Historic Places Pasadena: Completing Our Story

Welcome to the website for Historic Places Pasadena: Completing Our Story, an effort directed by the City Council to identify historic resources within the City of Pasadena!

Pasadena has a wealth of historic resources and one of the oldest historic preservation programs in California. Since the City’s historic preservation program has been in existence, the City Council has designated over 200 individual historic sites and 26 historic neighborhoods, in addition to a large number of properties and districts within the City that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The City has also conducted a number of studies to identify as many eligible historic resources as possible to ensure that everyone is aware of these properties during the Planning & Community Development Department’s review processes. Most of the historic resources we’ve designated or identified in studies have been determined to be historically significant because they represent an important type of architecture, but properties can also be historically significant because they are associated with significant events, development trends or people or as examples of more typical or simpler building types and the City has identified very few resources in these categories. Our documentation of significant architecture is also outdated and needs to be refreshed under a modern lens. In recognition of these challenges in a City that places high value on its historic places, the City Council has directed staff to conduct this citywide historic context statement and historic resources survey project, the first of its kind in over 30 years.

We need to hear from you! View our Interactive Story map and tell us what historic places, events, people and stories are important to you to ensure that they are considered in our research. Join our email list and follow @cityofpasadena on social media to be informed of important milestones and events about the project. With your help, we hope to achieve a more complete record of historic places to ensure that they are protected for future generations and to better understand the full story of Pasadena’s history!

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: The project’s community engagement team is attending events and meetings to discuss the project with the public and request input. Please click on the Events tab for information about upcoming meetings and events where you can engage with the project team. If you would like to request a presentation or informational table at an upcoming meeting or event, please contact Kevin Johnson at (626) 744-7806 or kevinjohnson@cityofpasadena.net.

Below is a listing of Frequently Asked Questions that provide basic information about the project:

The City of Pasadena has been protecting historic resources since 1969 and was one of the first local governments in California to be designated as a Certified Local Government. It has a vast inventory of properties that are listed in the local, state, and national registers and an extensive library of historic context reports prepared over the course of the program's existence. The City has also conducted many historic resources surveys, both geographic and thematic in nature, conducts an annual Historic Preservation Awards program, and has an online database of historic resources and an associated smart phone app, Historic Pasadena.

The City last prepared a Citywide Historic Context Report and conducted a Citywide Historic Resources Survey in 1993. Since that time, targeted studies and surveys have been conducted of each period in the City’s architectural history as well as specific types of historic resources; however, it has been approximately 10 years since a study or survey of historic resources has been conducted. Previously prepared studies and surveys were limited in scope or focused on architecture and building types, but do not provide sufficient identification of properties that may have historical significance based on historical events, development trends, or historically significant people. As a Certified Local Government (CLG) and a community rich with historic resources of many different types, awareness of the types and locations of the City’s historic resources is essential to create a sense of community identity, maintain the City’s status as a CLG and a leader in historic preservation, create a higher level of certainty in the planning process, and ensure proper management of historic resources as required by the Zoning Code and State law.

In 2022, the City Council provided funding to the Planning & Community Development Department to conduct a comprehensive Citywide Historic Resources Survey. In 2023, the City engaged a team of professional consultants to prepare a comprehensive Citywide Historic Context Statement and Historic Resources Survey. The project officially kicked off in July 2023 and is scheduled to be completed in 2025. This website will be updated with additional information as the project progresses.

The City has hired a team of professional consultants including Historic Resources Group (HRG), Architectural Resources Group (ARG), and Teresa Grimes Consulting to complete the Citywide Historic Context Statement and Historic Resources Survey. Cindy Olnick, an independent communications consultant, will work with the City to engage the community throughout the process. All members of the consultant team meet professional qualification standards set forth by the National Park Service (NPS).

In order to understand the historic significance of a given area, it is necessary to examine those resources within the appropriate historic context(s). A historic context statement is a written document that provides the framework for evaluating a property for historic significance and integrity. The purpose of a historic context statement is to place built resources in the appropriate historic, social, and architectural contexts so that the relationship between an area’s physical environment and its broader history can be established. It is not intended to be a comprehensive history. Instead, its purpose is to highlight trends and patterns critical to the understanding of an area’s built environment. This project will synthesize existing studies and historical narratives about the City with new research focused on those aspects of the City’s history that have not been previously documented.  Public outreach will be conducted to assist in identifying those aspects of the City’s history that are significant to the community. The historic context statement will provide an approach to understanding the layers of history in Pasadena, weaving together events and development patterns, social and cultural movements, important people and diverse populations, and architectural influences. The overarching goal is to provide a clear and comprehensive document that tells the story of Pasadena; provides a solid foundation for ongoing historic preservation efforts; and helps guide planning and land use decisions in the City.

A Historic Resources Survey is a planning tool that is used to identify, document, and evaluate places of social, historical, and architectural significance. Data is collected about properties that reflect important themes in a community’s history. Survey findings inform long-range planning efforts and project reviews, support policy goals, and help City officials, property owners and others make informed planning and land use decisions.

More information about Historic Resources Surveys.

A survey begins with research on a property to understand its significance. Field inspections are then completed to identify distinctive architectural features, assess the impact of alterations, and photograph each property. All evaluations are completed from the public right-of-way by qualified professional surveyors working on behalf of the City; the survey team will not enter or otherwise access private property.

The survey will identify individual buildings and structures, objects, and sites. It will also identify groupings of related properties for potential eligibility as historic or landmark districts. The survey will evaluate properties within the City that were constructed through the year 1979 and are not currently designated as historic resources.

Individual resources and districts are evaluated for significance in accordance with criteria established for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, the California Register of Historical Resources, and as City of Pasadena Landmarks or Landmark Districts.

No. Although surveys identify and evaluate resources that may be eligible for designation, no actual designation results directly from survey activity. Designation by the City of Pasadena and nominations for listing in the California or National Registers are separate processes which include property owner notification and public hearings.

Yes! We want to know the people, places, and stories in Pasadena that you care about. Please sign up for the project mailing list, follow @cityofpasadena on Instagram and Facebook, and look to this space for updates, including opportunities to participate in the project.

Project Mailing List

Please sign up for the project mailing list:

Historic Resources Survey Project MailChimp Signup

Please contact Kevin Johnson (kevinjohnson@cityofpasadena.net), Design & Historic Preservation Section, Pasadena Planning & Community Development Department with any questions about the project.

To be informed of public input opportunities and major project milestones, please follow @cityofpasadena on Instagram and Facebook or sign up for direct email updates here.

Project Mailing List

Please sign up for the project mailing list:

Historic Resources Survey Project MailChimp Signup