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Topanga, California

Topanga, California
Census-designated place
View of Topanga Canyon from one of the hiking trails
View of Topanga Canyon from one of the hiking trails
Location of Topanga in California and Los Angeles County
Location of Topanga in California and Los Angeles County
Topanga is located in USA
Location in the United States
Country  United States of America
State  California
County Los Angeles
 • 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)
Population (2010)
 • Total 8,289
 • Density 430/sq mi (170/km2)
Time zone PST (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP code 90290
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[2] in western Los Angeles County, California, US. 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 Canyon 1
  • History 2
  • Culture 3
  • Demographics 4
    • Ethnic composition 4.1
  • Lower Topanga Canyon 5
  • Government and infrastructure 6
  • Education 7
  • Natural disasters 8
  • Notable people 9
    • Actors 9.1
    • Musicians 9.2
    • Writers 9.3
    • Other 9.4
  • Climate 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13

Topanga Canyon

Topanga Creek drains Topanga Canyon and is the third largest watershed entering the Santa Monica Bay.[3] 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.[4] Topanga Beach[5] 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.[6]


Topanga is the name given to the area by the Native American indigenous Tongva tribe,[7] 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.[8] 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.

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. Linda Ronstadt had been seen hitchhiking through the Canyon barefoot with her guitar.


Topanga is known as a

  • Topanga Chamber of Commerce.
  •—website of Topanga.
  • Official Topanga State Park website.
  • Topanga Messenger, the local newspaper
  • Topanga Community Club, home of Topanga Days.
  •—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

External links

  1. ^ [8]
  2. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Topanga, California
  3. ^ "Department of Public Works". Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  4. ^ "Topanga Tidbits". Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  5. ^ "Topanga Beach". Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  6. ^ "Topanga SP". Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  7. ^ Bright, W. (1998). 1500 California Place Names 3rd Ed. UC Press. pg 155.
  8. ^ [9]
  9. ^ a b "Topanga Film Institute & Festival". Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  10. ^ Slater, Eric (March 16, 1995). "Nudist Colony Founder Voted Citizen of Year". L.A.Times. Retrieved October 27, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Southern California Naturist Association First Press Release". Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b Lisa Marks (August 8, 2012). "Hounded out of Hollywood: Topanga film festival and the legacy of Will Geer | Film". Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  14. ^ [10]
  15. ^ "Tuscali Mountain Inn". Tuscali Mountain Inn. Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  16. ^ "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA – Topanga CDP". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  17. ^ a b "Topanga CDP QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau". Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  18. ^ "White".  
  19. ^ a b Capra, Pablo. Idlers of the Bamboo Grove: Poetry from Lower Topanga Canyon. Brass Tacks Press, 2002.
  20. ^ Lovas, Paul. Topanga Beach Experience. Brass Tacks Press, 2011.
  21. ^ [11]
  22. ^ "Malibu Lost Hills Station webpage". Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  23. ^ "American FactFinder". Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  24. ^ "Find Mail Services in 90290 – Topanga, CA". Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  25. ^ "Topanga, CA." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on October 23, 2011.
  26. ^ Brenoff, Ann. "Topanga, mountain mellow but oh so pricey." Los Angeles Times. December 1, 2002. Retrieved on October 22, 2011.
  27. ^ "Palisades Charter High School Attendance Zone." Los Angeles Unified School District.
  28. ^ "Board District 4 Map" (PDF).  
  29. ^ "Board Members."
  30. ^ "Malibu Boundaries." Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. Retrieved on October 22, 2011.
  31. ^ "Topanga Library." County of Los Angeles Public Library. Retrieved on March 24, 2014. "122 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd. Topanga, CA 90290"
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh; Topanga history and culture
  33. ^ a b Woody Guthrie Lifetimeline
  34. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Rock and Roll Topanga Canyon rock and roll scene . accessed July 17, 2015
  35. ^ Johnston, Chris (January 19, 2013). "Lunch with Colin Hay". Retrieved 2015-03-06. 
  36. ^ Candela, Miguel (August 12, 2010). "JOHN HELLIWELL Interview, April 2003". Retrieved 2015-03-06. 
  37. ^ [12]
  38. ^ "About Warren Roche"
  39. ^ [13]
  40. ^ "Al Martinez webpage". Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  41. ^ Jon Povill at the Internet Movie Database
  42. ^ [14]
  43. ^ Climate Summary for Topanga, California


