What It Is: A four-square mile city just south of Pasadena and South Pasadena and nine miles northeast of downtown L.A
Ethnic Diversity: Formerly the whitest place on earth, San Marino is now more than half Asian, primarily first-or second-generation Chinese immigrants
Median Household Income: $143,785
Number of Apartment Buildings: 0
Railroad tycoon Henry Huntington, who had made his own fortune and inherited another from his uncle Collis, bought the citrus-producing San Marino Ranch in 1903 as an investment. He later built a mansion on the property to house his growing collection of art and rare books, and he established botanical gardens around the mansion. In 1919, he deeded it all to a trust, wanting to “give something to the public” before he died. That “something” is now the Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens, a destination of considerable (and international) artistic, literary and horticultural significance.
In the last two decades, the high-performing schools started attracting wealthy Chinese immigrant families—including teenagers living alone in sprawling houses while Mom and Dad worked in China. Not long ago, the increase in the number of teen-run households inspired the city to pass an ordinance requiring an adult to live in each house.
Then & Now
San Marino was founded in 1913 as a conservative, wealthy (and dry) residential town with an emphasis on education. It’s no longer dry, but the emphasis on education remains—its schools boast the highest SAT 9 scores in L.A. County. And African-American motorists are no longer stopped for being, you know, African-American. (That really was routine practice not so long ago.)
Library: The town is justly proud of its newish Crowell Public Library, nearly double the size of the old one, at 1890 Huntington Dr.
Park: Lacy Park, perhaps the prettiest park in the San Gabriel Valley
Arts Organization: The California Art Club, founded in 1906 by plein-air painters; its gallery in the Old Mill building is worth a visit
Landmark: The Old Mill (Molino Viejo) was the mill for the vast Mission San Gabriel and is the oldest standing commercial building in Southern California, and it’s home to lovely concerts in the summertime
Newspaper: The San Marino Tribune
Web Site: ci.san-marino.ca.us
Don’t Be a Lawbreaker!
I’m sorry, ma’am, we have to take the lawn in for questioning.
A dead lawn is a crime in San Marino, as are handbill distribution and any visible sign of rubbish. Oh, and by law, every house must have at least a two-car garage and use it for parking cars only.
What He Said
“If you’re not sure in San Marino, it’s illegal.”
- Paul Crowley, San Marino Historical Society
The shady patio at Julienne, where everyone who’s anyone lunches on niçoise salads and roasted chicken with pommes frites.
Slept in San Marino
Gen. George S. Patton Jr. may have been born in San Gabriel, but he grew up in San Marino
For decades San Marino was best known as the western headquarters for the Red-fearing, ultra-right-wing John Birch Society.