A Brief History of Private Grabs of Public Land in Pasadena, the Arroyo Seco and the San Gabriel Mountains

1920s: Pasadena had over 1,000 acres of public park land. Population was 45,000

2014: Parks staff counts 861 acres of public park land. Population 150,000

Well-intentioned, good causes often have the political power to take public park land for their private, restricted access facilities, when a more thoughtful approach would be to acquire land outside the park for new facilities. (Some of the uses listed below are recreational, but they are still restricted access facilities.)


  • One of the first: La Pintoresca Library in La Pintoresca Park (branch library) 1920s
  • Lawn Bowling Club and Tourist Club House (now El Centro de Accion Social) in Central Park 1920s (intended for tourists)
  • Tournament Park (14 acres) taken by Caltech - 1960s-1970s
  • Carmelita Park taken by Pasadena Art Museum for museum, large parking lot (land still owned by City)- 1960s
  • Senior Center built in Memorial Park (1950s, enlarged 1970s)
  • Civic Center: parkland on Garfield across from Civic Auditorium disappears under Plaza Pasadena (1980)
  • Arroyo: Rose Bowl, Kidspace, Aquatics Center, Brookside Golf Course, Tom Sawyer Camp, Rose Bowl Riders, Casting Clubhouse and pond
  • Pending projects: YWCA-boutique hotel project in the Civic Center cedes all public parkland in the entire block to the developer.
  • In 2017 the City of Pasadena ceded 18 acres in the Lower Arroyo the Pasadena Roving Archers for the exclusive use of archery in order to protect "public safety."
  • The Rose Bowl Operating Company has recently approved expanding the driving range on the Brookside Golf Course in the Arroyo and adding a minature golf course in the flood zone.

Take a Minute and Contemplate the Value of Parks, Open Space, Wild Lands and Nature

Here's what the New York Times had to say about a proposed gondola project and large residential/commercial development at the Grand Canyon.

A Cathedral Under Siego

Buried within the [development] proposals is the belief that a tiny circle of entrepreneurs has the right to profit at the expense of everyone else by destroying a piece of the commonwealth a landscape that is the birthright and the responsibility of every American.

That principle was first laid down by Teddy Roosevelt in 1903, when he delivered a speech on the South Rim of the canyon.

I want to ask you to do one thing in connection with it, in your own interest and in the interest of the country keep this great wonder of nature as it now is, Roosevelt declared. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel, or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.

That same year, 1903, Roosevelt stood on the rim of the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena and told Mayor Vedder: "What a splendid natural park you have right here! O, Mr. Mayor, don't let them spoil that! Keep it just as it is!"

Stewards of Public Land, PO Box 2722, Pasadena, CA 91109-2722