New York Times calls Pasadena a “Transforming Suburb”

Demographic Trends Make Walkable Urban Neighborhoods More Desirable

Pasadena real estate will continue to hold value if the city continues support for higher-density mixed-use developments with good transit and pedestrian connections.

A recent op-ed piece in the New York Times by Christopher B. Leinberger explains why Pasadena housing values have not suffered as greatly as “fringe suburbs” (the drive-till-you-qualify tract home suburbs in the Inland Empire and outer LA county):  Pasadena’s density and walkability is increasingly more desirable.

In the late 1990s, high-end outer suburbs contained most of the expensive housing in the United States, as measured by price per square foot . . . Today, the most expensive housing is in the high-density, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods of the center city and inner suburbs.

. . . Simply put, there has been a profound structural shift — a reversal of what took place in the 1950s, when drivable suburbs boomed and flourished as center cities emptied and withered.

This increased demand for high-density, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods is the result of a demographic shift in 2 generations, he explains:

1. The Baby Boomers–who are gradually becoming empty-nesters–are downsizing from larger homes.

2. The Millennials–who are just starting to leave the nest–have been raised on sitcoms in urban settings (Seinfeld, Friends, Sex in the City vs. the Boomers’ Leave it to Beaver, The Brady Bunch, etc.) and therefore consider city life to be an attractive norm. Also, Millennials are marrying and producing children at lower rates than previous generations, and need less space for smaller households.

Pasadena, as an inner suburb of Los Angeles with its’ own urban core, has enhanced its’ walkability and therefore desirability by permitting higher-density mixed-use development in Downtown Pasadena, replacing single-story strip malls with multi-story condos/apartments that have retail or commercial uses on the ground floor.  By placing these developments next to the Gold Line, and by making the Downtown Neighborhood more pedestrian-friendly, a Downtown resident is less dependent upon a car to fulfill daily needs.  That’s an increasingly attractive option that is in short supply nationwide.

Pasadena should support this trend with a General Plan that allows greater density within the Downtown’s Central District, a General Plan that does not stifle development with severe height restrictions but rather encourages function and design that engages pedestrians. Keeping in mind that Pasadena’s allure also is due to its many beautiful older building and historic character, Pasadena should demand that new development be equally high-quality and/or respectful of historic landmarks. And, Pasadena should invest in more pedestrian-friendly improvements, such as a streetcar system that would extend the walking range of residents and make parking easier for visitors.

Read the New York Times article here: The Death of the Fringe Suburb, November 25, 2011 by Christopher B. Leinberger

For a much more in-depth analysis, see: The Next Real Estate Boom, The Brookings Institution, November 2010.


About the DPNA:

The Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association  is the voice of the residents of the Central District of Pasadena, California.

We meet monthly on the Third Thursday at 6:30pm in the Gamble Lounge of Pasadena Presbyterian Church at 585 E Colorado Blvd.

The DPNA promotes a walkable urban lifestyle in a city that is vibrant with thriving businesses, excellent arts, good government, and active public spaces.

The DPNA advocates for urban parks, wider sidewalks, pedestrian-biased street design, bike lanes, trees & shrubbery, mixed-use & transit-oriented development, enduring architecture, a streetcar, and other amenities that improve life for residents of an urban city center.

Downtown Pasadena is defined roughly as the 210 freeway (north), Catalina Ave (east), California Blvd (south), and Pasadena Ave (west).

Sign up for our free newsletter!

We send out 1-2 emails per month with updates about what we’re doing.