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Advice about Pasadena

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Housing, Neighborhoods, & Moving > Advice about Pasadena


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Move to Pasadena area or Portland?

Jan 2013

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 Area).

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 descend.
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 transplant
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 Girl
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


Moving to Pasadena with an 18-month-old

April 2010

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 into).

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. sr


Looking for any input about Pasadena

May 2008

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 preschoolers... janet

Moving to Pasadena vs Ithaca - pros and cons?

June 2007

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. Ex-Pasadenean


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... janet

(for more responses to this question, see Ithaca)


Inexpensive hotel in Pasadena?

March 2005

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. Heading south.


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 very friendly. 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 is www.bissellhouse.com. Sara
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). JM
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 Museum. 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! Mollie
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 per night. Erika
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