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Pasadena: Neighborhood Profile

An Overview of the Pasadena Neighborhood in Los Angeles


Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl in Pasadena Los Angeles
Photo: David McNew/Staff/Getty Images


Bordered By
  • Altadena in the North
  • Eagle Rock in the West
  • Alhambra in the South
  • Sierre Madre and Arcadia in the East
  • San Marino in the South East
  • La Canada Flintridge in the North West

Pasadena: A Brief History

Pasadena was originally the stomping grounds of the Hahamogna native American tribe. They lived in villages around the Arroyo Seco and in the hillside areas of South Pasadena. The tribe was by and large converted by the Spaniards who came to the area to found the San Gabriel Mission, in 1771.

The Mission's lands were divided into ranchos. Later, in 1833, when Mexico gained power, those lands were secularized and given to individuals. After some changes of hands, the land was granted to Colonel Manuel Garfias, a friend of Governor Manuel Micheltorena's, in 1843. Locals may recognize the governor's family name as it is the same as the East Side street Micheltorena.

Garfias built an adobe hacienda on the East bank of the Arroyo in 1852. He and his family lived there until he could no longer meet the interest payments on the loan. In 1859, the title was transferred to lenders Dr. John S. Griffin and Benjamin "Don Benito" Wilson. Portions of the Rancho San Pasqual were later sold. By 1873, Griffin and Wilson had 5,328 acres left.

The early part of the 19th century saw Pasadena enjoy a reputation as a high-end winter resort and tourist area. In the early '20s, the city government (which operated as a Board of Directors with a City Manager) expanded municipal facilities. That was around the time that the Rose Bowl stadium and Brookside Park recreation facility were built.

The Great Depression disrupted Pasadena's lucrative tourism economy. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a famous Pasadena staple conducted its first rocket experiments in the Arroyo Seco in the mid-'30s. And then things turned around for Pasadena in World War II. Hotels were used as military command headquarters. The army even bought the Vista del Arroyo Hotel and turned it into a hospital for the war-wounded.

Thanks to the JPL, as well as Caltech, Pasadena evolved into a hub for industrial research and some manufacturing of scientific and electronic precision instruments. By 1954, there were close to 400 industrial establishments in the area.

New residents--many working in the industrial areas of LA--moved to Pasadena in the post-war era. The city grew and so did the amount of smog. But the land didn't. So, in the early '60s some major companies left Pasadena because there was no land for them to expand. As a side note, it was during this era that the South Arroyo area was immortalized as Wayne Manor in TV’s Batman series.

The '70s brought economic revitalization to the area mostly thanks to the Pasadena Redevelopment Agency (disbanded later in the early '80s). Corporations began to relocate their headquarters to Pasadena. New condominiums and commercial buildings were built.

As a result, the '80s saw a surge of interest in the preservation of Pasadena. The quarter's residents were experiencing a renewed interest in the city's old architectural relics (this was most apparent in Old Pasadena). This section was revitalized during the '80s and throughout the early '90s.

Pasadena Today

As one of the oldest sections of Los Angeles County, Pasadena has a reputation as a charming and diverse area ideally suited for families. Parts of it have a uniquely 'old towny feel,' which isn't generally a staple of LA.

The area is perhaps best known for the Rose Bowl and the Tournament of Roses Parade. Apart from hosting football games, the former is also popular with antique fanatics as it is home to a weekend flea market. It is not uncommon to hear people from all parts of Los Angeles talk about getting up at the crack of dawn to get the best 'stuff' at the Rose Bowl flea market.

And of course, Angelenos (and the nation) celebrate the launch of the New Year with the Tournament of Roses Parade, which has been a ritual since the late 19th century. Spectators watch as elaborate floats make their way through the streets of Pasadena, most notably the famous Colorado Blvd. The latter street was of course memorialized in the Beach Boys song, "The Little Old Lady From Pasadena." Following the Rose Parade, the whistle blows at the Rose Bowl and the football games begin.

Beyond these famous features, Pasadena is also known for its rustic beauty which can be explored in such public spots as the Arroyo Seco Park. The Pasadena Roving Archers, a group that assembles to keep the ancient sport alive, do their magic at the Lower Arroyo Seco Archery Range. And of course, here you can also go back to the early days of Southern California with a horseback ride through some of the Lower Arroyo Seco Park's trails.

Historical Areas, Sights and Museums of Pasadena

  • Arroyo Seco Park

  • Brookside Park

  • City Hall

  • Colorado Boulevard

  • The Gamble House

  • The Huntington Library and Gardens 

  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory

  • Kidspace Children's Museum

  • Norton Simon Museum

  • Old Pasadena

  • Pacific Asia Museum

  • Pasadena Civic Auditorium
  • Pasadena Museum of California Art 

  • Pasadena Playhouse

  • Rose Bowl Stadium 

  • Wrigley Mansion

Pasadena Restaurants and Bars

  • Arroyo Chop House
  • Bistro 45
  • Bodega Wine Bar

  • Celestino Ristorante
  • Cheesecake Factory
  • The Colorado Bar
  • J.J.'s Steakhouse
  • Maison Akira

  • Mario's Restaurant
  • Old Towne Pub
  • Parkway Grill
  • The Raymond Restaurant
  • Sushi Roku 

  • Vertical Wine Bistro
  • Yard House Restaurant


Schools in Pasadena

  • Art Center College of Design
  • Blair High School
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Chandler School
  • John Muir High School
  • La Salle Catholic High School

  • Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Los Angeles

  • Maranatha High School
  • Mayfield Senior School
  • Pacific Oaks College
  • Pasadena City College

  • Pasadena High School
  • Pasadena Montessori School
  • Polytechnic School
  • South Pasadena High School
  • St. Monica Academy
  • Westridge School

Real Estate Facts

  • Population: 144,068
  • Overall school district performance: 704 (close to meeting the statewide target of 800)
  • 77% of other LA area houses are less expensive
  • House prices: $370 per square foot
  • Crime index (measures violent crime reported - lower number is better): 11, approximately 40% lower than the LA County average

Facts pulled from: LA Life: Pasadena

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