View of Topanga Canyon from one of the hiking trails
Location of Topanga in California and Los Angeles County
|• Total||19.137 sq mi (49.563 km2)|
|• Land||19.129 sq mi (49.543 km2)|
|• Water||0.008 sq mi (0.020 km2) 0.04%|
|Elevation||1,084 ft (330 m)|
|• Density||430/sq mi (170/km2)|
|Time zone||PST (UTC-8)|
|• Summer (DST)||PDT (UTC-7)|
|Area code(s)||310, 818|
|GNIS feature ID||2583164|
|U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Topanga, California|
Topanga is a census-designated place in western Los Angeles County, California, USA. It is located in the Santa Monica Mountains. Occupying Topanga Canyon, it is often referred to by that name. Topanga is bounded on three sides by State Park or conservancy lands, and on the south by the Pacific Ocean and a small strip of Malibu, which is the main community to the west. On the east is Pacific Palisades. Topanga had a population of 8,289 as of 2010. The ZIP code is 90290 and the area code is primarily 310, with 818 only at the north end of the canyon. It is in the 3rd County Supervisorial district.
Topanga Creek drains Topanga Canyon and is the third largest watershed entering the Santa Monica Bay. The creek is one of the few remaining undammed waterways in the area, and is a spawning ground for steelhead trout. The area typically receives about 22" of rain annually. Topanga Beach lies on the coast at the outlet of Topanga Creek. Topanga Canyon Boulevard, State Route 27, is the principal thoroughfare, connecting the Ventura Freeway (US 101) with Pacific Coast Highway (SR 1). The southern portion of the boulevard largely follows Topanga Creek. North of the Old Topanga Canyon Road intersection, the boulevard traverses the Santa Monica Mountains.
Topanga Canyon contains lands of Topanga State Park, which is the largest park in the Santa Monica Mountains and one of the largest open space preserves surrounded by a city in the world, as well as the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. It is part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. It primarily represents a California coastal sage and chaparral ecoregion, with large areas of the California oak woodland plant community, and a wide variety of native plants.
Due to its location in the Santa Monica Mountains, Topanga is a favorite spot for hikers as well as bicycle, and motorcycle riders/racers. Many movie/TV car/bike chases were filmed on the winding road with the picturesque cliffs in the background. The thick vegetation, steep terrain and frequent (and dry) Santa Ana winds combine to make Topanga an extreme fire danger.
Topanga is the name given to the area by the Native American indigenous Tongva tribe, and may mean "a place above". It was the western border of their territory, abutting the Chumash tribe that occupied the coast from Malibu northwards. Bedrock mortars can be found carved into rock outcroppings in many locations.
Topanga was first settled by Europeans in 1839. In the 1920s, Topanga Canyon became a weekend getaway for Hollywood stars with several cottages built for that purpose. The rolling hills and ample vegetation served to provide both privacy and attractive surroundings for the rich and famous.
During the 1960s, Topanga Canyon became a magnet to many new artists. In 1965 Wallace Berman settled in the area. For a time, Neil Young lived in Topanga, first living with producer David Briggs then later buying his own house. He would record most of his After the Gold Rush album in his basement studio in 1970. Charles Manson had previously been living in Topanga, where he had briefly befriended both Neil Young and Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys. Members of "Manson's family" began their campaign of murder on July 31, 1969 with the murder of Topanga resident Gary Hinman, a music teacher who had opened his home to anyone needing shelter. Music in a piano bench was found in a rental home near the Fire Station.
The Topanga Corral was a nightclub that featured an eclectic mix of performers, including then Topanga locals Canned Heat, Spirit, Little Feat, Spanky and Our Gang, Taj Mahal, Emmylou Harris, Bob Denver, Neil Diamond and Russ Tamblyn. Etta James, Windance, Neil Young, and Crazy Horse, Geronimo Black, and many others. It is rumored that Jim Morrison was inspired to write "Roadhouse Blues" about the drive up Topanga Canyon Boulevard to The Corral. Later in the 1970s, after being destroyed by fire and rebuilt, the club featured many up and coming bands from the L.A. punk scene. In 1986, the Corral again burned to the ground and was not rebuilt. Today, many musicians, artists and actors continue to make Topanga their home. Joni Mitchell's song "Lady of the Canyon" was written about this area in SoCal. Linda Ronstadt had been seen hitchhiking through the Canyon barefoot with her guitar.
