Featuring spectacular views of the San Gabriel Mountains, Altadena was developed as a suburb of Los Angeles in 1887. It has long refused annexation by neighboring Pasadena. Its unincorporated status allowed it to become a major settlement area for working- and middle-class African-Americans during a period in which non-whites were forbidden to live in the vast majority of greater Los Angeles.
The name Altadena derives from the Spanish alta, meaning "upper", and -dena from Pasadena; the area is adjacent to, but at a higher elevation than, Pasadena.
Altadena is part of the County of Los Angeles and is politically run by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors who have executive, legislative and judicial powers. There are five members of the Board of Supervisors, elected by geographic district. Altadena is in District five, presently represented by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. In 1975, a group of Altadenans formed The Altadena Town Council with the help of Los Angeles County Supervisor Baxter Ward and the Pasadena Chapter of the League of Women Voters.
The Altadena Town Council acts as an ombudsman group to express to county, state and federal agencies the will and wishes of the Altadena community. Altadena is identified collectively by eight census tract, (U.S. Census Bureau) from each of which two resident census tract representatives are elected. The Altadena Town Council meets monthly at the Altadena Community Center to provide a forum for residents and government officials to convene. The council has no legislative powers and makes no legal decisions for the community; it only operates to express consensus to governmental officials.
Official tree: The Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara). Indigenous to the Himalayas, the deodar was brought as seeds to Altadena in 1883 by Founder John Woodbury who saw the beautiful trees in Italy. After growing the trees for two years, the trees were transplanted to Santa Rosa Avenue where they now stand majestically as Christmas Tree Lane.
Official flower: The California Golden Poppy (Eschscholzia californica). Indigenous to the southland, the golden poppy was a landmark to Spanish sailors who recognized the area by a sweeping gold carpet. The sailors referred to the marvelous vision as sabanilla de oro, or, "altar cloth of gold."
Christmas Tree Lane is a 0.7 mile stretch of Santa Rosa Avenue from Woodbury Road to Altadena Drive. It has been a holiday attraction since 1920 and it is the oldest large-scale outdoor Christmas lighting venue in the world. Each December, members of the Christmas Tree Lane Association festoon the 110 still standing giant deodars that line the street with thousands of Christmas lights. Christmas Tree Lane was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, and is a California Historical Landmark.
Among Altadena's Christmas lighting attractions is the Balian Mansion, which collects world-wide tours for its Christmas lighting display. The Balian Mansion has been lighted since 1955 and is arguably the pioneer of home holiday lighting. The Balian Mansion is located at the 5-point junction of Mendocino Street, Mendocino Lane, Allen Avenue, and East Glenview Terrace.
The historic Mount Lowe Railway was once a scenic railway that carried passengers to any four resort hotels high in the San Gabriel Mountains above Altadena and Pasadena. Although the mountains and the remains of the railway are not strictly in Altadena, the most direct trail to the sites, the Sam Merrill Trail, starts in Altadena at the top of Lake Avenue and leads to Mount Echo, about 3 miles. Chaney Trail, just west of the intersection at Fair Oaks Avenue and Loma Alta Street, is a forestry service road leading to the old right of way. The Mount Lowe Railway was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.
The Cobb Estate at the top of Lake Avenue is now a free botanical garden of the United States Forest Service. It is guarded by its historic gates which are easily bypassed to allow visitors and hikers to ascend its long and winding paved driveway to the site of what was once one of Altadena's premier mansions. This is found alongside the Sam Merrill Trail which accesses Las Flores Canyon on the way to Echo Mountain.
Farnsworth Park located on Lake Avenue is a large county park that offers picnic grounds, play areas, and a club house and amphitheater.
Altadena is located at (34.188605, -118.134795).
There were 14,780 households out of which 34.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.3% were married couples living together, 15.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.8% were non-families. 21.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.82 and the average family size was 3.29.
In the CDP the population was spread out with 26.6% under the age of 18, 6.4% from 18 to 24, 30.1% from 25 to 44, 24.6% from 45 to 64, and 12.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 91.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.6 males.
The median income for a household in the CDP was $60,549, and the median income for a family was $66,800. Males had a median income of $49,098 versus $38,054 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $27,604. About 7.4% of families and 10.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.1% of those under age 18 and 8.3% of those age 65 or over.
In 1880, Capt. Frederick Woodbury and his brother John Woodbury of Marshalltown, Iowa, purchased 937 acres known as the Woodbury Ranch. John Woodbury established the Pasadena Improvement Company in 1887 with a plot plan of residential development referred to as the Woodbury Subdivision. They contacted Byron O. Clark who established a nursery in the foothills in 1875 and had since moved away. He called his nursery "Altadena Nursery", a name he coined from the Spanish "alta" meaning "upper" and "dena" from Pasadena. Woodbury asked if he could use the name "Altadena" for his subdivision and Clark agreed.
The newly sprouted community of Altadena immediately began to attract millionaires from the East. In 1887 Andrew McNally, the printing magnate from Chicago and his good friend Col. G. G. Green had built mansions on what was to become Millionaire's Row, Mariposa Street near Santa Rosa. Newspaper moguls William Armiger Scripps and William Kellogg built side by side just east of Fair Oaks Avenue. The grandson of Andrew McNally, Wallace Neff, became a famous Southern California architect. He started his career in Altadena with the design and construction of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church (parish est.1918) which was dedicated in October 1926.
Over the years Altadena has been subject to attempted annexation by Pasadena. Annexation was stopped in 1956 by community campaigns though it has been resurrected several times since by Pasadena without success.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Zoned elementary schools include: