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NEIGHBORLY ADVICE

Sleeves rolled up: It's the fashion here

June 20, 2004|Susan Carrier | Special to The Times

Pasadena, a city of 135,000, has nearly 100 neighborhood organizations. Although many are older and most are wealthier, few are as active as NATHA, a neighborhood in transition in the city's northwest area.

Neighborhood mission

Originally, three separate associations (Navarro, Tremont and Howard) made up the area. Since the neighborhoods shared similar concerns and goals, they banded together to form NATHA, which incorporates the first letters of the three former neighborhood groups and also stands for Neighbors Acting Together Helping All.

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Revitalization

The name is more than a motto. "The neighborhood is a great example of improvement through public and private partnership, neighborhood participation and citizen activism," said Brian Biery of the city of Pasadena's Neighborhood Connections.

Celestine Walker, director of NATHA, agrees. "We've brought people together and crossed cultures, languages and generations to improve the community."

Signs of revitalization are everywhere. Building face-lifts, new development and traffic calming are improving the commercial area. Grants for home and parkway improvement are helping residents demonstrate their pride of ownership. And after-school programs and leadership development show an investment in the youngest residents.

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Reputation versus reality

Over the last four decades, the neighborhood has seen drugs and gangs come and go, and then come and go again, according to Biery. The neighborhood may be improving, but the reputation lingers in a city where "northwest Pasadena" is still considered synonymous with poverty, blight and crime.

As NATHA director Walker drove up and down the tree-lined streets on a weekday afternoon, the only sounds she heard came from do-it-yourselfers hammering and gardeners watering lawns, not sirens blaring.

The old perceptions don't match reality, said Browder Morrissey, a Coldwell Banker agent who moved to the neighborhood after purchasing a home two years ago, adding that "99.9% of the people are just good, hard-working families."

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Drawing card

As prices escalated throughout Pasadena and Southern California, northwest Pasadena became a refuge of more affordable homes, according to Karen Wente Alexander, a former northwest Pasadena resident and a Realtor with Coldwell Banker of Pasadena.

The neighborhood's location is also a plus. NATHA is less than two miles from Old Pasadena, just two miles south of the million-dollar homes in the La Vina development in Altadena and several blocks from the 210 Freeway.

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Hot spot

Recent development has changed the look of Lincoln Village, the commercial area south of Woodbury Road. In addition to new retail and office space, the area is now home to the Ambassador custom-furniture store, and Vintage Cafe, a restaurant and antiques shop.

The Lincoln Task Force, a grass-roots community collaborative of 50 Pasadena and Altadena residents, including 27 John Muir High School students, envisions a thriving, pedestrian-friendly corridor that combines retail, residential and community-based organizations.

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Good news, bad news

As home prices rise, longtime residents such as Tina and John Walker fear gentrification. They hope the new homeowners value the cultural and economic diversity and invest emotionally in the neighborhood, not just use it as a "steppingstone."*

On the market

Five homes are listed for sale, from a two-bedroom, one-bath house in less than 1,000 square feet for $350,000 to a four-bedroom, two-bath, 1,768-square-foot home for $442,500.

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Historical values

Single-family detached resales:

Year...Median Price

1990...$128,500

1995...$99,618

2000...$145,000

2002...$187,000

2004*...$355,000

*Year to date.

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Report card

The NATHA neighborhood is in the Pasadena Unified School District. Jackson Elementary School scored 699 out of 1,000 on the 2003 Academic Performance Index. Washington Middle School scored 565. The state of California did not release API data for John Muir High School because the required minimum number of students did not take the test in 2003.

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Sources: DataQuick Information Services; Browder Morrissey, Coldwell Banker; Karen Wente Alexander, Coldwell Banker; "Lincoln Village Progress Report to Neighbors"; Brian Biery, city of Pasadena; Mario Leonard, city of Pasadena; Celestine Walker, NATHA; NATHA website, www.NATHA.org; Pasadena Unified School District website, www.pusd.org.

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