The area now known as Reseda was originally inhabited by Native Americans of the Tongva tribe that lived close to the Los Angeles River. The vegetation was plentiful, and the natives had to work only two hours per day to support themselves.
Reseda 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. 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 population of Reseda was 1,805 in 1930 and 4,147 in 1940. By 1950 it had topped 16,000, but the Ventura Freeway lay 10 years in the future, and most Reseda residents still bought fresh eggs, milk, honey and vegetables at stands along Ventura Boulevard. The name "Reseda" was given first to a siding on a branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad in the south San Fernando Valley.
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 only had to be $6,000 a year, not at all difficult, considering Valley incomes continued to hover above the national average.
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 has reached triple that of the beginning of the 1980s.
Although home values continued to increase, the Caucasian population stopped growing in the early 1980s. As the white population decreased due to aging and a lower birth rate, Latino immigrants continued moving into the area. At the same time, a variety of factors led to a decreasing level of income, from discrimination to gang problems and the changing economy of the Los Angeles area that is losing blue collar unionized jobs. As a result, the neighborhood changed from a middle-class neighborhood back to its working-class roots.
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.
As of the 2000 census, the 91335 zip code, which includes Reseda and other areas, had 68,002 people (estimated 77,250 in 2006) and 22,811 households. The ethnic makeup of Reseda was 34.6% White, 65.2% Hispanic/Latino, 9.8% African American, 0.8% American Indian or Alaskan Native, 11.0% Asian American, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 6.15% two or more races. 91335's median age was 33 years with an average household size of 3.05 persons. Median household income in 1999 was $40,792.
In 2009, the Los Angeles Times's "Mapping L.A." project supplied these Reseda neighborhood statistics: population: 62,174; median household income: $54,771.
A number of motion pictures have been produced and set in Reseda and other parts of the San Fernando Valley. Films set in Reseda include The Karate Kid and Terminator 2: Judgment Day', with its car chase scenes down the channel of the Los Angeles River.
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 (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 and the scene where Dirk Diggler prostitutes himself in a pickup truck was filmed in the Bank of America parking lot across the street from the donut shop.
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.
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 St., and the scene where Daniel is being chased in the empty field is next to the apartment building.
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 Ave.
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 Blvd.
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 & her actor father.
The show 10 Items or Less is filmed in an actual store in Reseda, often using real customers as extras.
Los Angeles Police Department operates the nearby West Valley Community Police Station .
Mail services are provided by the United States Postal Service's branch post office at 7320 Reseda Boulevard. On October 14, 2006, the branch office was renamed the Coach John Wooden Post Office on Wooden's 96th birthday, in honor of the retired UCLA basketball coach who lives in nearby Encino and whose daughter lives in Reseda.
Like other areas of the city of Los Angeles, Reseda is served by the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Vanalden Early Education Center is in the community.
Comprehensive elementary schools in Reseda include Bertrand Avenue Elementary School, Blythe Street Elementary School, Cantara Street Elementary School, Garden Grove Elementary School, Melvin Avenue Elementary School, Newcastle Elementary School, Reseda Elementary School, Shirley Avenue Elementary School, Calvert Elementary School (in Woodland Hills), and Vanalden Avenue Elementary School (in Tarzana).
The Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies (SOCES), formerly Sequoia Junior High School lies adjacent to Reseda Park; it is not in or near the community of Sherman Oaks, its former location. Sven Lokrantz Special Education Center, a Kindergarten through 1st Grade special school, is in Reseda.
Los Angeles Public Library operates the West Valley Regional Branch.