South Pasadena is a city in Los Angeles County, California, United States. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 25,619, up from 24,292 at the 2000 census. It is located in the West San Gabriel Valley. It is 3.42 square miles in area and lies between the much larger City of Pasadena, of which it was once a part, and the metropolis of Los Angeles. South Pasadena is the oldest self-builder of floats in the historic Tournament of Roses Parade.
South Pasadena is located at the western end of the San Gabriel Valley, north of the San Rafael Hills, east of the Arroyo Seco seasonal river, and south of the separate city of Pasadena, California. Adjacent cities are Los Angeles to the west and south, Pasadena to the north, San Marino to the east, and Alhambra to the southeast. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city’s total area of 3.42 square miles (8.9 km2), is virtually all land. South Pasadena is located at 34°6′47″N 118°9′21″W (34.112958, -118.155778)
Modern South Pasadena
South Pasadena’s streets are lined with numerous species of native California trees. These include redwood, sequoia, ash, walnut, and sycamore. Some non-native trees, such as sweetgum, are also seen. Because there are very few stucco-clad Spanish Colonial houses and virtually no palm trees in some parts of the city, South Pasadena is a popular stand-in for Midwestern and Northeastern towns in motion picture and television productions. South Pasadena sits less than 10 miles (16 km) from Downtown Los Angeles; substantial numbers of residents work either in Bunker Hill or as professors and staff at the University of Southern California.
“Mom and Pop” merchants populate the business district, and the Mission West area is a part of the original U.S. Route 66. Of historical relevance is The Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Fountain; also the Rialto Theater in downtown South Pasadena is a unique blend of Spanish Baroque and Egyptian stylings and was built in 1925. It is one of the last remaining single screen cinemas in the country. The Rialto was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, having narrowly missed being torn down that year. It went out of business on August 19, 2007 because of low profits. It has been featured in many films and commercials, most notably Robert Altman’s The Player and more recently in Scream
The Farmer’s Market has become a tradition in the historic Mission-West District of South Pasadena on every Thursday from 4pm to 8pm. On the first Saturday of December every year, South Pasadena Booster Club hosts an annual 5K/10K run around South Pasadena known as the “Tiger Run”, after the SPHS mascot. Racers from kindergarten to age 80 are invited to participate, including a wheelchair event. The 5K is run on flat sidewalks and roads around town, but the 10K (6.2 miles) includes some difficult hills. There is also a 300 meter children’s run for kids 10 and under.
The South Pasadena Unified School District(SPUSD) includes five schools: three elementary schools (Monterey Hills, Marengo and Arroyo Vista), South Pasadena Middle School, and South Pasadena High School. Former elementary schools now closed or renamed are Lincoln (now Arroyo Vista), El Centro (now the school district headquarters), Las Flores (limited grades, near Flores Adobe, historic landmark), and Oneonta (later a private Montessori school).
South Pasadena and the neighboring city of San Marino have had a long-standing rivalry. Until the 1955, the two cities shared the same high school, which was adjacent to the South Pasadena Public Library. Every year, the schools’ football teams compete for a victor’s plaque. As of 2010, South Pasadena team had won 28 and San Marino 25. There have been three ties. Many SPHS team have won CIF titles over the years.
In early 1874, the area that is now South Pasadena was a part of the San Gabriel-Orange Grove Association. In 1875, the stockholders of the association voted to name their town Pasadena and just three years later, residents living in the southern portion of Pasadena considered themselves South Pasadenas.
In February of 1888, in order to control their own territory, South Pasadenans voted eighty-five to twenty-five for incorporation. A board of trustees was elected and Ammon B. Cobb was appointed as the first marshal, with Marshal B. Selmen as his deputy.
On March 2, 1888, South Pasadena officially incorporated with a population of slightly over 500. The City’s boundaries established in 1889 are essentially the same today. South Pasadena consists of 3.44 square miles of prime residential property. In 1876, unimproved land with water was selling from $75 to $150 an acre. Today a vacant lot in South Pasadena can be sold for more than $200,000.
Few cities in California are better recognized for the quality of its small-town atmosphere and rich legacy of intact late 19th and early 20th century neighborhoods and residences. South Pasadena also has a strong claim to having the oldest and most historic sites in the San Gabriel Valley. For many centuries, its adjacency to a natural fording place along the Arroyo Seco had served as a gateway to travel and commerce for aboriginal peoples here and along the coast. It was here that Hahamognas greeted Portola and the missionaries who later established the San Gabriel Mission a few miles to the west.
The initial buildings on the Rancho San Pascual, which subsequently gave birth to the Cities of Pasadena, South Pasadena and Altadena, were built here. The first of these adobe structures became headquarters for General Flores and his staff in 1847 where they agreed to surrender to American forces, ending Mexican Colonial rule in California.
In 1888, South Pasadena incorporated the southern portion of the Indiana Colony and land south and eastward to the Los Angeles border, becoming the sixth municipality in Los Angeles County. With establishment of the Raymond Hotel and the Cawston Ostrich Farm, the small community was able to attract tourists and increasingly large waves of new residents to the Pasadena area in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. With completion of the Pacific Electric Short Line, putting the entire city within easy walking distance of the “red car” stations, South Pasadena also became a one of the first suburbs of Los Angeles. It is now certainly one of the best-preserved cities, maintaining a small-town quality and humanity in the scale of its buildings, its residential streetscapes and historic commercial core.
Historic resources are a public benefit to all. South Pasadena residents can make further inquiry about our common history at the South Pasadena Public Library, the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation, and through the efforts of the Cultural Heritage Commission.
Data: City of Pasadena Site