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Inside Pasadena's Rising Real Estate Market

Neff Property: $4.995 million

The charming refuge 20 miles from Beverly Hills delivers unique architecture, climbing prices and escape from clamor.

This story first appeared to in the March 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Pasadena, a 125-year-old city of 140,000, has lured a number of creative types -- notably such screenwriters as Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) and Scott Frank (Minority Report) -- who are looking for an escape from the bustle of the Westside (at least when the TCAs aren't happening). Designer darlings Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, who created Natalie Portman's ballerina costumes for Black Swan, choose to live there, far from the swirl of the New York fashion world. And resident Bradley Whitford bikes every day to the Pasadena Playhouse, where he is starring in the Yasmina Reza play Art. "There's a peacefulness that suits my mind-set," says television composer Martin Davich (ER, NCIS: Los Angeles). He and his wife, Carrie, recently listed their five-bedroom 1920 English Revival house in the Brookside neighborhood for $3.2 million.

Pasadena appears to be one of the few bright spots in an otherwise declining market. The median price of houses sold in the wealthy 91105 and 91106 Zip codes rose from $888,500 in 2010 to $907,165 in 2011. "Despite the general market decline, here it's remained pretty strong -- if anything, we're lacking in good inventory," says Ted Clark, a broker at Deasy/Penner & Partners.

But homeowners don't live in Pasadena just for the market value. Residents say they love the small-town congeniality, cultural offerings such as the Huntington Library in adjacent San Marino and, for many, the easy drive to the studios in Burbank and the San Fernando Valley. "That's no small thing when you're trying to shuttle kids around," says Days of Our Lives writer Betsy Snyder, a longtime resident.

And few cities can match Pasadena when it comes to gracious old architecture. If it's Craftsmans you're into -- Arts and Crafts architects Greene & Greene opened their practice here in 1894 --then Jon A. Walz, exec producer of Discovery's EarthQuest and History's UFO Hunters, has listed a stunningly restored 3,700-square-foot bungalow on the secluded banks of the Arroyo Seco. The residence, co-listed at $1.7 million with Clark and Deasy/Penner's Heather Lillard, was previously owned by late Secretary of State Warren Christopher and features oak floors and a stone fireplace. (In August, director Rod Lurie sold an 1899 Greene & Greene for $2.3 million; he paid about $2 million in 2002.)

Near the Huntington are grand estates such as a new-to-market six-bedroom 1920s Wallace Neff-designed Mediterranean with a 500-square-foot pool pavilion for just shy of $5 million.

The Daviches say they aren't leaving. "Of course we're staying," says Carrie, an interior designer. "It's our little small town."

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PASADENA BY THE NUMBERS: Sale prices rose in the 91105 and 91106 Zip codes (L.A. County dropped 10 percent)

  • 2010 Median Price: $888,500
  • 2011 Median Price: $907,165 (+2%)
    Source: Deasy/Penner

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WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN PASADENA RIGHT NOW: Five destination hotspots worth the drive

For years, one of the only ambitious, progressive places to drink and dine in Pasadena was VERTICAL WINE BISTRO (70 N. Raymond Ave.), known for its extensive list of vintages and ownership by The Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Hurd. But recently, a slew of new options have hit the 'hood. In Old Town, the accomplished gastropub HAVEN (42 S. De Lacey Ave.) opened in December. Anna Faris and husband Chris Pratt were spotted at the bar this month. Inside the 105-year-old Langham Huntington hotel, chef David Feau has followed Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio at the renovated haute-cuisine main dining room, now called THE ROYCE (1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave.), where he serves architectural platings like salsify -- the flowering plant -- four ways. (Mark Zuckerberg has brought his parents there.) Meanwhile, the hotel's similarly revamped bar, THE TAP ROOM, drew everyone from Courteney Cox and Ricky Gervais to Downton Abbey exec producer Rebecca Eaton during the TCA press tour. Not far away, the 15-month-old retro-mixology redoubt 1886 BAR (1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave.) has lured Kirsten Dunst, Gwen Stefani and Alexander Skarsgard. – Gary Baum