Altadena is an unincorporated area and census-designated place in Los Angeles County, California, United States, approximately 14 miles (23 km) from the downtown Los Angeles Civic Center, and directly north of the city of Pasadena, California. The population was 42,777 at the 2010 census, up from 42,610 at the 2000 census.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Altadena had a population of 42,777. The population density was 4,900.4 people per square mile (1,892.1/km²). The racial makeup of Altadena was 22,569 (52.8%) White (40.3% Non-Hispanic White), 10,136 (23.7%) African American, 300 (0.7%) Native American, 2,307 (5.4%) Asian, 71 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 4,852 (11.3%) from other races, and 2,542 (5.9%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11,502 persons (26.9%).
The Census reported that 42,276 people (98.8% of the population) lived in households, 234 (0.5%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 267 (0.6%) were institutionalized.
There were 15,212 households, out of which 5,170 (34.0%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 7,684 (50.5%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 2,210 (14.5%) had a female householder with no husband present, 814 (5.4%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 661 (4.3%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 271 (1.8%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 3,489 households (22.9%) were made up of individuals and 1,318 (8.7%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.78. There were 10,708 families (70.4% of all households); the average family size was 3.26.
The age distribution of the city’s population was as follows: 9,507 people (22.2%) were under the age of 18, 3,286 people (7.7%) aged 18 to 24, 10,622 people (24.8%) aged 25 to 44, 13,298 people (31.1%) aged 45 to 64, and 6,064 people (14.2%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41.8 years. For every 100 females there were 93.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.2 males.
There were 15,947 housing units at an average density of 1,826.8 per square mile (705.4/km²), of which 10,889 (71.6%) were owner-occupied, and 4,323 (28.4%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 0.9%; the rental vacancy rate was 4.9%. 30,319 people (70.9% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 11,957 people (28.0%) lived in rental housing units.
According to the 2010 United States Census, Altadena had a median household income of $82,854, with 9.6% of the population living below the federal poverty line.
In the mid-1860s, Benjamin Eaton first developed water sources from the Arroyo Seco and Eaton Canyon to his vineyard near the edge of Eaton Canyon. This made possible the development of Altadena, Pasadena, and South Pasadena. He did the construction for B.D. Wilson and Dr. John Griffin, who jointly owned the Mexican land grant of Rancho San Pascual, about 14,000 acres (57 km2) that was the future sites of these three communities. They hoped to develop and sell this land in a real estate plan called the San Pasqual Plantation. Their efforts failed by 1870, despite Eaton’s irrigation ditch that drew water from the site of present day Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Arroyo Seco. They had failed because the land was relatively inaccessible and few believed crops could thrive that close to the mountains.
Eaton tried to sell the land for the partners, and in late 1873 he helped broker a deal with Daniel Berry, who represented a group of investors from Indiana, to buy 4,000 acres (16 km2) of the rancho. This included the land of present day Altadena, but they developed a 2,500 acres (10 km2) section further south as Pasadena. In 1881, the land that would later become Altadena was sold to the John and Fred Woodbury, brothers who launched the subdivision of Altadena in 1887. The land remained mostly agricultural; however, several eastern millionaires built mansions along Mariposa Street, and a small community developed through the 1890s and into the next century.
Home of Capt. John Woodbury, built 1882, still standing and occupied.
In 1880, Capt. Frederick Woodbury, and his brother, John Woodbury of Marshalltown, Iowa, purchased 937 acres (3.79 km2) 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 Avenue. Newspaper moguls William Armiger Scripps and William Kellogg built homes side by side just east of Fair Oaks Avenue. A bit farther east, Zane Grey bought a home from Arthur Herbert Woodward, and added a second-floor study. The famous Benziger Publishing Company built a mansion on the corner of Santa Rosa Avenue (Christmas Tree Lane) and Mariposa. Mariposa was taken from the Spanish name for a butterfly. 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. Had the annexation succeeded, Pasadena would be the 108th largest city in the United States.
While Altadena long refused wholesale annexation by neighboring Pasadena, the larger community nibbled at its edges in several small annexations of neighborhoods through the 1940s. With early 1960s redevelopment in Pasadena, the routing of extensions of 134 and 210 freeways, and lawsuits over the desegregation of Pasadena Unified School District, there was white flight and convulsive racial change in Altadena. In 1960, its black population was under four percent; over the next 15 years, half the Caucasian population left, and was replaced by people of color, many of whom settled on the west side of town after being displaced by Pasadena’s redevelopment and freeway projects.
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.