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Pasadena’s Approach to Managing Archaeological Resources

To the northeast of Downtown Los Angeles, at a distance of about 11 miles, the city of Pasadena is located. This flourishing and quiet city is situated around Arroyo Seco. It was originally inhabited by the Native American Hahamog’na tribe. The word “Pasadena” comes from the Chippewa language which means “Crown of the Valley.” The natives dwelled in Arroyo Seco and towards the south where it joins Los Angeles River and other natural waterways located in the city. The city boundaries consist of 23.11 sq/m land and within this land, there are only five known archeological resources. Despite this small number of archaeological resources, proper management and preservation are not in place due to insufficient staff and as the archeological sites are so few; they are not being emphasized as Historic resources (Pasadena, 2019). This paper will explore the management of these resources in detail.

Archeological Resources

The archeological resources consist of prehistoric and historic sites where a significant historic event, activity, or occupation has occurred. These sites retain their historical significance whether they are empty, occupied, ruined, standing, or completely vanished from the location. The prehistoric resources that were found in the city records show the existence of one trail and two sites which included a millstone site. One of these sites was discovered in the 1800s in Sunny Slope Vineyards. The trail was found, and it was determined that this trail was utilized in ethnohistoric times as a passage to Mount Wilson. This trail was maintained and later used as a toll road for Mount Wilson Observatory. Two historic archaeological sites were found through the city’s records. One historical site served as a tourists’ camp in the early 20th century, named Teddy’s camp. It used to consist of a store and six cabins however, presently there are no physical remnants of these buildings. The second site is a trash disposal site which is four feet deep; extending from La Loma Bridge along Arroyo Seco. It seems to have been associated with the San Rafael Ranch.

Impact Analysis of Archeological Resources

The location and the resources of these sites have been kept confidential. This is due to the reason that it is a piece of sensitive information. The number of documented archeological resources is limited and due to them being built out of nature the impact of the archeological resource is low. These sites can be discovered through the redevelopment of the area as deep excavation can unearth these sites. The development of hillside areas of Pasadena can also disturb historical artifacts as these hills were initially inhabited by Native American tribes. Ground disturbance is considered a significant impact as it can unearth archeological resources.

Due to a lack of information on the historically significant archaeological sites, a request was made to NAHC on the 17th of April 2014, for a file on Sacred Lands. The commission replied that there were no records available regarding these sites but they provided a list of nine individuals and Native American tribes that could be contacted for further information. On 28th April 2014, letters were sent out to these contacts, requesting any information on the Sacred Lands, however; there was no response. Apart from this effort, the city also contacted the NAHC for the list of Native American tribes for consultation that was required by the state’s law. Contact information of four tribes was provided by NAHC on 15th April 2014. Anthony Morales, (the representative of Gabrieleno/Tongva San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians), informed the state that the Native Americans inhabited the Arroyo Seco and Devil’s Gate area which had the potential to provide cultural resources. If any development is planned for these areas, then it may reveal archeological resources. This will prove to have a great impact on the historical importance of Pasadena. However, no new information was gathered from the four tribes and the presence of Sacred Lands within the city is unknown. However, there is still a possibility to unearth new archaeological sites during the reconstruction of these areas.

Municipal Code

Chapter 17.62 of the Pasadena Municipal Code defines a historical site as “a landmark that contributes to the architectural, cultural or historical heritage of the city”. This means that a historically significant person or event must be associated with the site. The criteria for landmark designation for the city of Pasadena is listed below:

  • Association with significant historical events contributing to the patterns of the history of the region, state, or nation.
  • Association to people whose lives are significant to the history of the region, state, or nation.
  • It embodies the distinctive characteristics of the era it represents, which means that the material, architectural style, period, and method of construction should align with the historical patterns. It should be an excellent representation of the architecture, builder, designer, or engineer of its era.
  • Its discovery contributes to a significant contribution to the prehistory or history of the region, state, or nation.
  • Public or semi-public areas and features may be included in the historical monuments.

Pasadena General Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR)

This General Plan Update analyzes and addresses the impacts that may be significant regarding archeological, prehistoric, built environments, historical archeological, and cultural landscapes. This report is a requirement by California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The report consists of different laws through which the city of Pasadena protects and manages its archeological resources which are discussed below:

Archeological Resources Protection Act: This act protects and regulates all the archaeological resources and sites present on Indian lands and federal lands. This act was passed in 1979 as an attempt to preserve Native American history.

Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act: This is a federal law that was passed in 1990, this law allows the federal agencies and museums to return certain cultural items to the Native American tribes. These items may include funerary objects, human remains, cultural patrimony objects, or sacred objects to the culturally affiliated Indian tribes and the lineal descendants.

California Public Resources Code: A wide range of regulations and policies that fall under the California Public Resources Code, aim to protect the paleontological, archeological, and historical sites. Apart from this, it is also recognized that the paleontological and cultural resources are non-renewable thus these are protected under CEQA and California Public Resources Code.