See also

This region experiences warm (but not hot) and dry summers, with no average monthly temperatures above 71.6 °F (22.0 °C). According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Topanga has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate, abbreviated "Csb" on climate maps.[43]


  • Topanga is featured in the lyrics of the Chris Robinson song "Eagles on the Highway".
  • The self-titled album by Tom Petty's band Mudcrutch features a song entitled "Topanga Cowgirl".
  • Topanga is featured in the lyrics of the Billy Joel song "Getting Closer" on his 1986 album The Bridge.
  • Spirit's first album, self-titled, released in 1968, features a song "Topanga Windows."
  • 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.
  • Renn Loren's The Topangas band, produced by Bill Halverson (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Eric Clapton, The Beach Boys, Cream, Albert King, REO Speedwagon, Ravi Shankar, Keith Jarrett, The Texas Tornadoes, America, Chuck Berry, Bill Withers, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Jimi Hendrix, Kraftwerk, Bad Company and Tom Jones...) and featuring Augie Meyers (Sir Douglas Quintet, Texas Tornados), is named after the region in honor of its cajun to mexican diversity and musical history.
  • 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.


  • 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[39] and often comments on the nature of life in Topanga[40]
  • Jon Povill, screenwriter; resided there until 2008.[41]
  • Oliver Sacks, neurologist and author, lived on Iowa Trail in Topanga from 1963 to 1965.[42]


Current and former musicians of the Topanga area include:

In the musical fields, in 1952 Woody Guthrie was one of the early American musicians who moved to the Topanga area.[33] As nearby Los Angeles grew into a major music industry capital in the 1950s and 1960s, Topanga Canyon was one of the city's bohemian enclaves some performers preferred living in.[32]


Actors currently or formerly residing in the Topanga area include:

In the 1920s, Topanga Canyon became a weekend getaway for Hollywood silent film stars. The rolling hills and ample vegetation provided both privacy and attractive surroundings for the some of the famous.


Notable people

  • 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.

Natural disasters

The County of Los Angeles Public Library operates the Topanga Library.[31]

Some portions are in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD). Those portions are zoned to Webster Elementary School and Malibu High School.[30]

The area is within Board District 4.[28] As of 2010 Steve Zimmer represents the district.[29]

Most Topanga residents are zoned to schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District.[25][26]

William Howard Taft High School
Palisades Charter High School


The Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness (T-CEP) operates an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) near the Topanga Town Center.

The United States Postal Service Topanga Post Office is located at 101 South Topanga Canyon Boulevard.[24]

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) operates the Malibu/Lost Hills Station in Calabasas, serving Topanga.[22][23]

The Los Angeles County Fire Department operates Fire Station #69 in Topanga as a part of Battalion 5.[21]

The County of Los Angeles Public Library operates the Topanga Library located on 122 N Topanga Canyon Blvd.

Government and infrastructure

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.[19] 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.

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).

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.

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.

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.[20])

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.[19]

Famous residents of Lower Topanga have included: Humphrey Bogart, Bertolt Brecht, Carole Lombard, Peter Lorre, Ida Lupino, Shirley Temple, and Johnny Weissmuller.

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.

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.)

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.

Lower Topanga Canyon

Ethnic composition

According to the 2010 United States Census, Topanga had a median household income of $120,711, with 5.9% of the population living below the federal poverty line.[17]

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.

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 3,442 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 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.

The 2010 United States Census[16] 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),[17] 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 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.

Two outdoor shopping centers featuring local businesses form the hub of local commerce. There are no hotels, motels or gas stations in Topanga, nor are there any chain or big box stores. 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.[15]

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.[9][13][14]

Topanga canyon also sees and annual reggae festival "Reggae on the Mountain"[12] that has grown to be one of the largest events in the area. The event serves as a fundraiser for the Topanga Community Club in a similar fashion as Topanga Days.

Every Memorial Day weekend on the grounds of the Topanga Community House, Topanga has an annual fair and parade, called Topanga Days. During Topanga Days, residents of surrounding areas are invited to litter and vandalize the property of Topanga homeowners. 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 to have inspired the more famous Doo-Dah Parade in Pasadena.

A famous venue in the canyon was the Elysium Institute, also known as Elysium Fields, a nudist club started by Ed Lange in 1967.[10] After surviving extended battles with county officials the 9-acre (3.6 ha) property was sold in 2002 by its founder's heirs.[11]

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.

. Topanga Film Festival hosts the annual [9]

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