The Sounds of Home

Brendan Farrell’s HowLoud lets home-buyers know how much noise a location really generates

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 8/27/2015

Despite its reputation as a “sleepy” town, a new noise app developed by a former Caltech postdoctoral student and math instructor shows Pasadena has moderate to severe vehicle noise in all of the city’s zip codes., the free online service developed by Brendan Farrell that allows users to generate noise reports about a specific address, was launched in Los Angeles and Orange counties this summer. The app features information on vehicle and air traffic, local businesses and other sources of noise pollution to generate a “noise rating” for that location, enabling people to research the amount of sound in the area before they commit to a new home or apartment building.


Farrell has a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from UC Davis, spent five years as a researcher in applied math and electrical engineering in Berlin and Munich, was a postdoctoral student in computing and mathematical sciences at Caltech and taught applied and computational mathematics there for three years before leaving to start HowLoud. He got the idea for the app when he and his wife were house hunting in Silver Lake last year.


“We were looking for a new place, and I assumed you could find this kind of information, but you couldn’t,” said Farrell. “You could find out everything else, but [noise information] wasn’t available.”

‘Striking’ Variability

The state of California requires cities to conduct noise studies, but HowLoud’s team rebuilds those studies from scratch “in a modern way,” said Farrell. 


“[The studies are] not done for regular people and they’re done in kind of an antiquated way. On the tech side of it, we’re doing it in a modern way, and on the use side of it, we’re doing it with the intention to deliver just useful, simple stuff for people,” Farrell said. “So if you type in an address, like a hotel, or a street location, in five seconds you should be able to come up with something useful.”


Farrell said the app uses mathematical computation, data analysis and computer algorithms, combined with data on roads, airports and businesses, to create a complete map of noises around real estate.


According to the app, most of Pasadena’s zip codes have “severe” scores, with a couple of “moderate” scores, mostly due to vehicle noise. Some neighborhoods are quieter than others. Farrell said the variability within neighborhoods is “striking” and unpredictable.


For example, the Pasadena Weekly reported in 2009 on a group of Northwest Pasadena residents who were angry about the amount of noise generated by police helicopters. They said the copters flew directly over their homes at all hours of the day and night, constantly disrupting their children’s sleep and invading their privacy.


“It feels more like surveillance than crime prevention,” local activist Ricardo Costa said at the time. “I wouldn’t mind as much if they flew over Caltech just as much as they fly over my neighborhood.”


The Noise Element of the city’s General Plan, which “provides policy-level direction for the city to limit people’s exposure to noise,” acknowledges the contribution of helicopters to the city’s noise environment, as well as the complaints they generate. Elements of the General Plan were recently updated, though the Noise Element was last updated in 2002.


Federal officials have also weighed in on this issue. Following a bill introduced by Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and US Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration launched a helicopter noise complaint system for LA County in April. Residents can file a noise complaint by calling (424) 348-HELI (4354) or by visiting


“Helicopter noise has disrupted the daily lives of thousands of Los Angeles residents for years, and allowing the public to report incidents to the FAA is a welcome and necessary step toward solving this problem,” Feinstein said in a statement. “While the reporting system is important, additional action by the FAA is needed — and overdue. The agency must work with pilots and the public to propose new flight patterns and practices. We will continue to press the case for rules that can reduce noise and protect privacy in Los Angeles communities.”


Farrell said helicopters are the biggest noise source in LA County that HowLoud does not yet cover in its noise map, but he added that they are working on it and will cover helicopters in time.


“We intend to report the average frequency of helicopter flights over a given location and a breakdown by time of day,” he said. “Of course, collecting helicopter information is much more difficult than vehicle information.”


Farrell also acknowledged that it is difficult to determine air traffic noise, noting that the Santa Monica Airport has been the toughest thing his company has dealt with so far.


