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‘Brutal Year’ for Business

So much despair. So many people laid off. So much money lost.
So many questions … and many lessons to learn.
Who could have guessed that 2020, a year whose date just rolled off the tongue, would bring such tragedy and misfortune?
Many South Pasadena business owners — especially those of smaller, unique boutiques for which the city is known — are hoping that things will finally get back to “normal” with COVID-19 cases trending down, more vaccines being administered and state and county restrictions being eased.
But what exactly is “normal” anymore?
Last Sunday, Lucia Wiltrout glanced across the showroom of Lucha’s Comfort Footwear, and her eyes misted at what she observed.

Tigers Kick Off Football Season With Scrimmage

South Pasadena junior Andrew Buenrostro (61) scans the field for someone to block while quarterback Noah Aragon turns the corner during Friday’s scrimmage against Pasadena Poly.

Their body clocks might have said it was time for March Madness, but South Pasadena High School football players had their minds set on Friday Night Lights when Pasadena Poly came calling to kick off the weekend and football season in one fell swoop this past Friday.
The two schools have much in common: both have feline mascots, share the orange-and-black color scheme and Poly frequently uses Roosevelt Field for night home playoff games. Now they will share the notoriety of playing the first football contests in a month previously more notable for St. Patrick’s Day, spring break and a return to Dodger Stadium.
But in the COVID era, high school athletes and coaches will take whatever they can get and they got plenty last Friday night.
“This was all about the kids,” said Tigers head football coach Jeff Chi, who clearly prioritized opportunity over performance. “It was really great to see the seniors finally get to play some football and hopefully enjoy their senior year.”

One Year Later: How COVID Closures Challenged the City

City officials and those who lead city institutions faced challenges they could never have imagined at the start of 2020.
It is now March 2021, and questions still linger about how to cope with the cascading side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including fallout from racial inequities regarding the virus and also how to reconcile social and racial injustice in the wake of last summer’s demonstrations protesting police violence against people of color.
Meanwhile, schools still have to be reopened; the police force is reeling from a year unlike most veterans have ever seen; and local institutions, like the public library, have made innovations but wait to see how past use, recent innovations and future needs will blend once it physically opens to foot traffic.
“I think we were all challenged as we anticipated that the stay-at-home order would be relatively short-lived, only to find that here we are, one year later, hoping to be able to resume a pre-pandemic existence later this year,” said Mayor Diana Mahmud.

New SPHS Scholarship Honors Local Activist Solis

Dr. Beatriz Solis

A scholarship for graduating students from South Pasadena High School who wish to pursue a higher education has been established in memory of late Dr. Beatriz Solis (1962-2020). The annual award will recognize students who are seeking to pursue an education or career advancing women’s issues, equality rights or other forms of social justice.
This scholarship is sponsored in part by Transtech Engineers and Solis’ immediate family and friends. Students from SPHS, as well as Roosevelt and La Puente high schools, will be selected as recipients of the awards.
Solis was a nationally recognized philanthropist and public health leader, renown for her efforts and passionate advocacy on behalf of vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. Her career revolved around making health care available to all and bringing compassion to the justice system. She was dedicated to building healthy communities by developing public health policies supported by principles of economic, environmental and racial justice.
“Dr. Solis was an advocate and leader in advancing women’s issues,” a spokesperson said. “Her academic work at UCLA and other institutions of higher education focused on women’s health policies. She had published articles and books on the subject. She was guided and counseled an array of organizations, such as Women’s Policy Institute, which aimed to enhance empowerment of young women in overlooked communities and environments. She took on leadership and mentoring roles in conducting ‘sisterhood’ camps across California, designed to provide leadership skills to young girls.
“Beyond her work for the people of this state, Dr. Solis was a valuable resource for this city,” the statement continued. “Her many contributions included her volunteer work on various advisory committees as well as the South Pasadena Educational Foundation, a crucial source of fundraising for the local school district.”
Solis raised two sons who attended Monterey Hills Elementary, South Pasadena Middle School and graduated from SPHS.
Students may apply for the scholarship by completing an application and submitting it by April 9. Questions and completed applications may be submitted by email to scholarships-sphsaa@sphsaa.org.
Gifts for this multi-year endowment may be made to InnerCity Struggle, 3467 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles, 90023, with a notation on the payment of #BeaStrong Fund.

