Agoura Hills is an affluent city in Los Angeles County, California. Its population was 20,330 at the 2010 census, down from 20,537 at the 2000 census. It is in the eastern Conejo Valley between the Simi Hills and the Santa Monica Mountains. This city on the Ventura Freeway (U.S. Route 101) straddles the border between the county of Los Angeles to the east, west and south and Ventura County to the north. It is about northwest of Downtown Los Angeles and less than west of the Los Angeles City limits (Woodland Hills). Agoura Hills and unincorporated Agoura sit next to Calabasas, Oak Park, and Westlake Village.
The area was first settled by the Chumash Native Americans around 10,000 years ago. As the Alta California (Upper California) coast was settled by Spanish Franciscan missionaries in the late 18th century, the El Camino Real (the Royal Road or King's Highway), a road from Loreto, Baja California, Mexico to Sonoma, California, and connecting the Spanish missions in California, was established through the heart of what would later be known as Agoura Hills.
In about 1800, Miguel Ortega was granted a Spanish grazing concession called Rancho Las Virgenes or El Rancho de Nuestra Señora La Reina de Las Virgenes. The grant was abandoned after Ortega's death in 1810, and José Maria Dominguez was given Rancho Las Virgenes as a Mexican land grant in 1834. Maria Antonia Machado de Reyes purchased the rancho from Dominguez in 1845. (The "Reyes Adobe" ranch headquarters sits today in central Agoura Hills, where it is part of the Reyes Adobe Museum built around 2004 and owned by the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department.)
By 1900, Agoura Hills was being used as a popular stage stop for travelers along the Camino Real because of its natural spring at the foothills of Ladyface Mountain, one of Agoura Hills' defining geographic features.
In the 1920s, the community was briefly known as Picture City, as Paramount Pictures owned a ranch in the area used for filming Westerns. To obtain a post office of their own, the residents were required to choose a one-word name, and in 1927 chose the shortest name proposed: a misspelling of the last name of Pierre Agoure, a local Basque man and French immigrant who had settled in the area in 1871 to live the lifestyle of the Mexican rancher. Styling himself Don Pierre Agoure, he was a successful sheep herder and had a reputation as a swashbuckler.
Agoura Hills began to grow rapidly in the late 1960s after the Ventura Freeway section of U.S. Route 101 was built through the city's heart, isolating the northern half of the city from the south. The first housing tracts started in Agoura were Hillrise, Liberty Canyon and Lake Lindero. Rapid growth continued during the 1970s, when schools were built and much of downtown erected.
In 1978, residents of the Agoura Hills area banded together to lobby Sacramento to widen the Kanan Bridge. Legislation was passed requiring the State Department of Transportation to award contracts for widening of the Kanan Road bridge overpass, over the Ventura Freeway, from two lanes to four lanes.
In 1982, the residents of the City of Agoura Hills voted in favor of cityhood by a 68% majority. Agoura Hills became the 83rd City in Los Angeles County. Elected to the first City Council were Mayor Fran Pavley, Mayor Pro Tem Carol Sahm, Councilmembers Ernest Dynda, John Hood and Vicky Leary. Incorporating a year after neighboring Westlake Village, the drive for cityhood in the region was largely based on public discontent with the county's failure to limit residential development of the area, motives that influenced Malibu and Calabasas to follow suit in 1991.
The 1980s was a period of tremendous growth, with large land areas being subdivided into housing tracts and a great wave of migration of people into the city. In the 1990s, numerous businesses set up shop in the city, and the downtown area was filled with shops and restaurants.
In 1996, the murder of Jimmy Farris (the infamous Brandon Hein case) shook the city and awakened it to a rising drug problem and petty theft crime wave among its young. As a result, the city began sponsoring live music competitions and concerts in local parks (see Music).