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San Fernando Valley was struck by an earthquake

On February 9, 1971, an earthquake in the San Fernando Valley, registering 6.6 on the Richter scale, killed 51 people. The Valley is the home of numerous suburbs of Los Angeles including Burbank, Glendale, North Hollywood, Van Nuys, Sylmar, Northride, and Valencia. The earthquake was centered near Sylmar but its effects and aftershocks were felt throughout the Los Angeles area and caused damage along the entire San Fernando Valley.

The closeness of the quake to the dense population center of Los Angeles raised awareness of the need to ensure that all buildings in the state could resist earthquakes. Numerous city ordinances and state laws were soon passed setting requirements for new buildings that would guarantee their safety in future earthquakes. Fearful of more earthquakes, more people left the San Fernando Valley than arrived in it for the next several years. While other parts of California experienced a population decrease in the early 1970s, the San Fernando Valley’s rate of decline was higher than that of the rest of the state. After a few years, however, the Valley again began to grow.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system opened

In 1972, the Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, system began providing train service to Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Francisco counties. For many years California’s two major metropolitan areas, San Francisco and Los Angeles, had increasing traffic problems. While Los Angeles opposed any transit systems beyond busses, leaving the city’s freeways clogged with cars, San Francisco decided on a rail system.

Three Bay Area counties agreed in 1962 to build a 75-mile system with tunnels under the Bay and a combination of elevated and underground track. When the BART system was approved, it was to cost $920 million, financed by a bond issue, a sales tax increase, and some federal funding. By the time it was built, the price had risen to $1.6 billion. Later, BART was extended south of San Francisco to Daly City. In the 1990s a line was added to Livermore in eastern Alameda County.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit system was considered a technological innovation in its day, and remains one of the most efficient and economical metropolitan-area transportation systems in the U.S. or the world. Expansion to other Bay Area counties is frequently discussed.

Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army

On February 4, 1974, Patricia "Patty" Hearst, a student at the University of California at Berkeley and one of the heirs to the William Randolph Hearst fortune, was kidnapped from her apartment in Berkeley, California. The case baffled both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local police. Then a shootout in May between the police and leaders of a gang in Los Angeles led to the discovery that Patty Hearst had been kidnapped by an underground revolutionary terrorist group calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army, or SLA. This group had committed its first terrorist attack in November of 1973, when they murdered the Superintendent of Schools in Oakland, Marcus Foster.

As ransome for Patty, the SLA demanded that food be distributed to poor people in the state. The Hearst family set up such a program. Then Patty announced that although she was free to return, she had willingly joined her captors and taken the name of Tania. She had participated in some of their crimes, including a bank robbery. Hearst and three other group members remained fugitives from the law for nineteen months. She was finally arrested in 1975. She was tried in 1976 and sentenced to seven years in jail, but President Carter reduced that after 22 months. This effectively ended the activities of the Symbionese Liberation Army. After this, Patty Hearst was no longer in the news.

Voters passed Proposition 13 severely limiting property taxes

In 1978, California voters approved Proposition 13, an amendment to the state Constitution that slashed property taxes. The measure, known as the Jarvis-Gann initiative, was suggested by lobbyists Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann, who were responding to widespread unhappiness in California about high taxes. Proposition 13 limited the amount of property tax to one percent of the assessed value of the property in 1975-76. This resulted in lower property taxes for many people. The new law said the tax could be raised only when the property was improved or resold. The approval of Proposition 13 in California led to similar tax-cutting bills in other states.

Proposition 13 caused problems because most of California’s public education was financed through property taxes. Also, property taxes were a major source of operating income for cities and counties, who now had to cut back on services. While Jarvis called for restructuring of public education, school districts struggled to provide facilities and teachers.


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