The location: "Chino" in Sun Valley.

Q. What is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. Ryan's former home town of Chino.

Q. Where is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. Chino, California.

    In reality, Chino is a small city located about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, and about nine miles southeast of the L.A. Fairgrounds in Pomona.

    But the show wasn't really filmed in Chino.

    (Here is a map link to the real Chino. And a map to that city's website.)

Q. When did we see it on the show?

    A. For this location of "Chino": in Episode One (of season one), "The Pilot", where Ryan's brother (Trey) forces Ryan to steal a car (and they are later arrested).

    Also, in the same episode, we see a desperate Ryan (having been thrown out of his house), making phone calls from a pay phone on the street, trying to find some place to stay. And later in the same episode, we see Sandy Cohen arrive and pick up Ryan and take him out of "Chino" (to Newport Beach for the first time).

Q. What is it actually in real life?

    A. A small shopping center and the surrounding streets.

Q. Where can I find it in real life?

    A. It's not in the real Chino.

    The O.C.'s "Chino" is actually made up of several different locations around L.A., including Venice, East L.A., Lawndale and Sun Valley. These particular scenes were shot in Sun Valley, CA.

    You are probably asking yourself "Where on earth is Sun Valley?  It's in the northeast part of the San Fernando Valley (above Burbank), 50 miles away from the real Chino.

    • The very first glimpse of "Chino" is when we see Trey smash the window of a car and steal it, only to be chased (and arrested) by the cops. The car they stole was parked next to a small, Hispanic strip mall (at 9311 San Fernando Road). To be precise, the car was parked on the north side of Allegheny Street (near the rear of that small center), just west of San Fernando Road.

    • The ensuing police chase takes them down nearby Sheldon Street.

    • The street where Ryan makes a desperate phone call (after being kicked out of his house by his mother) was in front of that same small shopping center on San Fernando Road, just around the corner from the car theft location. (In the background of the phone scene, you can see La Familia restaurant right down the street, behind Ryan. (La Familia is located at 9323 San Fernando Road, in Sun Valley.)

    • The scene where Sandy Cohen picks up Ryan (after he's been kicked out) and takes him back to Newport for the first time was also shot at that very same small shopping center at 9311 San Fernando Road, in Sun Valley.
    • Here's an aerial photo map of the area.

      (Trust me, this is not really a part of town you want to visit.)

    • Another "Chino" scene, seen later in the same pilot episode, where Sandy is driving Ryan away from "Chino" (through a bleak industrial area), was shot far from Sun Valley (and far from Chino), around the intersection of Valley Blvd & Marianna Ave, (about 4 miles northeast of downtown) in the "Lincoln Heights" section of East L.A. (another part of town you definitely don't want to visit.) Part of that driving scene was shot nearby in the 4200 block of Worth Street. (This general area was used in a later episode for another "Chino" scene.) Map link.

    • And Ryan's original family home, in the pilot episode, is also in Sun Valley, at 9320 Telfair Ave.
    • As far as I know, this was the one and only episode of The O.C. that used Sun Valley as a Chino location. "Chino" scenes in subsequent episodes were shot in other parts of L.A., including Venice, East L.A. & Lawndale.

      However, The O.C. producers did return to the area in one other (non-Chino) episode. In Episode 14 (of season two), "The Rainy Day Women", they used The Pink Motel in Sun Valley (just a couple of blocks away from the car theft location), as the spot where Sandy & Rebecca stayed during a rainstorm.

Q. How the heck did you figure out where it was?

    A. Sun Valley was a major pain to track down, in part because I've never been there. Fortunately, I was able to spot the La Familia cafe in the background of the phone call scene, and although the Yellow Pages turned up several La Familias, I was able to narrow it down to the one in Sun Valley. I was fortunate that the car theft scene was shot next door. Because when I checked Live Local aerial photos to look for the restaurant, I immediately recognized the nearby shopping center as the scene of the car theft.

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