Real Estate in West Altadena vs. East Altadena: The Great Divide

When it comes to property values, where exactly is the dividing line of East and West Altadena?

So often people ask me this question, "Where exactly is the dividing line of West Altadena and East Altadena?" Well, if you ask any Realtor, they'll tell you Lake Avenue is the dividing line.  After all, most streets in East Altadena have sidewalks and people seem to care more about their properties and keep in touch with their neighbors. And the home values seem to be a bit higher. But, hey, wait...I live in West Altadena! We may not have sidewalks on my street, but, I take care of my property and I have some real great neighbors. There are some streets that do have sidewalks, too. Does that make the house worth more?

Perhaps the dividing line should move further West. Like maybe Marengo, or Fair Oaks or even Lincoln Avenue. But, isn't La Vina over there? How do you put a value on a piece of property in pristine condition in West Altadena vs. a property in East Altadena?  The multiple listing service doesn't separate East and West Altadena. But, they do separate NE Pasadena, SE Pasadena, NW Pasadena and SW Pasadena. I know some blocks in both East and West Altadena that I wouldn't want to live on. A local Realtor should know the area. They should know the good blocks, bad blocks, and history of the area.

I happen to live on Alameda over near Santa Rosa (Christmas Tree Lane). The property has been in my family since 1966. In 2003, my husband, a contractor, and I built a new house on the property.  A few years ago I had someone call me saying he was looking for a home in West Altadena because it was cheaper than East Altadena. I told him that I had a listing on Alameda coming on the market soon. He said, "Oh, no. Alameda's a bad street".

Of course, I took a personal offense to that statement taking pride in my neighborhood. I asked him why he thought that way and he said that there's nothing but riff raff going on on the street. Then I thought for a moment, he must be talking about the one block where all the apartments are over near Lake Avenue where it's over run with cars and people stop their cars in the middle of the street to talk to someone not allowing room for other cars to pass. Perhaps this might be his only perception?

I pointed out the other beautiful million dollar homes on the other blocks of Alameda and told him how long the people have been in their homes and how nice everyone is, but, that didn't matter. His mind was set. His naivety may have prevented him from getting a rather nice home.

On the West side of Lake Avenue there are beautiful homes and neighborhoods that shouldn't be discounted just because they're "on the other side". There are small cul-de-sacs that are little communities in themselves that make you feel like you're in a story book land.

As for safety, you'll find more home robberies in East Altadena and more vehicle robberies in West Altadena. There are more street lights in West Altadena than in East Altadena. And, yes, there are more sidewalks in East Altadena.

