South Pasadena, a small town of 25,000 next door to the larger cities of Los Angeles and Pasadena, has striven to remain a distinct and distinctive community for more than a century. Since 1888, scrappy residents have fought everything from saloons and tree removal to the long-contested 710 Freeway extension and noise pollution from the Gold Line.
In the late 1880s, Pasadena enforced "anti-saloon" laws, but that didn't stop bars from creeping into the southern part of the city. To stop the onslaught of drinking establishments, the south broke away and incorporated into South Pasadena. Residents have regretted the name choice ever since, according to "South Pasadena 1888-1988: A Centennial History." Many bristled because the name gave the "annoying misperception" that the city was part of Pasadena or implied an inferior Pasadena on the "wrong side of the tracks." But the name has prevailed, in spite of attempts to change it to everything from San Pasqual to Bajadena.
Good schools and a small-town cohesiveness top the list of what South Pasadenans love. Rebecca Ryan, a South Pasadena librarian who grew up in the town, helped produce "Stories From Home," the city's oral history. In more than 40 interviews with residents ranging from age 9 to 90, the same sentiments were echoed, she said. "Everyone talked about walking around town and talking to local business people," Ryan said. "Those are the same things that I treasure with fondness."
Many local businesses have been around a long time, such as the Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Fountain, which opened in 1915. The old-time quality attracts both residents and moviemakers.
Fans have sung out "Let's Do the Time Warp Again" for nearly 25 consecutive years at the Rialto Theatre's midnight screening of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." The 1925 landmark theater, on the National Registry of Historic Places, once staged vaudeville performances.
Good news, bad news
South Pasadena has battled the 710 Freeway extension, which would displace more than 900 homes and 7,000 trees, for more than half a century. The fight isn't over, but residents are jubilant over the Federal Highway Administration's suspension of support for the project — the latest turn of events.
Now the "battle of the budget" replaces the freeway fight as one of the city's main concerns: The city faces a gap of $400,000 in fiscal year 2005.
In a little more than a week, 67 residences sold out at Mission Meridian Village, a transit village scheduled for completion in January 2005. Dominic de Fazio of Coldwell Banker has a waiting list of 180 buyers hoping to purchase units, which range from 800-square-foot artists' lofts for $355,000 to three-bedroom "patio homes" for $839,500.
Although buyers often choose neighborhoods based on the caliber of the elementary school, according to Realtor Carol Chua-Vigue of Coldwell Banker, all three South Pasadena schools have strong test scores. The 2003 API scores range from 868 out of 1,000 at Monterey Hills to 890 at Arroyo Vista and 895 at Marengo. The elementary schools feed into South Pasadena Middle School, which scored 866, and South Pasadena High School, which scored 817.
On the market
The city has 10,871 housing units, 55% of which are renter-occupied. In early April there were 13 residences on the market, ranging from an 1,869-square-foot condominium for $399,000 to a 5,000-square-foot estate home for $2,975,000.
Historical values Single-family detached resales:
Year...Median Price 1990...$350,000
*Year to date. *
Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; city of South Pasadena website, http://www.ci.south-pasadena.ca.us/ ; South Pasadena Neighbors community newsletter; Rebecca Ryan, South Pasadena Public Library; "South Pasadena 1888-1988: A Centennial History" by Jane Apostol; South Pasadena Unified School District website, http://www.spusd.k12.ca.us/ ; Dominic de Fazio, Coldwell Banker; Carol Chua-Vigue, Coldwell Banker; http://www.missionmeridianvillage.com .