Bell Canyon, California
|• Type||Homeowner Association|
|• Leader||Association Chairperson|
|• Total||3.621 sq mi (9.379 km2)|
|• Land||3.621 sq mi (9.379 km2)|
|• Water||0 sq mi (0 km2) 0%|
|Elevation||1,368 ft (417 m)|
|• Density||570/sq mi (220/km2)|
|Time zone||Pacific (PST) (UTC-8)|
|• Summer (DST)||PDT (UTC-7)|
|GNIS feature ID||2585403|
|U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Bell Canyon, California|
Bell Canyon is a census-designated place (CDP) in Ventura County, California. Bell Canyon is an affluent residential unincorporated community located near West Hills and the western San Fernando Valley in the Simi Hills. Although only minutes from the Los Angeles city limits, Bell Canyon is a horse community. Bell Canyon sits at an elevation of 1,368 feet (417 m). The 2010 United States census reported Bell Canyon's population was 2,049.
Chumash Native Americans lived in the canyon, research shows, for around 8,000 years B.P. The Chumash had the village of Hu'wam here in the canyon on Bell Creek upstream from Escorpión Peak. It was multi-cultural, where Chumash, Tongva, and Tataviam peoples lived and traded together. Nearby is the Burro Flats Painted Cave. Escorpión Peak (aka: Castle Peak) is one of nine alignment points in Chumash territory and is essential to maintaining the balance of the natural world.
In 1845 the Mexican land grant for Rancho El Escorpión, named for the peak and located beside it at the mouth of Bell Canyon, was given by Mexican Governor Pío Pico. Chumash-Ventureño Chief Odón Eusebia (1795–), his brother-in-law Urbano, and Urbano’s son Mañuel were the grantees of the Rancho grant, formerly Mission San Fernando Rey de España (Mission San Fernando) lands. After California U.S. statehood, as required by the Land Act of 1851, a claim for Rancho El Escorpión was filed with the United States Public Land Commission in 1852, and the grant was patented to Odón Eusebia, Urbano, and Mañuel in 1876. In 1871, Miguel Leonis acquired Odón Eusebia's holdings of Rancho El Escorpión, along with an adobe on the adjacent southern ranch lands in Calabasas. He used the land for cattle and sheep herds. Through various landowners that use continued at the Rancho until 1959 and Bell Canyon until 1967.
20th century - onward
In 1967 the Spruce Land Corporation and Boise Cascade joined in a partnership to purchase the geographic Bell Canyon area to develop the future community of Bell Canyon. In the fall of 1968, the Bell Canyon Equestrian Center, designed by renowned 'Southern California modern ranch style' architect Cliff May, was built and began operation. In 1969 a new subdivision called "Woodland Hills Country Estates" was developed and opened for sales. It was a success, selling nearly all the 800 home site lots within ten days. In the fall of 1969 the new residential property owners took leadership of the community association and renamed the development "Bell Canyon," after Charles A. Bell, the original homesteader here and son of pioneer Horace Bell. He was a leading late 1880s newspaper publisher, Los Angeles attorney winning many cases for clients against neighbor Miguel Leonis, and the 1906 Justice of the Peace for Calabasas. Legend says he lost a right arm in an 1887 shootout when raiding a moonshiner. The Rancho El Escorpión compound adobes, from the 1840s to the 1960s at the mouth of Bell Canyon, were actually outside the land grant and on Bell's property.
Geography and environment
Bell Creek, a 'national parkland blue line stream' and a significant tributary to the headwaters of the Los Angeles River, winds its way through the community and plays host to a multitude of wildlife such as deer, coyote, hawks, squirrel, fox, woodpeckers and quail in its riparian habitat. Bell Canyon is an important part of the crucial Simi Hills Wildlife corridor linking migrations between the Santa Monica Mountains and Santa Susana Mountains.