“We treat all the airports according to the same standards, based on how much traffic they have and that sort of thing,” he said. “We’ve gotten a lot more people emailing saying, ‘Hey, you said airport traffic noise was light near my house, well it sure as hell is not light.’ But that airport has a relatively small number of flights compared to LAX; we have to balance all those things.”

The Sound Score Tool

A press release from the company states that they don’t use thousands of microphones to determine a location’s noise level. “Rather,” Farrell explained, “we build a model and determine the sound profile created by the sources, such as vehicle flow with certain speed and volume, a certain type of plane flying overhead, or a stadium with thousands of cheering fans. We then use physics to propagate the noise through the environment. The noise is attenuated as it travels, is reflected off obstacles and has its frequency profile changed. Our model incorporates all these effects and gives the noise level in decibels. The human ear, however, cares about more than just the average decibel level. Time matters: noise in the night is worse than noise during the day.”


Farrell confirmed that it would be too expensive to deploy several thousand sensors for actual readings to cover the vast majority of locations. However, he spends a lot of his time with “a handful of measuring and recording tools for different jobs, most importantly to test our results and to train my ear for the decibel scale. Our results currently cover several million homes and are set to expand quickly.”


HowLoud has received extensive media attention in recent weeks, with coverage by LA Weekly,, Caltech’s Engineering & Science magazine, International Business Times,, the Atlantic CityLab, Gizmodo India,, Sioux City Journal, LAist, Curbed SF, the Eastsider LA blog and the Johnny, Etc. blog.


Following a successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign in July, in which the company raised $38,923, Farrell and his team of three engineers plan to expand beyond Southern California.


“We developed the technology so far, we did this region and we’re just improving how everything functions,” Farrell said. “Then we’re going to expand to much larger regions. It’s not going to be a county-by-county type of thing. We’re setting up infrastructure such that we can really quickly do much larger regions.”


HowLoud is also beginning to partner with real estate companies and other interested investors by allowing them to embed the HowLoud display directly on their Web site, similar to the way a weather report, Google Maps, or many other applications can be embedded.


Farrell said the app is not meant to tell people whether they should purchase a certain house. Rather, it is one more tool for consumers to reference when researching new neighborhoods.


“It’s not always about, ‘Hey, should I buy that house or not? Well, let me check HowLoud and see what they say about the site.’ It’s more like, ‘Should I drive across town to visit this place?’ We’re not trying to tell you whether you should buy a house or not, but maybe whether or not you should continue reading about that listing or whether you should drive across town to see it. If we say, ‘It’s terribly loud,’ and that matters to you, well you save yourself an hour to drive over and see it.”


So just how accurate is HowLoud? Farrell said it’s somewhat subjective.


“From one house to the house next door, I think it’s very accurate,” Farrell said. “Accuracy is kind of tough in that what we do is a little bit like ‘How good is that movie?’ or ‘How good is that restaurant?’ There’s only one component that’s a scientific quantity, the vehicle decibel estimate. Otherwise, the sound score is a tool that we’ve come up with that incorporates different factors and weighs them accordingly. The goal is to be useful. We expect people to check five addresses, see what we say, and if that agrees with your knowledge of those locations, then you’ll trust us.” 

Soaring support

Thousands fill LA Memorial Sports Arena to hear presidential candidate Bernie Sanders

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 8/13/2015

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders brought his populist message to yet another record crowd in Los Angeles on Monday with promises to end institutional racism, get corporate money out of politics and fight for working-class families.

More than 27,500 people filled the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena and its overflow area to hear the 73-year-old firebrand senator from Vermont lay out his vision for a “grassroots political revolution” to “transform the United States of America.”

“When we stand united, we can create a new America,” Sanders said with a voice strained by numerous consecutive rallies, each of which generated record crowds of their own. “The reason we’re doing so well in this campaign is we’re telling the truth.”

Sanders called income and wealth inequality the great moral issue of our time. “We have a message for the billionaire class: You can’t have it all,” he said to thunderous applause. “You can’t have huge tax breaks while children in our country are going hungry.”

