a stronger economy and the decreased bankruptcy rate. Blythe Ponek-Bacharowski, acting director of the San Fernando Valley Permit Assistance Center, said there has been an increase in permit inquiries for home-occupancy and retail-sales businesses. And, “over the last year, (in) those two types of businesses we have seen a big jump,” she said. In addition, she said, overall inquiries have risen over last year. “It indicates to me maybe things are opening up a little,” she said, explaining that more people are starting small businesses. “A lot of things are going well for us as we close out 1997,” Kyser said, adding that bankruptcy filings will “probably continue to decline as we move into 1998.” Kyser warned that business owners should exercise caution even in the face of fewer bankruptcies. “You might see another spike up in 1998,” he said.