Pasadena is entrenched in our popular culture. Jan and Dean sang about the “Little Old Lady from Pasadena”; over the years millions have watched the annual Tournament of Roses New Year parade; football fans follow the Rose Bowl Game; and The Big Bang Theory devotees know Pasadena as the home of Leonard, Sheldon, and Penny. Aside from its esteemed place in our culture, Pasadena attracts many residents due to its elegant established neighborhoods, historic and hip downtown, famed architecture, clean industries, sophisticated arts, great year-round weather, and proximity to Los Angeles.
There’s a strong science and technology presence in Pasadena, as it’s home to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology. Old Town Pasadena is home to many intriguing boutiques, bars, and restaurants – perfect for a night out on the town or to do some weekend shopping. And for a bit of esoteric info, six species of naturalized parrots add vibrant color and sound to the Pasadena environment.
Living in Pasadena, CA: What to Know Before Moving to Pasadena
Pasadena is just ten miles northeast of all of the hullabaloo of Los Angeles but is by no means a small town. With an estimated population of 141,371 as of 2018, it’s the ninth-largest city in LA County. Considered to be one of the main cultural centers of the San Gabriel Valley, Pasadena is abundant with theater, museums, art galleries, music, prestigious higher education, and more. A Chippewa word, Pasadena means “crown of the valley” and comes by its name honestly.
Pros and Cons of Living in Pasadena
Is Pasadena the perfect fit for your next home? Let’s take a look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of living in The Crown of the Valley.
- Gorgeous year-round Southern California weather
- Beautiful views to the north of the rugged San Gabriel Mountains
- Tons of culture and great restaurants
- Many great parks and food markets to enjoy year-round
- An hour’s drive from the beach or the mountains for winter skiing
- Scion of technology and science
- The particularly high cost of living, especially housing costs
- Bad traffic, especially during Rose Bowl events
- Poor air quality during certain times of the year
- Higher than average sales and income tax
- Higher than average crime rates in some areas
- Property Tax: The median cost of a home in Pasadena is $815,000. The average county tax rate is 0.793 percent. Based on those numbers, you can expect to pay $6,741.00 annually in property taxes.
- Sales Tax: In Pasadena, the combined sales tax rate is 10.25 percent. This rate puts Pasadena among the highest sales tax rates in California (and the country).
- State Income Tax: California income tax rates vary between 1 to 12.3 percent over ten income brackets. If your income falls between $56,086 – $286,492, you’ll pay 9.3 percent on taxable income.
Just over half of the Pasadena residents are renters, accounting for 52.2 percent of the population. Though merely 1.6 percent of the houses and apartments in the city are available to rent, the average rent is $2,918 as of September 2019 – almost double the US average of $1,470.
While none of the neighborhoods in Pasadena would be considered cheap, some areas are more affordable than others. Historic Highlands, Bungalow Heaven, Oak Knoll, Madison Heights, and Casa Grande all average the lowest rents in the city.
As of September 2019, the median home cost in Pasadena was $815,600, more than three times the US average of $231,200. Home values rose 1.2% in 2018 but are predicted to rise only 0.2% in the coming year.
Cost of Living
One very helpful resource for learning about a new city is BestPlaces.net. They rate a city’s cost of living on an average US index of 100. Pasadena’s cost of living index is a whopping 216.9 – over twice the US average. The outrageous price tag of living here is largely attributable to an expensive housing market; the cost of housing index in Pasadena is 436.5 – over four times the US average. Transportation cost is high at 179.5, but Grocery (100.4), Health (85.2), and Utilities (101) costs are all below or near the US averages.
As of March 2019, the average income of an individual was $41,268, and the medium household income was $70,845. According to the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator, a family of four would require $7,691 monthly or $92,295 annually to live a moderate lifestyle in Pasadena.
Weather & Natural Disasters
The weather in Pasadena usually remains fairly warm year-round, although summers can get pretty hot. July and August are the hottest months, with average highs of 89°F and 91°F respectively, and average lows of 64°F and 65°F. Humidity is low, so even though summer days can get hot, they’re not especially uncomfortable. The coolest months are December and January, with average highs of 67°F and 68°F and lows of 47°F and 48°F.
Pasadena averages 21.27 inches of rain annually, with most falling from December to February. You’ll only see snow when you glance up at the San Gabriel Mountain peaks.
It’s not all sunshine and roses in Pasadena, though there are plenty of both. Pasadena can experience earthquakes, flooding, and fires. It’s good to always have a plan in place in case of emergency. The City of Pasadena has a helpful emergency preparedness website to make sure you and your loved ones know what to do if and when an emergency occurs.