Sanders spoke for over an hour and laid out specific domestic policies by calling for all public universities to provide education tuition-free; 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave; income equality for women; criminal justice system reform; affordable solar energy for residential homes; a Medicare single-payer health care system for all Americans; legal rights for undocumented immigrants; and the creation of jobs to repair the country’s crumbling infrastructure.

Miguel Paredes, who serves on the boards of the ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Chapter and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) Action Fund, said he was impressed by the breadth of issues Sanders addressed.

“Bernie Sanders invited almost 30,000 people to listen to issues rated to immigration, income inequality, climate change, education, student loan debt, sexism, racism and homophobia, and I’m very hopeful that he helped inspire especially young people to take action in their community,” said Paredes.
Sanders’ opponent in the Democratic primary, former First Lady, New York senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, still leads in Iowa with 52 percent to his 25 percent, according to an Aug. 10 poll by Public Policy Polling. But his support is growing. As former President Jimmy Carter told the Pasadena Weekly two weeks ago, “Bernie Sanders has been a surprising candidate.”

And for the first time in the campaign, Sanders is ahead of Clinton in the crucial early primary state of New Hampshire, according to a poll by Franklin Pierce University and the Boston Herald. That poll shows Sanders with 44 percent to Clinton’s 37 percent among Democratic primary voters, something many believed was impossible just three months ago when his campaign began.

“Bernie Sanders’ growing support has a lot more to do with Bernie Sanders than it does with Hillary Clinton,” Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, said in a statement. “Clinton’s as popular as ever but Sanders is proving to have a lot of appeal as he becomes better known.”

Over the past few campaign stops prior to his visit to Los Angeles, Sanders was confronted by protesters from the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. In Seattle, two BLM protesters interrupted his speech, claiming his campaign hasn’t done enough to address racial and criminal justice inequity issues.

Sanders countered in Los Angeles by inviting a BLM member to open his event, along with his new national press secretary Symone Sanders (no relation), a black criminal justice advocate.

“It is very important that we say the words ‘black lives matter,’” Symone Sanders said. “But it’s also important to have people in political office who are going to turn those words into action. No candidate for president is going to fight harder for criminal justice reform and racial justice issues than Sen. Bernie Sanders.”

During his speech in Los Angeles, Bernie Sanders also addressed campaign finance issues by saying the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has corrupted the country’s political process and calling for the case to be overturned.

“Any nominee of mine to the US Supreme Court will in fact have to pass a litmus test,” he said, “and that litmus test will be that he or she will state loudly and clearly that they will vote to overturn Citizens United.”

He added that the country needs to go even further than that by moving to publicly funded elections. “I want to see people, regardless of their political views — conservative, moderate, progressive, whatever it is — I want to see people able to run for office, to defend their points of view, to engage in debate, without having to beg millionaires and billionaires for contributions.”

Alaine Lowell, executive director of the Thomas Paine Society in Pasadena, was also in attendance at the LA event.

“This is a crucial moment in history; we are at the brink ecologically and economically,” Lowell said. “[Sanders] is not in the pocket of the corporations like all the other candidates, Republicans and Democrats alike. He may be our last hope to turn this hand basket around.”

USC student Sarah Collins, also in attendance Monday, said it was clear that Sanders was speaking with sincerity. “His campaign methods and voting record have proved that, so far, he’s a man of his word. If there are rallies like the LA one happening all over the country, I sincerely believe that Hillary has a force to reckon with.”

The rabble-rousing candidate was introduced by actress and comedian Sarah Silverman, who noted that Sanders always seems to be on the right side of history.

“It takes a very brave, empathetic and visionary person to do that,” she said. “Not only was Bernie fighting for civil rights in the 60s, he was also fighting for gay marriage in the 80s, he was against the Iraq War, against the deregulation of Wall Street, and most importantly, against the breakup of Destiny’s Child … I may have made that last one up.”