This report was developed by Cogstone Resource Management Inc. which is also responsible for the administration of this program. The impact analysis and further recommendations were prepared by Principal Investigator Sherri Gust who is a Registered Professional Archeologist and qualified Principal Paleontologist. The section regarding the cultural resources was assembled by Victoria Harvey who is also a registered Professional Archeologists. Harvey also has thirteen years of experience in cultural resource management (CRM). So the program development had access to two archeologists and a CRM (Gust, 2015).

Tribal Consultation

The city of Pasadena was initially inhabited by the Hahamog’na tribe who lived in various villages that were scattered across the Arroyo Seco, the mountains, and the canyons. The city reached out to four tribes but the consultation yielded no new information about the Sacred Lands. The information provided by the tribes was already present in the records and nothing new could be added to the existing data. The Arroyo Seco and Devil’s Gate were already known to be potential archeological sites. There is also a fracture between the existing tribe which has resulted in a political imbalance. These differences have resulted in the delayed circulation of information and the communication system is not very streamlined. This problem hinders the identification of potential resources which is quite difficult in the given scenario. The tribes are given an environmental report so that they may assess if the area being considered for development has any historical significance for them. If the area is not significant, then the development plans are carried out. However, if the tribes reveal some reverence or significance of the area, then the development is halted. In this case, a team of archeologists is contacted who take over the site for inspection. Their opinion is quite important, and their decision is not dismissed. Additionally, there are protection contingencies in place to protect developmental investments. These measures are set up as there is always a chance that during development they might stumble upon an archaeological site. Plans are also put in place if an archeological site is discovered so that the risks can be minimized (Dudek, 2020).

Archeological Resources Eligibility for Designation

According to the Municipal Code of Pasadena, the resources should contribute significantly to the history of the region, state, or country. The five historical resources found will be analyzed against the code provided to see which are eligible for landmark designation and which do not meet the requirement. The Tongva foot trail is the oldest route of transportation in Pasadena; it is also called Gabrielino Trail. This trail connects the Rose Bowl and Arroyo Seco into the San Gabriel Mountains. It has been in use for a thousand years and it is now used to travel to Salvia Canyon. This trail has been in use since ethnohistoric times and has been maintained so that it can serve as a toll road for Mount Wilson Observatory. The trail is assigned Primary no. P-19-002343. This trail is significant for its years of transportation used by the Native Americans, so it is eligible for landmark designation.

The milling stone site is located in an area of Sunny Slope Vineyards and has been around since the 1800s. A depth of one hundred and fifty centimeters was revealed during test excavations. The Primary no. P-19-003682 has been assigned to this site and this place needs further excavation to prove its historical significance. The Teddy’s Camp, Primary no. P-19-26, does not exist anymore. It used to be a tourist campsite during the 20th century; comprising of a store and six cabins, however; there is no evidence that this site contributed to the historical information in any way. The historical site that served as a trash deposit was excavated and its depth was measured to be almost four feet deep. This trash deposit was associated with San Rafael Ranch and extended towards the North of La Loma Bridge. In the 1900s, during the construction of the bridge, it was significantly impacted. This trash deposit is neither tied to Native American history nor does it contribute any significance towards other historical aspects as of yet.

There are no recent examples of archeological resources in Pasadena, however; there is a possibility that there will be an emergence of new sites as this place was inhabited by numerous Native American villages so any surface disturbance may reveal new resources (Salas, 2018).

Current Management of the Resources

Although the report was developed by a team of professionals that included archaeologists and CRMs, this report was generated through a company rather than a historical society. The archeological sites do not have designated archeologists and the sites are supervised by companies. The city’s historical preservation department is severely understaffed with only three planners. The director of the department has also resigned, so the management team is not in an optimal condition of functioning properly. The primary numbers yield no significant information about the archaeological resources. This may be due to the confidentiality of the information about the location and resources. Due to the short staffing of the department, when an archeological site is discovered, an external team is called in. Since the department does not have on-site archeologists present, it must rely upon external human resources. This may be due to two reasons; the first being that Pasadena is a small city and having a team of dedicated archeologists may not be covered under the city’s budget and the second reason is that the number of archeological sites is so small that having the said team of dedicated archeologists would be a misuse of city’s funds. The pandemic has also contributed significantly to the reduced budgets to each department as the number of tourists has dropped significantly. The closure of sites during the pandemic resulted caused a halt in tourist revenue generation, leading to further managerial problems. These reasons contribute to the lack of proper management of archeological resources by the city.


The city of Pasadena has a rich historical background, however; it is more known for its shopping and dining experiences today instead of its history. The city has also faced difficulty in managing the historical resources which have contributed to the lack of historical awareness. This mismanagement is even more severe in regard to archeological resources due to the short staffing of the city’s history department and lack of funds.


Dudek. (2020, June). Tribal Cultural Resources.


Pasadena. (2019). Heritage: A Short History of Pasadena—City of Pasadena.

Salas, A. (2018, June 20). APPENDIX E AB 52 Consultation Documents.



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