Posted in Around Town

Pasadena: Enduring (the) Object of Jealousy

We are just so self-important here in Pasadena. We embody the civic version of “house-proud.” The rest of L.A. regards us with suspicion and routinely castigates us because we are just about as far east you can go without falling off the edge of the earth (it ends at outer Monrovia). We believe Pasadena may be one of the centers of the universe along with New York and London. Today we have an article in the travel section of the New York Times to prove it. Take that, West L.A.!

The little old lady from Pasadena? Well, that phrase reflected Pasadena’s long-standing image of aging conservatism. The lyrics of the song say she drives a “brand new shiny red Super Stock Dodge” and “…there is nobody meaner than the little old lady from Pasadena…a terror out on Colorado Boulevard…” but no one remembers that part. These days, she suffers from road rage because the traffic on Colorado moves so g*d*** slowly. (So take the bus or walk already!)

Back to the newspaper-at-the-other-center-of-the-universe, the Pasadena Star-News New York Times. Writer Jennifer Steinhauer had the temerity to point out our “chauvinistic sense of individual self.” She proclaims Pasadena “…a shining jewel of southern California, and an enduring object of jealousy.” Oh Jennifer, if you only knew.

You can dress a city up, sure enough. Alas, we’re long on style, restaurants and shopping, and short on what actually matters. Let the diatribe commence.

Nah, I’ll just do a list:

1. Civic participation – Pasadena has elections and people don’t vote. Just one example: General Municipal Election of April 17, 2007. Number of registered voters eligible to vote in this election: 18,048. Number of people who voted: 3,812. That’s 21.1%.

2. Pasadena Unified School District – the little shrinking school district that coulda woulda shoulda. I’m a parent-veteran of PUSD. Classroom teachers aren’t equipped (nor should they be expected) to deal with the social problems the plague the district. Support services are needed for the kids who don’t speak English at home, for those from very low income families. Some kids have two parents working long hours to afford living here, some kids only one. Some kids have parents who are still dealing with their own gang-related problems, or substance abuse, or inability to get and keep a job because of involvement in gangs or substances or both.

As far as the Pasadena police are concerned, there are no former gang members, just ones who happen to be on probation at the moment. Or ones who work well as informants. (Believe me, I’d love to be corrected on this one.)

I don’t have the stats in front of me, but whatever our high-school drop out rate is, it is too high. I hope the 16-year old mentioned in this L.A. Times story makes is through.

3. Density – I don’t have a problem with density, really I don’t. I just think that southern Californians do not want to be parted from their personal automobiles, that magic bubble that let’s us move through the world while listening to the tunes of our choice KPCC. So if we’re going to build for density, we need some kind of campaign to coax people into transit-taking behavior. Kind of like the 5-a-day campaign to get people eating fruit and vegetables. We need ARTS buses with expanded evening hours. And let’s throw affordable housing units in the mix, shall we?

I like living in Pasadena. I like places like Europane and Gale’s and Pie ‘n Burger, all mentioned in the NYT article. But that’s ‘shiny side out’ Pasadena.

The Pasadena I live in has boom box cars (your actual image may vary) rattling my windows, and ghetto birds flying overhead, and kids walking up and down the street during school hours (truancy—one of Pasadena’s dirty little secrets). Yes, Virginia, there is violence in Pasadena.

Pasadena carefully and methodically crafts the image it projects to the rest of the world. I wish some of this intentionality could be redirected to addressing issues that would benefit more of the people who actually live here.

Disclaimer: Posted with all due respect to those who served in Viet-Nam; those who vote; those who work or volunteer in any capacity with PUSD; non-car owners, and those who make it a habit to walk and take the bus.

I’ll also give a shout-out to those for whom civic participation includes the stroking of the keyboard:

The Foothill Cities Blog

Pasadena’s Political Underbelly – Recent post: “If We’re So Great, Why is Everyone Complaining All the Time?

Miss Havisham, Eye Level Pasadena, Todd Ruiz, Fred Ortega, Frank Girardot

The crew at the P-Dub

Larry Wilson. Pasadena Now. Even Pasadena Pundit. (I’m feeling generous).

And finally, “If-Maybelline-Goes-Bust-It’s-Not-My-Fault” and Purveyor of Top Ten Lists AP. Now with all-new Republican content! (I think he’s just a libertarian).


This is a personal blog. Expect a potpourri of stuff.

8 thoughts on “Pasadena: Enduring (the) Object of Jealousy

  1. Hah….if “outer monrovia” catches on I will credit you for running with it. Seriously great post. Of course we do know the rest of the world was created so we could have a nice place to vacation, right? Afterall it doesn’t get much better than So CA, warts and all.

    Great post, I enjoy reading what you put up.

  2. You’ve got some shout outs to some great people. Especially guys like Foothill Cities who keep all of us in check.

    Great post!

  3. Pasadena may be the cultural capital of the San Gabriel Valley, but it has a LONG way to go before it’s the food capital, as evidenced by the restaurant picks in the NY Times article. Gales? It’s good, but I wouldn’t flaunt it in the NY Times. El Toreo? Who goes there? Pie ‘n’ Burger? I know Jonathan Gold loves it, but I think it’s totally over-rated. The only food recommendation I can get behind is Europane.

  4. Pie N Burger is WAY overrated.

    Best restaurants in Pasadena:

    1. Robin’s
    2. Philly’s Best
    3. Tiffany’s Coffee
    4. In N Out
    5. Connal’s

  5. Pie & Burger is way overrated also they don’t take plastic necessitating a trip to the ATM, what bother.

    Feature pieces in the New York times are a good thing no matter what the the actual truth, anything that makes us look desirable in the nation’s eyes can only keep the housing bust away from our fair city for another day or two.

  6. @ Howey – I’ve had two people in the last two weeks telling me that they’ve looked at foreclosures in my neighborhood. I figure I’m a good $100K down in equity right now. Thankfully, I owe less than market value.

    @AP and @Frazgo – Thanks for the thumbs up. Much appreciated.

    @Susan C – AP is on a budget, hence his restaurant picks. I agree with you about Gale’s, and I just about fell over at the mention of El Toreo.

    Pie ‘n Burger – my favorite thing there is the homemade toast. Still, I haven’t been there is years.

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