Man of Peace

Jimmy Carter discusses his ‘Full Life’ at Vroman’s Bookstore

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 7/30/2015, and Ventura County Reporter, 8/27/2015

From his early childhood in segregated Georgia and his early political battles to life during and after the White House, former President Jimmy Carter shares the often challenging experiences that shaped his social, religious and political views in “A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety,” which Carter will be signing tonight, july 30, at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena.

A peanut farmer who became an engineer and nuclear physicist, rising to governor of Georgia and then president in 1976, Carter examines his relationships with his parents and wife of nearly 70 years, Rosalynn, and describes how his childhood friendships with African-American children later made him a defender of civil rights.

He also expresses his regrets and disappointments about the 1980 presidential election, in which he lost to former California Gov. Ronald Reagan, due largely to the Iranian hostage crisis in which 52 people were held for 444 days by Iranian revolutionaries overthrowing the government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

In the book, Carter also shares how his Christian faith became the source of his empathy for others, as well as his hunger for peace and human rights, a passion that earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

“There are times when courage is required, and genuine humility is not easy to retain for those of us who are blessed with almost every possible advantage,” he writes. “To put myself on an equal basis with a homeless person, a drug addict, a destitute African family, or some neighbor who might be lonely or in need tends to make me feel uncomfortable. But when I succeed, I find that I am ennobling them — and myself. This is not just an idealistic theory, because I know from a few such occasions in my life that it has been true.”

Carter addressed the issue of inequity in American society — including the role that the criminal justice system plays — during his now-famous Law Day speech at the University of Georgia in 1974.

“In general, the powerful and the influential in our society shape the laws and have a great influence on the legislature or the Congress,” then-Gov. Carter said. “This creates a reluctance to change because the powerful and the influential have carved out for themselves or have inherited a privileged position in society.”

Hunter S. Thompson was in the audience that day and was so impressed that he grabbed his tape recorder from his car in between trips to refill his iced tea with whiskey.

“I have heard hundreds of speeches by all kinds of candidates and politicians, but I have never heard a sustained piece of political oratory that impressed me any more than the speech Jimmy Carter made on Law Day in May 1974,” wrote Thompson in “The Great Shark Hunt.” “It was a king hell bastard of a speech, and by the time it was over he had rung every bell in the room.”

Since leaving the White House, Carter has become one of the most active and impactful ex-presidents in history. Most notably, he became a proponent of Habitat for Humanity, which provides housing and house-building opportunities for low-income people around the world. The San Gabriel Valley chapter is currently reviewing applications for nine single-family homes to be built in the Arroyo Seco in place of the old Desiderio Army Base.

He and Rosalynn also founded the Carter Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting disease, hunger, poverty, conflict and oppression around the world. In Africa, the Carter Center has led a coalition that reduced incidences of Guinea worm disease from 3.5 million cases in 1986 to just 126 today, putting the disease on the path to eradication.

Carter will be at Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, at 7 p.m. tonight to sign copies of his new book, as well as his 28 other books.

He recently spoke with the Pasadena Weekly about his life and career.

Pasadena Weekly: Did some of these early events in your life that you describe in the book influence and shape your positions later?
Jimmy Carter: Well, yes. My early childhood and later my time in the Navy and when I was a farmer for 17 years, all of those early events before I got into politics shaped the attitude I have towards my country and towards myself.

And the campaign against Homer Moore [for Georgia State Senate in 1962] seemed like it prepared you for politics later.
(Laughs) Well, it did. I learned the hard way, but I also saw that there were improvements that needed to be made in the political system. But I think we have a much worse situation now, with massive quantities of money going into all the campaigns than those early days.

Citizens United certainly didn’t help.
No, well that was one of the worst decisions that the Supreme Court ever made. It’s really dealt a severe blow to the moral integrity and honesty and idealism of our electoral system.

