Leon Worden

Wal-Mart's in Valencia; Tesoro del Valle Isn't

By Leon Worden

Thursday, Sept. 2, 2004

hear it all the time: "But the phone company says this." "But the post office says that."
    "It doesn't matter," I say. "Wal-Mart is in Valencia."
    As the gaps on the map between our communities get filled in at lightening speed, it's easy to understand why newcomers don't know where the boundaries are. There's a common misconception that everything west of Interstate 5 is Stevenson Ranch.
    It's not. Wal-Mart is in the Valencia Marketplace shopping center, which was developed by The Newhall Land and Farming Co. and approved by the county of Los Angeles under the trademarked name of Valencia.
    Essentially, everything within the original 15,000-acre Valencia master plan, including the Valencia Marketplace, is "Valencia." Everything outside of it is not Valencia.
    I bring it up because of a recent volley in the Opinion section, where a new resident in the new community of Tesoro del Valle was complaining about his hard-line homeowners association.
    "I thought I was buying in Valencia, not Pacoima," he wrote.
    We wrote an editor's note pointing out that actually, Tesoro del Valle is in Saugus, not Valencia.
    And why isn't it in Valencia? Because Tesoro was never part of the Valencia master plan and the property was never owned by The Newhall Land and Farming Co.
    The area that's being developed as Tesoro was assembled in 1916 by Harry Carey, the early Western actor. Harry and his wife, Olive, capitalized on the tourist craze of the day, erecting a "trading post" on their 1,600-acre ranch complete with 40 Navajo craftsmen and -women.
    The trading post was wiped out in the flood of March 12-13, 1928, when the St. Francis Dam crashed down San Francisquito Canyon and killed at least 450 people from Saugus to Ventura.
    Carey died in 1947 and the ranch changed hands a few times before the Clougherty family bought it in the early 1950s. The Cloughertys were meat packers whose products bore the famous Farmer John brand name.
    Never using their Saugus ranch for slaughter, they partnered with developers in 1998 and transferred the ranch into the name of their new company, Montalvo Properties, which teamed up with SunCal Inc. to build homes.
    The man with the HOA problems followed up on our editor's note by saying that his deed of trust "indicates Valencia."
    I haven't seen his trust deed, but if it's true, there might be some questionable business practices going on.
    And Newhall Land isn't one to take trademark infringement lying down.
    The case of Geoff and Dan Palmer is instructive.
    In the 1980s and early '90s, two companies controlled by the Palmers developed two multi-family complexes that improperly used the name "Valencia": Valencia Village Apartments; and Valencia Terrace Apartments, aka Valencia Vista Condominiums, on Valle del Oro in Newhall. The name "Valencia" had currency, and the Palmers tried to capitalize on it.
    In 1991 and '92, Newhall Land sued the Palmer companies for trademark infringement and unfair competition. On Feb. 24, 1993, a jury awarded Newhall Land $1,360,392 in the Valencia Village Apartments case and $937,678 for Valencia Terrace Apartments, representing "(the jury's) calculation of the profits realized by defendants from their use of the Valencia (trade)mark," court papers show. "The jury also found that the conduct of both (Palmer companies) was willful."
    The Palmer companies appealed and eventually settled, agreeing to pay Newhall Land $1.59 million and to strip the name "Valencia" from their buildings.
    Court documents shed some light:
    "The Newhall Land and Farming Co., as successor in interest to California Land and to Valencia Corp., is the owner of a registered service mark for the name 'Valencia.' The registration was made on May 16, 1972, based on a first use in October 1965. ... Newhall and its predecessors in interest have developed real estate projects in the Santa Clarita Valley since 1967. The new town of Valencia is one of its projects."
    Folks say Newhall Land has a lot of power in this valley. When it comes to naming things, it's true. "Valencia" is whatever Newhall Land says it is — and whatever it says isn't Valencia, isn't.
    Someday maybe Newhall Land will tell the post office.

    Leon Worden is the Signal's city editor.

comments powered by Disqus