How do you feel about the great divide? Should it stay at Lake Avenue? Should it move further West or even East? How does YOUR block stack up to others around you? I'd love to hear your opinions.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lisa Maiorana May 06, 2011 at 04:49 PM
I think it would also help, only if an agent were so inclined, to do a tour of the other neighborhoods that the client might not be willing to look at. Thay way you could show them how magnificant and beautiful other parts of Altadena are and they would also get a chance to see the warm and welcoming people that live in those areas as well. Just a thought! ;)
True Freedom May 06, 2011 at 06:08 PM
Our agent initially took us to houses in all parts of town, until we asked him not to. What prevented us from looking in certain areas was the "patchiness"... like the author mentions, there are beautiful blocks with apparent pride of ownership in every part of town. The problem, for me, was a block's proximity to "bad" blocks. For me, an area that maximized it's distance from bad blocks was most desirable... because it minimized the chance for bad blocks to grow closer to me, minimized bad block folks from cruising through my block, minimized my necessity for traveling through bad blocks (I don't want to see it, actually, even if I don't live in it), etc. We looked at a home in La Vina, but the drive up Lincoln was a deal killer. My wife occasionally works late nites, and I didn't want her making that drive. Not long after we decided not to buy there, there was a rush hour shooting on Lincoln. So, parts of Altadena and Pasadena were just too patchy for my tastes, despite some beautiful blocks with beautiful homes.
michele Zack May 06, 2011 at 07:43 PM
One person's paradise (neat post-war box neighborhoods in East Altadena's Presidents Streets) is my idea of DULL and BORING. Yet where we live on Marengo north of Mountain View (huge lot, fabulous architecture, great neighbors) is deemed "too patchy" or funky by others who like more uniformity and neighbors they think are more likely to be like you. You buy where you like and can afford, discussions of east and west are really besides the point! We looked all over Altadena in the mid-1980s when we were looking to buy, lucky for us we found the perfect house! (Don't want to break spell, but I can say in 25 years we've never had crime here, Altadena's overall crime rate, despite the headlines, is lower than most places in SoCal.)
Leslie Aitken May 06, 2011 at 11:24 PM
When I bought my house in 1976, my real estate agent told us that we could definitely find the best prices west of Lake Street -- and ironically it is still very much the same 35 years later. With inflation, the housing market has skyrocketed but the prices west of Lake have stayed lower. Altadena is a very eclectic place and I feel so grateful for my years here. It isn't perfect. I have been fortunate with only one robbery of some minor things from my vehicle.......but there have been shootings near my house over the years -- probably 7-9 in 35 years. Recently, there was a young man killed 2 blocks from us. I hate that. The neighborhood watch groups do make a difference. The next ACONA meeting, Altadena Coalition of Neighborhood Associations is May 24th at 7 pm to 8:30 at the Altadena library. It is a great meeting and very helpful. Gives me hope for improvement!
mister altadena May 06, 2011 at 11:41 PM
Guess some reputations are hard to shake!
True Freedom May 09, 2011 at 04:48 PM
Guess I should have used the adjective: "sketchy" instead of patchy. I dig an eclectic mix of neighbors, architecture, etc... what I don't dig are neighborhoods with folks that look like gang bangers, drug dealing, abandoned shopping carts, random street dumping, litter, unkempt yards, etc. So, I wouldn't want to buy a house... even on a good block free of sketch, if it were close to a sketchy area. "Sketch free" need not be uniform, dull and boring.
Linda Lane-White May 09, 2011 at 08:33 PM
Thank you everyone for your insight and pride in Altadena. I still feel safe to walk my dogs in West Altadena, even late at night. When I was in Kindergarten at Altadena Elementary, I used to stand by myself on the corner of Altadena Drive and Fair Oaks waiting for the bus. I'm aware that times have changed and there's no way that would happen today. Leslie, thank you for the ACONA information. It's ironic that I had a call a week ago from a friend of a neighbor down on Woodbury near El Molino asking about a Neighborhood Watch contact. Since Sam Estrada left, there was no one I knew at Altadena Sheriff to ask about it. I'll be at the meeting if I'm not at the gym that night (in the dance class I told you about that I haven't been able to attend since having my foot hit by a car the evening of the Victor Wright event).
True Freedom May 09, 2011 at 10:12 PM
on the issue of crime, check out www.crimemapping.com It shows a visual map with icons for different crime types. You can select certain types, date ranges, etc. Relative to the east/west of Lake question.. I found it interesting that assaults in 2011 were almost exclusively west of lake, while property crimes seemed about evenly distributed.
