Bungalow Heaven: Pasadena, California

Summary

Once part of Mission San Gabriel — and later El Rincon de San Pasqual Rancho before annexation by the City of Pasadena — the neighborhood has been known as Bungalow Heaven since the 1970s. Coined by a city planner, the name reflects the abundance of one- and two-story Craftsman homes in the compact, six-block-by-six-block neighborhood. The first house dates to 1888, but most of the bungalows were built between 1905 and 1920. Mature street trees and front porches provide abundant shade and opportunities for people watching.

Designated Area

Bungalow Heaven is bounded by East Washington Avenue on the north, East Orange Boulevard on the south, North Mentor Avenue on the west, and North Holliston Avenue to the east.

Heading north through Bungalow Heaven, the streets follow the gentle slope of the foothills and offer exquisite views of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Planning Excellence

The community's engaged citizenry not only has been instrumental in preserving this historic district, but in forging a path to a greener future.

District signs adorn the neighborhood, instilling community pride and a sense of place. Photo courtesy of Jim Staub.

Historic Nature

  • Pasadena's first locally designated landmark district (1989), Bungalow Heaven was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008; approximately 660 of the 1,100 properties are included in the National Register (521 of which are contributing)
  • Bungalow Heaven Conservation Plan a model for citywide restoration policies; plan strives to eliminate unnecessary demolition, stipulate when restoration or modification requires Historic Preservation review, and stimulate the area's economic health
  • Bungalow Heaven Neighborhood Association created in part to preserve district's architectural legacy; administers grant program to low- and moderate-income property owners for restoration; also involved with resurvey project collecting street elevation photographs and important information on each architecturally significant home

Emphasis on Aesthetics

  • Exceptional collection of domestic architecture from the early 20th century with modest single-family houses from the Arts and Crafts period most prevalent; other styles include  Queen Anne, and Gothic-, Spanish-, Colonial- and English-Revival
  • Most houses clad in similar materials — clapboard, shingles and stucco. Brick and stone, including river-rock boulders, used on foundations, porches, chimneys, and fireplaces; repetition of gabled rooflines and almost ubiquitous presence of front porches contribute to neighborhood's architectural character
  • Layout of houses — sited on 50-foot wide parcels with a generally uniform front-yard setback and garages toward the rear — enhances the streetscape
  • California live oaks, camphor trees, and Mexican fan palms form a dense tree canopy which, in combination with the rich landscaping in most front yards, adds to the neighborhood's visual appeal; on some streets, trees frame views of the San Gabriel Mountains
  • Neighborhood evokes unique sense of time and place; captures handcrafted spirit of the Arts and Crafts movement and the democratic ethic of the early 20th century, which allowed working persons to own a house with rich architectural detail

With more than half the homes in Bungalow Heaven contributing to the neighborhood's national historic district designation, home tours are a popular way for residents to get to know their neighbors and learn about the area's architectural significance. Photo courtesy of Jim Staub.

Engaged Citizens

  • Demolition in 1985 of a classic Craftsman bungalow and replacement with generic, stucco apartment building galvanized neighbors; successful effort to downzone the area made it economically infeasible to demolish other bungalows
  • Motivated residents pursue historic district designation and obtained signatures from 55 percent of neighborhood property owners; group successfully persuaded city council to designate Bungalow Heaven Pasadena's first landmark district
  • Bungalow Heaven Neighborhood Association provides a range of services and hosts events, such as a summer concert series; association's annual home tour, a neighborhood staple for 20 years, raises funds for the community's home improvement grant program

Environmental Commitment

  • Pasadena's first green district, encouraging recycling and reuse activities; the community is considering group purchases of solar installations
  • At the heart of neighborhood is a well-used and beloved green space, McDonald Park. Because it is within walking distance of every home in the neighborhood, there is no onsite parking. Was a former water reservoir that has been transformed by the city into an outdoor oasis replete with swings, shade trees, and outdoor recreation, such as soccer
  • Landscaping and gardening are neighborhood pastimes; besides conducive to growing Pasadena's famous roses, the weather and rich soil also contribute to an abundance of homegrown fruit and vegetables that neighbors readily share
  • Bungalow Heaven Neighborhood Association allocates funds to purchase large boxed saplings to ensure tree canopy is replaced quickly; also holds workshops on the care of street trees, creating drought-tolerant gardens, and planting edible gardens

Multiple Modes of Transportation

  • Compact, walkable neighborhood is a smart growth model; narrow streets with sidewalks and homes with front porches lend an added sense of security to pedestrians
  • Bungalow Heaven was the first neighborhood in Pasadena with a Neighborhood Traffic Mitigation Plan; plan encourages street improvements that reduce cut-through auto traffic.
  • While some of the enhancements have been controversial because of their aesthetic impacts, neighborhood is working with the city to reduce excessive pavement markings
  • Bicyclists common; three perimeter streets have enhanced bike lanes
  • Six bus routes — each within walking distance — run along the neighborhood's outskirts; at least one bus route on each perimeter street

This oak-lined street is typical of Bungalow Heaven. Mature street trees and front porches create an ideal setting for neighborhood walks and visiting with neighbors. Photo courtesy of Julianna Delgado.