Topanga is known as a bohemian enclave attracting artists, musicians, filmmakers, and others. Numerous music festivals have been organized in the canyon, including the Topanga Days Festival and Topanga Earth Day. The Topanga Film Institute  hosts the annual Topanga Film Festival.
In the 1950s blacklisted actor Will Geer had to sell his large Santa Monica home and move his family to a small plot in the canyon where they could grow their own produce. Geer's friend Woody Guthrie had a small shack on the property. They unintentionally founded what became an artists' colony. Since its founding in 1973, the Geer family has continued to operate the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum. It has grown into an Equity theater, and occupies a natural outdoor amphitheater. It features Shakespearean plays, modern classics, and original productions, as well as musical concerts. Performers have included Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Della Reese, and Burl Ives.
A famous venue in the canyon was the Elysium Institute, also known as Elysium Fields, a nudist club started by Ed Lange in 1967. After surviving extended battles with county officials the 9-acre (36,000 m2) property was sold in 2002 by its founder's heirs.
Every Memorial Day weekend on the grounds of the Topanga Community House, Topanga has an annual fair and parade, called Topanga Days. Topanga Days Country Fair features music, belly dancing, over 80 unique craft vendors and a variety of food from Cajun to Mexican to vegan. A parade is held on Memorial Day. The parade is said[who?] to have inspired the more famous Doo-Dah Parade in Pasadena.
The Topanga Film Institute presents the annual Topanga Film Festival each July. The festival endeavors to bridge cultures, create and expand community, provide cultural exchange and networking opportunities.
Two strip malls, one old and the other new make up the local center of commerce. The newer mall, Pine Tree Circle, is home to the Topanga Historical Society. There are no hotels or motels in Topanga. Lodging is provided by the nine-room Topanga Canyon Inn Bed & Breakfast owned by former studio trumpet player Warren Roche and his wife, Southern California artist Elena Roche; and Tuscali Mountain Inn Luxury Bed & Breakfast, owned by Bruce & Teresa Royer.
The location of Topanga in the Santa Monica Mountains also makes the natural surroundings an important part of the culture. Streams, waterfalls, cliffs of exposed bedrock, landmark rock outcroppings, and overlooks with panoramic views of the mountains, Pacific Ocean and Los Angeles are common attractions. There are many trails for short walks, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, birdwatching, and rock climbing, all of which are important parts of the local community.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Topanga had a population of 8,289. The population density was 433.2 people per square mile (167.2/km²). The racial makeup of Topanga was 7,313 (88.2%) White (84.5% Non-Hispanic White), 117 (1.4%) African American, 35 (0.4%) Native American, 353 (4.3%) Asian, 3 (0.0%) Pacific Islander, 125 (1.5%) from other races, and 343 (4.1%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 534 persons (6.4%).
The Census reported that 8,289 people (100% of the population) lived in households, 0 (0%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.
There were 3,442 households, out of which 996 (28.9%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 1,772 (51.5%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 262 (7.6%) had a female householder with no husband present, 140 (4.1%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 239 (6.9%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 49 (1.4%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 903 households (26.2%) were made up of individuals and 256 (7.4%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41. There were 2,174 families (63.2% of all households); the average family size was 2.87.
The population was spread out with 1,682 people (20.3%) under the age of 18, 333 people (4.0%) aged 18 to 24, 1,917 people (23.1%) aged 25 to 44, 3,188 people (38.5%) aged 45 to 64, and 1,169 people (14.1%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46.1 years. For every 100 females there were 97.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.2 males.
There were 3,750 housing units at an average density of 196.0 per square mile (75.7/km²), of which 2,589 (75.2%) were owner-occupied, and 853 (24.8%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 2.2%; the rental vacancy rate was 3.8%. 6,597 people (79.6% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 1,692 people (20.4%) lived in rental housing units.
According to the 2010 United States Census, Topanga had a median household income of $124,773, with 5.8% of the population living below the federal poverty line.
