Advice about Pasadena
Berkeley Parents Network >
Housing, Neighborhoods, & Moving >
Advice about Pasadena
Raising 4 kids under the age of 10 by myself is becoming a real
financial struggle.. I have the option of relocating with my Company
to either Lake Oswego or the Pasadena area (or stay here in the Bay
I know next to nothing about either place, other than the weather.
Everything we love about the Bay Area (food, weather, shops, natural
beauty, ethnic diversity, progressive thinking, etc.)is what I will be
looking for if we move.
Please be candid. Share the good, the bad and the ugly.
The more information I have, the better equipped I will be
to make a decision. To go and if so, where?
I don't know anything about Lake Oswego, but I know a little
about Pasadena. Pasadena isn't really cheaper than the Bay
Area, whereas Lake Oswego may be. Pasadena's weather will
be warmer (HOT in the summer) than here, drier, and smoggier.
After a winter rain, you'll know why LA was settled, as the
place smells like gardenias. But it is really warm and
smoggy otherwise. You won't get much diversity in either
place, but maybe a little more in Pasadena. Same shops or
more are available as here, and maybe easier to get to them
all. You've got a major university in the city (Caltech)
and a small city college (Pasadena City College), which
means lots of cultural opportunities and venues, and lots of
apartments with mostly studious types and their families.
Less crime, more traffic if you're going anywhere else. But
you don't need to leave too much, and Burbank Airport is 20
min away, and not much traffic. South Pasadena and San
Marino are both very upscale, more so than Piedmont. Those
schools are pretty good (I understand-I haven't had kids
there but relatives have). My sister swears that the
Pasadena schools are no good. I don't know whether that is
true, but it might be worth checking out. They are more
diverse than the neighboring communities. She sent her
daughter to a private school after kindergarten. I can't say
whether it was truly necessary (the little I saw seemed ok
to me, but she said they were taking advantage of her
'gifted' child in order to raise their test scores, and
were using her as a tutor--that part was also nearly 20
years ago, so take it with a grain of salt). There are
terrific cultural institutions right in your neighborhood:
Huntington gardens and museum, Norton Simon museum, and of
course all that greater (and smoggier) LA has to offer. And
of course the Rose Parade on Jan 1, which seems to be
exciting for residents for the first few years, then it's
just an event to be endured when the throngs of tourists
Pasadena has everything you're looking for, though I doubt
you'll get a better quality of life if your salary will be
the same... Pasadena is just as if not more expensive than
the Bay Area (depending on where you're living). SoCal
I am from Pasadena, and I think it's a great place to raise
a family. Similarities with Berkeley include in no
particular order: (1) the proximity to the mountains
(amazing hikes nearby in the San Gabriel Mountains), (2) the
benefits of a college town (Cal Tech, nearby Occidental
College, Pasadena City College), (3) lovely neighborhoods of
craftsman homes, (4) proximity to a great city and all it
has to offer -- Disney Hall, the opera, theater, etc., (5)
world-class museums and gardens in town (the Huntington
Library, the Norton Simon Museum, the Pacific Asia, the
Arboretum, Descanso Gardens); (6) rich
ethnic/racial/economic diversity; and (7) a good restaurant
scene, helped by the presence of Le Cordon Bleu. It's a
little further from the ocean than Berkeley's location,
although you can get to Santa Monica in 20 minutes early
Saturday or Sunday morning. It's rough if you have to
commute somewhere during rush hour, but it sounds like your
job is in town (and in my opinion, LA traffic is much better
than Bay Area traffic and the metro can be quite helpful).
