Secret LA Parking Tip: Old Town Pasadena

Old Town Pasadena has changed a lot since I was in high school, when it was a glorious dump that felt a little dangerous. I wrote in my book Just a Geek:

Thanks to the efforts of the Pasadena preservationists, the historical building facades haven’t changed, but they are the only thing which remain the same. The empty doorway where a punk rocker once sneered at passing businessmen is now a Pottery Barn, occupied by a San Marino yuppie who screams into her cell phone. The eclectic record store where we’d buy imported Smiths singles is now a Sam Goody, its windows plastered with posters announcing the latest release from Justin Timberlake. Tourists stand uncomfortably at crosswalks, trying to ignore the homeless who have come to enjoy the trickle down economics of a prospering shopping thoroughfare.

All of this progress is not without its benefits, though. Old Town is safe, if sanitized, and several good restaurants have moved into the area.

Yeah, it’s been gentrified all to hell, and the only real risk to anyone who goes there for Pinkberry, H&M, or the Apple Store, is not finding a good parking place — or, at this time of year, any parking place at all.

Hi. I’m Wil, and I’m here to help you park your car when you come to spend money in my city.

First, where not to park: The deLacey garage. It seems like a good idea, right? I mean, it’s pretty centralized and makes for easy walking to a lot of stores. Well, pretty much everything in Old Town is walking distance from everything else, and the DeLacey garage has two main problems: it doesn’t have that many spaces, so it fills up quickly, and the light at Colorado doesn’t stay green very long, so you end up waiting up to ten minutes to get to the driveway . . . where you find out the garage is full. So you get to crawl all the way down to Green street while you think about what you did.

Parking on Colorado is an option, but keep in mind that the Pasadena police are hardcore about nailing cars with meters that are expired for four seconds. If you must park on the streets, you can usually find ample street parking down deLacey (after you didn’t listen to me and tried to park in the garage) but be prepared to walk a few blocks.

The best garage in the city is the Schoolhouse garage, with entrances on Raymond and Green. If you park in this garage, go into the lower levels. I don’t know why, but even on the busiest days of the year, people waste all sorts of time going into the upper levels, while we laugh at them with the Morlocks.

There’s also a garage on Union between Fair Oaks and Raymond, but it’s a last resort for me. All garages in Pasadena are 90 minutes free, and two bucks for each hour or portion of an hour after that. Some garages go flat rate after 5 on weekends.

If you’re into valet parking, Old Town has one of the better systems: drop your car off at one of several spots on Colorado, Union, Fair Oaks or Raymond, and then pick it up from any other valet in town. This is quite convenient when you’re loaded with holiday packages.

Of course, Old Town Pasadena is one of the very few places in the city that is easily accessible by the Metro, with two Gold Line stops (Memorial Park and Del Mar) putting you within simple and convenient walking distance of everywhere you want to go.

Bonus tip: If you want to get a sense of what Old Town was like in the pre-Pottery Barn days, head East toward Lake, and pay a visit to the porn shop, the tattoo parlor, or the pawn shop. They’ve been there forever, and thanks to new zoning laws, they wouldn’t be able to get permits today.

Extra bonus tip: If you’re going to the Paseo shopping mall, park in the garage on Marengo and walk across the bridge into the mall. The garage underneath the mall is always an epic clusterfuck and it’s designed to frighten and confuse drivers.

Update: Here, have a nifty map (Thanks, Travis and David!)

View Larger Map

10 thoughts on “Secret LA Parking Tip: Old Town Pasadena”

  1. Wil, thanks for summing up why I went to Old Town Pasadena a several years ago. Parking is just an escalating nightmare is the secondary reason.

    The primary is that it lost so much of its character to corporate blandness which you have to stand in line forever for. I don’t do lines so it’s out.

    What does amaze me is how many people just get sucked into the blandness when on the fringes there are a lot of cool things going on that is locally owned.

  2. One of my tips when heading out to Old Town, if you don’t mind the teeny-tiny little walk (I mean, really small), is to go one block north onto Union Street, then park on the bridge that heads over the freeway (between Pasadena Ave and St. John Ave).

    I have never had a problem grabbing a spot here, at least during the day.

    You will have to pump your life savings into those expensive meters, however.

  3. The bridges are good spots, as well as just ont he other side of them. I also use the spaces around the old homeless park across the street from the del mar station. Back in the day the area between Fair Oaks and the Freeway was good, but the condos killed it. Yall suckas will never get my DTLA spots though, top secret city worker isht.

  4. There’s parking for a fraction of that $2/hour. You have to walk three blocks to get to the center (Fair Oaks and Colorado by my estimation). But that’s the only clue I’m willing to give out to the public. I’d hate to have to walk four blocks!

  5. Dear Wil,
    You forgot an actual City of Pasadena parking garage with the standard 90 minutes free.

    There is a garage shared with the Marriot on Raymond just south of Walnut. When the Schoolhouse is the ultimate clusterfuck, this garage across from Memorial Park is nice and empty.

    And the garage on Union between Fair Oaks and Raymond is NOT free. It is privately owned for One Colorado and thus they can charge people out the butt whenever they want.

  6. When I first moved to LA I worked in Old Town and I’d always find street parking near the Ralphs at the far West end of Colorado.

  7. Near the Ralphs?!?!? That’s like a million miles away! The only people you’re fighting for parking are the daycare mommies. LOL…I don’t usually have a problem finding parking in Old Town, though I’m still bummed that they installed meters. (Remember when you can park for free over by Puko diBeppo?) I regale my husband with stories of “Back in my day…” He rolls his eyes.

    And astrobabe is right on, those city lots are perfect. No one needs to spend more than 90 min. in Old Town anyway. Park in the city garages.

  8. I thought the denizens of LA were reputed to be green and hip and all – it anguishes me to see all this hullabaloo about parking, when there are two Metro stations within walking distance. Oh, wait – some people don’t even want to walk four blocks from their parking spot; never mind.

  9. GWA: Do you live in LA? Our Metro system is a joke, and makes it nearly impossible for everyone to use it. A lot of people coming to Old Town from parts of the San Fernando Valley, anywhere in the Northeastern San Gabriel Valley, or most of the South Bay aren’t served by the Metro.

    If anyone wants to come up during the week and stay in Old Town much later than 10pm, they can’t take the Metro, because the MTA stops trains long before last call.

    It’s not about not wanting to walk; it’s about not being able to use the goddamn Metro because it’s so poorly designed.

  10. last weekend I took the gold line out to old town park from highland park, it was fantastic. It was very much hassle free, and made the shopping a little less stressful.

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