- These were the ten cities or neighborhoods in Los Angeles County with the largest percentage of white residents, according to the 2000 census:
- Malibu, California, 88.8%
- Hidden Hills, California, 88.7%
- Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, 88.6%
- Topanga, California, 87.6%
- Beverly Crest, Los Angeles, 87.5%
- Westlake Village, California, 85.5%
- Manhattan Beach, California, 85.5%
- Hollywood Hills West, Los Angeles, 84.9%
- Hermosa Beach, California, 84.9%
- Fairfax, Los Angeles, 84.7%
Lower Topanga Canyon
The bottom of Topanga Canyon, where it meets Pacific Coast Highway and the ocean, was owned for many years by the Los Angeles Athletic Club, a wealthy private club in downtown Los Angeles. The 1,659 acre (6.7 km2) parcel was rented out to a variety of businesses and residents for decades at remarkably low rents, considering that it borders the city of Malibu. Thus Lower Topanga became unique as one of the last outposts of the classic Topanga Canyon bohemian hippie lifestyle.
The Chumash considered Lower Topanga a sacred, economic, and cultural meeting place for tribes all along the coast. One of the main neighborhoods, the "Rodeo Grounds," takes its name from an actual rodeo arena that existed there on a Mexican Ranch in the 1800s. (Another neighborhood, "The Snake Pit," was named both for its abundance of rattlesnakes and for the shifty characters who passed through like Charles Manson.)
In the early 1900s, Lower Topanga was a Japanese fishing village. William Randolph Hearst owned the property for a time and turned it into a weekend getaway spot with beach shacks for his and Marion Davies' guests.
In the '60s, a lively community of artists and surfers sprang up in Lower Topanga. They maintained their houses without assistance, sometimes digging them out of the mud after floods or setting backfires to prevent a spreading wildfire from burning down their neighborhood. The roads remained unpaved.
In 2001, Lower Topanga was sold to California State Parks. Even though the Lower Topanga community occupied less than 2% of the total purchased land, State Parks had an aggressive policy to relocate everyone and bulldoze all of the houses. (State Parks had already evicted residents who lived directly on Topanga Beach in the late '70s.)
Arundo, a type of giant reed resembling bamboo that characterizes the Lower Topanga landscape, became a totemic plant for the residents because it was first on a long list of non-native plants that State Parks also condemned to be uprooted in an attempt to restore the land to its natural state.
A group of 10 Lower Topanga poets calling themselves the "Idlers of the Bamboo Grove" published a book of the same name in 2002, celebrating their community and lamenting the prospect of having to leave. Their publisher, Brass Tacks Press, continued publishing works about Lower Topanga, including The Snake Pit by Baretta (2006), Tool's Snake Pit by Tool (2007), Rohloff's Snake Pit by Chris Rohloff (2009), and Topanga Beach Experience: 1960s-70s by Paul Lovas and Pablo Capra (2011) -- as well as maintaining an online Lower Topanga Photo Archive.
In addition, Austrian filmmakers Natalie Lettner and Werner Hanak shot a documentary film about the neighborhood called Malibu Song (2006), and Topangan Anastasia Fite shot a shorter documentary called Last Bastion (2009).
Even though Lower Topanga residents were given money to leave, some fought bitterly against their relocation in court. However, the last holdouts were forced off the land in March 2006. Currently there are active efforts by TreePeople and Mountains Restoration Trust to restore the area to its pristine condition as it was prior to development.
Government and infrastructure
- Topanga Elementary School
- A choice between Revere Charter Middle School or Woodland Hills Academy (formerly known as Parkman Middle School)
- A choice between Palisades Charter High School and Taft High School
- November 6, 1961, The Santa Ynez Fire began, the same day as the Bel-Air–Brentwood Fire further east. It burned nine structures and 9,720 acres (39 km2) of watershed.
- Topanga Creek causes occasional flooding and extensive road erosion, requiring the closure of Topanga Canyon Boulevard. In 1980, severe flooding washed out large sections of the road at the bottom of the "S" curves. Traffic was severely restricted during the six months of repairs.
- November 2, 1993, The Old Topanga Fire. Within an hour, had burned 1,000 acres (4 km2). It resulted in the largest mobilization of emergency resources in a 24-hour period in California history. By the time it was extinguished 10 days later, 16,516 acres (67 km2) of watershed and at least 388 structures were burned in Topanga and adjoining areas.