Hunter S. Thompson wrote that your 1974 Law Day speech was a “king hell bastard of a speech” and made him give politics one last chance. Was that speech a turning point or high point for you as well?
I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time, until Hunter, who was there in the audience, started promoting the speech and talking about how good it was, so I went back and listened to it again. It’s kind of an extemporaneous speech, because I threw my prepared speech in the trash just before I made the speech, and then I wrote [a new one] on a piece of scratch paper. And it expressed my concerns about the fairness and objectivity of our entire judicial system, and I still have a concern about that. The poor people and the minorities, they suffer most from our judicial system, and it’s almost impossible to imagine a rich, white man getting executed, and so forth.

Has anything changed since then? Has anything gotten better? It seems like the criminal justice system still results in inequity and it’s still only the poor that go to prison.
No, I don’t think anything has gotten better, as a matter of fact. Since I left the governor’s mansion, we have seven times as many people in prison in America as we did when I was there. Per capita, we had one per thousand when I was governor. Now we have about seven people per thousand in prison. We’ve got 3,500 or more now in prison for life who have never committed a crime of violence. And we still have the death penalty, which we didn’t have when I was governor and when I was president. So I think we have gone backward in objectivity and fairness of our judicial system.

Do you think we’ll ever abolish the death penalty?
Well, I hope so. I think the general public is changing very slowly toward an aversion of the death penalty. If you ask the American public, “Would you accept an end to the death penalty if there was a mandatory life sentence without parole,” then the majority would say yes.

There seems to be a disparity between the Christianity of conservatives and the Christianity that you espouse, which seems to be more literally based on the teachings of Jesus in terms of peace, nonviolence and giving to the poor. What are your thoughts on that disconnect?
I wouldn’t want to criticize them but there is a certain dramatic difference now. When I was in office as president, as a matter of fact, there was a time when there was an allegiance formed between, you might say, the conservative Christians and the Republican Party. And so, since then they’ve been much more inclined toward severe punishment and going to war and that sort of thing to resolve differences than before. That never had happened before, but ever since 1978 or so, when I was in the White House, that partnership with the Republican Party has been in place. I think it’s gotten stronger perhaps.

Are you hopeful or skeptical about the new deal with Iran over its nuclear program?
I’m very hopeful and very pleased with it. I think it’s better for the United States and it’s better for the entire world than what we were faced with. And I have complete confidence with the fact that John Kerry has negotiated an agreement that can be enforced, and if the Iranians don’t comply with the agreement, then I don’t have any doubt that the sanctions will be re-imposed right quick.

And, of course, you’ve had personal experience with Iran. What are your personal thoughts? Do you think there was a deal between the Reagan campaign and the Iranian government to release the hostages after you left office?
I’ve never known for sure. All I know is we finished negotiating the freedom of the hostages while I was still president, and the airplane was parked at the end of the runway ready to take off that morning, and they didn’t permit the American hostages to go free until after I was out of office. But what kind of arrangement was made or deal was made, I don’t have any idea.

Do you think the public was misinformed about what happened or didn’t have access to the full story?
I don’t think the public ever gets access to the full story, because it’s distorted by all kinds of reporting and withholding of the truth from the public by various players, but I think that the last three days I was in the White House I never did go to bed at all. Three days and nights I stayed up negotiating for the release of the hostages and, of course, I was very pleased when they were released, but I was disappointed that the ayatollah held them in captivity longer than necessary.

What is your take on the 2016 presidential race so far?
Well, of course, the Republicans have, I think, 16 people running right now. And Donald Trump seems to be dominating the news. I don’t think FOX News and MSNBC could’ve survived without Trump these last couple weeks. I don’t think he has a chance to get the Republican nomination — certainly not to be elected president—but he has taken charge of it. And he’ll be one of the leading speakers or debaters when FOX has the first debate in August. I think the Democrats still have a good chance to win, and, of course, I’m a Democrat and I’ll support the Democratic nominee.

In the Democratic field, who do you like, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or someone else?
I think there’s still some searching going on about that, although Hillary’s in the lead by far and has done the best job of raising money, so she has a tremendous advantage. I think all the odds are that she will be the nominee. But I think Bernie Sanders has been a surprising candidate, and I think if Elizabeth Warren had run, she would be even stronger than Bernie Sanders.