There are many hiking and riding trails around the community, some of which border the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve Park, the former Ahmanson Ranch, connecting to the south and west. The Bell Canyon Trail extends 4.5 miles (7.2 km) north from Bell Canyon Park, with a surface of sand and dirt and a width of 12–14 feet for easy rides. The Canyon Trail is scenic and winds through the lush California native plants vegetation of Bell Canyon, dominated above by California Sycamore trees and the coast live oak woodlands. Bell Canyon Trail crosses Bell Creek at various locations. It is the main route for Bell Canyon's trails' network providing many link and loop opportunities within the community and to the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve. Chastain Falls, a waterfall named after Charles Chastain, can only be reached by hiking on trails up Bell Canyon The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail has a branch up the canyon.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP covers an area of 3.6 square miles (9.4 km²), all of it land.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Bell Canyon had a population of 2,049. The population density was 565.8 people per square mile (218.5/km²). The racial makeup of Bell Canyon was 1,724 (84.1%) White, 58 (2.8%) African American, 4 (0.2%) Native American, 179 (8.7%) Asian, 0 (0.0%) Pacific Islander, 10 (0.5%) from other races, and 74 (3.6%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 103 persons (5.0%).
The Census reported that 2,049 people (100% of the population) lived in households, 0 (0%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.
There were 661 households, out of which 286 (43.3%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 533 (80.6%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 40 (6.1%) had a female householder with no husband present, 19 (2.9%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 15 (2.3%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 8 (1.2%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 45 households (6.8%) were made up of individuals and 15 (2.3%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.10. There were 592 families (89.6% of all households); the average family size was 3.23.
The population was spread out with 521 people (25.4%) under the age of 18, 152 people (7.4%) aged 18 to 24, 287 people (14.0%) aged 25 to 44, 839 people (40.9%) aged 45 to 64, and 250 people (12.2%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46.5 years. For every 100 females there were 101.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.7 males.
There were 688 housing units at an average density of 190.0 per square mile (73.4/km²), of which 629 (95.2%) were owner-occupied, and 32 (4.8%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.7%; the rental vacancy rate was 5.7%. 1,933 people (94.3% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 116 people (5.7%) lived in rental housing units.
Today private guard-gated Bell Canyon has developed into an extremely affluent area of 800 'estate homes', each on a 1/2 acre to 40-acre (160,000 m2) parcel. Many of the area's equestrian properties have stables, paddocks, turnouts and other horse facilities. It's compared to nearby Hidden Hills a few miles to the south. Both Bell Canyon and Hidden Hills have security procedures at 24 hour guarded entrance gates, security patrols, and spacious residential zoning. Bell Canyon's differences are: unique topographic features; higher hillside elevations; isolation; and some architecturally notable houses designed by architects including Marshall Lewis, Don Zavatto, Ed Niles, Robert Byrd, Blair Ballard, Buff and Hensman, and pioneer of the post-war California ranch-style house, Cliff May.
At the heart of the Horse Community is the Cliff May designed Bell Canyon Equestrian Center, a Class-A equestrian facility which offers a wide variety of training in English-hunters, equitation, show jumping as well as western riding. Built in the early sixties, this facility has recently been restored and returned to its intended state-of-the-art condition via a $537,000.00 renovation project that took nearly 2 years to complete. It is one of the few remaining full-service equestrian centers in the area. The grounds, which can accommodate up to 120 horses, feature four barns with 80 stalls, 12 x 24 corrals, three sand riding arenas, two enclosed bullpens and hot walker, and tree shaded picnic areas.
Organized community events include: the annual "Hot August Night" community fair where children and adults participate in pie-eating contests and chili cook-offs; dog shows; wine tastings; progressive dinners; 'Snow Day;' 'Halloween Hang;' 'Movies in The Park;' and the annual car show. Over ten different social committees support residents Bell Canyon such as: the Adult Activities Committee, Investment Club, Bell Canyon Hikers, The Book Club, Kids Committee, and Community Planning.
