But to most Angelenos, who drive through Simi Valley on their way to the Reagan Library or to northern Ventura County, the town is just another sun-baked suburb sprawling out of control. The truth is that Simi Valley is a collection of suburbs, each one embedding the aspirations and vanities of a certain period in their architectures: the wood shake roofs of the 1960s, banked driveways of the '80s and the red-tile mansionettes of the 1990s. It even has an older, feed-and-hardware part of town along Los Angeles Avenue that resembles many other horse communities in California.
TOWNS LIKE SIMI VALLEY BEGIN AS THE ONLY places where people earning working-class wages can live. There was no way that Bob or anyone earning a cop's salary could buy a three- or four-bedroom house in West L.A. -- he might as well have tried for Brentwood. Today, Bob says, his 1,700-square-foot tract house, purchased for $83,000 in 1977, and which sits on half an acre, is worth about half a million dollars. Which means Simi Valley is now priced out of range for many cops. As another LAPD officer told the Weekly, "I've been on the force 16 years, and I can't afford to buy a house out there. I live in the south -- I'm a flatlander."
"We don't think we're different from any other community," Bob says. "We have pride of ownership, we like our kids to be respectful, we like them to get a good education." Which is why Simi Valley residents cannot understand the royal badmouthing they received after the Rodney Kingbeating trial. Its specter was recently resurrected when Simi Valley's name came up as a possible "neutral" court venue for the trial of two white Inglewood officers charged with the beating of a black youth. "We thought we were getting a raw deal," Bob says of the 1992 trial. "It was blown all out of proportion, but it passed and we don't care. And the good thing is that now everybody knows it's Redneck Heaven out here -- 'Hey, don't try anything because these people for the most part are armed!'"
Simi Valley is probably no more sinister a place than any other pistol-packing California town that's overrun with fast-food counters and has no Italian delis, its civic personality wavering somewhere between the wrought-iron conservatism represented by the Reagan Library and the folksy eccentricity of Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village. Even today, with the town's homes priced far beyond most working-cop budgets and its population five times what it was in the 1960s, the valley assumes a tranquilizing stillness when the wind blows through the cottonwoods in the late afternoons. "You look at it right now," Bob says in the shade of his deck as five horses gambol in a backyard corral. "It is quiet. Tonight it will be this quiet."