Dan Abendschein (Editor) May 09, 2011 at 10:25 PM
Yes, during my search for real estate, the two essential sites I put all the addresses into were crimemapping.com and walkscore.com
Billy Malone May 12, 2011 at 07:12 AM
I live west of Lake and its where we have chosen to raise our family. We could not be happier, there is a real sense of community here that would be hard to find anywhere, in all of Altadena for that matter. All our neighbors know each others names and everyone stops to chat during evening or morning strolls with the dog. Weekend BBQ, playdates with kids, coffee drop-ins have become a daily routine. Everyone helps each other in everyway, whether its trading lawnmowers or cups of sugar and an egg, its truely a magical place from the past. No one told any of us that we can't live this way because its west of Lake?
Lisa Maiorana May 12, 2011 at 01:37 PM
@ Billy, you are so right! There are gorgeous mansions on your street (one in fact that was up for sale several years ago). I like to think about it like this: some of us didn't grow up in the best of neighborhoods but they were neighborhoods. We all had close relationships with our neighbors, ran around outside to play (at night no less), asked if our neighbor needed anything at the store before we went so we could pick something up for them and vise versa. If we went back to those communities where we all grew up today we probably wouldn't want to live there now but we have very fond memories of them to this day! It's all a matter of perspective and you're simply cutting yourselves short if you don't take the opportunity to look at other areas of location as well.
Alexander May 12, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Check out this link that displays 2010 census info and enter zip code 91001: http://projects.nytimes.com/census/2010/explorer Lake Ave IS an invisible line...
michele Zack May 12, 2011 at 03:47 PM
@Billy, I have many friends living on the "good" side of town, and they do not have the kind of cozy neighborliness that exists our side of Lake. Recently, I introduced two friends who actually live across the street from each other on one of the most beautiful streets in all of Altadena. They had never met, despite being neighbors for over 4 years! Seems strange, we know all our neighbors, and socialize with several.
michele Zack May 12, 2011 at 04:23 PM
@Alexander. Altadena is among the most racially integrated communities around. East of Lake, maybe 20 percent black, west of Lake, closer to 30 percent. If there is an "invisible line", it is more about socio-economics and life-style preference than race. 2010 census shows Altadena is about 50 percent white, 30 percent black, 20 percent hispanic and Asian, with White and Asian are the growing categories right now. Our town has a great mix of people, concentrating just on race can cause you to miss some of the most interesting trends.
Lisa Maiorana May 12, 2011 at 04:30 PM
Rainbows have many different colors in them not just one! To enjoy the beauty of it you must look at all the colors!
True Freedom May 12, 2011 at 04:39 PM
Reading some of y'all's posts, it makes it sound like East Altadena is dull, boring, homogenous (racially, architecturally, etc), and unneighborly. The neighborhood Billy describes sounds exactly like my neighborhood; however, we're about as far east as you can get...
True Freedom May 12, 2011 at 04:51 PM
thanks for the link... very cool visualization tool!
Nina Malone May 12, 2011 at 11:39 PM
I think the point they're trying to make is in response to this article...that the east is a great area to live and the west is deemed "sketchy" and not comparable to the east. Personally, I've watched the west develop and develop...I'll be the one smiling in 20 years when my house is worth double than when I bought it. I'll agree that there are areas that aren't so pretty (drive down Woodbury and Fair Oaks) but people who want an "inexpensive" home (that's all relative) can get one, fix it up and the neighborhoods have never looked better.
Nina Malone May 12, 2011 at 11:43 PM
Hmm Lisa, are you trying to tell me that I will look back and realize it wasn't the best neighborhood despite having fond memories? haha, I know you're not but it's funny.
Lisa Maiorana May 12, 2011 at 11:53 PM
@ Nina - yes it is funny but I never meant for it to sound that way. Maybe some of did grow up in "good" neighborhoods but then again some of us did not. It's all a matter of perspective isn't it? What we feel is right for us and our families. As you said, you really should never count an area out just because it might be considered a "sketchy" area when in fact it might be one of the coolest areas around!
Nina Malone May 13, 2011 at 12:32 AM
