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Valley Relics Museum’s Tommy Gelinas’s guide to North Hollywood

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“It's a little bit calmer here. The parking is easier. The pace is a little bit slower”

The NoHo Gateway Sign, welcoming visitors to neighborhood’s arts district.
Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

The People's Guide offers tours of Los Angeles neighborhoods led by loyal readers, favorite bloggers, and other luminaries of our choosing. Have a piece to say? We'll be happy to hand over the megaphone.

For this guide, Curbed speaks with lifelong Valley resident Tommy Gelinas, founder and curator of the Valley Relics Museum in Chatsworth. The museum takes a pop culture-focused approach to San Fernando Valley history, with a collection that includes the sign from Palomino Club, a famed county-western venue, and a fleet of BMX bikes. (Gelinas says BMX got its start in the Valley.)

What brought you to the neighborhood?

I was born in Burbank, and my parents lived in Sherman Oaks. I come from a family of nine, and as the family grew, we ended up moving around, but we were always in the North Hollywood and Studio City area. I’ve been in North Hollywood since 1988, since that’s where my business is, and I’ve lived in my current North Hollywood home for about seven years.

What kept you here?

It’s extremely convenient. It’s very freeway-close, and the freeway makes it close to the beach, to Hollywood, to everything. It’s a little bit calmer here. The parking is easier. The pace is a little bit slower.

When they redid the NoHo Arts District, and gave it a more cultural vibe, and put the Metro in, it made it even better. I love the Valley. I’m a diehard Valley kid, so I never really thought of leaving. Maybe I’ll retire to Switzerland, I don’t know.

Restored in 2015, the Idle Hour bar is one of the neighborhood’s best-kept secrets, says Gelinas.
Photo by Elizabeth Daniels

What do you like most about North Hollywood?

The history—there’s a lot of history here that people don’t realize. Also, it’s not too crowded. I have a friend, another Valley kid, who moved to LA. He was there for a year, and he just moved back to the Valley. He was living in Downtown, and he realized it was extremely congested. It was hard to get anywhere, and it was hard to sleep, because there was so much going on.

No neighborhood is perfect. What could be improved?

There are really good parts and bad parts here. With the Valley and with North Hollywood, that holds true. There are parts that are really well kept up. The neighborhood councils and the community strive to keep them clean. But there are other parts that are dirty and unsafe, and that are neglected.

What's the neighborhood housing stock like?

Being the third oldest town in the San Fernando Valley, North Hollywood has a lot of historic homes—homes from the 1910s, 1920s, Craftsman homes—but there’s not a ton of preservation. There are more and more McMansions because of that. North Hollywood was a quaint, western town, and it slowly disappeared.

Better for buyers or renters?

It’s expensive to buy in North Hollywood. You’d think it would be cheap, but it’s not. As you go farther north in North Hollywood, the apartments and homes get a little bit cheaper.

There are a lot of really nice apartments by Riverside Drive and Tujunga Avenue, by North Hollywood Park. There are some buildings built in the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s over there. It’s shaded, it’s freeway close—it’s a nice quaint area.

Do you need a car to get around?

They’ve made North Hollywood a hub for transportation. A lot of people are riding their bikes, and the city’s trying to promote bike riding. It seems dangerous because the streets aren’t really designed for safety, but I think you could live in North Hollywood without a car, and having a bike would help.

North Hollywood’s a great example of an area of the Valley that has a lot of new transportation—well, old transportation that was put back. North Hollywood was a hub of transportation in the beginning of the Valley, and now that’s coming back.

Beloved neighborhood joint?

The Federal Bar’s really good. The NoHo Arts District has lots of cool little restaurants, and there’s a great nightlife there.

Who wouldn’t be happy living here?

People from the Westside wouldn’t be happy living in the Valley. People from the other side of the hill are used to being closer to the beach, and they would probably have trouble, because it’s warmer in the Valley.

Best kept secret?

The Idle Hour is probably one of North Hollywood’s best kept secrets. It was restored a few years ago, and it’s beautiful—such a hidden gem.

Another best kept secret is that my shop, the Print Lab, holds many relics that I’ve saved. Tail O’ the Pup is in North Hollywood, in my shop, awaiting restoration. I also received the Tail O’ the Pup’s neon sign from 1946, and I just lit it up.