What can the two parties do to address the issue of income inequality in the 2016 race?
I hope that the candidates on both sides, both the Republicans and Democrats, will address that because it’s gotten much worse since I left office. Because with the advent of Citizens United and pouring money into [elections], it gives rich people much greater influence over the Congress and the president when they are in office, and, of course, they get increasingly better deals on taxation and help from the government and so forth, compared to the average working person. I hope that will be changed, a day into this election, but I’m not sure it will.

Have we made any progress in terms of resolving the Israel/Palestinian issue or establishing peace in the Middle East?
No, I think it’s in a low ebb right now. It’s at the worst state that I have known since I’ve been involved in politics, and that’s been a long time. We have fewer influences in both Israel and among the Palestinians than we ever have before. The Netanyahu government has indicated quite clearly that it has no intention of complying with international law or with the policy of the United States. So, at this point, I don’t see hope for progress in the immediate future.

Do you think eventually it could change? For example, similar to the Cuba situation, which seemed doomed but can come back from the brink at some point?
Well, the Carter Center doesn’t give up. We have full-time offices in Jerusalem, the West Bank and also in Gaza, so we continue to work over there constantly to try to find some way to reopen the possibility of a peace agreement. But unless we have help from the US government and help from the Israeli government, I don’t think we’re going to make any progress. I don’t see any immediate prospect of that being done.

Do you feel like you’ve been able to be more effective outside of government than you were when you were in office, or did your experience in government allow you to be effective outside of it?
The latter. I think the fact that I was president of a great country has given me the ability to do what we do at the Carter Center. It gives me access to almost everybody in the world. We have a lot of influence when I go somewhere, so we’re able to negotiate peace agreements with people, we’re able to observe troubled elections — we’ve just finished our 100th troubled election — and this coming year we’ll treat over 70 million people for terrible diseases. So I would not be able to do any of those things unless I had been president first.

‘Creative Intersections’

Innovative EpicSpaces Co-Working is reinventing the workplace

Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 8/6/2015

Pasadena has fast become a hub of innovation, technology and entrepreneurship, in part by attracting companies that offer new ways of working.

With institutions such as Caltech and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and a long history of engineering firms, the opening of the IDS Playhouse Plaza building in the heart of the historic Playhouse District raised the city’s profile even higher. The building’s prominent tenants include Alibaba, a huge Chinese e-commerce company that’s like Google and eBay wrapped into one, and EpicSpaces Co-Working, the latest offering in an emerging trend of independent workers who are leaving the cubicle to work in nontraditional office space. 


EpicSpaces leased 9,500 square feet in the building, the first office development in Pasadena since 2005, and is looking to lease another 12,000 square feet. According to its website, the company offers a “campus-like, hi-tech workplace environment catering to creative professionals, freelancers, independent consultants, contractors, sales people, accountants, attorneys, entrepreneurs, business men/women, start-ups, artists, writers, travelers, students, telecommuters and everyone in between.”


“We have a selection of private offices, dedicated work stations and collaborative work stations,” said Jose Gonzalez, marketing manager for EpicSpaces. “We’re trying to push what’s called ‘creative intersections,’ where professionals can bounce ideas off each other and help each other out.”


The company offers other perks as well, including discounts to restaurants and other businesses in the area. Every Friday the space will host a happy hour for its members, where guest speakers will talk about marketing, how to create small businesses and other relevant topics.


Common events are a major benefit to co-working spaces, according to Jeremy Dann, USC Marshall School of Business professor of entrepreneurship and innovation. Dann also sits on the advisory board of Cross Campus, another co-working space based in Old Pasadena.


“Events are an important part of this,” said Dann. “Oftentimes people get out there and work (at a co-working space) with the excuse that there’s a great creative event there that night. They run it as a quiet space during the day and then they have to learn how to put on a networking event. It’s interesting how they play both ends of the community building, on the tech side but also on the event side.” 