Economy & Job Market
Though Pasadena has seen a lower than average job growth of 0.7 percent over the last year versus the US average of 1.6 percent, the projection of 35.2 percent growth over the next ten years is slightly higher than the US average of 33.5 percent. The unemployment rate in Pasadena is currently at 3.9 percent, which is equal to the US average.
Major industries include education and health care services; professional, scientific, and management services; arts, entertainment, accommodation, and food services; and retail trade. The top employers are Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Kaiser Permanente, California Institute of Technology, Huntington Hospital, Pasadena Unified School District, AT&T, City of Pasadena, Pasadena City College, Bank of America and Pacific Clinics.
If you need help finding a job in Pasadena, the Pasadena Community Job Center is available to help. But don’t forget online job search sites such as indeed.com, careerbuilder.com, linkedin.com, snagajob.com, simplyhired.com and many more. Executives will want to use head hunter services.
Traffic and Transportation
Hopefully, you’ve got a solid list of podcasts that you enjoy, as the average one-way commute is 28.1 minutes, almost two minutes longer than the US average commute of 26.4 minutes. The majority – 69.7% – of Pasadena residents drive solo to work. Additionally, 7.1% of commuters carpool, 7.3% work from home, and 6.3% take mass transit.
Several public transit options are available. Pasadena Transit offers bus services, and The Los Angeles Metro Gold Line provides train service to and from Pasadena. Other options include Foothill Transit, LADOT, Metro Local, Metro Express, and Metro Rapid.
Four freeways pass through Pasadena, including the Foothill Freeway, I-210; the Ventura Freeway, I-134; the Long Beach Freeway, SR 710; and the Arroyo Seco Parkway, SR 110. Colorado Boulevard is the main road that runs through Old Town Pasadena.
Walk Score considers Pasadena to be somewhat walkable with a healthy walk score of 66. The neighborhoods with the friendliest walk scores include Downtown, South Lake, and Raymond Hill. The Pasadena bike score is rated 66, and the transit score is 51, thanks to the variety of public transportation options.
What to Do
With nearly ideal weather, it’s easy to enjoy Pasadena’s ample outdoor activities year-round. Plus, with Los Angeles only 10 miles southwest, you’ll have access to tons of culture and spectator sports. In one day, you can ski at Mt Baldy in the morning, then enjoy a sunset dinner at the beach.
There are dozens of parks located throughout Pasadena, where you can frolic with fido or take the kids to play. Eaton Canyon Nature Center provides easy hiking with waterfall views. You can take a day to wander the famous Huntington Library’s extensive art collections and amazing botanical gardens. During the holiday season, be sure to purchase tickets to Enchanted: Forest of Light at Descanso Gardens. But during the spring, the azalea and rhododendron flower displays are worth seeing too.
Pasadena is an architectural aficionado’s dream city. Visit the Gamble House, the former winter home of David and Mary Gamble of Procter and Gamble, built by renown architects Greene and Greene. Musical and arts events take place regularly at Gamble House. For a walk back in time, get a glimpse of “Old California” by exploring other striking mansions along Orange Grove Blvd. The Norton Simon Museum, also located on Orange Grove Blvd, houses an impressive impressionist collection. And for more architectural beauty, visit Mission San Gabriel Archangel and St. Andrew Church
You can join the knick-knack and bauble hunters who flock to the Rose Bowl Flea Market the second Sunday of every month to find trinkets, oddities, and antiques. The Rose Bowl has a handful of top-name concerts every year and also hosts the UCLA Bruins plus the Rose Bowl annual January 1, football clash.
Into professional sports? Dodger Stadium is just a fifteen-minute drive southwest, and Staples Center is always a blast to see the Lakers, Clippers, or Sparks or Kings play. For a bit of sports history, you can visit the boyhood home of Jackie Robinson or check out the Robinson Memorial.
Schools and Universities
The Pasadena Unified School District serves Pasadena, Altadena, and the Sierra Madre with 27 schools. Overall, public schools aren’t highly rated, and many families opt to send their children to private schools in the area. Eugene Field Elementary School tops the ratings with an 8/10 from GreatSchools.org. Hamilton Elementary School and San Rafael Elementary School are both rated 7/10. South Pasadena Senior High School has a top-notch rating at 10/10.