- In 1997–8 Topanga Canyon received over 58" of rainfall resulting in extensive flood damage.
- In 2005, a fire referred to as the "Topanga Fire" burned in Chatsworth and points south and west of Chatsworth. This fire did not burn any areas in Topanga Canyon, but was named due to its origin near the intersection of Topanga Canyon Boulevard (SR 27) and the Ronald Reagan Freeway (SR 118) in Chatsworth.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (September 2013)|
Actors who live in Topanga include:
- Richard Dean Anderson1980
- Lisa Bonet
- Alex Borstein
- Jordan Bridges
- Keith Carradine
- Kyle Chandler
- John Clark
- Bob Denver
- Neil Diamond
- Tony Dow
- Teri Garr
- Beau Garrett
- Will Geer
- Louis Gossett Jr.
- Billy Gray and his late mother Beatrice Gray
- Emile Hirsch
- Jennifer Holden
- Dennis Hopper
- John Kassir
- Joshua Jackson
- Eric Mabius
- Wendie Malick
- D.W. Moffett
- Viggo Mortensen
- Uschi Obermaier, model, actress
- William O'Leary
- Lynn Redgrave
- Sage Ryan, child actor, lives in the area with his family
- Ricky Schroder
- Sissy Spacek
- Dean Stockwell
- Russ Tamblyn raised his daughter Amber Tamblyn
- Jeffrey Tambor, with his wife Kasia and 2 children
- Barry Watson
In the music field, Woody Guthrie was one of the first musicians who found a home there. As nearby Los Angeles grew into a major music capital, Topanga became a preferred residence for many performers, including: Peter Alsop
- Mark Andes
- Lauren Andino
- Devendra Banhart
- Toni Basil
- Ryan Bingham
- Tim Booth
- Randy California
- Ed Cassidy
- Justin Chancellor
- Alice Cooper
- Pee Wee Crayton
- JC Crowley
- John Densmore
- J. B. Eckl
- Don Felder
- Jay Ferguson
- Mick Fleetwood
- The Flying Burrito Brothers
- Julia Fordham
- Marvin Gaye
- Lowell George
- Taylor Hawkins
- Colin Hay
- Richie Hayward
- Nick Hexum
- Gary Hinman, music teacher and a victim of the Charles Manson gang; lived on Old Topanga Canyon Road in 1969
- Bob Hite
- Jacknife Lee
- Adam Jones
- Bernie Leadon
- John Locke
- Spanky McFarland
- Jim Morrison
- Van Morrison
Warren Roche, trumpet player, arranger-conductor. Played on "September", "After the Love Has Gone", "Touch Me in the Morning", "She Used to be My Girl", "Can't Get Enough of Your Love", "Carwash", "I Wanna Get Next to You", "Boogie Wonderland", "Tears of a Clown", "Show and Tell", "Band of Gold", "I Caught Your Act" and more. Resident of Topanga in 1961 and from 1971 to present.
- Ryan Ross
- Amy Smart
- Stephen Stills
- Fred Tackett
- Taj Mahal
- Big Joe Turner
- Alan Wilson
- Neil Young
- Millicent Borges Accardi, NEA Poet; lives in Topanga and writes theater reviews for the local Topanga Messenger newspaper
- Al Martinez, Pulitzer Prize winning former L.A. Times columnist, lives there with his wife and often comments on the nature of life in Topanga
- Jon Povill, screenwriter; resided there until 2008.
- Oliver Sacks, neurologist and author, lived on Iowa Trail in Topanga from 1963 to 1965. 
- Max Biaggi, four-time 250cc Grand Prix Champion and 2010 WSBK (World Superbike) winner; has a home in the community
- Sandstone Retreat, a swingers' resort, was located in upper Topanga.
- Henry Hill, gangster; moved to Topanga Canyon after he was put on probation in 2009
- Dr. Clement Meighan, archaeologist and UCLA Professor of Archaeology/Anthropology; resided in Topanga over 30 years
- The novel Mirkwood: A Novel About JRR Tolkien, by Steve Hillard, begins and ends in Topanga Canyon in a fictional establishment called The Mirkwood Forest.
- The hit 1990s ABC sitcom Boy Meets World features the character Topanga Lawrence (played by Danielle Fishel) named after this location.
