Private Grabs of Public Land

A Brief History of Private Grabs of Public Land in Pasadena

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


Another privatized “public” resource?

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. Proposed deal with Pasadena Roving Archers will cede 18 acres in the Lower Arroyo for the exclusive use of archery.

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