Pasadena’s higher education institutions are famous for their prestigious and illustrious offerings. California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has produced 37 Nobel Laureates who have brought 38 Nobel Prizes to Pasadena. Fuller Theological Seminary is one of the largest multi-denominational seminaries in the world. The Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts has two Pasadena campuses. ArtCenter College of Design, a four-year school, is famous for producing many renown automobile designers. The Los Angeles Music Academy College of Music’s celebrated faculty is active in the television, film, and recording industries.
Although crime was a serious problem in Pasadena’s past, currently, the crime rates are well under control. The violent crime rate of 17.7/100 is below the national average of 22.7/100. Property crime is rated at 36.5/100, just slightly higher than the US average of 35.4/100.
- Electric and water service: Pasadena Water and Power, 100 North Garfield Ave., Room N106, Pasadena, CA 91109. (626) 744-4005
- Gas service: SoCalGas, 1214 E Green St., Pasadena, CA 91106. (800) 427-2200
- Trash pick-up/recycling service: Pasadena Department of Public Works is responsible for solid waste collection and recycling. Private haulers are also available and compete with city services. Contact the department at 100 N Garfield Ave, Pasadena, CA 91109. (626) 744-7311
- Internet/Cable service: DIRECTV, AT&T, Dish, Spectrum
Best Neighborhoods in Pasadena, CA
Niche.com rates Pasadena as the #5 healthiest city in America and the #11 most diverse city. As diverse as its residents, so too are the neighborhoods available:
Areavibes.com rates South Arroyo as the #1 neighborhood in Pasadena. The median home value in South Arroyo is $850,970, and the median rental price is $1,944, over $500 higher than the median Pasadena rent price of $1,421.
Bordered by the 134 to the north and Fair Oaks Ave to the east, South Arroyo is less than a 10-minute drive southwest of downtown. According to Trulia.com, 89% of the locals consider South Arroyo to be a dog-friendly neighborhood, and 74% say restaurants are easily within walking distance.
Arlington Garden, Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden, and the Wrigley Mansion all call South Arroyo home and help it earn its title as the Best Neighborhood in Pasadena. The Arroyo Seco green space bisects the neighborhood from north to south. The Lower Arroyo Park and San Pascual Stables are a few of the amenities in the greenspace. The area west of Arroyo Seco is more residential, with homes built along gracefully curving streets. East of Arroyo Seco, you’ll find a mix of homes amid commercial amenities.
South Arroyo students attend San Rafael Elementary School, rated 7/10 from greatschools.org; South Pasadena Middle School, 10/10; and South Pasadena Senior High School, 10/10.
This community is the #2 rated neighborhood in Pasadena according to areavibes.com. East Central has a median home value of $705,009 and a median rent price of $1,354, which is slightly lower than the overall Pasadena median rental cost. The median household income is 71% higher than the US average at $94,526.
Eaton Canyon Natural Area is a beautiful green space where residents can enjoy hiking and waterfall views. Be sure to pack sandwiches from Pasadena Sandwich for your hike. During the summer, residents enjoy outdoor movies at Street Food Cinema in Victory Park. Locals appreciate the low crime rate and above-average schools.
East Central is a quick five-minute drive north of downtown, but the northern section of the neighborhood has an attractive rural vibe. The boundaries are Orange Grove Blvd on the south, Lake Ave on the west, Madre St on the east, and a very irregular boundary of zig-zagging streets on the north.
East Central students attend Hamilton Elementary School, 7/10; Marshall Fundamental School, 6/10; and Pasadena High School, 6/10.
North East is the #3 rated neighborhood in Pasadena, according to the areavibes.com. The median home value in the neighborhood is $755,883, and the median rental price is $1,460, about average for Pasadena. At $104,472, the median household income is 89% higher than the national average. Although residents have higher than average incomes, the crime rate is 1% higher than the US average.
Tucked up against the foothills, North East is a hilly neighborhood that 82% of residents say is dog-friendly, according to Trulia.com. However, residents warn that coyotes roam the area and to exercise caution with family pets.
North East is a 15-minute drive northeast of downtown. Ichima, a 4-star sushi restaurant, is a locals’ favorite according to Yelp.
Students living in North East attend Eugene Field Elementary School, 8/10; Woodrow Wilson Middle School, 4/10; and Pasadena High School, 6/10.
This area is the most affordable of the top-rated neighborhoods (#4) in Pasadena, with a median home value of $390,644 and a median rental price of $1,315. West Central borders Orange Grove Blvd to the north, N Hill Ave to the east, E Colorado Blvd to the south, and the 710 freeway to the west.
