First of all, yes, that’s his real name. Brigham Yen was born in Provo, Utah, when his father was pursuing his Ph.D. at BYU, and he thought he’d give the name of the university to his son, because it would be unique. And it is. (“Contrary to popular belief,” says Brigham, “there are not that many men named Brigham in Utah.”) Brigham and his mother moved to L.A. when he was young, and he mostly grew up in Monterey Park, coming to Pasadena to shop in the late lamented I Magnin, the unlamented Plaza Pasadena and the fledgling Old Town. He then went on to college at U.C. Berkeley, returning to live and work in Downtown L.A. before settling in Pasadena, where he’s lived with his partner for three years, within walking distance of Old Pasadena.
Although Brigham may be best known in Pasadena as the blogger who gets the earliest scoop on what restaurant is coming to Pasadena or what store’s about to go out of business, he’s really a real estate agent for Century 21, specializing in commercial and residential properties in Pasadena and Downtown L.A. After keeping regular tabs on his blog, I decided it was finally time to meet the man about town in person.
Realtor blogs tend to be obviously self-serving, but yours stands apart—you seem more focused on celebrating Pasadena than pushing your listings. Do you get a lot of satisfaction out of your writing?
I actually got into real estate because I love cities and urban planning/transit development—how to make cities more functional and more walkable. I started out after college working for the Downtown Center Business Improvement District (DCBID), where I was responsible for the economic development of a revitalizing Downtown LA, which I am still a strong proponent of. I was a liaison to commercial and residential brokers in Downtown L.A. for new businesses or potential residents, so I realized I could continue to help change areas for the better by being involved with real estate and directing energy where I saw fit. Now as a blogger, I get to convey my passion for another place I love—Pasadena—to others who may share the same vision.
You often have the scoop on new businesses before anyone else. How do you get the lowdown so fast?
If they actually walk around and just pay attention to what’s going around town, anyone can get the lowdown pretty fast.
What’s the best thing about Old Pasadena?
The vibrancy created by pedestrians who come from all over L.A. and the world to enjoy the walkable environment and restored historic buildings. I love the little alleyways, which give another layer of dynamism for the pedestrian, and of course, the Gold Line, which stops at Memorial Park.
What’s the worst?
The wasted potential—especially not taking advantage of its success by directing that energy into areas that could use the foot traffic. Currently, the pedestrian linkages to Norton Simon and Paseo Colorado are very weak. Think of the amount of synergy that could be created if the Norton Simon and Paseo Colorado were seamlessly connected to Old Pasadena with strong pedestrian routes that encouraged people to walk instead of confining that energy into such a small area. Let’s make our fish bowl bigger for pedestrians!
South Lake is having a tough time in recent years, with vacancies and a lack of pizzazz. What do you think could turn it around?
It lacks the vibrancy of Old Pasadena because the parking is in the back of stores, and that’s where most people enter from. Combine that with a lack of interesting shopping, and most people never really walk on South Lake itself. Why would they be drawn to walk there if there isn’t a critical mass of interesting stores and places to eat? This becomes a vicious cycle, because since most people look for cues about an area by checking out the amount of people on the street, and because you don’t see many people walking on South Lake, or sitting in sidewalk cafés, the lack of vibrancy prevents businesses from wanting to invest and take a chance. Furthering that cycle.
Part of what could help South Lake rejuvenate itself is supporting the Pasadena Streetcar project, which would link it to the rest of downtown Pasadena and beyond. This goes back to taking advantage of the energy Old Pasadena already is able to generate. The synergy created by linking disparate districts into a cohesive urban unit would generate a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. What people in L.A. (Pasadena included) need is to be liberated from the inconvenience, limitations and headache of parking (and the lack of it). Think Portland, Oregon, and the wonderful things they’ve done by thinking outside the box.
What’s the up-and-coming Pasadena, Altadena or South Pasadena neighborhood that not everyone knows about yet?
I think it’s the stretch of Colorado between Lake and PCC. There’s enough in between that stretch to warrant the next “it place” in Pasadena. There are plenty of historic buildings to rehab and some new creative energy like A Room to Create (ARC) that we could build on to create a new neighborhood. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have PCC as an anchor to the east.
It really just needs new streetscaping/landscaping and a few key developments to transform that area from a bland stretch to an interesting neighborhood.
It’s a Saturday night, and you’re in Pasadena. What would you be doing?
It’s all about ArcLight at the Paseo Colorado.