Why Southern Californians were going to Pasadena in droves

Caf%C3%A9+Santorini+welcomes+patrons+to+outdoor+balcony+area.

Graphic courtesy of Connor Plunkett ('23).

Café Santorini welcomes patrons to outdoor balcony area.

Unlike neighboring cities, Pasadena was open from November 23rd through December 6th, and in that short time, businesses in Pasadena were almost busier than they had been prior to COVID-19’s onset last Spring. 

“We need to balance our growing numbers and the economic hardship of restaurant personnel. Behind every employee is a family and, in many cases, they are the sole providers. It’s imperative everyone follows the rules to slow this surge otherwise a State directive could supersede our local Orders.” said City Spokesperson Lisa Derderian in her statement to the press regarding Pasadena’s decision to stay open.  

Almost like clockwork, a few weeks after this statement was made, Pasadena was ordered to close along with the rest of Southern California as Governor Gavin Newsom imposed new regional lockdowns. 

LA County was first to issue these edicts in late November, causing the closure of restaurants in all cities under the umbrella of Los Angeles County. These orders affected cities like Santa Monica, Glendale, and Claremont. Pasadena, however, had a different plan; they chose to stay open.  

Pasadena was able to do this because they are governed by their own Department of Public Health, and they deemed outdoor dining and shopping in brick-and-mortar stores to be safe. Thus, Pasadena became the intended destination for anyone in LA County who wanted to go out to eat or just walk around. Needless to say, this has made Pasadena a very busy place.  

A visit to Old Town Pasadena in late November was genuinely astonishing. The streets were lined with pedestrians, and the traffic looked like Downtown LA after a Lakers game. Parking structures were full, and the streets were filled with cars attempting to make a parking spot out of a small patch of curb.  

There were people from all over Southern California, and they had all come to the one place in LA County that was open.  

Many Southern California residents were concerned that staying open would cause a meteoric rise in COVID-19 cases, so in response during a press conference on Monday, November 23rd, City Spokesperson Lisa Derderian said, “The City of Pasadena will continue to assess its COVID numbers, work closely with Huntington Hospital and give as much advance notice as possible if the City’s Order is going to change in any respect.  

As far as the numbers are concerned, at the time that decision was made to stay open, Pasadena had 3,405 confirmed cases of COVID-19; they currently have 5,070 active cases, and that number has been steadily ticking upwards. This increase is not out of the ordinary, as cities all throughout LA County have been experiencing similar growth even if they were shut down.  

I think it was a good idea to stay open,” said Raquel Chaves, Pasadena resident. “Closing down just limits peoples’ options for inevitable socializing/intermingling, leaving them with no other option but unregulated home get togethers. Get togethers which are proven to cause the spread of COVID-19. Pasadena effectively took the sensible approach to ‘flattening the curve’ and slowing the spread of COVID-19 before the holidays.”  

Another Pasadena resident and Webb student Jasper Bagley (‘22) had a different take on the matter. 

Pasadena staying open was not really to keep bustling places like Old Town open,Jasper said.But more so to keep places like Cal Tech open since they contribute so much for the world.” 

While Caltech is a major academic institution that houses scores of students, professors, and researchers, Pasadena officials tend to directly refer to the small businesses and restaurants in their statements regarding new COVID-19 regulations.  

The difference in opinion that many Pasadena citizens have, shows the complexity of this issue. Many cities, schools, and businesses, are still trying to find a working system that will help them get through this everchanging and tumultuous time.