The neighborhood is almost a part of downtown, so it’s an easy walk to access the boutiques, bistros, and grills along Colorado Blvd. Homes are available in an array of types and styles including condos, apartments, California bungalows, mid-century moderns, Tudors, and one-story ranches.
Residents can enjoy fresh produce and flowers from the neighborhood farmer’s market every Saturday. Locals and fans from other neighborhoods can be found waiting for a table most nights at Slater’s 50/50, known for their hamburger that’s 50% ground beef and 50% ground bacon.
Neighborhood students attend Hamilton Elementary School, 7/10; Woodrow Wilson Middle School, 4/10; and Pasadena High School, 6/10.
This area is the #5 rated neighborhood in Pasadena according to areavibes.com. The median home value is $616,188, and the median rental price is $1,665, higher than average for Pasadena. Although South residents have a 66% higher than US average median household income at $92,058, the crime rate in South is 5% higher than the US average. The public school test scores are 34% lower than the US average, but South Pasadena Middle School and South Pasadena Senior High School have both earned a top rating of 10/10.
Located less than a 10-minute drive southeast of downtown, the majority of locals say that the neighborhood is walkable to both restaurants and grocery stores, according to trulia.com. Houston’s Restaurant is a popular spot for birthday celebrations or family meals. You can grab a delicious hot dog or burger served up on King’s Hawaiian Bread at Dog Haus Biergarten.
South students attend Hamilton Elementary School, 7/10; South Pasadena Middle School, 10/10; and South Pasadena Senior High School, 10/10.
According to areavibes.com, this is the #6 rated neighborhood in Pasadena. Here, the median home value is $513,271, and the median rental price is $1,270. Residents have a median household income of $68,205, 23% higher than the national average. This neighborhood is safer than some of the other Pasadena areas, with crime rates 10% lower than the US average.
Bordered by Orange Grove Blvd on the north, N Altadena Dr to the east, E Colorado Blvd to the south, and N Hill Ave to the west, Mid Central is a 10-minute drive due west of downtown. Mid Central is a prime neighborhood for viewing the Rose Parade that files down Colorado Blvd every year.
Mid Central has loads of amenities, so shopping, dining, and grabbing a coffee are convenient. Locals often meet for an espresso at Jameson Brown Coffee Roasters. Gaon Authentic Korean and Zephyr Cafe are popular spots for weeknight meals out.
Mid Central students attend Hamilton Elementary School, 7/10; Woodrow Wilson Middle School, 4/10; and Pasadena High School, 6/10.
South East is the #7 rated neighborhood in Pasadena. In this neighborhood, the median home value is $664,443, and the median rental price is $1,530. It’s about a 10-minute drive east of downtown. Condos, apartments, and vintage single-family homes are available for rent or purchase, but the crime rate is 22% higher than the national average.
Bordered by E California Blvd on the north, N Atlantic Blvd on the west, Huntington Dr on the south, and San Marino Ave on the east, South East is about a ten-minute drive from downtown.
South East is home to the Huntington Library Art Collection and Botanical Gardens, a beautiful complex of culture that you can visit over and over again.
Coffee shops, grocery stores, and restaurants are conveniently walkable. You can enjoy a taste of the Mediterranean at Sahara Middle Eastern Cuisine or a bite of Thai at President Thai Restaurant. With a distinctly urban vibe, parking in South East is limited, so residents note that you may need to obtain a parking permit for street parking.
Students attend Hamilton Elementary School, 7/10; Woodrow Wilson Middle School, 4/10; and Pasadena High School, 6/10.
Areavibes.com names North Central the #8 rated neighborhood in Pasadena. The median home value is $488,568, and the median rental price is $1,197, making it one of the more affordable neighborhoods on the top-rated list. The median household income is equal to the national average of $55,459. Crime in North Central is 48% lower than the US average, according to areavibes.
North Central is less than a 10-minute drive north of downtown and is bordered on the north by New York Dr, on the west by N Hill Ave, on the south by Orange Grove Blvd, and on the east by N Altadena Dr.
Seafood lovers will want to check out the 4-star (Yelp) rated Pasadena Fish Market, or for some yummy pastries, try Old Sasoon Bakery or Vrej Pastry. Many amenities are within walking and biking distance, and you won’t have to leave to neighborhood to run most of your errands.
Families with young children may want to seek out a different neighborhood or at least private schools. North Central public schools include Henry W Longfellow Elementary School, 5/10; Charles W Elliot Middle School, 2/10; and John Muir High School; 3/10.
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