It's a little less hectic than Berkeley in terms of density
(much easier to park at the supermarket after pushing your
way through the Berkeley Bowl). The not-so-good: There
aren't the lovely bakeries, meat markets, and vegetable
stands on every corner -- they exist, but not in the same
numbers. The ugly: (1) the city is losing its long-standing
African American population as housing prices have gone up
and younger families can't afford to stay, (2) the schools
have struggled to overcome the legacy of a desegregation
order from the 1970s . . . although there are some very
good traditional public schools as well as some newer
charters, many many families send their kids to private
schools and there is a feeling of stratification (similar to
the situation in Berkeley but even more intense); and (3)
there has been somewhat of a rise in gang violence in the
Northwest section of the city, although there are some very
nice neighborhoods even there. Check out the book
'Hometown Pasadena' and the companion website
hometown-Pasadena.com (but the book will give you a better
all-over picture). For public schools, good resources are
penfamilies.org and http://www.pasedfoundation.org/ Pasadena
I grew up in Berkeley and lived in South Pasadena while
attending grad school at USC. It's a beautiful place in
winter and early spring but the summer is entirely
different. I could never get used to the heat and the smog
made it hurt to inhale. The So Cal lifestyle is sooo
different than the Bay Area, be ready for that. If you
don't mind the extreme heat and different way of life, I
highly recommend South Pasadena or Pasadena for the gorgeous
neighborhoods, awesome architecture, proximity to museums
and other cultural gems. Nor Cal girl
Editor note: reveiws were also received for Portland
We will most likely be moving to Pasadena for my husband's
'dream job.' 6-8 years there, then to the Big Island of
Hawaii. There are a few posts on Pasadena in the archives,
but I'd love more information. We have an 18 month old -- so
sad to leave Keiki's Corner! Anyone been with the Children's
Center at CalTech? Any ideas on the best public schools? or,
way better yet, something akin to the Wildcat Community
FreeSchool? I do see a Waldorf school in Altadena. Is there
something similar to our invaluable Berkeley Parents
Network? Are there neighborhoods with community vibes? Is it
all suburbia with houses crammed in next to each other, or
are there places with more eclectic, Berkeley- or Berkeley
Hills-type neighborhoods? How would we find a midwife for
the home birth of our second child? Thank you!
- we love Berkeley!
Pasadena is a very charming city. It feels like a college
town with Cal Tech and Pasadena City College. Neighborhoods
I grew up in and near and loved include: Kinneloa Mesa, Fox
Ridge Estates off Altadena Drive on the border between
Pasadena and Altadena, and places on either side of Altadena
Drive between New York and over toward Lake Ave. Once you
cross Lake, the neighborhoods are more - transitional -
shall we say. There are also some nice areas surrounding Cal
Tech and in parts of South Pasadena. As soon as you cross
into San Marino, it gets tres expensive. I attended The
Polytechnic School, Pre K through 12th, next to Cal Tech. It
is very difficult to get into but the education cannot be
beat. It is a common school for Cal Tech professors to send
their kids to. kl
Sierra Madre is next to Pasadena. It's a smallish city of
10,000 or so people, has a small town vibe with a great
little walkable downtown, tree-filled and beautiful, and
next to the mountains. It's worth a look. Ed from Altadena
We just moved from Pasadena. Our daughter was at the
Caltech Children's Center, and we loved it. It is not
perfect, but it had a great set of international families.
Some of the teachers were great. Pacific Oaks is another
really well-regarded preschool (but really hard to get
Based on your post, it sounds as of your spouse is an
astronomer who would be at Caltech or JPL. Caltech is a
wonderful community. If you are going to be affiliated, the
gym is great, with 2 outdoor pools and family memberships
for reasonale amounts. The faculty club has casual outdoor
dining in the summers, which is a fantastic place for
toddlers to toddle.
There are diverse neighborhoods in and around Pasadena.
None are Berkeley, but they have their charms. Bungalow
Heaven is popular with young families (just north of 'the'
210 freeway). Eagle Rock is a bit edgier. South Pasadena
has pretty good schools, great parks and a good sense of
community (farmers market on Thursdays).
Plus, Pasadena has the Huntington Library which is a great
place for kids, as well as Kidspace.
Alas, I don't know of a BPN.
We may move to Pasadena this summer due to my husbands job
(he's expecting an offer from CalTech). If you've been/lived
there, could you tell me little bit about your experiences?
We have almost 3.5 yrs old, and 1.5 yrs old boys, so
especially preschool selection and getting into one would be
a huge issue. I'm especially interested in education, but I
would appreciate any input in general.
Thanks a bunch in advance!
I have lived in South Pasadena and I can tell you it's an
absolutely marvelous place. A real cool town with plenty of
personality and close to everything.