Local Unemployment Rose in January

The unemployment rate in South Pasadena saw a major increase in January, according to newly released data, coinciding with renewed industry restrictions that have since been rolled back.
The California Employment Development Department recently reported that local unemployment rose from 7.4% in December to 9% in January. It represented a 20% increase in the number of unemployed workers, from 1,000 to 1,200. About 100 fewer residents were counted in the city’s labor force during that month, meaning they reported not being employed and not looking for work.
The increase in South Pasadena’s unemployment rate was the highest one-month jump the city had seen since the pandemic began. With the exception of a minor climb from November to December last year, the rate has been steadily falling since May, though it has yet to reach its pre-pandemic level of roughly 4%.

Expert Explains How ‘Cohousing’ Can Help Seniors

Alexandria Levitt

As journalists are well aware, sometimes researching a column will uncover another topic or a person that is so interesting it deserves its own story.
So it is with Alexandria Levitt.
Readers may remember that I quoted her in a recent “Around Town” column concerning how seniors are coping during the pandemic without the senior center.
Researching that story also introduced me to Nicole Laborie, who as a girl watched the Allied troops come ashore on D-Day. Laborie’s story ended up being its own “Around Town” feature. Sometimes things work out that way.
Levitt doesn’t offer anything that dramatic, but her topic — housing for seniors — is timely and worth exploring in light of what we are going through during the pandemic.

Lucha Libre Appeals to Wrestling Fans

By Haley Sawyer
The Review

By Haley Sawyer
The Review

Penta El Zero Miedo was 7 years old when he saw his first lucha libre show in Mexico.

“It was like magic for me. It’s like Disney, but in wrestling,” said Penta, clad in a sport jacket and a black patent leather mask that revealed one white-irised eye.

On Friday morning, Penta and fellow luchador and younger brother Rey Fenix — per custom, they withheld their real names, only to be revealed when they wager identities in a high-stakes match and lose — gathered with talent agent and Javier Robles to unleash the magic of lucha libre on Mission Street at the grand opening of Republic of Lucha.

“When I was 7 years old, I said, ‘Maybe one day, I want to be a professional wrestler,’ but it was just a dream,” said Penta, who performs in AEW and Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide. “Now, this is my dream. But here in L.A.”

‘Cautious Optimism’ For SPUSD, Superintendent Says

Photo courtesy SPUSD
Sandra Matson-Fennell, Pedro Pinedo and Andrea Carless were among more than 200
South Pasadena Unifi ed School District employees who received COVID-19 vaccines on
March 5-6 through Keck Medicine of USC. They will receive second doses on March 26-27.

It was a year ago today that officials with the South Pasadena Unified School District took their first action to address the coronavirus pandemic, which was to start spring break early and figure out what happens after that.

One year later, after spending the majority of the time engaged in a remote teaching program, things are eking back to normalcy — a limited number of elementary school students have returned to their classrooms, teachers started getting vaccinated last week and officials expect to be able to bring some middle and high school students back this spring.

Tigers Ready to Pick Up Where They Left Off

Photos by Mitch Lehman / The Review
The Tigers welcomed 46 student-athletes when football resumed after the holidays. Pasadena
Poly visits this evening for a scrimmage at 6:00 p.m.

When many football fans last saw him, South Pasadena High School head coach Jeff Chi was standing on the navy blue midfield logo at Fillmore High School while his Tigers assembled on one knee in a semicircle. South Pasadena had just lost the 2019 CIF Division 13 playoff opener to the host Flashes, 47-27, to cap an otherwise successful season. The Tigers finished 7-4 overall (2-2 in Rio Hondo League play) and were ranked ninth in the division.

Sixteen months have passed since that unseasonably warm November evening, and much has happened since the 59-mile bus ride.

Facility Improvements Coming To All 3 Elementary Schools

By Haley Sawyer
The Review

Physical improvements to South Pasadena Unified School District campuses are set to continue, as the Board of Education this week voted unanimously to approve a contract with the Nazerian Group to begin construction on new elementary school buildings.

“This is an exciting step in the process for our elementary school Measure SP project,” said Superintendent Geoff Yantz. “It’s been about two years in the making for our elementary projects.”

The vote took place at the school board’s meeting this week, where board members were considering bids received for the projects at Marengo, Arroyo Vista and Monterey Hills elementary schools.

Thirteen portable classrooms will be replaced with permanent buildings and classrooms for visual and performing arts will be built on each campus. Some playground equipment will be relocated to make room for the improvements.

The project is budgeted at $4,397,369.