As a result, co-working office space is becoming increasingly popular and changing the way people think about work.


“With telecommuting there are more and more people who work remotely,” said Andy Wilson, founder of Innovate Pasadena and newly appointed District 7 City Councilman. The IDS Playhouse Plaza building is in Wilson’s district.


“We’re no longer constrained as much by the geography of where people live versus where they work. Working from a home office is certainly a way to get your job done, but there’s a socialization aspect of being involved in (a co-working space). Especially if you’re in a creative application, there’s something to be said about being in a vibrant community of other people who are independent operators working remotely.”


According to a report by software company Intuit, by 2020 more than 40 percent of the workforce in the United States (or 60 million people) will be freelancers and independent contractors, another reason that nontraditional office space is gaining in popularity.


“It’s a growing trend,” said Gonzalez. “A lot of people are working from home and they’re quickly learning that there are too many distractions. You have to take out the dog and take care of your kids, and it takes away from what you’re working on. We provide a place where people can come and do what they have to do and not have any distractions.”


This week EpicSpaces celebrated its grand opening. Last week the company held an open house event featuring speakers such as Wilson, Mayor Terry Tornek, US-China Clean Tech Center President and Executive Director Feng An and state Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys).


Eric Duyshart, economic development director for the city of Pasadena, said it’s no accident that the city has become a hub of innovation, technology and entrepreneurship, but rather the result of the city making it an important priority.


“When you look at what makes our economy different [from] other places around the country, it really is our engineering and technology businesses and our academic environment that other cities would love to replicate but they can’t,” he said.


Over the last few years, the city has actively pursued co-working office space providers, offering to sponsor some events and other benefits.


“Ironically, three years ago when we launched Innovate Pasadena, there were no co-working spaces,” said Wilson. “There was some second floor, somewhere off Colorado, not particularly vibrant and imaginative office space, not on a par with what you would expect with co-working today. So we initiated a collaborative outreach process in conjunction with the city’s Economic Development Department to recruit co-working companies.”


Paul Little, president and CEO of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, said the addition of co-working office space in the Playhouse District will be a great economic asset.


“Attracting companies such as Alibaba and adding co-working space will help draw established tech companies and provide important support for tech entrepreneurs,” he said. “Co-working spaces are important because they provide relatively low-cost space but also an opportunity to collaborate and support fellow entrepreneurs.”


With hundreds of new workers poised to frequent restaurants, shops and other businesses in the area, Wilson also foresees the economic potential of the new development.


“It’s going to be a real shot in the arm for that area,” he said. “It’s really part of a longer-term trajectory that we’ve seen around the Playhouse District that started with the Laemmle [movie theater] and picked up speed with Tender Greens, Roy’s and Urth Caffé. So I think we’ll see that the Playhouse District is a shining example of what a district can look like, and I commend the district and the landlords there for putting the pieces together for a true success story.”


With the impending addition of yet another co-working company called Blankspaces, Playhouse District Association Director of Economic Development Brian Wallace said the Playhouse District will be a hub for co-working and innovation.


“The Playhouse District is perfectly positioned to generate a lot of new ideas, new energy and new people who will be discovering this great location,” he said.


Wallace explained the increasing trend of co-working space in the Playhouse District Association’s newsletter, Property Pulse. “People like to be around other people, especially if you’re into collaborating, generating new ideas and innovating,” he wrote. “So if you thought everyone would eventually be working from a beach somewhere, you probably missed the memo. Office space is evolving to respond to the growth of entrepreneurialism. Fostering a sense of community for entrepreneurs, mobile professionals and others is exactly what co-working office spaces are intended to facilitate – bringing individuals together in a collaborative environment where ideas and innovation rule the day.”


“I look at this as another piece of the puzzle,” Wilson said, “further establishing Pasadena as an incredible, vibrant technology, innovation and design hub.”