I assume you know already about the air quality down there, so I
won't belabor that topic. But I can highly recommend both Pasadena
and ''South Pas.''
Lisa in Oakland
A couple of months ago somebody asked about Pasadena, so maybe the
moderators will post that info, but I can say a few things, some
of which may be out of date. My sister lived in Pasadena, and her
husband went to Caltech. They lived in a little apt first, then on
campus as sort of ''dorm parents'' then into one of the
Caltech-subsidized apts nearby. There are plenty of families w/
kids there, as far as I can tell. My niece went to a really fun
preschool right down the street from the campus, though that was,
um, 15 yrs ago now (she's graduating high school this year).
Pasadena itself is actually lovely in many ways, though most of
what you can probably afford will be apts, unless you commute from
relatively far away, or can afford some of the more high-end bay
area type prices. It's hot and smoggy, but on a clear February
day everything will smell like gardenias. There's a great
children's museum in pasadena that you'll get to know. Near the
campus everything is very walkable: flat, leafy. Good independent and chain stores near the
campus, Lake Blvd and Colorado Blvd. Possible to find good food,
quirky stores etc. Colorado Blvd is getting a little bit like,
say, Palo Alto, but it's still got a lot of good stuff.
Relatively easy access from burbank airport if that matters to
you. Nice campus. REasonable running routes, if you care. Long
way to the beach. Plenty of intellectual life, though it tends
toward the technical/engineering side. Some parts of pasadena are
small town-ish, and some are sort of suburban big city. If you
don't mind smog & heat, it's actually a pretty nice place to live,
and Caltech is kind of a fun campus in its quirky, nerdy way.
Sorry, I can't tell you anything actually up to date for your
Hi there, We are a young family (one kid, 1 year old) and we have two job offers: one
in Ithaca NY, and another one in Pasadena, CA. We are having a terrible time choosing.
Both places have their up- and down-sides. Anyone have any opinions or recs based on
concrete experience in either of these places? Things we care about are good food
(though restaraunts aren't critical), decent living on one income, friendly neighbors
and community, playing outside (kids on the street, good playgrounds and access to hikes
etc), public schools, not having to drive everywhere, and crafts community (I am an
artist; I work mostly with fiber). As a mostly at home mom, will I be able to find my
people in either place?? Many thanks.
Up in the air; hoping to land soon
I know next to nothing about Pasadena or Ithaca but I have a theory I wanted to pass on to you. I
think that the worse the winter is in a place, the higher the quality of life (other than the
winter weather, of course.) I think weather extremes bring out the best in people. So, if being
near family is not a consideration, I would vote for Ithaca. (I do know one Cal prof. who moved
from Berkeley to Cornell and he and his wife are very happy in Ithaca.) Anon
I lived in Pasadena for many years, but know little about Ithaca. Some of your topics:
Food in Pasadena - Excellent! Go to the Farmer's Market at the high school every Saturday and
stock up on great produce. Wonderful restaurants of every variety in every price range. Trader
Joe's, Whole Foods, etc. Every food item in the world available in the greater LA area. I love
eating in Berkeley, but I loved eating in Pasadena too!
Community - I worked at JPL, and found ''my people'' there and at Caltech. I know a stay-at-home
mom there who is very well integrated into the community. Pasadena has a great public library,
community theater, sports programs and interesting lecture and performing arts series. As for the
schools, you can check out the test scores, but many of my friends chose private school. Another
popular alternative was living in La Canada or Glendale for the schools. I do know a family happy
with the Pasadena public schools, so it's a personal decision.
Cars - You will probably need to drive more. You can carefully choose to live near a supermarket
and a park to minimize driving, but for other parks, play groups, community events, restaurants,
etc. you will probably need to drive.
Outdoor activities - Here Pasadena shines, literally. There is great hiking and biking in the
hills just adjacent to Pasadena (like Berkeley!) It's hot in the summer, but then so is Ithaca,
and outside of July-September, the weather is ideal for being outdoors. They hold the Rose Parade
on January 1st, and it's usually 70 degrees and sunny. Want to hold an outdoor BBQ in
mid-November? No problem! Great gardening opportunities too. My backyard plums were the best
ever, and so were my neighbor's tangerines.