- The award winning HBO series Six Feet Under (2001-2005) uses Topanga Canyon as the setting for the home of the recurring character, Aunt Sarah, the artsy sister of major character Ruth Fisher.
- The novel The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle is set in Topanga Canyon in the fictional housing development of Arroyo Blanco.
- Topanga is featured in the lyrics of the Billy Joel song "Getting Closer" on his 1986 album The Bridge.
- The album John Phillips (John, the Wolf King of L.A.) by John Phillips features a song entitled "Topanga Canyon".
- Topanga is featured in the lyrics of the Chris Robinson song "Eagles on the Highway".
- Topanga is featured in the lyrics of the Truth & Salvage Co. song "101".
This region experiences warm (but not hot) and dry summers, with no average monthly temperatures above 71.6 °F. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Topanga has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate, abbreviated "Csb" on climate maps.
- [dead link]
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Topanga, California
- "Department of Public Works". Dpw.lacounty.gov. Retrieved 2014-05-21.
- "Topanga Tidbits". Topangaonline.com. Retrieved 2014-05-21.
- "Topanga Beach". Beaches.co.la.ca.us. Retrieved 2014-05-21.
- "Topanga SP". Parks.ca.gov. Retrieved 2014-05-21.
- Bright, W. (1998). 1500 California Place Names 3rd Ed. UC Press. pg 155.
- [dead link]
- "Topanga Film Institute & Festival". Topangafilminstitute.com. Retrieved 2014-05-21.
- Slater, Eric (16 March 1995). "Nudist Colony Founder Voted Citizen of Year". L.A.Times. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
- "Southern California Naturist Association First Press Release". Bohemian.org. Retrieved 2014-05-21.
- Lisa Marks (2012-08-08). "Hounded out of Hollywood: Topanga film festival and the legacy of Will Geer | Film". theguardian.com. Retrieved 2014-05-21.
- [dead link]
- "Tuscali Mountain Inn". Tuscali Mountain Inn. Retrieved 2014-05-21.
- "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA - Topanga CDP". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
- "Topanga CDP QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau". Quickfacts.census.gov. Retrieved 2014-05-21.
-  "White," Mapping L.A., Los Angeles Times
- Capra, Pablo. Idlers of the Bamboo Grove: Poetry from Lower Topanga Canyon. Brass Tacks Press, 2002.
- Lovas, Paul. Topanga Beach Experience. Brass Tacks Press, 2011.
- [dead link]
- "Malibu Lost Hills Station webpage". Lasd.org. Retrieved 2014-05-21.
- "American FactFinder". Factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2014-05-21.
- "Find Mail Services in 90290 - Topanga, CA". Usps.whitepages.com. Retrieved 2014-05-21.
- "Topanga, CA." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on October 23, 2011.
- Brenoff, Ann. "Topanga, mountain mellow but oh so pricey." Los Angeles Times. December 1, 2002. Retrieved on October 22, 2011.
- "Palisades Charter High School Attendance Zone." Los Angeles Unified School District.
- "Board District 4 Map". Los Angeles Unified School District. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
- "Board Members."
- "Malibu Boundaries." Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. Retrieved on October 22, 2011.
- "Topanga Library." County of Los Angeles Public Library. Retrieved on March 24, 2014. "122 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd. Topanga, CA 90290"
- [dead link]
- [dead link]
- "Al Martinez webpage". Almartinez.org. Retrieved 2014-05-21.
- Jon Povill at the Internet Movie Database
- Climate Summary for Topanga, California
- Topanga Chamber of Commerce.
- TopangaOnline.com—website of Topanga.
- www.parks.ca. Official Topanga State Park website.
- Topanga Messenger, the local newspaper
- Topanga Community Club, home of Topanga Days.
- TopangaBands.com—Links to over 70 bands from Topanga.
- Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest
- Official report Old Topanga Fire
- Project to save historic Los Angeles County Engine 69 which served Topanga area around 1955
- Topanga Days Country Fair
- Census 2000 Demographic Profile
- The Fire Next Time—A story on Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness (T-CEP)
- Topanga Creek watershed map
- The Lower Topanga Photo Archive, hosted by Brass Tacks Press