South Pasadena's streets are lined with numerous species of native California trees. 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. Few cities in the nation are better recognized for their determination to preserve their neighborhoods and small-town atmosphere. (South Pasadena residents' frequent use of the term "Mayberry" to describe their city has drawn scorn from opinion/editorial staff at most of Los Angeles' newspapers, both old-line and "alternative." Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez has noted that South Pasadena sits less than 10 miles from Downtown Los Angeles and that substantial numbers of residents work either in Bunker Hill or as professors and staff at the University of Southern California.) Moral and financial support for a fight against a major highway project through the city has come from all across the country; however, the bulk of it comes from the residents themselves, who pay legal bills incurred by the city in the freeway fight from their general fund (no special taxes are used), making the fight an ongoing local election issue. South Pasadena has been cited five times on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of "Most Endangered Places."
"Mom and Pop" merchants populate the business district, and the Mission West area is a part of the original Route 66. Of note is the historic Rialto Theater in downtown South Pasadena; the theater 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 the wrecking ball that year. It has been featured in many films and commercials, most notably Robert Altman's The Player and more recently in Scream 2.
South Pasadena is now home to mass transit with the Metro Gold Line stopping at Mission Station.
On the first Saturday of December every year, South Pasadena hosts an annual 5K/10K run around South Pasadena known as the Tiger Run. The 5K has no elevation changes and the 10K has elevation changes on the second half.
South Pasadena can often be seen in motion picture productions with its beautiful tree-lined streets and "anywhere in America" feel. Such movies as Gone with the Wind, Halloween, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, American Pie, Legally Blonde, 13 Going on 30, Back to the Future, Mr. Deeds, Bruce Almighty, and License to Wed are just a few of the notable films shot on location in South Pasadena. Notable television series that have been filmed there include Boston Public, Nip/Tuck, Desperate Housewives and Big Love.
The South Pasadena Fire Department has been facing problems with firefighter pay and South Pasadena was on the verge of contracting with the Los Angeles City Fire Department for fire services. South Pasadena opted to keep the SPFD.
South Pasadena is also the home of the record $110 million winning lottery ticket for the July 5, 2006 drawing.
South Pasadena is the oldest self-builder of floats in the Tournament of Roses Parade.
South Pasadena is within the South Pasadena Unified School District.
South Pasadena currently has 5 schools, all with considerably high rankings, placing them in the top percentiles in the state of California, as well as a premier school district in the Greater Los Angeles area. 3 elementary schools including Monterey Hills, Marengo, Arroyo Vista; South Pasadena Middle School, and South Pasadena High School. South Pasadena's ranking is currently in the top 90th percentile nationwide.
South Pasadena and the neighboring city of San Marino have had a rivalry that goes many years back. In the early 1900s, these two prestigious cities shared the same high school currently located behind the South Pasadena Public Library. Every year, the schools meet during football season to represent their cities in battle and to struggle for a victor's plaque that has been passed back and forth for many years. On October 22, 2004, the South Pasadena Tigers turned back the San Marino Titans in the epic "Fight for Fifty" game. It would be the fiftieth game these two schools had played and both schools coincidently had equal numbers of wins at that time. As of 2006, the scores stand at South Pasadena:26, San Marino:23, Ties:3.
South Pasadena Middle/High school has attracted the attention of TV producers over the years. The Middle School obtains a historic and "old-school" atmosphere. The high school has an unorthodox setting being one of the few schools with an outdoor setting.