I know Lisa, I was just teasing. And honestly, there ARE sketchy areas on this side, way more than on the east. When we started looking for houses in 2005 I would have never considered Altadena, I never really knew much about it. In fact, even in pasadena, west of Lake is the least desirable side as well (north of the freeway that is) and we kind of sneered about looking over there. But we knew what we wanted and knew what we could afford at the peak of the market, so we decided to look outside the box, and we're so happy we did because we got a house in a really great area, no sketchiness whatsoever. I've become comfortable driving up Lincoln 'cause I've gotten to know the area despite it being further than Lake for us, but I hate the traffic on Lake. That doesn't mean something couldn't happen, but we could be driving down Colorado and be in the middle of something. Would I move into a neighborhood w/drug dealers...NO, but not all neighborhoods on this side have that element, despite the perception of some that literally, it's street to street--it's not...and again...they are cleaning up. I have a friend (as do you--heh, heh)who moved into the neighborhood s. of altadena near Olive. She asked her neighbors what the "bad" houses in the neighborhood were, they said "yours was".
Lisa Hastings May 13, 2011 at 03:54 AM
The riff raff on Alameda where all the cars stop was at one time a big drug dealing block, complete with shoes hanging from the telephone wires. At one time it was impossible to drive on that street because of all the stopped traffic. But it has been cleaned up thanks to the Sheriff and some of the apartment owners. Now it's a breeze to drive through - no more people hanging out in the streets or in cars. So tell you client, no more Alameda Avenue riff raff! And the storybook cul de sacs: depends on which ones. Some are pretty sketchy.
Alexander May 13, 2011 at 02:38 PM
@Nina, like you, my wife and I looked and looked on the east side but quickly realized we couldn't afford anything there. I was more open to the west side than she was until we found a great house. The way I see it, We've lived in worse places (El Sereno, Highland Park) so anywhere on Altadena is a million times better than we ever had it in those places.
Alexander May 13, 2011 at 02:47 PM
Altadena as a whole is very racially integrated, I'm not questioning that. You see that everyday. In my block my neighbors to the right are white, to the left is a black family and right in front of me is a very friendly mexican family. It's a good thing. However, as you can see in this link, http://projects.nytimes.com/census/2010/explorer, yes, Altadena is racially integrated as whole but there are very clear areas that are mostly white, mostly black, mostly hispanic. My point previously was that Lake is a very clear line as far as racial demographics go.
Linda Lane-White May 13, 2011 at 03:14 PM
Hi, Billy! Long time no see. You hit the nail right on its head.
Linda Lane-White May 13, 2011 at 03:17 PM
Alexander! This is AWESOME. I had no idea this was out there in cyber world. Thank you for sharing this link! Very informative.
Linda Lane-White May 13, 2011 at 03:22 PM
Yes, Lisa. That was about the same time, in 2008, that the riff raff WAS going on. Also, you may remember 2 people who used to live in the apartments over there. I think the guy in the white mustang who used to race with the guy in the red trans am must have left the area...or possibly his racing days got him into trouble! Haven't seen him for over a year. Hooray!!
Linda Lane-White May 13, 2011 at 03:32 PM
From all of the comments here, it seems that we ALL love our neighborhoods. We love Altadena. We all agree that there are some sketchy areas amongst us. We take pride in living here and try to stay involved in community events to keep us closer to one another as "a community". By the way, I hope to see some of you tonight at the Fancy Food Truck Fridays at Webster's. Webster's is in East Altadena, but, some of us will have to park in West Altadena. Oh my!!!!
michele Zack May 13, 2011 at 03:40 PM
@alexander: the data on that map are old, and if you read the fine print it says it is based on samplings and has margin of error. That map paints a picture far more "black and white" than the current census data, and actuality, present. It also misses the trend of more young white families moving in west of Lake. But there's no doubt that in general, housing stock East of Lake, as well as infrastructure such as sidewalks, support its higher prices. Much less uniformity on west side, where you find a great house next to a not so great one — which brings price of great one considerably lower than if it was on east side.
Gabhlan May 22, 2011 at 06:27 AM
I have been in Michelle's house and Michelle has been in mine.. I'm sure neither of us would move but the point remains. There are many not so nice people in this town and frankly everywhere else around here. The key seems to be getting to know your neighbors. Also, if you see anything in Altadena that looks out of the ordinary, call the Sheriff. They have been quite effective in rooting out the undesireables when they get the calls and have the tools. The tools being the COPS and CRASH programs..


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