Bell Canyon is served by the Las Virgenes Unified School District, with students bussed each day to attend the schools of: Round Meadow Elementary School, Alice C. Stelle Middle School, and Calabasas High School.
Notable residents (past + present)
Because of its seclusion and security, including security cameras and constant patrols by guards, the neighborhood is favored by: celebrities and individuals from the motion picture, television and music industries; business executives; and professionals.
- History of the San Fernando Valley to 1915
- Ranchos of California
- Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve
- Bell Creek
- U.S. Census
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Bell Canyon, California
- USA Today article USA Today
- Mercury News article
- http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/980/files/sspshp%20ethnohistory.pdf SSPSHP ethnohistory Accessed 2/28/2010
- "http://www.wishtoyo.org/projects-cultural-ahmanson-ranch.html Wishtoyo Foundation: "Ahmanson Ranch Becomes Private Preserve" Accessed 10/23/2007
- Wishtoyo on Ahmanson Ranch
- LoC-HABS: Escorpion_(1937) p. 2
-  LoC-HABS: Leonis p.3
- 46th United States Congress, 1880, House Executive Document 46, pp. 1116-1117
- United States. District Court ( California : Southern District) Land Case 129 SD
- Report of the Surveyor General 1844 - 1886
-  S.S.P.S.H.Park ethnohistory]Accessed 2/28/2010
- LoC-HABS: Leonis p.2 Accessed 2/28/2010
-  Ibid. p.3
- "A rustic canyon hideaway, with room to roam". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2005-07-03.[dead link]
-  S.S.P.S.H.Park Ethnohistory p. 34
- Cohen, Chester G. 1989. "El Escorpión". Periday Company. Woodland Hills.
- http://www.bellcanyon.com/BCtrailsmap.pdf Trails Map Accessed 4/01/10
- .http://www.bellcanyon.com/photogallery.aspx Bell Canyon photo gallery: 'Nature'
- http://www.nps.gov/juba/ National Park Service: official Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail website Accessed 4/06/2010
- All data are derived from the United States Census Bureau reports from the 2010 United States Census, and are accessible on-line here. The data on unmarried partnerships and same-sex married couples are from the Census report DEC_10_SF1_PCT15. All other housing and population data are from Census report DEC_10_DP_DPDP1. Both reports are viewable online or downloadable in a zip file containing a comma-delimited data file. The area data, from which densities are calculated, are available on-line here. Percentage totals may not add to 100% due to rounding. The Census Bureau defines families as a household containing one or more people related to the householder by birth, opposite-sex marriage, or adoption. People living in group quarters are tabulated by the Census Bureau as neither owners nor renters. For further details, see the text files accompanying the data files containing the Census reports mentioned above.
- http://www.bellcanyonstables.com/ Accessed 4/01/2010
- http://www.bellcanyonstables.com/facility.htm Accessed 4/01/2010
- http://www.bellcanyonstables.com/news.htm Accessed 4/06/2010
- http://www.bellcanyon.com/lifestyle.aspx Accessed 4/06/2010
- http://www.bellcanyon.com/schools.aspx Accessed 4/06/2010
- "TV's 'Mr. Wizard' Don Herbert dies at 89". USA Today. 2007-06-13. Retrieved 2007-06-13.
- official Bell Canyon Association website
- Google maps: Bell Canyon-Simi Hills area.
- Bell Canyon Trails Map: equestrian + hiking.
- Bell Canyon Equestrian Center
- State DTSC-SSFL info site
- Rocketdyne Information Society SSFL public Forum.
- Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve official Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Park website.
- Ventura County Trails: around Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Local trails website.
- Save Open Space Local open space preservation support group.
- CSUN Oviatt Library Digital Collections Rancho El Escorpión vintage photographs website.
- Bell Canyon photo gallery: nature and development photographs.
- L.A.Times -'Bell Canyon'
- Ventura County Chamber of Commerce