Cost of living - There are lifestyle choices to make it more or less expensive, but it's still
California, with high housing prices.
Good luck with your decision.
So I guess weather is not a consideration for you at all???
I'd go for the sun
I just came back from a trip to Pasadena-there are some nice areas, but the school system is not
good, and you definitely have to drive to go anywhere. People are friendly, but neighborhoods do
not feel cohesive-you hardly ever see a pedestrian. I have also spent time in Ithaca-it's
beautiful, nice college town with good restaurants (the Moosewood is there), gorgeous scenery.
It's got a long winter, and is remote-not near any big city. I personally would pick Ithaca over
Pasadena-it feels much more like a community.
Just to balance out those who know Ithaca, here's my 2 cents: Pasadena, hands down. But
I'm from California, and my family is here, and I cannot for the life of me imagine
living in the snow. That said, I imagine that the cost of living is lower in Ithaca.
Pasadena itself is a bit on par with Palo Alto, in some cases. Caltech campus is lovely,
Colorado Blvd is sort of like a combo of College Ave, Solano Ave, and in some parts it's
a little like San Pablo or Market St, and there are also a few mall-type stores, and a
mall or two (including an ice-skaating rink if you're too hot.). It's bloody hot in the
summer, of course, but AC is everywhere, and it cools down a bit at night. And gorgeous
in February-can smell like gardenias everywhere. The whole city is very walkable, and
there's also a city shuttle bus that goes everywhere (may even be free or cheap).
There's a terrific children's museum and a nice hiking park along the Arroyo Seco too.
Cons are: expensive, too far from the ocean (in my opinion), smoggy, especially in summer, and if you want to go anywhere
you'll probably deal with traffic. Oh, and my sister hated the public schools...
(for more responses to this question, see Ithaca)
Can anyone recommend a nice, but not too expensive (less than
$150/night) place to stay in Pasadena? It has been a long time
since I've been in the LA area and I am going down with
extended family for a college graduation. We'd like a place
with character, that is clean and has a pool.
No pool, and slightly higher cost (most rooms are $175/night,
when I looked online) but...the Bissell House B&B, just over the
border into South Pasadena, is pretty nifty if you're into
historic buildings and nice accommodations. It's one of the
last surviving ''Millionaires Row'' mansions, and the only one
that's open as a B&B. Their web site says Albert Einstein once
had dinner there. Good breakfast, too, and the proprietors are
We spent our wedding night there, and friends and relatives of
ours who've had weddings in Pasadena have taken over the place
for their wedding weekends to put up family members. Web site
For a funky but nice place to stay, try the Saga Hotel on
Colorado across the street from Pasadena City College. It's kinda
50's style but clean, well maintained and not at all musty. There
is a pool ( that I've never been in but looks good to me). They
are in the yellowpages. I used to live in Pasadena and that's
where I always stay. I don't like these new, new, new hotels that
have no character and have sky high prices. (like the Doubletree).
We stayed in Pasadena for 4 days/3 nights last month. We chose the Marriott based
on recommendations and proximity to family. The location is great -- right in old
town Pasadena. You can walk to many restaurants and shops, and there is a great
frozen yogurt shop about 3 blocks away. There is a pool and fitness room, and a
restaurant that serves breakfast/lunch/dinner but room service is only for the
evening. Most touristy things are within a 15 minute drive (the Huntington, Norton
Simon museum, Gamble House) and there's a fantastic childrens' museum called
KidSpace. Good for all ages, like a mix between Habitot & the Bay Area Discovery
We had a suite which was great, since we were with our 2 boys, but it was expensive
-- $269.00 a night. I'm not sure what the regular rooms are. Overall, it was worth it
due to the location. The staff was really nice.
Hope it helps!
My family has lived in Pasadena for 30 years and they recommend the Doubletree
Hotel, 191 N. Los Robles Ave., 626-792-2727. I believe it is a Meditteranean-style
building with fountains and nice landscaping, walking-distance to Old Town. You
may want to call and make sure, but I think they have a pool and charge about $150
this page was last updated: May 7, 2013
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network